How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words

Tough, but needed words by Mark Driscoll.


The MP4, MP3, and notes for this talk are also available. One of my favorite lines at the end is, “Pray for people more than you criticize them.” I’d quote my other favorite lines but I don’t want to spoil the talk for you. Oh, and he does mention Mormonism.

Be sure to check out the rest of the talks from the conference.

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8 Responses to How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words

  1. falcon says:

    This was very good. Thank you for posting it. Mark has a real gift. Not only is he a talented speaker, but he has a fresh approach and an analytical mind. I’m unfamilar with him and his ministry but I’d like to access more of his preaching/teaching. I’m going to take a look at the notes also.

  2. germit says:

    AARON: Thanks for the link, his message stirs up both weighty thot AND some emotion. I read “Confessions of a Reformationist Pastor” a few years ago, and Mark is one of those ‘strong spice’ kind of guys that leaves an impression. For me, he is great example of at least two virtues: COURAGE (which we see too little of today) and a strong love for the inspired Word of GOD. Maybe a 3rd: a very MISSIONAL mindset: he cares deeply about the lost.
    Having said that, I’m a little slow to make some kind of general application of his words as it relates to sarcasm and mirth to the audience here at MC. From what I’ve seen: as the sarcasm goes UP, the audience TUNES OUT. Keep in mind that I REALLY appreciate some well place sarcasm, and yes, I see its use in the Bible. One of my problems (wait for the book for the rest) is that I like it a little too much and it seems to be (most often) a conversation STOPPER. I can’t accept that as a NORMATIVE pattern of interaction with my LDS listeners and ‘friends’. Perhaps one difference is that I don’t carry the place of AUTHORITY that Jesus, Paul, or any of the church fathers had (and I know I just rang the dinner bell for CLUFF and others: yeah, I’ve heard a little bit about AUTHORITY of the LDS variety here on MC…). Maybe there are some things better said from a pulpit or even a sunday school class that are put in a slightly different package when blogging with THEM: whoever THEM happens to be (New agers, JW’s, LDS, etc.) I’m open, as a self-confessed ‘new guy’ to consider almost anything: both any approach that shoots conversation DEAD is suspect, not saying that it’s automatically wrong. Comments???? GERMIT

  3. Arthur Sido says:

    I am not a huge fan of Driscoll. Doctrinally I am right there with him on most things. But he spends so much time trying to be cute and sarcastic that it loses some of the message, and when he strays into profanity and lewd conversation from the pulpit, which he does on occasion, it really damages his message. He is a bright guy and a gifted speaker, I wish he would focus his ministry on the simple Gospel message instead of trying to be controversial. His preaching strays into performance and when he delivers laugh lines you can see the anticipation on his face. Love him or hate him, he is a polarizing figure in the church.

    On the other hand, there is a place for sharp conversation when it comes to defending the faith. It has been remarked that if sarcasm was a spiritual gift, I would be an apostle. I don’t think it was meant as a compliment. We need to be loving but we also need to be firm when it comes to the truth. I would rather be overly harsh with the truth than too soft. The Gospel is a divider, it is confrontational, it causes offense. We just need to make sure that what causes offense IS the Gospel and not our behavior.

  4. falcon says:

    There definitely is a “cringe” factor with Mark Discroll. The Book of Proverbs is my guide and also the Book of Ecclesiastes. The concept of “there is an appointed time for everything” and wisdom lends itself to making the right decision at the right time can be appropriated here. I liked his concepts and his theme but to be honest, I’ve never been real successful with confrontation and even righteous anger. I always make a fool of myself and leave too much damage in my wake. I like the idea, however, of being able to identify sheep, swine, wolves, and dogs. As I listened to him, I thought of people from my past, older than me, who really liked to call people out and “scold” them; straighten them out. Sheep attacking other sheep.
    I was in a seminar years ago and one of my favorite concepts was the idea of a negative trait really being a positive trait used in a negative way. In other words, it gets pushed too far. I’ve had to deal with that in my life regarding my use of humor and sarcasm. I teach a course at one of the local colleges, and I always warn my students about this (regarding myself). If I get on a role when I’m lecturing and I’m zinging things out there, I’ll have a moment when my toes are right up to the line. And like Chris Farley in his old Saturday Night Life skit, I’ll be berating myself and slapping myself in the side of the head all the way home yelling “stupid, stupid, stupid”.

  5. SteveH says:


    After listening to the truly vulgar tirades of this evangelical preacher Mark Driscoll I was appalled by the sheer invective of his ranting.

    Shouting and screaming he reviles mainline Protestant Churches (Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian etc.) as being vile hypocrites. He pours absolute scathing on the “Papists” (Roman Catholic Church). He also compares the the LDS Church to a pile of “dog crap” on his front lawn. If this is not religious hated and bigotry I don’t know what is.

