An Open Letter to Pastor Mark Driscoll

October 28, 2013

Dear Mr. Driscoll:

I have a hunch that you will never read this letter, but since you have used this same “open letter” technique as a means to communicate with someone (as evidenced by your open invitation letter to Dr. John MacArthur), I thought I would I would give it a try myself. Actually, it’s in regards to that letter to Dr. MacArthur that I write to you.

First of all, I would like to thank you for your ministry. You have done a remarkable job of reaching a highly secularized part of the United States with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the Acts 29 network of churches is doing great work. I am acquainted with several men who are serving churches that are associated with Acts 29. Thanks also for standing against the unhelpful, even heretical theology that was typical of the so-called “Emergent” movement a few years ago.

Now, with regards to your open letter to Dr. MacArthur, I must say that I was somewhat surprised by it. I don’t presume to think that you care about my reaction since I am disconnected from the parties involved. But I’m not disinterested in the matter at hand. And since your letter was an “open” one and it could just as easily have been a private communication between just you and Dr. MacArthur, I am taking the liberty of responding as one who was an indirect recipient of the letter, given that it was posted on the Internet for any and all to read. Your letter to Dr. MacArthur was not some surreptitiously obtained, unauthorized posting of a private letter or email. You surely intended for it to be read by anyone with access to the World Wide Web.

Near the end of your “open letter”, you ask for suggestions on how your offer to Dr. MacArthur to attend and participate in your upcoming Resurgence Conference could be “more loving and reasonable.” I commend you for that. That’s a very gracious offer and request. So, I would like to offer a few suggestions, since you have invited feedback.

First, it occurred to me that a more “loving” approach to the invitation might have been to use the exact same means by which all of the other conference speakers were invited to participate. Were they were also invited in a blog post, that was fashioned as an “open letter”? If that was the case, then obviously you can disregard this suggestion. However, my guess would be that they received personal phone calls, personal emails, or personal letters of invitation. And I would not be surprised if I were to learn that some were even extended the invitation via an in-person, face-to-face conversation with you, or someone close to you. So, an “open letter” posted on the internet might fall a little short of the kind of expressed love you were maybe hoping for. Perhaps it’s only me, but the “open letter” could possibly be misunderstood as a bit of a stunt designed to elevate you and your thoughtfulness, while publicly shaming Dr. MacArthur if he fails to yield to your offer and drop everything he’s doing to accept your invitation. I’m sure that was not your intent, but I hope you can see how someone, including Dr. MacArthur, might draw that conclusion.

The second matter is perhaps a little delicate, but I hope you will indulge me. I trust that I am not the first person to tell you that you have a reputation for being a bit “edgy” when it comes to your inter-personal style.  I’m not sure I completely understand the expression, but I think I have heard or read your style described as “smash mouth.” I am guessing you know this since you point out in your “open letter” that you have been called to task for some of your words and deeds in the past. I bring this matter up now, because in your “open letter”, you go to great lengths to explain why you “dropped by” Dr. MacArthur’s conference in Southern California when you “happened to be in the area.” In the context of making your invitation to Dr. MacArthur more “loving and reasonable” you might want to reconsider the extensive explanation and defense of your actions, and simply apologize for the way that your actions might have been perceived. Again, I know this is delicate, but because of your history of doing, shall I say, knuckle-headed things, I’d like to suggest that it is entirely possible that some people might perceive that your actions during the Strange Fire Conference were intentionally provocative, maybe purposely antagonistic, even though you contend otherwise. I hope that you are tracking with me. What I am suggesting is that you should perhaps do less rationalizing and justifying of your actions and more acknowledging that because of your reputation and personal style, you are not really owed the benefit of the doubt, and that you then apologize (assuming you can do so sincerely) for taking advantage of the situation. And that you regret (if you really do) any problems or misunderstandings that may have resulted. Now, doesn’t that sound more loving than the self-righteous defense of your actions and your self-serving description of the incident that was presented in your “open letter”? In addition to being more loving and reasonable, it would also reveal a kind of humility that might surprise lots of people who may have incorrectly assumed that your appearance at the Strange Fire Conference was for reasons other than the ones you described in your “open letter.” I know that you cannot answer all the cynics, but I hope you can at least see how your reputation and personal style, mixed with the fact that you are on the record as being in disagreement with the particular doctrinal leanings of the Strange Fire Conference, might cause some cynical speculation about your real motives for simply “dropping by” for a visit without registering or being invited.

