Translation of Superpastor Piper on his friendship with Driscoll
John Piper waxed lyrical in answer to the question “Do you regret partnering with Mark Driscoll?” when it was recently put to him. I was asked to write a translation of Piper’s answer. I observe the language of manipulators because it helps me and others like me to stay safe. As we document how sin is minimized by Driscoll’s allies, we can observe how they are pressuring anyone who questions his sincerity or his repentance and the language they use to apply this pressure. This mirrors what often happens to targets of abuse. There is pressure to accept the abusers’ claims of repentance, pressure to reconcile, and it is insinuated or outright stated that those who don’t are bitter, unforgiving, and not true Christians. I notice the patterns in the language and I write about that sometimes and I hope and pray that it helps people who are confused by claims of change and by pastoral counsel to go home and submit harder.
Note, in the text below I have added paragraph breaks in the transcript for ease of reading. ACFJ has taken a screen shot of the original transcript in case Desiring God should ever scrub it.
Color coding: Black = Interviewer and Piper’s answers (Nov 13th 2014, by John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation). Red= my translation of Piper’s words. Purple italics = my comments.
Interviewer: About 100 emails have come in from listeners regarding Mark Driscoll, and your relationship with him. Mostly the questions are centered on whether you now regret partnering with Mark Driscoll in the past? Secondarily, are there any lessons you’re taking away from your relationship with him. And third, do you agree with the decisions of Christian bookstores that have decided to pull Mark Driscoll’s books off shelves?
John Piper: Well let me take the, maybe I forget the order, the first and the last, I think, the issue of regret and the issue of books on or off shelves and just dispose with those quickly and then tackle lessons a little bit more extensively.
First, no regret. John Piper has no regret for befriending Mark Driscoll, going to Mark Driscoll’s church and speaking at his events, or having him come to the Desiring God conference. I do not regret that. My regret is that I was not a more effective friend. If I had been a better friend I could’ve saved him! Be a good friend now and call him to repentance.
Mark knew he had flaws Flaws. Driscoll has flaws. He’s just flawed like all of us. Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? He knows he has flaws. And I knew he had flaws. He knew that I knew he had flaws.
There were flaws of leadership attitude He abused his flock because of flaws, not sin or pride. Not arrogance, just flaws, flaws of unsavory language that I think is just wrong for Christians to use, That’s true. Christians shouldn’t talk that way. flaws of exegetical errors, say, in regard to the Song of Solomon. I wrote a long critique of his use of the Song of Solomon. I wrote him personally about these I’d like to see those letters.
But I always hoped that in those cases the relationship with me and with others would be redemptive and helpful. I hoped we’d rub off on him and we wouldn’t have to call sin, “sin.” I hoped we could all go on happily introducing each other and selling each other’s books at conferences and none of his flaws would have to be addressed so publicly. This is the same thinking that keeps abusers in power in family units. Pastors think they are counseling abusers on their minor flaws and their counseling will be ‘redemptive and helpful’ and the abusers will knock it off — or their targets will give up hope of ever getting it to stop. Then there’s no ugliness for anyone to endure but the target, and no loss of income.
He certainly gave me more time and counsel than I deserved. See, he’s a nice guy. People are being too hard on him. I remember him sitting in my dining room, spending a long time with me and Noel, giving us good counsel about the last chapter of our ministry, and then going home and producing a long paper for me and to give guidance to me and the elders. I’m thinking of Psalm 1 here. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Why on earth was Piper getting counsel from someone with so many “flaws?”
He didn’t have to do that. I didn’t even ask him to do it. So there was a mutuality about this and I felt loved by Mark and I wanted to love him in return. Abusers often ingratiate themselves. They give marvelous gifts of time and or money. This is so can they can play the “After all I’ve done for you!” card when others try to call them on their sin.
I still do hope for the best in Mark’s life and ministry. Mark’s ministry? So, no, I don’t regret it. Can you imagine the Apostle John saying “I still hope for the best in Diotrephes’ life and ministry?”
With regard to his books, whether they should sit in shelves in bookstores or churches or homes, that is a tough call. If he is disqualified from being an elder should he still exercise the teaching office of an elder through his books? That is how one might ask the question. But sooner or later a book becomes detached from the personal life Personal life? Do you mean “flaws?” What about sin? What about the sin of abusing his flock? Was his bullying leadership just “sins of his personal life”? of an author and who is the author anyway? and stands on its own merits as true or helpful or not. So are Driscoll’s books helpful or not? You’ve evaded the question.
And I can see a temporary reaction to Mark stepping down resigning rather than submitting to his board of elders by bookstores or churches where they pull those back so as not to give any kind of public affirmation of mistakes Mistakes, not sin, just mistakes. I’m saying “mistakes” now because I wore out the word “flaws” earlier and perhaps it’ll remind you of Robert Morris’s referring to Mark’s “mistakes” and he can scratch my back later. You’re welcome Robert. that Mark may have made, May. They’re just possible mistakes, forget about the fact that his abuse is well documented. Let’s just go with “may” but then maybe in years to come the books will emerge as helpful since I think most of what he has written has been true and helpful. Please don’t stop selling my books. Ever.
