Mark Driscoll: He Ain’t No Captain Sullenberger

It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill. Wilbur Wright


Captain "Sully" wikicommons

Flight 1549 and Captain Sully
It was a remarkable feat. An airliner, all jet engines knocked out by a swarm of birds over New York City, glides its way into history by making a successful landing in the Hudson River. Unbelievably, no one perished.  Here is some footage of that event.

Air Controller Patrick Harten said link

"I believed at that moment I was going to be the last person to talk to anyone on that plane alive."

Many people became aware that this was “first time in half a century of commercial jet flights that an airliner had been successfully landed on water without any fatalities. ”Link

As the details surrounding this event became clearer, a hero emerged. The pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, now known affectionately as “Sully,” was primarily responsible for this outcome. His words, just prior to touchdown, “We’ll be in the Hudson,” joins “One small step for mankind” as a tip of the hat to highly skilled and brave individuals.

After the landing, as the jet filled with water, Sully stayed behind, helping all of his passengers and crew to safety. I still remember one photo of Sully, on a rescue boat, wrapped in a blanket, calmly sipping some hot coffee. I thought, “Now there is one man I could trust to bring me home safely.” As proof of his unflappable demeanor, he reportedly called his wife and simply said “Darling, I’ve just had an accident,” which was, most likely, the understatement of the year. 

Mark Driscoll: Trust me. I’m a Pilot!

So, what does this have to do with Mark Driscoll? At the website, I read what has to be the most remarkable piece of narcissistic hubris to ever come out of Mars Hill and, given the subject, that is noteworthy. Driscoll (who could never be accused of understatement) penned a post titled, Do You Trust Your Pilot? link.

The usual manly boys network sprang into action to push the piece. After all, it makes pastors sound like Tom Cruise in Top Gun.  For example, Ed Stetzer recommended this post here. But, books must be sold at Lifeway, I suppose.

Driscoll likens himself to an airline pilot who, because he is upfront in the cockpit, sees what is going on. His church attendees are the uninformed passengers who cannot see what is coming.

To explain this, he launches into an explanation of bank turns that airliners have to take.

  • 25–30 degrees: 1.1–1.2 g-force on the body, most people won't feel a thing.
  • 45 degrees: 1.5 g-force, people start to feel it
  •  60 degrees: 2-2.5 g-force, people really feel it and start to freak out.
  • 70–80 degrees: Around 5 g-force, people start getting tunnel vision as the blood rushes out of their eyes.

He then goes on to pontificate that an experienced pilot might be forced to make one of those significant turns. He likens himself to that pilot-the guy who has to save the lives of his people. He fusses that, when such a sharp turn is necessary, many people freak out, storm the cabin and trash the pilot after they have, get this, “Landed safely.’

I do not know what newspaper Driscoll has been reading but, when a pilot makes an emergency turn, and lives are saved, the passengers usually give him a standing ovation. You know why? They know it! He has informed them and they clearly see it. This whole analogy is not making sense . But, Driscoll rarely makes sense to me.

Stupid, uninformed people must trust the pilot. Driscoll, of course, is that pilot.

His  take home point is, you can see this coming,  “Trust the Pilot.

“Assume that they have way more data and training than you. Assume they see stuff out of their window you don’t see out of yours. Assume they did the right thing, even if you are wearing your drink, your luggage came flying out of the overhead bin, and you need to buy new underwear to replace the ones you were wearing. Just maybe the pilots saved your life and spared you from a less disruptive turn that would have ended in a fiery crash you never saw coming.”

Who is most likely to trust the pilots? Frequent fliers, those who have been on board long enough to have survived hard banked turns before. And former pilots who have themselves sat in the cockpit of an organization and had to make the same kind of tough decisions.

Who is least likely to trust the pilots? First-time fliers, those who are new to leadership and/or new to the organization and subsequently lack the experience to simply buckle up and ride it out. Also fans of flying who have studied flight and/or visited the cockpit to peer over the pilots' shoulder enough to maintain an illusion that they know how to fly and could do a better job themselves, even though they have no hours in the pilots' chair.”

I have one response to this.

"Mark Driscoll, you are no Captain Sully and you have demonstrated enough weirdness to help me to know that I wouldn’t trust you get me safely to Tacoma."

Mark Driscoll’s “Intensive Training.” (All documented at TWW)

  •  Bachelor's degree in communications from Washington State University with a minor in philosophy and hold
  •  Master of Arts degree in exegetical theology from Western Seminary.
  • He wrote a book on sex.
  • He has theorized that Queen Esther was a slut and backed it up by asking his teen daughter.
  • Pastors a church
  • Speaks at a lot of conferences

Captain Sully’s Intensive Training.