The third thing may be as delicate as the second, because I am sure that you are justifiably proud of your new book and are anxious for lots of people to read it. But I am trying to help you fashion a more loving and reasonable approach to Dr. MacArthur. Please accept this suggestion in the spirit in which it is intended, that is, of being helpful. The promotion of your book in the “open letter”, could appear to be more salesmanship and marketing than a loving and reasonable appeal for a man to adjust his schedule and change his plans on relatively short notice, to participate in your conference. Consider the discussion (promotion) of your book in the “open letter” in the light of the acknowledged fact that you were signing book copies and distributing them at Dr. MacArthur’s conference, on the property of a church for which you are not the pastor, without prior permission or invitation. Do you see how your mentioning the book so extensively in the “open letter” might be misunderstood? A relevant application of the teaching found in Ecclesiastes 3 might go something like this…there is a time for inviting a man to a conference, and a time for promoting a new book.

Finally, while I don’t question the authenticity of your offers, I hope that you will see the possibility that the various descriptions of your generosity (paying for travel, honorarium, you working without fee, waiving on-line charges live-stream, etc), could be misunderstood as singularly pointing out what a great and generous guy you are. After all, paying the travel expenses for out-of-town conference speakers and offering honorarium is not out of the ordinary, and Dr. MacArthur himself streamed the Strange Fire Conference for free (because the conference sold out). So, you are not really offering anything unusual or extraordinary, nor something that merits special attention by Dr. MacArthur. In other words, I am guessing that the descriptions of your benevolence will probably not be persuasive to your intended reader. But the way in which you present them for the benefit of all of the other recipients of your “open letter” on the Internet, seems to have at least the faint fragrance of some species of pride, maybe even hubris, though I am pretty sure that was not your intention…right?

There were a few other matters in your “open letter” that deserve some conversation, but perhaps another time. Like your assertion that because the “majority of Christians” are not cessationists, there must be something inherently right about continuationism. This logic falls in the category of “everyone is doing it”, and is not particularly convincing. Using that same approach, I could say that because all Christians continue to sin from time to time, it must be okay. Like I said, perhaps another time.

Thanks for reading and graciously receiving my suggestions. I hope that they will help you make the more loving and reasonable offer to Dr. MacArthur that you were hoping for.

God bless you and your ministry, and God bless your Resurgence Conference early next month,

Chuck Thomas


Random Stuff 7.21.2011

July 21, 2011
  1. Representative Alan West clearly should have chosen a better way of delivering his message to Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  One that did not have the paper (or electronic) trail would have been a good idea.  But what he said was his opinion, and I suspect that he is not alone in it. He just had the courage to say it, as opposed to all the nonsense you hear up there customarily…”the gentlewoman from…”, “the honorable …”.
  2. I can’t help but think that the professional politicians in Washington are scamming the citizens of our country with their “negotiating’ on this deficit, debt ceiling, blah blah blah stuff.  Could they really be surprised that polls consistently reveal that they are not trusted?
  3. I live in a part of the country where it is naturally expected to be hot in the summer.  I “get” hot weather.  I feel sorry for the parts of the country that are suffering with record-breaking heat right now.  I wonder if those folks return the sentiment when we experience record-breaking cold or snowfall down here in the southern tier of states?
  4. Let me say that I am opposed to “Obamacare.”  That said, the direct and associated costs for a relatively simply arthroscopic knee surgery are staggering.  The costs associated with the care of my premature, but otherwise completely healthy grandson were staggering.  While there are many industries that need to be reformed by way of a truly free market, I can think of none that need it more than the health care industry and all of its hangers-on, like the insurance industry (health and liability) and the parasite lawyers who swirl around it.  While I shudder at what Obama’s socialized medicine will do to health care in the U.S., another side of me says the folks that are in and around the industry, deserve it.  As an industry the players seem to have been inattentive to the Hippocratic oath to “do no harm.”
  5. Hard to believe that we have effectively seen the end of the manned space program for the greatest country in the world. Our arch-enemies are now the only players and if we want to go back to space anytime soon, we have to pay to hitch a ride.

