Based on Mark Driscoll's Missing Video, Christianity Today Asks Theologians "Did Jesus Make Mistakes?"

Beyond the implausible explanation from Mars Hill Church leaders about why the Mark Driscoll’s sermon was edited, Christianity Today wanted to know what some theologians thought about the accuracy of the missing material.  So CT’s Kevin Emmert asked for opinions and reported six. Emmert started with a theologian who largely agreed with Driscoll’s missing six minutes and ended with someone who did not. Since he started at one end, I’ll get you started at the other:

“We can distinguish between mistakes and sins. Suppose I write about Jane Austin on social media. My friend corrects me: ‘It’s Austen, not Austin.’ I made a mistake, yet no sin was committed, surely. However, sin involves a mistake of some sort—failing to meet the mark. Jesus could not sin, because God cannot sin, and he is God incarnate (Hab. 1:13; Heb. 4:15). His divine nature is perfect, and a perfect being cannot make mistakes. So Christ the God-man could not make mistakes.”
~ Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology, Fuller Theological Seminary

Go read the whole thing at CT.

Another Reason to Question Mars Hill Church's Official Explanation of Mark Driscoll's Sermon Edits

On May 24, I wrote that past members of Mars Hill Church’s Media team dispute the official explanation of the deletion of about six minutes of a recent Mark Driscoll sermon on Acts 6:1-7.  After I posted the missing content, Mars Hill spokesmen told the Christian Post that the edits of Mark Driscoll discussing the mistakes of Jesus were in part due to time constraints and not unusual. Furthermore, they stood behind the deleted material. In contrast, former members of Mar Hill who once had responsibility for sermon editing tell me that such edits were not common when they were involved at the church.
From another source, I can provide additional reason to question the official explanation. I have obtained notes preparing franchise campuses for weekly church services. These notes list the duration of the sermon and an outline of Driscoll’s sermon points. The duration listed in the notes for May 18 is about six minutes longer than the edited version of this sermon.

Note the date the sermon was recorded and the scheduled date of playback. The duration of the sermon is 63:45. The version online is 56:41. In fact, the online version presentation on May 18 is much shorter than the comparable videos on May 11 (62:00) and May 25 (63:39). Clearly more was edited from the May 18 presentation than the others in the series. Going back to the initial sermons in the Acts series last year, the video duration when Mark Driscoll preached ranged from 66 to 73 minutes. The only one under an hour from last year is the Sunday Dave Bruskas preached. All of sermons on days Driscoll preached are over an hour. In the entire series, the only online video less than an hour on a Sunday when Mark Driscoll preached is May 18, 2014. In contrast to the claims of the church, the May 18 edits were not business as usual.
I also have the presentation notes for the May 11 and May 25 sermons (click the links to view the relevant sections of the production notes). The procedure is the same for the May 18 sermon. The objective is to edit the sermon (all over 60 minutes) to about 60 minutes. This allows for the initial Mars Hill Global commercial or sermon trailer to take the online video presentation to just over an hour. The initial plan was to edit the sermon slightly to get to about 60 minutes. However, in contrast to normal practice, the May 18 sermon was edited in such a way that the message was cut to about 54 minutes in length, much shorter than any other sermon in the series.
Thus, Mars Hill’s statement to the Christian Post was a half-truth. Yes, they regularly edit the sermons to get the messages to about 60 minutes. However, much more time was taken from the May 18 sermon than any other sermon in the series. If the content was really fine with the leaders then why was that particular 6 minute section removed? There were many pauses throughout the sermon were the video could easily have been trimmed to about 60 minutes without eliminating any content.

Former Mars Hill Members Dispute Official Explanation About Recent Mark Driscoll Sermon Edits

In the weekly email to members, Mars Hill leaders provide an explanation about the recent sermon edits I first reported on May 19. The narrative is a similar to what the Mars Hill leaders told Christian Post recently.

Recent Sermon Edits
You may have questions about our video sermons and how they are produced and distributed each week. We wanted to provide some clarity on our process and specifically address concerns with the Acts Part 12 sermon that was edited.
It is standard operating procedure at Mars Hill to take the first two sermons that Pastor Mark Driscoll preaches each week and edit the best possible version of the message for distribution to the other Mars Hill locations and our online audience, partly because it is necessary to edit the sermon to conform to time restraints.
Pastor Mark not only submits to someone taking material out of his sermon, but he welcomes the process. This goes on each and every week and has been the standard procedure since we started recording our sermons many years ago. The weekly sermon editing process at Mars Hill is designed to provide the best content for all who watch and listen in a time-sensitive environment.
Recently, someone gained entry to a restricted, password-protected site to steal the original recording of a recent sermon, so they could compare the rough cut with the original material to determine what had been edited. In any case, we stand behind the sermon in its entirety as the content is helpful and orthodox.