Now, let’s look at Captain Sully’s training link.

  • IQ was deemed high enough to join Mensa International
  • At 16, Sullenberger learned to fly in an Aeronca 7DC
  • Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Air Force Academy,  Master's degree in Industrial Psychology from Purdue University and a Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
  • In the year of his graduation, 1973, he received the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship award, as the class "top flyer".
  • Sullenberger served as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force, piloting McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs from 1975 to 1980.
  • Became a flight leader and a training officer, and attained the rank of captain,[with experience in Europe, the Pacific, and at Nellis Air Force Base, as well as operating as Blue Force Mission Commander in Red Flag Exercises.[
  • While in the Air Force, he was a member of an aircraft accident investigation board.
  • He has more than 40 years and 20,000 hours of flying experience.
  • In 2007 he became the founder and CEO of Safety Reliability Methods, Inc.
  • He has also been involved in a number of accident investigations conducted by the USAF and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), such as Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 and USAir Flight 1493.
  • He served as an instructor, Air Line Pilots Association Local Air Safety Chairman, accident investigator, and national technical committee member.
  • His safety work for ALPA led to the development of a Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular.
  • He was instrumental in developing and implementing the Crew Resource Management course that is used by US Airways, and he has taught the course to hundreds of airline crew members
  • Working with NASA scientists, he coauthored a paper on error-inducing contexts in aviation.[
  • He was an air accident investigator for a NTSB inquiry into a major accident at Los Angeles International Airport, which "led to improved airline procedures and training for emergency evacuations of aircraft".
  • He has also been studying the psychology behind keeping an airline crew functioning during a crisis.
  • He holds an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate for single and multi-engine airplanes, and a Commercial Pilot Certificate rating in gliders, as well as an expired flight instructor certificate for airplanes (single, multi-engine, and instrument), and gliders.

In addition to all of that,  all pilots must obtain hours of intensive continuing education involving aeronautical science and mock scenarios of disasters. They are constantly checked for reflexes, sight and other health issues. My husband routinely sees pilots to check their hearts and clear them for flight duty

Let's take a closer look at Driscoll versus Sully

Driscoll– Blamed his “co-pilots” for disagreeing with him and threatened to punch them in the nose while firing them.
Sully- Heaped praise on his co-pilot and flight attendants, claiming that they were the reason that everyone was alive.

Driscoll– Blamed his wife for his problems in their marriage
Sully- Spoke highly of the engineers who designed the plane and praised the air traffic controllers. He was most complimentary of the rescue crews and stated he was amazed at their fast response.

Driscoll- Claims to have visions of people being raped and molested
Sully- Clearly saw the alternatives and made a careful assessment in where to land in such a way to save lives in the plane and on the ground. (Pilots who “see things” are usually grounded).

Driscoll- Bragged that he prepared a sermon in 2 hours while watching the Seattle Mariners.Link
Sully– Pushed himself to become a pilot’s pilot in intensive training and experience. No “2-hour” blow off preparation for this hero.

Driscoll-Admits to breaking the law by stealing things for his church. Link
“Our church services started to stink a whole lot less.  We scraped together enough money to buy some big honking speakers, and I stole an unused sound console from my old church along with a projection screen, which were sins that Jesus thankfully died to forgive.”  (Confessions, p.62)
“We never paid for electricity in our office apartment because the building was illegally hooked up to the power grid and all our power was stolen.”  (Confessions, p.125)
Sully- Was voted "Outstanding Airman" at the Air Force Academy, My guess is that he didn’t break laws to get  there.

Driscoll– Fires people who give him objective opinions and don’t do things his way
Sully– He must meet standards for both personal health and piloting. In other words, when my husband assess a pilot to see if his heart is in good enough condition to fly, he is thinking of himself and others on that pilot’s plane. He is not going to certify a pilot who is unsafe.

Driscoll’s  analogy make no sense.

Here is Driscoll’s problem. He sees himself as an elitist pastor who is the only one who can see out of the cockpit. Baloney! It reminds me of that stupid commercial in which a man announces “I am not a doctor but I play one on TV.” The emperor has no clothes.
A church is not a jetliner. The Holy Spirit invades the lives of all believers and gives all involved a window to see what is coming ahead. The pastor may have a couple years of Greek under his belt but a church is made up of the body and he has time to consult even the “least among these.”

Unless a church is about to get bombed, there is not a need to bank so hard that, to use Driscoll’ ridiculous example, “blood comes out of the eyeballs.” And any pastor who believes this is not worthy of our trust. I say to all of those whose pastors believe that they are “highly trained professionals", to find a real pastor who understands about love, mercy and grace. Leave behind those pastors who believe that they are pilots who are involved in life and death decisions in the cockpit of a jetliner.  

