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Phillip Jensen, Dean of Sydney (Australia) offers an initial response to Mark Driscoll’s talk on 18 "obstacles to effective evangelism" in the Sydney Diocese. (See also this summary.)

Jensen offers three “obvious mistakes” that need to be avoided in responding to such a message and such a messenger: (1) be reactionary and defensive; (2) become a sycophantic follower; (3) do nothing.

Those who are defensive will oppose any change. Those who are sycophantic will wait until Mark returns to tell us what to do. We must avoid both errors. If Mark never returns, it will be a shame and our loss. But that is irrelevant to his message, for his challenge to us was to get moving, take initiative, and not to wait around to be told what to do next.

Read the whole thing; it’s a model of how to wisely and graciously respond to a hard critique even when you don’t agree with every aspect of it. I especially appreciate this section:

Mark was hard-hitting and critical. He said things that made us feel very uncomfortable, and he said them with force and vigour. He was calling upon us to change our ways. All of this can create defensiveness within us, and it makes us want to argue with him and explain ourselves. There are many ways in which we can defend ourselves: we can find fault with his manner or his choice of words; we can look for holes in his logic, or point out the minor errors of fact--especially about Sydney; we can qualify what he has said--to the point where we have domesticated his main points; or we can complain about what he failed to address (e.g. some found fault in his attack on young men because he did not speak to young women--as if he was supposed to say everything). We could also find fault with his rhetorical use of hyperbole, generalizations, stark contrasts and lack of nuanced discussion. But in all this, he is not dissimilar to Jesus’ preaching. He is a man who confronted us with hard questions, and we must be very wary of our own defensiveness.

This reminded me, indirectly, of an excellent section from Roger Nicole’s essay on How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us:

I have noticed that my wife sometimes says things like, “You never empty the wastebasket.” Now as a matter of fact, on January 12, 1994, I did empty the wastebasket. Therefore, the word never is inappropriate! This tends to weaken the force of my wife’s reproach. Well, I’ve learned that I don’t get anywhere by pressing this point. This kind of response does not provide dividends of joy and peace in my home. I’ve learned, therefore, to interpret that when my wife says “never” she often means “rarely” or “not as often as should be.” When she says “always,” she means “frequently” or “more often than should be.”

Instead of quibbling as to the words never and always, I would do well to pay attention to what she finds objectionable. And indeed, I should be emptying the wastebasket. Feminist or not feminist, a husband and father should empty the wastebasket; and therefore, if I fail to do this, even only once, there is a good reason to complain. Nothing is gained by quibbling about how often this happens. I ought to recognize this and be more diligent with it rather than to quote the dictionary.

Similarly, in dealing with those who differ, we ought not to split hairs about language just in order to pounce on our opponent because he or she has not used accurate wording. It is more effective to seek to apprehend what is meant and then to relate ourselves to the person’s meaning. If we don’t do that, of course, there is no encounter because this person speaks at one level and we are taking the language at another level. The two do not meet and the result is bound to be frustrating. If we really want to meet, we might as well try to figure out the meaning rather than to quibble on wording.

And of course, you should read that whole thing too!

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11 thoughts on “Phillip Jensen Response to Mark Driscoll’s Critique”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Thanks for posting this JT. ISTM, there are a few thin-skinned people who almost seem like they’re seeking to be offended at anything that doesn’t affirm their position and when they find a manufactured offense by the offender, they become very defensive, precisely as Bishop Jensen describes.

    I read the Nicole article a long time ago. It’s very good too. As a side note, Nicole has greatly puzzled me about one aspect of his theology. He is both an inerrantist and an egalitarian! I don’t really understand that; it seems like the two don’t go together. But then again I’m not a professional theologian.

    Does anybody know if Nicole has published anything on egalitarianism? I should like to read it to see if in the article how he reconciles inerrancy with egalitarianism.

