Saturday, July 13, 2019

"Daddy wounds"

Driscoll's interview is getting some buzz:

Among other things, he says:

Reformed theology is, I have a dad who is powerful, he is in charge, he is non-relational, he lives far away, and don't make him mad because he can get angry really fast and hurt you…So almost every theological group within Christianity is somehow a rejection or projection of their earthly father, and the problem is they're starting with their earthly father and looking up; they're not starting with their heavenly father and looking down and judging their earthly fathers. I've gone so far as to say I think the whole young restless and Reformed movement…I don't hold to the five-points of Calvinism, I think it's garbage, because it's not biblical...God is father, but he's distant, he's mean, he's cruel, he's non-relational, he's far away. That's their view of their earthly father. So they may pick dead mentors–Spurgeon, Calvin, Luther–these are little boys with father wounds who are looking for spiritual fathers, so they picked dead guys who are not gonna actually get to know them or correct them. And then they join networks run by other young men so that they can all be brothers [because] there's no fathers, and they love, love, love Jesus because they love the story where the son is the hero because they're the sons with father wounds…the reason Jesus saves you is to get you to your dad. 

1. There's a grain of truth to some of what he says, but that's distorted by the way he combines it with Joseph Campbell, pop psychobabble, and hasty generalizations. His analysis is absurdly simplistic. 

2. It's true that some men have "daddy wounds". In fact, before the advent of modern medicine, when mortality as high among adults as well as kids, many boys lost one or both parents. Many boys were orphans. Many adults who survived childhood had "mommy wounds" as well as "daddy wounds". You also had social phenomena like the "gin craze" which led to bad parenting. So this is nothing new.

3. But Driscoll's analysis is illogical. Many adults had the same kind of bad childhood experience, so that fails to explain how different and divergent theological traditions were generated by the same sad, tragic childhood experience. If theological traditions reflect one's childhood, wouldn't we expect the same kind of experience to yield similar theological traditions? To my knowledge, John and Charles Wesley had "daddy wounds". But it didn't make them Calvinists. 

4. Is it true that the Calvinist God "can get angry really fast and hurt you"? 

i) Consider Charles Wesley's sermon on earthquakes:

That's from a paradigmatic Arminian theologian. 

ii) Is the God of Calvinism "distant"? The usual rap against Calvinism is not that it makes God distant, but just the opposite: it makes God too involved in everything that happens. According to Reformed predestination and providence, God is behind everything that happens down to the smallest detail. Is that "distant"?

iii) Is Driscoll seriously claiming that every Calvinist, or even most of them, had a dysfunctional relationship with their father? How would Driscoll begin to document such a sweeping claim? Where's the historical evidence or polling data to back that up? When he indulges in such a factually indefensible generalization, he isn't even attempting to be intellectually honest. 

iv) By "non-relational", does he mean the traditional Reformed commitment to divine aseity and impassibility? The view that God's not conditioned or influenced by anything outside himself. God doesn't change his mind?

If so, then Driscoll's objection is quite ironic and counterproductive. It's "relational" theology like open theism where God "can get angry really fast and hurt you". Unlike Calvinism, with a hermeneutic tempered by classical theism, open theists eschew divine accommodation and anthropomorphism. They take at face value colorful biblical passages in which God gets angry really fast. The God of open theism is very relational. His feelings are easily hurt. A "relational" God is dangerously unstable and unpredictable.  It isn't Calvinism but Driscoll's "relational" alternative that makes God like a father with a short fuse who beats up the kids in the heat of rage. 

v) Social networking is not confined to young male Calvinists. You have parallel networks among Catholics, Thomists, Arminians, &c. Surely Driscoll knows that, so why single out Calvinists? 

vi) It's a necessary stage of psychological maturation to bond with members of your own generation. You're no longer so emotionally dependent on your parents. You form friendships with age-mates. Although some young men seek out male peers to compensate for a dysfunctional relationship with their fathers, men in general, including men with good father/son relationships, form friendships with other men the same age. 