In case you need more convincing, here is a 15-minute interview on 60 Minutes with Captain Sully. Also, we repeat the universally panned video of Mark Driscoll who "sees things." Spend a minute or two and think. Who would you trust more-Sully or Driscoll?


Lydia's Corner: Leviticus 16:29-18:30 Mark 7:24-8:10 Psalm 41:1-13 Proverbs 10:15-16


Mark Driscoll: He Ain’t No Captain Sullenberger — 425 Comments

  1. @ Nick & Haitch:

    “He’s saved 10,000 people in Seattle alone”

    Mark Driscoll = Holy Spirit = member of the Trinity = GOD. ‘Nuff said.

  2. “He’s saved 10,000 people in Seattle alone”

    2,000 of which have been thrown under the bus
    2,000 stormed the cabin, were shot, then thrown under the bus
    2,000 have jumped off the train because they realized that it is speeding toward a gorge where the bridge is out.
    2,000 are looking frantically for parachutes so that they can jump.
    2,000 are white knuckling the arm rests of their seats in the plane, praying for direction or safety or wrestling with God as to why He led them to this sinking titanic.

  3. Back to the title of this post — Mark Driscoll: He Ain’t No Captain Sullenberg

    In Mark Driscoll’s Own Mind, he IS.

  4. Haitch, Haha, I do love how Ayn Rand, Karl Marx, John Piper, and CCM can populate the same discussion at TWW! Someone else made the point about Marx being a systems analyst – another great reason to read him.

  5. Haha, I do love how Ayn Rand, Karl Marx, John Piper, and CCM can populate the same discussion at TWW! — Caleb of Canada

    Ever sit in on a panel at an SF con? No matter what the announced subject, it usually random-associates all over the place.

  6. Mara & Hester – LOL (but a sad LOL at the same time – definitely not joyful or exhuberant)

    Yes, and a shout-out to HUG on systems analysis, ta.

    I have my uncle’s copy of “Das Kapital” which I must burrow into. I found scrawled in the front by him “this is an evil book written by an evil man”. haaaaaa ! It kind of doesn’t make sense though, I thought he would have embraced it being a hippy flower intellectual child of the 60’s etc.

  7. So for anyone still reading comments on this post, I brought this analogy up to the music pastor of our church. In the process I also mentioned “drink your juice box” and Driscoll’s public announcement of wanting to physically assault one of his elders. His response was surprise coupled with an admission that he doesn’t know much about Driscoll, but that was certainly not the attitude of leadership at the church.

    Using the aforementioned example of elders as flight attendants rather than pilots, I expressed that that was the kind of leadership and community I wanted in a church. He thought the analogy was great and really did not like Driscoll’s. I told him if I ever ended up with my drink in my lap, the leaders had better be telling me what was going on 🙂

    So anyway, I just wanted to bring this up because I felt like this post sparked a very real conversation at my local level where it really matters, and that’s a good thing.

  8. Jeff S

    I’m still reading your comments, and I’m glad this online discussion sparked a conversation with the music pastor at your church.  Blessings!

  9. Jeff S –

    Kudos for interacting with your pastor! I need a like button for your last comment.

  10. Thankfully, I am not familiar with this Driscoll character, and I haven’t read all the comments… but one thing jumped out at me.

    When is it EVER appropriate for ANYBODY to refer to their sex life in public?? Or, worse yet, their wife’s monthly cycle? That stuff is PRIVATE!

    My own pastor came as close as anybody should come last Sunday, when he said the Lord had told him he was going to be married, and then that he was going to have a bunch of kids, and he said, “I did my part, and we won’t talk about that, and now we have . . . ” and he named the children.

    And anything more than that would have been waaaaaaay too much information!

  11. StillWiggling, I agree, but even that much was unnecessary imo. We all know how children are conceived.

  12. Well… he did get a big laugh… and him saying such a thing is a VERY rare occurrence.

  13. Oh Eagle – you crack me up! Was it MD who basically said masturbation was a homosexual act because it was a person of one sex touching the genitalia of the same sex…or did I have some nightmare?

  14. @Still Wiggling – sorry to put a negative light on the subject – but I would guess that the pastor’s kids would be cringing inside also. I don’t think there should be any mention of them from ‘up front’ ie from the pulpit at all – they intensely dislike being using as props or tools in the sermon or being highlighted publicly in front of a large amount of people. Just my opinion.

  15. Beakerj – first of all, you don’t meet many folk these days who actually remember Beaker off the Muppets!

    Secondly, I read the link you posted. Three things:
    1) Interestingly, they put the word “pastor” in quotes. I believe they’re right.
    2) To be fair to Park Fiscall, a man masturbating over his own reflection would be a bit on the odd side. He might be said to have a rather unusually well-marked form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    Er… just a minute…

    No, surely not. Forget I mentioned it.

