Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology?

Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology?

This drawing is inspired by the Ouroboros Snake... of the snake eating its own tail. 

chicken or the egg cartoon nakedpastor david hayward

What came first? The chicken or the egg? What came first? The thug or the theology? I read Tony Jones' thoughts on Mark Driscoll.

Jones has always admired Driscoll, maybe envies him a little, wants the best for him, believes he can be redeemed, and suggests that things can be restored.

What I found most interesting though is that Jones believes the problem with Driscoll is theological.

  • He titles his post is "Thoughts about Mark Driscoll"
  • He talks about the "heady" days of publishing and speaking.
  • He dismisses his disturbing personality traits by his use of the word "sure".
  • He says it isn't a moral issue (evil) but that he is passionate.
  • He says more than once that Driscoll is "extremely smart" or "brilliant".
  • He suggests that he will "see" (as in "think"?) his way out of this.
  • He writes that Driscoll has just embraced a toxic version of theology.
  • He hopes that Driscoll will turn away from this toxic theology.
  • He concludes therefore that Driscoll is not the problem, but his theology.

But my question is‚ What came first? The thug or the theology?

That is, did Driscoll become the focus of concern because of his theology? Or was it because of his behavior?

I'm concerned that Jones' post reflects the refusal of the church to understand spiritual abuse. It neglects the pathology of its abusive leaders. I don't think this is being fair to the victims or the perpetrators of spiritual abuse. People are victims of not just a bad theology, but a pathological cruelty.

I don't think Driscoll's theology made this happen. Driscoll "embraced" his toxic version of theology because it aligned with his moral compass. It fit his personality. It worked for him to achieve his goals. Then it manifested the worst in him. Then he continued to develop his toxic theology in order to make more room for his pathological behavior. Mars Hill Church too.

Jones' sentence, "It could have happened to any of us." is true, because I believe we all participate in this dynamic. Theology is our creation. It is a reflection of our drives and desires.

Then, not satisfied to only be the product of our drives and desires, it also becomes the producer of them. Theology is a vicious cycle of our desperate need to understand and control our universe.

Step into this cycle at any point and you can see that we are both the root and fruit of our theology and pathology.

And yes, it spins out of control by manifesting itself in toxic, controlling, and abusive behavior. Nothing can be done about bad theology because of free thought and speech.

But we can do something when this manifests itself in bad behavior. Cruel theology is a nuisance. Cruel behavior is unacceptable.

When Driscoll thinks bully to his people, we can say please stop. But when he actually bullies people, we can step in and say you will stop now!

I don't think this is a theological issue. I think it is a pathological one. Not just for Driscoll and Jones, but for the entire church.

If we would be healed, our theology would take care of itself. 

Back to blog


After a few months since I posted this article, What Came First: the Thug or the Theology, in which I wrote about Tony Jones’ take on Mark Driscoll, I’ve finally decided that I need to write this closing comment.

One of the values of nakedpastor is that people can express themselves without fear of censure or censor. I critique ideas, behaviors and systems that are harmful to people and their communities. So providing a safe space for the voiceless victims of spiritual abuse is crucial to me. I build places where people can share their own interpretation of events and give voice to their own sufferings without fear of discipline. Nakedpastor (and my online community The Lasting Supper) is a space where people can freely express their pain, where victims are heard and abusers called out… something many spiritually abused people did not experience in the church that promised them care. Most abused people feel they must live in silence or confide their private pain to a therapist while their abusers thrive. For those who participate on the nakedpastor blog, there is an implicit respect for those speaking, that we will listen and not edit, instruct, or correct what they say. For those who don’t participate, it is understood that they are observing a sacred space for cathartic healing. As I repeated throughout the comment section, I never took sides but only kept the space open for people to share their stories. When some tried to control the conversation, they were quickly admonished by the community to let them keep telling their stories freely. It would be impossible to be an advocate for each and every story. But it is entirely possible to be an advocate of a safe space to tell their story in. Yes, there were negative comments, including negative comments about me. However, I believe this was a rare and historically significant event where the spiritually abused told their raw stories and held their personal truths in a public forum without being shut down.

I want to reiterate that the opinions of those commenting do not reflect mine. What I say and what others say is distinct. Some claim the comments come under the aura of nakedpastor and people cannot help but interpret them as an extension of my opinion. They are concerned when I allow comments to stand that are critical of others that I am believing, condoning, and endorsing them. I want to be clear that this is not true. However, even though I have no trouble distinguishing what I say from what the commenters say, some do not accept this distinction.

I cannot apologize for what others said. But I can apologize for the pain nakedpastor caused by association. I realize that the post put a distance between myself and others. This grieves me. 

Here’s what’s motivating me: in a world that’s becoming more divisive and polarizing, I want to work in the opposite spirit of unifying and gathering. I’m not interested in campaigns against people or the groups they compose. So even though I will continue critiquing ideas, behaviors and systems that are harmful to people and communities, I want to cooperate with those interested in furthering the unity and health of the church and the world and ridding it of anything that hurts people. 

I welcome anyone who feels genuinely hurt by my actions and who wants to work toward reconciliation to contact me personally and begin the process.

In summary:

1. I will continue to create space for challenging what is unhealthy while uplifting what is healthy for people and communities. 
2. I’m glad many people found a safe space here to share their unedited stories.
3. I have, by association, hurt others. 
4. I’m sorry and want to reconcile and work together for the common good of all people, the church, and the world.

I will now close the comment section of this post for the sake of discretion and closure.



Nakedpastor David Hayward

Sara WG: Thank you so much. Really. Thank you.

Nakedpastor David Hayward

" I said, “I am going to pass on the whole reconciliation idea.”

Julie, there can be no reconciliation with totally unhealthy people who are really looking to silence you so they can keep their image or brand they have built. That is all it is.

You can forgive but that does not mean fellowship, reconciliation or even silence. Negative truths are not sinful. Everyone thinks that is what forgiveness means. It means giving up any rights to revenge…an eye for an eye. It does not mean enabling liars, abusers or those who use Jesus for personal gain. The most healthy thing is to walk away. As little contact as possible. His calling the police over a text from that phone is indicative of NPD behaviors. It is all about “getting you” for him.

I thought I would go insane with all the silly platitudinal forgiveness sermons that basically gave all abusers carte blanche. I don’t even listen to them anymore.


Lydia, I know you are right. Over Thanksgiving I had positive interactions with my ex mother-in-law where we discussed how reprehensible this all is, and how the children are the true victims. She and I agreed to bridge peace so that the children can have healthy exchanges with their Grandmother and physically sick Grandfather. I want that for my children, and am wiling to do my part. If we are unwilling as humans to bridge peace in our relationships? What is the point of all or any of this. Julie

Julie McMahon

“Jackass whisperer”? I wonder if time is spent searching for such insults or if they simply pop fully-formed into minds so inclined?

Boundaries are important, as high as needed.

I pray God’s generosity be poured on you (in the interstices), enough for you and your children to thrive.


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