So let me turn to the lessons. What have I learned? What can we learn from these recent events?
 Number one, people are very complex. They are multi layered. They are often paradoxical. The psalmist cries out: Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent of hidden faults. That is an amazing statement. Some of our sins, he is saying, are hidden to ourselves. He just asked: I cannot discern my sins. We have flaws and sins that we cannot ourselves fathom. Sin leveling.
 And the second lesson follows. We desperately need to take seriously what wise counselors tell us about ourselves. Yes we do. Driscoll should have years ago. We have been asking you to apologize for your “flawed” remarks on abuse for some time. Will you? If we have sins that are hidden from ourselves, then perhaps they are not hidden to others and we do well to listen. I think that is implied in that text. Perhaps? True. Perhaps they are well documented and people who claim to care about their friends should call sin “sin” not “flaws” or “mistakes.” We aren’t fooled by these terms. Unbelievers aren’t fooled by these terms. Just say “sin” like the Bible says “sin.” No one is surprised when sinners sin. Christ died for sin. It’s not a bad word.
 Third. This also follows from those two. Sometimes — and I have experienced this — sometimes you can see what others are saying, pointing out to you about yourself and sometimes you can’t. And if you can see it, then you repent or clarify and you fight the sin. But what if you can’t even after others tell you what they see — you look and you don’t see it in the way they see it. What then? Well, in order to have any integrity, I think you have to go with what you see. Could you pray about it? Could you ask God to show you? Otherwise you would be always jerked around by everybody on the street that tells you they see something and you say: Well, I don’t think it is there. And Paul certainly did not agree with all the criticism that came against him, nor Jesus. When they said he had a demon, he didn’t have a demon. So they were wrong. His critics were wrong. Did he just compare Driscoll to Christ and the Apostle Paul? Or is he comparing himself to Christ and Paul?
And the result is either a struggle, in other words, when you have people around you who say this is true of you and you don’t think it is true of you, then the result is there is a struggle for leadership and one or both stands down. Or there is a fight and somebody wins. And that is the ugliest of all. Struggle for leadership. Fight. Piper’s mindset is leaking through here — his focus on power and control. It’s easy for him to mutualize sin where convenient, but mutuality in relationships doesn’t come so easily to him. One person has to be on top, always. Oh, but it’s easy to be mutual when narcissistic men buddy up with each other and mutually collude with each others
sins flaws: then they scratch each other’s backs in mutual delight.
And Mark stood down refused to submit to his elders and that is, you know, probably a concession to yes much of what you say is true and probably it is a measure of I don’t think you saw me right. Since I’m such an experienced and wise leader I can pretty much read Driscoll’s mind and guess his motives. And that is just life. I mean, Paul and Barnabas couldn’t work together because they did not perceive their own flaws. I’m ascribing flaws to both Paul and Barnabas to remind you that in it takes two to tango — all interpersonal conflict must be mutually caused. For anyone who is counting, that’s 9 times he’s used the word “flaws.” Somebody was amiss “amiss” is handy alternative for “flaws” and they couldn’t see it. And I have seen it over and over again. It is just one of the heartaches of relationships. Did I see a crocodile tear in the corner of your eye, John?
 So a fourth lesson is that biblical leadership structures are not luxuries. I think the trend among some mega churches to put in place outside councils with authority that are not based in the elders of the local church is an unbiblical, unwise approach towards church leadership. I think the biblical pattern of leadership is that every church should have a team of elders, vocational, non vocational, all with one vote. Never mind that I didn’t publicly chastise Mark Driscoll for wresting control of the Mars Hill church government structures by re-writing its ByLaws back in 2007, and I didn’t — as I should have done as one of the most famous friends/mentors of Mark — keep the public pressure up till Mark ditched the autocratic Bylaws. Don’t look at my
sins mis-steps, just look at my achievements in my own church: The preaching pastor has greater sway, not by having a veto power with all the votes, but by being a wise, thoughtful, exemplary leader. As soon as I could I put in place at Bethlehem a leadership structure that gave me one vote, first among 20, then among 30, then among 40. And that is where it ended. I had one voted, which means I could be voted down easily. But I never doubted I had great authority at that church ever, because of the pulpit and because I tried to be a teacher leader. I attempted to lead with truth, not with official constraints. I never wanted to use office or political power to get my way. I wanted people to be persuaded. So I think structure really matters and there are a lot of, I don’t know if it is a lot, but there are some mega churches today that I think are going off in an unwise direction. Behold me and my achievements, while I airbrush and sweep under the rug Mark Driscoll’s history of tyrannical leadership. There are fourteen “I”s in that paragraph.