    Sadly, this invective towards the beliefs of others seems to be the norm amongst Evangelical preachers. My question is: Where does all this anger and hatred come from? – Certainly not from Jesus Christ.

  6. germit, as I understood Driscoll, he wasn’t advocating metaphorically “shooting” the average unbeliever you meet, rather he was referring to assertive false teachers that have positions of authority or significance spheres of influence. The harsh rebukes in the Bible of such people seemed to have happened publicly, because it was a public issue, not a mere interpersonal relational issue.

    I have good LDS friends I talk with daily that are just passionate, individual Mormons carrying on with life. I wouldn’t publicly attack them like I would a deceptive false teacher like Robert D. Hales of the Twelve and Robert Millet of BYU.

    Arthur, you’re not alone with the discomfort with Driscoll’s over-the-top efforts at being cute and vulgar… I’m with you on that! But having listened to quite a few of his sermons, I must say that he has driven home the gospel quite well to me personally in my own life, and it seems he is having the same sort of effect on thousands in Seattle and around the world. Perhaps the cutting language that distracts some people is the thing that edifyingly engages others. The challenge I think for those not used to sharp speech is to glean what they can from him on issues he is most gifted to speak on without letting his foibles become too distracting. And Driscoll does have tender moments in almost every sermon where you can see different sides of him.

    SteveH, what Mark mainly did is draw out the kind of language the Bible sometimes uses to attack the sin and pride of “dogs” and “wolves”. If you have a problem with that, then in principle you should have a problem with the God’s word and accuse various messengers in the Bible of “religious hatred and bigotry”. And keep in mind, one of the main texts Mark appealed to was the biting invective of Jesus toward the Pharisees.

    It takes a lot of self-introspection, humility, and patience to stomach stinging Biblical language that goes beyond our American standards of Victorian civility and nicety. As one sees from reading Proverbs, it comes down to whether we love truth, discipline, reproof, and discernment, or whether we love being sinfully simple, stupid, and prideful. And I use the word “stupid” because Proverbs does.

    “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)

    “There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.” (Proverbs 15:10)

    “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” (Proverbs 15:31)

    The clear message of Proverbs, if I could apply modern paraphrase, is: Love discipline, love knowledge. Do everything you can to get it. Don’t be stupid, don’t hate harsh assessments just because they make you feel bad. Grow up, be a man, don’t be immature, stop whining about fear and harsh words and treasure them as life-giving. Treat as precious the rod of your father and the wounds of friends. Don’t be like the stupid fools who love simplicity and ignorance. Instead, treasure words of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.

    Given this way of life, I have a hard time chucking what Driscoll has to say just because he is rough around the edges. I also have a hard time chucking what Paul had to say about his past works-based religiousity having been “rubbish”/”refuse”/”crap” (skybalon in Philippians 3:8), or what he vulgarly said about wishing the Judaizers going beyond circumcision to gross emasculation (Galatians 5:12). His “compassionate rage”, as John Piper calls it, was godly and came from a heart for the purity of the gospel and the protection of God’s people.

    Grace and peace,


    PS I wonder if some Mormons here should consider the beloved Brigham Young and J. Golden Kimball before they harshly attack Driscoll for using colorful language? I for one would prefer a Brigham Young or J. Golden Kimball any day over a droning, maudlin, soporific repeater of platitudes and cliches who is methodically reading from a teleprompter.

  7. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    As I listened to Mark Driscoll I did not so much notice that he was calling out Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.; what I heard was him calling the guilty to repentance. Whoever we are — sheep, swine or wolves — God calls us to humble ourselves as we turn to Christ in our spiritual poverty, seeking His mercy and grace. The biblical language is strong, perhaps vulgar at times, but it is, nevertheless, true.

  8. Arthur Sido says:

    Martin Luther was known for his salty language at times, langauge that was shocking to the genteel and the “educated”.

    I have no issue with using strong language or even coarse language when it is appropriate, but sometimes it seems as if Driscoll is doing it for shock value. This talk is pretty tame compared to some of the stuff he says.

    Sharon is right though, what Driscoll says boils down to what we should all be doing (without the vulgarity perhaps!), which is calling a lost and dying world to repent. It is in God’s hand who will turn from sin and repent, that faith which is a gift of God, that heart surgery that only God can perform (as opposed to the gross misrepresentation of Ezekiel 36 by Monson in the priesthood session of general conference) Our role is not to convince people to repent by clever argument, but to declare the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ that all are sinners headed for an eternity of hell, and the only way to avoid that is to have your sins atoned for by Christ and His propitiatory sacrifice. We should call mormons to repent, we should call JWs to repent, we should call Catholics to repent, we should call Baptists to repent. We should certainly call atheists to repent. No one is exempt from the need to repent because of the church they attend or who their parents are. We are to call all men without exception to repent without exception, and let the Holy Spirit regenerate according to the will of the Father.

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