There are good reasons to question this narrative. Current Mars Hill staff who cannot speak publicly for obvious reasons, and former Mars Hill volunteers and staff who served on the Media team have told me that the kind of edits done to the Acts 6:1-7 sermon are uncommon. Two individuals who once worked on the team spoke to me on the record.
First, Scott Shipp described his experience in audio editing. Scott worked on this team from 2005 to 2009. Shipp said:

I served on the Ballard productions team recording and editing the audio versions of the sermons from 2005-2009 (if I recall my dates right). We were instructed to never edit out any part of the middle of any sermon unless it was just a couple seconds and it was because of audio clipping, feedback, or some audio issue. When I heard that multiple minutes of a sermon were edited out it shocked me. Of course in the intervening five years they may have moved into more drastic editing, and as far as I know, all of the audio and video volunteers I knew there have left MHC now, but from my experience, this is unheard of.

Then Brian Jacobsen, a more recent member of the Media team, wrote:

Mars Hill’s response to Warren Throckmorton’s disclosure of the sermon video editing is troubling.
One of my responsibilities at Mars Hill was to preview the upcoming sermon early in the week to take note of some specific items. There was a group on the church’s private social network that was used for this sermon preview process. I think the group was named “Sermon Review”. We resigned from Mars Hill on Thursday, April 3, 2014, so the last time I previewed a sermon would have been on Sunday, March 30 or Monday, March 31.
I think it was sometime early this year that the Mars Hill Central production team changed the way they posted the preview video. Prior to that time, they tried to do some of the editing of the sermon video, with the various camera angles and what not, before posting it to the Sermon Review group. The change they made earlier this year was to post the raw footage from a single camera which was located higher up and toward the rear, with the camera set so you could see the entire stage and a lot of the congregation.
The clip of the deleted segment of sermon video that Warren Throckmorton made available on his blog looks just like a sermon preview video. I suspect the video that was posted in the Sermon Review group included this deleted segment and that it was the source of the clip obtained by Warren. Every Mars Hill church probably has a handful or more of the pastors and leaders in this Sermon Review group. My memory is that over 100 people were in this group and would have had access to this deleted sermon video clip.
Editing the sermon video and in some cases cutting out some content is normal. The production team has, at times, even combined video from different services in order to provide the best content. However, in the two and half years I was involved in previewing sermons, I don’t believe I have ever seen this extensive of a cut. This cut essentially removed an entire topic, which was Pastor Mark’s argument that Jesus made mistakes.
The final sermon video that was provided to the Mars Hill churches was 56:41 in length, which is a few minutes shorter than a typical Mark Driscoll sermon. His recent sermons have been 60 to 62 minutes. If they hadn’t cut out this segment, the sermon video would have been at about 62 minutes. Pastor Anthony Ianniciello was quoted as saying, “Partly because it is necessary to edit the sermon to conform to time restraints.” From these numbers, it appears the cut in this case was not necessary to conform to time restraints.

Finally, Wenatchee the Hatchet provides an account of a prior instance of redacted content which was related to embarrassing content rather than time constraints.

Mars Hill Church Defends Edits to Mark Driscoll's Sermon on Acts 6:1-7

In an exclusive statement to Christian Post, Mars Hill Church denies that the edits to Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon on Acts 6:1-7 were anything unusual. They also stand in support of the content of the edited portion.
According to the CP article, sermons are evaluated and then edited on a routine basis. In one sense, this is certainly true. Many people have access to the sermon prior to finished product and can make various suggestions. According to my sources, most editing is for the sake of time. Sometimes editing is done to remove content the leaders don’t want the congregation to hear or know. For instance, older sermon transcripts have been edited to remove mention of Leif Moi, one of the founders of Mars Hill. Other former leaders have been scrubbed from the website, as was Mark Driscoll’s naturopathic physician when the doctor lost his license.
In this case, sources from Mars Hill tell me that some staff took Driscoll’s references to the mistakes of Jesus as thinly veiled self-defense, using the life of Jesus to do it. Others had few concerns about the content but were worried that Driscoll would be perceived as comparing himself to Jesus in order to minimize the concerns of former members. These varied concerns led to the edits, according to my sources.
Without naming the sermon, at least one former Mars Hill pastor, Dave Kraft, raised concerns about making an analogy from Jesus’s actions to human mistakes. Kraft is one of the pastors leading 20 former Mars Hill pastors to request mediation with Driscoll and the other executive elders.
CP’s Alex Murashko said I didn’t return an email by press time. All Murashko wanted to know was where I got the video. I wrote back to ask how that information would be relevant to his story.

Mars Hill Church Deletes Mark Driscoll's Teaching on Jesus Making Mistakes

On May 4, Mark Driscoll preached on Acts 6:1-7. In keeping with usual procedure, the video of the sermon was not posted on the church website until yesterday.
Those who watch the sermon on the website are missing some material from the live delivery two weeks ago. A segment of nearly six minutes was deleted from the sermon after discussion internally and some questions were raised externally. I have obtained a copy of the original sermon and have the missing material here.
In question is Driscoll’s teaching on the difference between sin and mistakes. In general, the Acts 6:1-7 sermon sounds like a self-defense. However, his teaching on Jesus making mistakes was of enough concern that MHC leaders deleted it.  You can watch the edited version of the sermon at the Mars Hill site. At 30:11 into the video, a nearly six minute segment was snipped out. In the video below, I start with point four, “The Difference Between a Sin and a Mistake.” The deleted section starts about two minutes into the video:

Ok, ready, what I’m going to tell you now might be a heresy. I’m not sure. We’ll see. Ok, um, I’ll just say that, so that if it is, I have an out, ok? So, what I’m going to say now is uh, ok I’ll just say it. Jesus never sinned, will you give me that, He never sinned, true? Good, you’ve been well taught, I think. Ok, so never sinned, never violated any command of the Bible, but question, question, here goes, brain explode, ready? Here we go, is it possible that he made some mistakes?
Meaning; when he was a little kid, when Joseph sat him on his bike, he needed no training wheels, didn’t wobble, just rolled around Jerusalem. When he played Little League, if he played Little League, every time he got up, it was like, ‘Ahhh, walk ‘em! Do not throw the ball to Jesus cause he hits a home run every time! Every time he hits a home run.’ Do you think he ever hit a single? He ever hit a double? Do you think he would’ve ever swung and missed? If the ball was on the outside corner and it was a strike, maybe one time, hypothetically possibly, he didn’t swing at it.
Did he ever make a mistake? Not a sin, a mistake. Did He ever have to do something twice because he didn’t get it right the first time. When he was learning as a little kid how to write his letters, was it like, ‘I can do this, mom, I made the heavens and the Earth. Watch, I can do cursive too. Or, or, did He have to, ‘ok, this is how you make, oh, ah, ok, I got it right the second time. What do you think? What do you think? It says in Luke that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with men and God. He grew. What that means is that he had to learn how to do things. You’re going to need to learn how to do things. One of the ways we learn how to do things is we don’t get it right the first time. We fail. So then we learn from it and we figure out how to do it, that’s how we do things, right? Some of you are paralyzed by religious perfectionism. I need to get it all right, I need to get it all right the first time. You’re not Jesus. And you know what? Jesus may have learn how to do things by figuring it out, maybe not always getting it 100% right the first time.
Let me be careful with this. It’s not immoral. It’s not sinful. It’s not ungodly. It’s part of your humanity. You don’t need to repent of being human. You need to give yourself a little grace and be human. We need to give grace to one another. Otherwise you’re like one of those parents to the kid like, ‘you got it wrong!’ And the kid’s like, “and that’s how I learn. I need to try it and figure it out. So much of life is growth through mistakes, and in that category of failure, sometimes it’s a sin to be repented of, but sometimes it’s a mistake to be learned from. You get the difference?
This is why, my son’s in the middle of baseball season and track season for my daughter, we figured it out, we’ve got a hundred games with my son, and they keep raining out and rescheduling and now my son, it’s time for all-stars cause we need more games and so I was working with my 8 year old son Gideon yesterday, he’s trying out for all-stars and he, when he was in the outfield, running him in the infield, outfield, getting him ready for everything, he would push the ball and it would (made an arc motion) he doesn’t realize that he’s gotten bigger and stronger and he’s got a good arm, and he can take his crow hop and come right on over the top and he can throw the ball on a straight line from the outfield all the way into home.  So yesterday we’re playing catch and Gideon pushed the ball (made arc motion) instead of throw the ball. Here’s what I didn’t say, ‘Gideon you’re in sin! When Jesus played outfield, He never had a loop on the ball. He threw it straight by the power of the Holy Spirit. You should throw it straight by the power of the Holy Spirit and repent of the pushing and looping the ball! Be like Jesus!’ I didn’t say it like that to my 8 year old son. What I said was, ‘Hey, Giddy, you know what? You’re arm’s gotten stronger, you don’t need to push the ball, you can throw it, you’re strong enough to get it all the way in on a line buddy. He needed a little coaching, a little encouragement, and he learned. That’s what life’s like. That’s what God the Father’s like. But that’s not always what religious teaching is like.

I might revisit the theology in this teaching in a future post. In the mean time, I hope my theologically inclined readers will weigh in.
I can’t help but remember that Mark Driscoll defended himself against plagiarism charges by saying “mistakes were made.” I wonder if Driscoll thinks Jesus would have made “citations errors,” yet without sin.
The textual basis for this sermon is Acts 6:1-7 where the Greek Jews were bothered that their widows weren’t getting as much care as the Hebraic Jews.  We are not told in the Bible that the differential treatment was a mistake but Driscoll interprets the passage that way. From there, he contemplates Jesus as a boy doing things He never did.
The fact that Mars Hill leaders thought this passage should be removed is intriguing. Was Driscoll making an analogy to himself? It seems so because he follows this section up with a reference to leaders:

Every leader fails at something. And your failure doesn’t need to be the end of you; it could be the beginning of your learning.

Reflecting on Jesus’ humanity is a worthy theological topic but in this context, it seems like a distraction from the many calls from former members and pastors to enter into reconciliation and mediation over alleged sins, not mistakes. Former and current members don’t care much about hitting a baseball or writing in cursive. They have other concerns and deleting questionable sermon material won’t change that.
(*What Mistakes Would Jesus Do?)