 I think there is a lesson here about money and salaries of pastors. I think it is a huge mistake to view pastors as corporate executives with huge salaries in the two, three four, five, six, seven eight hundred thousand dollar range. That, to me, is a clear danger signal that the elders and the pastor have their heart in the wrong place. I don’t know Mark Driscoll’s salary, but I think the corporate mindset was too prominent and so the warning to us stands. Why didn’t you publicly call out and name Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill for this ages ago?
 Sixth lesson. I have got eight of these [lessons]. There is a lesson of how the same theology, Reformed or Arminian on paper can coexist with very different personalities and leadership styles and sins. There is no theology on paper or merely in preaching that keeps a man from sin. Loving God keeps people from sin. Peter’s withdraw from eating with the Gentiles in Galatians two was sin and it was not owing to a defective theology. Paul said very clearly in verse 14: “I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth.” And he means the very truth they believe. Human beings don’t live up to their theology. Therefore when a person falters another euphemism in their behavior it is a mistake to jump immediately, without wider considerations, to ‘Oh, defective theology,’ because there are sinners and some serious ones in every branch of theology. Don’t stop buying Reformed books just because of Driscoll. Keep buying my books. So Peter knew the truth and he didn’t walk in it. And that is always a possibility with whatever truth is at stake. And Mark Driscoll has done much good in speaking and writing much truth. Thousands of people really have been saved and really have been built up in biblical gospel truth and those people should not question their salvation or their truth just because he might in some cases have walked out of step with the truth. Might?
 God’s kingdom and his saving purposes in the world are never dependent on one man or one church or one denomination. God is God and his kingdom is coming and no one can stop it and his Word is not bound. Piper’s shortest lesson of these eight lessons is the only one that needs no translation. Interesting that when he gets himself out of the way he can utter plain unalloyed truths.
 And the last lesson I thought of was, let him who thinks that he stand take heed lest he fall. The way he has applied this is sin-levelling. Shame he doesn’t take more heed as to whether he’s standing true and upright himself. But of course, he’s just given himself so much wriggle room! He’s reminded us that people — ahem, leaders — can be ‘blind’ and not see their sins even when they are pointed out. Restore such a one in the spirit of meekness lest you, too, be tempted. Paul said. And so did Robert Morris. You’re welcome again Robert. Keep selling my books! [Long distance fist bump] Just be good compliant sheep and keep giving Driscoll more rope: he can still be restored even though he rebelliously bailed from the restoration program that Mars Hill had in place.
But I think it would be sinful and unbiblical for any of Mark’s detractors victims to simply feel good riddance. That is a sin to feel that. Mark’s victims should feel guilty if they are happy at all to see that he’s left Mars Hill. No, we pray for truth to hold sway and for grace to transform and renew and restore There’s that wrong use of “restore” again. all of us including Mark. Maybe Mark will write a book about all he’s learned from his flaws and you can buy his book and learn from it.
Comment from Barb Roberts (no color coding)
Piper’s eight lessons are for his followers. These are not lessons that Piper has learned for himself; they are for his fans at Desiring God. The interviewer asked him “Are there any lessons you’re taking away from your relationship with Mark Driscoll?” But not once does Piper say anything like “I’ve learned something new for myself from my relationship Driscoll. I got it wrong. I’m ashamed to say that I made some very wrong judgements and I’m ashamed of the way I chose to behave. For all my experience as a leader, this one threw me a curved ball that I didn’t know how to hit. Here is what I, John, have learned from this.” No; Piper’s lessons are lessons for everyone else, pearls of wisdom that he bestows liberally for his followers to drink up; but they are simple, obvious things that many people (including Piper sometimes) have been saying for years. Nothing new here. Boiled down, the lessons are things any half-way decent seminary would cover in a basic degree:
- People are very complex. Duh.
- We desperately need to take seriously what wise counselors tell us about ourselves. Duh.
- If you examine yourself and you don’t see yourself the way others see you. . . . you have to go with what you see. Weelll — maybe. But it’s a darn good excuse for a malignant narcissist, isn’t it?
- Biblical leadership structures are not luxuries. Duh.
- It is a huge mistake to view pastors as corporate executives with huge salaries. Duh
- There is no theology on paper or merely in preaching that keeps a man from sin. Duh.
- God’s kingdom and his saving purposes in the world are never dependent on one man or one church or one denomination. Amen, but Duh.
- Let him who thinks that he stand take heed lest he fall. Duh. Look in the mirror Mr Piper.
When John Piper answers a question, he ought to answer the question that was asked. And if his only regret was that he “was not a more effective friend” to Mark Driscoll, that begs the question: What should or could Piper have done to be a more effective friend? He completely skips over that. He’s too bent on teaching everyone else.
Ellie is now offering a private translation service. For more info email her at EllieCriesForJustice@gmail.com. [Ellie’s translation service is no longer available. Editors.]