An Ungodly Legacy–Talking About Mark Driscoll On Fatherhood

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Pastor Mark Driscoll is speaking about Job as a model for fatherhood. In particular, he is commenting about praying and sacrificing on behalf of his children as mentioned in Job 1:5–

“He wasn’t a father who just looked at his twenty year old daughter who was dating the wrong guy and said,

‘Well, you’re an adult. You make your own decisions. This doesn’t involve me.’

A father is the one who lovingly humbly invests and involves. And then he is the one who takes responsibility.”

–at 17:20-17:35 in sermon entitled, “Becoming A Godly Man

Today’s post is about an idea promulgated by Pastor Mark Driscoll as well as other evangelicals. It is an idea of headship–aka head of the household–that can go horribly, horribly wrong.

I pulled out one of the most problematic quotes–there are others–from Driscoll’s recent sermon to men entitled, “Becoming A Godly Man.” It might look somewhat benign at first glance, but let me assure you that it is fraught with some serious problems.

To be clear: What Driscoll is holding up as godly fatherhood is far from it! 

It is a model for an authoritarian fatherhood. Driscoll is essentially teaching that fathers ought to exert control–in some form or another–over their adult children’s dating decisions.

He explicitly links the adult daughter dating the “wrong guy” as the father’s responsibility!

Furthermore, MD holds up the father who respects the agency of his adult daughter as being ungodly.

Such fatherly interference is very unhealthy idea. It is highly disrespectful of the adult child’s agency.

It was this sort of teaching that led my former father-in-law, a member of MD’s former church, to think he was entitled and commanded–as a “godly” father–to comment on my sex life with his daughter–to give just one example of his parental interference! This is dangerous stuff.

This sort of teaching from Mark Driscoll pushes the idea that “godly” fathers keep control over their children even into adulthood as the quote above demonstrates. It is not a stretch–without any corrective statement from Driscoll in the sermon–to see how this teaching leads to unhealthy dynamics of fathers potentially interfering in their children’s marriages thinking it is their “responsibility” as a father.

Anyone with a rudimentary training as a professional chaplain can recognize the inherent abuse such teaching promotes. Professional chaplaincy trains us to recognize and respect individual agency of those to whom we provide care. To disregard that agency is to cause harm by disrespecting the individual made in God’s image.

My own older and wiser godly parents even tried to warn my former FIL about not crossing such boundaries. They told my xFIL in a letter–prompted by him and his wife contacting my parents–that a godly parent respects the sanctity of the marriage by taking an advisory role–by request only–at most.

Unlike MD’s teaching, my parents recognized their role was not to dictate decisions to adult children, and that is especially so–as was in my case–when children are married. 

God holds us responsible for our own choices. In fact, God explicitly teaches that fathers will not be judged for their children’s sins (see Ezekiel 18:20). This idea that we are responsible for another adult’s choices or actions is a false teaching, and that includes even for adult children (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:10).

Instead of bashing a father who respects his adult daughter’s agency, I wished Driscoll had affirmed the father’s respect of his daughter’s agency while encouraging a loving, open door stance to her. In other words, I wished MD had affirmed the good part and help model godly respect for another individual made in God’s image with choice and agency.

The problem that arises from him missing that affirmation is what it says to men seeking to be good fathers. It sends the message that to be included in the “godly” father club that one must run interference even in adult children’s lives disrespecting their agency. Those lacking spiritual maturity will miss this subtle manipulation by MD and run after the “good, godly father” label by acting according to MD’s directions here.

It is dangerous stuff.

I do not know if it is my personal–awful–experience, my family heritage as a Mennonite–people who fiercely defend individual conscience, or simply my commitment to sound Biblical teaching that makes me so annoyed with this destructive doctrine taught by Pastor Mark Driscoll. It is likely a combination of the three.

This hyper-teaching of manly or fatherly responsibility is destructive to relationships. I know as I have experienced it as such personally.

This is not just a theoretical discourse about such doctrine. I have seen the fruit of this particular teaching, and it is really bad fruit. Not the stuff of a godly legacy.



10 thoughts on “An Ungodly Legacy–Talking About Mark Driscoll On Fatherhood”

  1. MD is not an outlier in his teaching in this regard. I have heard the same thing at a church I attended and it is typical of the neo-call set. It is dangerous, wounds a lot of people and drives people out of the church.

  2. I am leading a book study on parenting at my church right now. The common theme in the book is about how excellent parenting is based in unconditional love and consistently teaching children right from wrong. That is good, sound, time tested, scientifically proven and biblical advice. Our group frequently visits the 1 Corinthians 13 verse to remind us what real love looks like in action. Nowhere does it say love is controlling, demanding and forceful. It is quite the opposite. Controlling fathers and mothers leave a really sad legacy that tend to leave a cycle of broken families.

      1. The book is “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” by Becky Bailey. It is a secular book but with sound advice and we find it easy to connect to biblical teachings.

  3. DM, my religious heritage is Annabaptist as well. My mom & dad grew up in Brethren in Christ. A few years ago I read a book about the anti-war stance of that church in WWII. All of a sudden things that were mysteries to me as a child started falling into place.
    Religious DNA is very powerful!

  4. Ugh, this turns my stomach. Just like when he said yoga was evil. Haha. I had to think to myself, “If your entire faith is rocked by doing some stretches and strengthening poses, you’ve got bigger problems my friend.” All good things comes from God. I’m really sorry you went through this with your ex-FIL. That is gross and depressing. Thank you for speaking truth boldly. I love your articles every day!

  5. This is slightly off topic. My ex-wife and I belonged to a married couples group and we went through several studies including “The 5 Love Languages” and “Love and Respect”. But when the group decided to take on “Real Marriage” by the Driscolls. Both my ex and I felt like something was wrong with this teaching. I think the Holy Spirit was prompting us that this teaching was not Biblical. Also, the way his wife reacts to him was like she was afraid of him. She was very careful, too careful in the way she responded to her husband. There was just a strange vibe with the interaction between those two.

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