    Lastly, I do wish that egalitarians (and some complementarians) would abide by Nicole’s advice. As a limited generalization, egalitarians seem much more defensive than complementarians.

  2. spud tooley says:

    yeah, physician heal myself… :)

    thanks for posting this. always a helpful reminder when i really start believing the things i write about me.

    and all of you. :)

    so TUAD – egalitarianism (had to look it up…) – believing that everyone is equal in God’s eyes – exactly how is that wrong? is that a man/woman gender issue? or an elect/non-elect issue?

    or, pehaps as CR would like to think, a conservative/liberal or republican/democrat issue?

    i believe inerrancy as generally understood and practiced is the ‘emperor has no clothes’ doctrine of christianity.

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  3. Patrick Lafferty says:

    bad link, Justin…did it get overwhelmed with traffic?

  4. Bryan says:


    i think TUAD is using “Egalitarian” as referring to a belief about leadership roles within the church..

    Complimentarians (the opposite of Egalitarians) would not disagree with your statement of equality (Galatians 3:26-29). Their contention has to do with roles within the church and the home….not over-arching equality in Christ.

    I hope I was clear. If not, let me know.

  5. spud tooley says:

    bryan – that’s kind of what i assumed. thanks. in fact, i was going to mention complimentarianism. read something about it just the other day, the blogger arguing that it isn’t silly to think God believes a woman can lead a country of 300 million but not a local church of 25 members.


  6. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “i believe inerrancy as generally understood and practiced is the ‘emperor has no clothes’ doctrine of christianity.”

    Spud, you think God-breathed Scriptures are errant?

  7. spud tooley says:

    i dunno. if He ‘breathes’ scriptures, perhaps He should see a doctor or respiratory therapist. if someone said He breathed them three hundred years before certain writings became ‘scripture’, perhaps we should ask them to clarify what they meant.

    and if, in fact, He could only breathe them inerrantly, one would rightfully assume that He could have breathed them understandably, too, or have given a common interpretation to those that followed. but differences in what those writings meant arose within the very first readers, hearers and interpreters.

    maybe God’s view was that He knew that writing it down was going to be a big mistake, which is why He hasn’t bothered to get a copy to everyone who ever lived and figured that we could understand Him even looking at nature.

    and maybe he would have thumped matthew on the head for writing that Jesus rode in on two donkeys into Jerusalem and said, hey – bonehead – what were you thinking?

    and just to be longwinded, maybe He could have gotten Moses to remember in chapter 2 of Genesis what he’d just written in chapter 1.

    and, just maybe He could have written in the book that it was ‘inerrant’, just to be clear. i mean, He more than anyone should know what happens when we start assuming…

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    DISCLAIMER: the thoughts expressed are my own. any error, implied modesty, or gratuitous flattery shown to others is owed entirely to the fact that i am sober.

  8. Brad Williams says:


    I follow the comments on this blog but rarely add to the discussion. I think JT’s blog is one of the best sources for good links and encouragment in the blogosphere.

    It may be that TUAD is a rude fellow. I do not know. But if he’ll abide by it, I’ll just say that he is for the sake of argument.

    I’m having trouble understanding what you are hoping to accomplish here. You hold the readers of this blog in contempt. You said in a previous comment that you view most of the folks who read this blog as those who care little about people but only about doctrine. And yet, you treat people with great contempt in your answers here.

    This last comment of yours was grievous. Not only do you hold the Scriptures in contempt, but you then make goofy comments about your own sobriety. I worry for you. Your scorn is unhealthy and it is discouraging.