vii) Many young male Christians find guidance among older men who are still very much alive. Consider the popularity of living Christian apologists or celebrity pastors. So this is another one of Driscoll's indefensible overgeneralizations. 

viii) What is Driscoll's actual evidence that Christian men are Christian because they project themselves into the role of Jesus–like moviegoers who identify with Batman or Superman?

ix) Is Jesus just a means to an end? Is the goal of the Christian pilgrimage to reach the Father–or to reach the Trinity? Is Jesus just a bridge, and once you cross the bridge you don't look back? It served its purpose. Outlived its usefulness? Is the Son of God a temporary expedient rather than an object of worship in his own right? Is only one person of the Godhead the destination of the Christian pilgrimage? 

x) Driscoll is 48-years-old. For most of his career he was preaching the "garbage" of 5-point Calvinism. So was he a fool then or is he a fool now? 

To what extent is he just a theological opportunist. He surfed the Big Wave of Calvinism when that was a hip and cool career booster. But after his pastorate crested and collapsed in scandal, he ditched Calvinism because he could no longer use to advance his ambitions. He has to reinvent himself by changing his discredited image. 


  1. Driscoll seems confused at a very basic level over what his criticism actually is. He says that Calvinists believe in Calvinism because they're projecting their experience of earthly fathers onto God; and then he says they make other choices (about mentors and their view of the Son) in order to get away from that view. But that's plainly a totally arbitrary construction. Why that way round, and not the other?

    > So almost every theological group within Christianity is somehow a rejection or projection of their earthly father

    Presumably Driscoll alone, and his new grouping, whatever that is, has managed to avoid this? He has achieved enlightenment and is now selling it to the masses?

    It's easier, of course, to recast oneself as a guru in this way than to produce some exegesis to show why Calvinists have misinterpreted the Biblical data.

  2. 1. I lost a beloved pet dog when I was a child. Today I have doggy wounds. That's why I worship the great canine deity Doggo. Doggo is my raison d'être.

    2. Here's more possible evidence Driscoll is an opportunist. It was originally a tweet, but Driscoll deleted it.

    3. Suppose for the moment Driscoll's comments about the YRR are true. Nevertheless Driscoll takes zero responsibility for his role in the very things he decries. He might have more credibility if he had said: "And I know these things because I was absolutely responsible for them. I played a major role in the YRR movement. I intentionally cultivated a following among young men. I intentionally played the role of a father figure to these young men. I was aggressive, coercive, and bullied these young men. I ignored corrections from other Christian leaders for years. And I was eventually fired because of all these things and more."

    Instead, Driscoll distances himself from the YRR movement and Calvinism in general without (it would appear) taking responsibility for what he created including the lives he shattered among young men.

  3. a bit belated to comment here on the topic but since Driscoll didn't identify as a Calvinist in his first years as ministry but began to call himself a Calvinist and Reformed after getting support from David Nicholas "opportunist" might be an accurate way to describe how Driscoll, give or take a core doctrinal position, shifts his theological jargon to fit his patronage base. Hawk is likely right with point 2, although Driscoll may very well believe he's sincerely changed his theological views. He may not see himself as an opportunist.

    In terms of Driscoll's own key messages catering to or maybe pandering two a target audience with father wounds has been a key theme in Driscoll's messaging over the last twenty-five years. What's new is not so much the key ideas as the jargon he uses surrounding his ideas. Along with "father wound" he's also added "Absalom spirit".

    I'll eventually get around to discussing Win Your War but I've resolved to spend the rest of 2019 doing stuff I find more fun.

    Driscoll attempting to claim the "media" labeled him a thought leader in the YRR when he spent a decade billing himself as a thought leader seems craven. It's almost as though on the other side of his Result Source and plagiarism scandals he's attempting to shift any blame for his being perceived as a young Calvinist buck on being labeled as such by the press as though he never subscribed to the stuff.