Return of the Evangelical

Jonathan Fitzgerald has published a peculiar article (John Piper Strikes Back!), comparing John Piper and Mark Driscoll to the Emperor and Darth Vader respectively. He has elicited my response, and I am happy1  to oblige.

Much could be said about Jonathan’s article. (N.T. Wright as Obi-Wan is irresistible… and undeniable). But I will constrain myself to just a few thoughts.

Two things I like about this article:
  1. It proceeds with relative sensitivity.
    Poking fun at such prolific, out-there figures as John Piper and Mark Driscoll takes little effort. Both pastors publish vast materials online for free, making them huge targets for pretexting. With such a repertoire available, this article could have been far less charitable, but instead, it stopped short of untactful, bloggish slag. I appreciate that.
  2. It challenges the status quo.
    Perhaps to the surprise of someone like Jonathan, I have no interest in defending Piper or Driscoll. I don’t trade on a theologian’s name; I trade on their theology and thinking. So I appreciate the questioning of their thinking and positions. If something is off, I want to realize that. We should subject all authors to such scrutiny. I wish more Evangelicals would chew through the stuff they read rather than just swallow it whole. To that end, I hope Jonathan will continue to question the old guard.

Two things I do not like about this article:

  1. It engages emotions more than issues.
    The appeal to Star Wars is fun but unfortunate. It’s polarizing. It’s deliberating inciting. And ultimately, it does not advance the argument but conflates it with unhelpful emotion, leaving the left side high-fiving and the right side rolling up sleeves. I say it’s unfortunate because I think Jonathan has raised some very important concerns that need to be discussed in-depth, but we never really get there in this article.
  2. It hinges on speculations and not specifics.
    The initial premise of this article is itself hopelessly unprovable. I would actually argue Driscoll is not the Vader of Evangelical circles anymore, though he can still make a lot of noise. But that’s just my airy opinion about a hypothetical question framed in an imaginary universe created by George Lucas. See my point?

    Also, Piper’s comments about masculinity come out of a multi-day conference. I’m not sure I would agree with Piper, but regardless, I would be hesitant to condemn him without hearing the whole matter. 

Of course, as always, I appreciate Jonathan’s candor and wit and his invitation to dialogue. I hope this exchange proves fruitful for everyone reading this.


1. Jonathan is a dear friend and brother in Christ, and over the years, he has proven to be a valuable, mind-sharpening interlocutor. My response flows out of the context of that relationship and respect, and I hope it will be read in that tenor. In other words, this is not mere rhetorical dross from the blogosphere.

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Derek Griz

I am a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor (Immanuel Church). I write from those perspectives. Connect with me on Twitter (@derekgriz).