    3) On the other hand; a man masturbating while engaged in intimacy with his wife… what the blinking flip? A sexual act that doesn’t involve a woman – in the company of a woman?!?!?!? I suppose that, technically, that’s probably not homosexual. But it’s as creepy as heck.

  16. Reading posts like this make me wonder. I currently go to an A29 church, and our leadership doesn’t act like this (at least that I have seen, and I am very active in the church). Our pastor is a genuinely humble and considerate guy; additionally, when I spoke with him concerning my Driscoll misgivings, he agreed with me. He even said that he would not have joined A29 if he had to be a mini-Driscoll. Maybe my Church is the exception in the A29 world, but I’d like to think that other A29 churches are like mine

  17. Individual leaders don’t always (though unfortunately sometimes do) reflect the leadership of a church, group or movement as a whole. The medieval church produced both Francis of Assisi and Torquemada. I think it is when cultish behaviour becomes the norm that leaders tend to be stamped from one identical mould. Unfortunately some leaders do also attract followers who want to identify with the leadership model shown when they themselves become leaders.

  18. As HUG pointed out a few days ago:

    Frank Herbert (author of Dune) had a corollary on Lord Acton:

    “It’s not that power tends to corrupt so much as power attracts the already-corrupt and the easily-corrupted.”

    There’s something about the gift of leadership that makes those who possess it very vulnerable. [geek alert] The Greek word usually translated “leader” in Romans 12 is “pro-istemi”, which literally means “one who stands out” or “one who goes first”. If I’m not mistaken, this is an important gift, and I know of congregations that are atrophying because they have no-one who is willing or able to set out and achieve something, accepting and dealing with all the criticism and flak that entails.

    But like every good and perfect gift etc (you know the verse), it can be abused and carries risks. The one who isn’t afraid to stand out, generally isn’t afraid of what people might think. If they’re not humble and spiritually mature when they take a place of leadership, then they’re apt to deal with criticism “at source” – i.e., by dealing with their critics. At times like that, the young leader desperately needs (though may not want) strong support from mentors they can’t fire. Otherwise a kind of “runaway greenhouse effect” takes hold, with honest critics driven ever further away and fawning, unreal admirers drawn ever closer.

  19. Dear Dee
    Apologies for not replying sooner but there was a family bereavement and I’m only just back from Ireland.

    I found this brief passage on the Puritan view here

    Just as in Europe, physical punishment was common in colonial America. Americans used stocks, pillories, branding, flogging, and maiming—such as cutting off an ear or slitting nostrils—to punish offenders. The death penalty was used frequently. In 1636 the Massachusetts Bay Colony listed thirteen crimes that warranted execution, including murder, practicing witchcraft, and worshipping idols. In early New York State, 20% of offenses, including pickpocketing, horse stealing, and robbery, were capital crimes (warranting the death penalty).

    Jails were used to hold prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing or as debtors’ prisons, but were not the punishment itself. The Puritans of Massachusetts believed that humans were naturally depraved, which made it easier for some of the colonies and the first states to enforce harsh punishments. In addition, since Puritans believed that humans had no control over their fate (predestination), many early Americans felt there was no need for rehabilitation.


    The Quakers, led by William Penn, made colonial Pennsylvania an exception to the harsh practices often found in the other colonies. The early criminal code of colonial Pennsylvania abolished executions for all crimes except homicide, replaced physical punishments with imprisonment and hard labor, and did not charge the prisoners for their food and housing.

    Prevention History of Corrections—Punishment or Rehabilitation? – Colonial And Earlypost-revolutionary Periods


  20. The meaning of histemi in Romans 12:8 is

    to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set
    to bid to stand by, [set up]
    in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, before members of the Sanhedrin;
    to place
    to make firm, fix establish
    to cause a person or a thing to keep his or its place
    to stand, be kept intact (of family, a kingdom), to escape in safety
    to establish a thing, cause it to stand 1b
    to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything
    to set or place in a balance
    to weigh: money to one (because in very early times before the introduction of coinage, the metals used to be weighed)
    to stand
    to stand by or near
    to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm 2a
    of the foundation of a building
    to stand
    continue safe and sound, stand unharmed, to stand ready or prepared
    to be of a steadfast mind
    of quality, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver

    Meditate on the whole chapter
    Living Sacrifice

    12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    Humble Service in the Body of Christ

    3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

    Love in Action

    9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

    17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Romans 12:6 Or the
    Romans 12:8 Or to provide for others
    Romans 12:16 Or willing to do menial work
    Romans 12:19 Deut. 32:35
    Romans 12:20 Prov. 25:21,22