Random Stuff 4.25.2011

April 25, 2011
  1. Those who are fond of the sitting president might object to the source of this news, considering it to be biased, but the facts remain. Is there some point at which we can safely assume that these slights are not mere oversights? Or have we maybe even passed that point?
  2. Given Mr. Obama’s apparent affinity for his church in Chicago pastored by Jeremiah Wright, which he attended for so many years, it must be a comfort, after nearly 2-1/2 years in Washington D.C., to find a near perfect replacement so much closer to home.
  3. I am amazed by this video.  The effort to produce the effects using stop action photography and a LITE-BRITE just blows my mind.  Having played with my kid’s LITE BRITE when they were little, I cannot even imagine how long it took to complete this video.  I can watch it over and over again and just marvel.
  4. John MacArthur’s final installment in his 4-part series on Rob Bell and Bell’s book Love Wins is worth reading, particularly is you are one who is inclined to cut Bell some slack with his post-modern style and nuanced approach to Christian theology. Links to MacArthur’s other articles in the series can be found in the right hand column of his web page.
  5. After 2 episodes, I am enjoying the mini-series The Kennedys on Reelz channel.  The producers appear to be presenting an unvarnished look at the way this family grabbed for power and realized it irrespective of the cost or the underhanded (even illegal) tactics involved.  They also pull no punches with respect to the philandering Kennedy men.  It is no wonder that reports have it that Maria Shriver and Caroline Kennedy fought hard to prevent this mini-series from being aired.

Random Stuff 4.21.2011

April 21, 2011
  1. It’s San Jacinto Day in Texas.  An important day in Texas history marking the final and decisive battle in the Republic’s fight for independence from Mexico in 1836.  And it is a solemn one for Aggies all over the world. “Softly Call the Muster…”
  2. This is an important article.  Anyone really think this imbalance is sustainable?  If actions speak louder than words, it would appear that most democrat elected officials and way too many republicans, do.  I think the facts are on my side when I say “it is not.”
  3. Are you missing Charlie Sheen yet, since he is more or less out of the news?  Me neither.  I would say WE are “winning!”
  4. The media are making much ado about nothing with respect to the “go around” that Michelle Obama’s plane had to make day before yesterday.  If this maneuver had been executed by any other plane with any other passenger, it would not have merited even a mention by the media, EVEN in light of the other inexcusable problems that have rightly received the attention of the press with sleeping air traffic controllers.
  5. Inside Edition, has found Kate Middleton’s 15th cousin once removed living in Connecticut.  Don’t know how either of them (Kate or the cousin) have been able to survive all this time without being aware of one another.  This is such good news.  Wonder if the cousin will get an invitation to the wedding next week, even though the notice is so short.
  6. I have relatively little respect for trial lawyers (aka Ambulance Chasers) and those law firms who bring class action lawsuits against companies with the apparent motive of helping the “little guy” while lining their own pockets with huge percentages of the awards.  It is in this light, that I celebrate with Taco Bell in the news that the law firm that tried to bring a class action suit against them, has withdrawn the suit.  And Taco Bell is getting the last laugh with ads running in some major newspapers.
  7. This disgusts me.  Good on S&P.  Either the Treasury Department officials are liars, or their mental capacity is alarmingly diminished. Get this…they think the national debt of $14.3 trillion dollars is under control.  Right.

Random Stuff 4.20.2011

April 20, 2011
  1. A seldom if ever seen look at what is probably the more realistic Obama. (Watch the video.)  A petulant, thin-skinned, uninformed, catty, bristling, snarky interviewee, who thinks that he is entitled to deliver his message without any challenge whatsoever.  The last few seconds when the interview appears to be over are some of the most telling.  The mainstream media has allowed him to have his way for so long, including the likes of Bill O’Reilly, I guess he just wasn’t prepared for someone who asked real questions and then see through the nuance.  Furthermore, does anyone REALLY believe Obama loves Texas?  Do you really?
  2. For anyone who is a parent now, or hopes to be someday, read this and DON’T forget it.
  3. Universalism is just wishful thinking.  And apparently upwards of 25% of self-defined “born again Christians” are wishful thinkers and not in a remotely helpful or doctrinally sound way.
  4. I guess that I am the only person on earth who is tired of seeing this guy pop up everywhere as if he has something really important to say.  Otherwise it seems like he would not keep popping up.  He  certainly has very little that is funny to say, and that is too bad since I think he is supposed to be a comedian.  
  5. Texas is on fire. Literally.  So much so that we have even made the news in the U.K.
  6. Have reached another of life’s milestones.  Our 1-month old, twin grand babies have come to visit at our house for the first time. Am I really that old?
  7. One of the great things about living out in the county is the wildlife.  For the last 5 years we have peacefully coexisted with a variety of species and we pretty much leave each other alone, apart from a few assaults by the deer on our planted landscape.  That is until about 9 months ago when our yard became too great a temptation for an armadillo.  At first I rationalized that the digging was helping to aerate the lawn.  But realistically, he/she is absolutely destroying the lawn not helping it, I suppose looking for grubs or some other delicacy.  Am anxiously awaiting the UPS delivery of a large Havahart trap this week for his/her capture.  Have not decided yet if this humane means of trapping will lead to a subsequent release many miles from our place, or something else.  When I survey the damage, the “something else” is tempting.