  9. spud tooley says:

    i’m sorry you read my comment that way. i don’t hold anyone here in contempt. i certainly have gone back and forth with tuad on a few things, but i bear no hard feelings towards him, and i trust he has none for me.

    i put the sober piece into the sig because of something CR said yesterday. now, before this gets around too far, i don’t ever remember saying i was drunk when i wrote comments. maybe i did, but it was most likely in jest. i have been quite honest here about my past, but only to preach a God of grace in front of those of you i feel are as legalistic with doctrine as the pharisees were with laws.

    there is rarely a time that i post a comment here that doesn’t have some ribbing in it, but none of them ever have ‘contempt’ in them for the people who i write to. which is why in my first comment in this thread i put, ‘physician, heal myself.’ a lot of my comments here are very self-deprecating.

    i may not have the inappropriately (in my mind) high opinion of scripture that you do; i think it is beyond what scripture claims for itself. similarly, my view is that you have a comparatively low opinion of God in regards to it, and i’m left wondering how the God i’ve seen in my own life could possibly be the God you believe is revealed only in what is in your favorite passages in the bible.

    but i certainly don’t hold you, or anyone, or the bible in ‘contempt’. and i don’t really feel i’m here to ‘accomplish’ anything, except to get occasionally frustrated at your hard-headedness and chuckle at some of the things you all write.

    which, were i a betting man, i would wager you do with the things i put out here.

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  10. Brad Williams says:


    I am no meta crusader, so I hope that this doesn’t come across that way. I certainly do not hold you in any contempt. I also read enough blogs and comments to have come across folks playing the doctrine police and folks who enjoy irking them. As far as I know, except at my own blog, I have never entered that sort of fairly fruitless tit for tat. I’m not going to engage in it with you.

    I respect your mind. I seriously doubt that you are ignorant about the inerrantist understanding of Scripture, though your last comment about doubting that God has indeed ‘breathed’ Scripture seems to indicate it.

    I accused you of contempt, and I chose that word carefully. You denied that. Fair enough. But look at what you said in the very comment in which you denied it:

    similarly, my view is that you have a comparatively low opinion of God in regards to it, and i’m left wondering how the God i’ve seen in my own life could possibly be the God you believe is revealed only in what is in your favorite passages in the bible.

    Now, that’s an interesting comment. Think about it this way. I will say that I believe that all Scripture is inspired and without error. Doesn’t that imply that I am (or should) take all of it very seriously? You, on the other hand, deny the doctrine I speak of. Which means, ironically, you apparently think that some parts are better than others. So isn’t it you who actually believes “only in what is in your favorite passages in the bible”?

    I do not laugh when I read what you write. I do not think that you are trying to be funny. I think that you are trying to be scornful. I think that you are trying to tweak TUAD to get a rise out of him, and conversely, to tweak anyone who believes like him.

    I do not mind discussion or debate, brother. And honestly, I am trying to be helpful. You have made a few comments that make it very difficult for folks to listen to you and very easy for them to dismiss you as a troll. I told you what sticks out to me: that readers of this blog are, in general, doctrinal snobs and not lovers of people. You ridiculed inerrancy and tried to paint those who hold to it as God-debasing people. You made the absurd claim that I have somehow fashioned an idol from my favorite passages without knowing what you are talking about and really being generally silly since that is precisely what you yourself are doing.

    That’s all I’ll say about it. Hang in there, man. I don’t know what the problem is, but it seems to me that you have something stuck in your craw. If you don’t, I’ve misread you.

  11. spud tooley says:

    brad, i wasn’t going to respond to what you wrote, but i was just over at and read a brilliant quote by warren buffet that explains who i am perfectly. he said,

    “I don’t worry too much about pointing fingers. I operate on the theory that every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”

    i, a saint (stop laughing), know i have a past. and i believe strongly that every sinner – EVERY sinner, brad – has the chance for a bright future. and any ‘doctrine’ that denies that needs to be confronted for the lie from hell i believe it to be, just like i believe Jesus confronted it in his parable of the pharisee and the tax collector.

    and if you don’t see you and me and our exchange in the text of that parable, perhaps i can understand for the first time what Jesus meant when he explained why he used them.

    i will say thanks for being straightforward in your opinion, and pulling no punches. and i will do my best to take some of it into account when i try to get too cute.

    mike rucker
    fairburn, ga, usa

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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