Do Mark Driscoll's online outbursts discredit his ministry?

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll has long been a controversial figure, whether posting on Facebook about effeminate worship leaders, or saying wives had to take some of the blame for their husband's infidelity if they had 'let themselves go'.

Revelations this week that the Mars Hill pastor had in 2000 posted a series of condemning messages online under a pseudonym were therefore met with almost universal horror.

The series of posts, which havebeen removed from message boards, reveal a tirade of angry rants.

Beginning with the words "We live in a completely pussified nation," Driscoll – under the name 'William Wallace II' – initiated a thread in which he condemns the majority of Christian men for being "Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama's boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish."

According to Driscoll, "It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet.

"As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers."

Driscoll ended his comment by noting that he expected many women to disagree with him, but "they like Eve should not speak on this matter".

"And, many men will also disagree," he added, "which is further proof of the pussified epidemic having now become air born and universal."

The thread, which continues for 140 pages, contains many more shocking comments from the pastor, including the condemnation of gay people – "Every man knows you can't build anything with bolts and bolts. Damn freaks," – and in response to a woman who questioned Driscoll's lack of compassion, he simply wrote: "I speak harshly because I speak to men. A woman might not understand that. I also do not answer to women. So, your questions will be ignored.

"I would however, recommend to you a few versed to memorize: I Timothy 2:11-15, I Corinthians 14:33-35. To learn them, ask your father or husband. If you have neither, ask your pastor. If she is a female, find another church. If you are the pastor, quit your job and repent."

Well-known for his conservative teachings on gender roles in particular, these comments are not necessarily a surprise, but they have nonetheless caused consternation within the evangelical sphere, with some raising questions over Dricolls's mental health.

Rachel Held Evans argues that his comments, now 14 years old, "reveal a disturbed and dangerous man who needs counselling, not a place at the pulpit."

"They reveal...the ugly heart behind [his] continued teachings – the workings of his troubled mind, which need to be addressed for his own health and the health of his congregation," she added.

"A man this severely disturbed, should not be in a position of leadership in a church. He needs counselling, not a pulpit. He needs discipline, not a megaphone."

Former members and leaders of Mars Hill are planning to hold a "peaceful demonstration" outside the Bellevue campus in Seattle this Sunday in light of the events of the past week, and as a response to a video released earlier this month in which Driscoll said it is difficult to reconcile with those who have distanced themselves from the church because many remain "anonymous".

"This Sunday, we will be ANONYMOUS NO MORE," a Facebook group set up to promote the protest insists.

"We are Christian, loving people who don't normally demonstrate. We want to have a quiet, strong message for Mark Driscoll, that people he has harmed over the years are not unknown to him as he has claimed," said organiser Rob Smith, a former programme director at Mars Hill.

And yet, despite the growing number of dissenters, Driscoll continues to be in demand as a speaker and writer.

Thomas Nelson, which publishes Driscoll's books, declined to comment, but he is set to speak at the Hillsong 2015 conference in London, alongside Rick Warren, Jentezen Franklin and Joseph Prince.

No specific comment on the latest allegations levelled at Driscoll has been made by Hillsong, but Brian Houston explained during a press conference last week that the Australian megachurch is passionate about encouraging diversity. "We try to get a balance between different styles. We're being brave in the people we put together on the same platforms," he said.

"I love that, because for a start it breaks down walls, and it keeps a breadth, and I think one of the things that we Christians become fair too easily is narrow and so it helps us to keep a real breadth of the diversity of the body of Christ.

"I've always felt that as believers there's more that unifies us than keeps us apart," Houston continued.

"So I look at trying to get a breadth of speakers that will add and complete a whole strong input into the conference rather than whole load of people that are of the same vein...To me it's as much about bridge-building, as anything else."

While unity is important, some will ask at what point a pastor should be discredited entirely.

Author and pastor Jared Wilson has defended the Mars Hill pastor in the past, though he also shared in a 2013 Gospel Coalition blog that he had stopped listening to Driscoll's podcasts and reading his books.

"Mainly because I became discouraged by his drift from substantive expository preaching," Wilson explained.

"He seemed to have moved away from a rigid focus on the text and adopted more of a 'start with the text, expand to a rant' kind of preaching style, and it grew tiresome to me."

Wilson is adamant that he wants to see Driscoll "succeed and prevail", however. Addressing the pastor directly, he wrote: Pastor Mark, if you're reading this – you are losing us. Forget about the "haters". We ain't them. We are the ones who love you, who want to see you succeed and prevail. And we won't stop, no matter what tribe you're in or which conference stage you take.

"But we want you to take responsibility for your actions and your attitude. It does not commend grace. We want you to walk in repentance. We want you to seek the way of Christ in more humility, to drop the image and the posturing, and remind us of what drew us to you in the first place: the fame of Christ's name, not the protection of your own."

Wilson concluded: "I'm asking you to turn around and show us why we were so drawn to you in the beginning. I'm asking you to show us Jesus. He has become lost in your shadow."

So where do we go from here? Justin Brierley, editor of Premier Christianity magazine, who once got in a spat with Mark Driscoll over this interview, knows what it is to be on the receiving end of the sharper end of Mark Driscoll's tongue. His take was this: "I think obviously the things he [Driscoll] said or wrote at the time are quite shocking, although I'm sure he regrets them, and I think there's a place for extending grace to people who said things in the past that come back to them later on.

"I nonetheless understand why people think these comments could be symptomatic of the underlying issues that he may still have regarding sexuality, women and everything else. But personally I wouldn't want to be judge and jury on his character – I think he is who he is, and the reason he's attracted so many people is in part because he tends to be quite opinionated and controversial in the way he puts things across, though that obviously doesn't justify these comments."