Random Stuff 4.18.2011

April 18, 2011
  1. What seemed like an otherwise important and well established charity to raise funds for breast cancer research has stubbed its toe in a remarkably inept way.  If they hope to survive this inexcusable granting of funds to support the leader in the baby killing industry, the Koman board ought to terminate their CEO, and CFO, repudiate these past indiscretions and pledge to never, ever, associate with such a controversial recipient of their funds.  If they fail to take actions approaching these, it will speak volumes, and should cause any thoughtful person to thoughtfully decline to support Komen’s efforts, no matter how worthy the bulk of their fundraising may be. How inconsistent is it to, on one hand, ostensibly raise money to save lives while out the back door some of the money goes to take the lives of the unborn?  This is an opening for another charity to take on leadership in the important fight against breast cancer.
  2. This is a great flow chart of the events of Holy Week.  When my wife walked by my computer and saw it, she thought it looked like a subway map, and she is right.
  3. I can remember with great clarity, the criticism of George W. Bush for his apparent slow actions in the immediate wake of Katrina.  As I write this, I have seen and heard nothing about our current president offering a statement, in person, in writing or via his mouthpieces, expressing his concern or condolences for the loss of life, and we are now into something like day 4 since the first tornadoes hit Arkansas, Mississippi, and North Carolina. But Barry played golf on Sunday.  Always time for golf.  I think we are up to something approaching 70 rounds in the two years he has been in office.  Am I missing the outrage from the mainstream media, or are they asleep on the job like an air traffic controller?
  4. The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be this Friday, April 29th.  But it appears that the fun has already begun.  This one  will no doubt be a bit more lively than the regal, stately one later this week or next or whenever it is.
  5. Wonder if the S&P “negative” outlook for the United States credit rating will nudge the politicians in Washington D.C. to get off their butts and make some constructive moves to fix the deficit problem.  I have my doubts, when the Treasury Secretary says that we need to increase the debt limit in order to fix the deficit.  Let me get this straight.  We need to deepen the hole so we can close the hole?  Either these people are hopelessly stupid, or they are devious, manipulative liars, hellbent on destroying our economy.
  6. Charles Manson’s new concern is global warming. He and AlGore make a great pair and credible spokespersons for this imaginary issue.  At least Charles Manson has the excuse of being mentally ill.
  7. Today is Tax Day.  Apart from the portion of your taxes that go to pay for our Armed Forces, are you pleased with where your money is spent?  Me neither.

Random Stuff 4.14.2011

April 14, 2011
  1. I actually love it that it took 3-Apple Techs about two and a half hours, to figure out how to fix the problem caused by installing the latest iOS update resulting in the total crash of my iPhone.  The usual, “textbook” means of reviving the phone were not successful.  They were stumped.  Apple products are not quite as invincible as the Kool-aid drinkers think they are.  At least PC based products are humble enough to admit they are messed up. Not so for Apple.
  2. That said, every one of the Apple Techs were located in the continental United States and spoke English as their first language, which is more than I can say for all but one other electronics/computing companies I have occasion to deal with.  Thank you for that, Apple.  P.S. One of those techs admitted to me that he is a PC user at home.  Booyah.
  3. Republicans are stunningly bad at playing the political game.  Look no further than the most recent $38 billion dollar “deal” they struck with the demoncrats.  They seem like rank amateurs playing with a bunch of skilled professionals.  If they don’t wise up quickly and play tough, they will become extinct, as will our great republic.
  4. I admit that I have been sleepy at work, and have even nodded off for just a second during some particularly dull meetings.  However, I never had planes full of people, counting on me to stay awake while I was performing my job.
  5. Speaking of sleepy, Joe Biden is clearly jazzed while on the job by the President’s plan for the federal budget.  If he were almost anyone else, working for almost anyone else, I might almost feel badly for him.
  6. “Vote for the Worst dot com” -> FAIL.  They had been listing American Idol contestant Paul McDonald as their “pick.”  And he got voted off the island tonight.