Mark Driscoll and his toxic headship teaching – Divorce Minister

David Derksen

“Let’s say, for example, there’s a daughter, and she’s got a close relationship with her covenant head Christian dad. That headship protects her from other boys who want to come along and be her head, tell her what to do, set an identity for her, abuse her, endanger her. It protects her from other young men who would come to take that place of headship in her life.”

– Mark Driscoll, Sermon: “Men and Marriage.”

Do you catch the implications of this statement?

The implication of this “benign” father is that he is standing in for the future husband who will legitimately fulfill the role of his daughter’s “head” (see Ephesians 5:22ff).

That role apparently includes:

1. Telling a wife what to do.

2. Setting an identity for her.

3. Protecting her from abuse and danger.

I can tell you as a father of a daughter that I am not raising my daughter to passively fill such a role as a woman.

I can tell you as a pastor that I find this sort of teaching horrifying and legitimately open to all the harshest criticisms of those who object to the abuses of patriarchy.

Personally, I have a very painful and personal experience with fallout from this awful pastoral teaching from Mark Driscoll.

Such a teaching encourages fathers to interfere in their daughters’ relationships and further fails to teach such daughters important agency-responsibility lessons.

I saw this in action with my situation.

When my marriage was on the rocks, my parents communicated to my (now former) in-laws that the godly response to the marriage troubles was to serve us strictly as advisers when invited. 

[To be clear, this communication came on the heals of my (former) father-in-law trying to engage my parents in my marriage. My parents are wise enough to know that playing marriage police in their children’s marriages is a recipe for disaster.]

My (former) father-in-law and (former) mother-in-law ignored my parents’ instructions to not interfere.

Instead, they fell back upon things they had learned from their pastor, Mark Driscoll, who was then the lead pastor at Mars Hill Church.

My (former) father-in-law embolden by the above quoted teaching decided it was his “Christian” and “manly” duty to get involved in his daughter’s marriage.


-I was on the receiving end of an uninvited “man up” speech from him.


-I subsequently received a Mars Hill Church-style “correction plan” from him–including comments on his daughter’s sex life with me, her husband (another learned behavior from MHC)–because I believe he thought this was his Christian duty as a father.

Admittedly, not everyone will take Mark Driscoll’s teaching on this matter to that extreme.

(Also, Driscoll does warn against parental interference in their children’s marriages. Clearly, that was ignored by my former in-laws).

That said, my issue with this sort of “headship” teaching is how easily it lends itself to sort of abuses I experienced. It emboldens ungodly and unhealthy behavior by suggesting Christian men are to play such a controlling role in the lives of “their” women folk.


It lends itself to undermining female agency and responsibility. If the father or husband is such a “head,” then whatever the daughter or wife does is really the fault and responsibility of the father or husband.

This is antithetical to basic moral responsibility taught throughout the Bible where God calls each one of us to give account for our own actions before Him (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:10).

For that reason alone, we ought to reject this sort of teaching as missing the mark 😉 It is not sound doctrine. 

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV

Women, I assure you that Jesus will not be looking to your father or husband for an explanation for your sinful actions on that day of judgment. You alone must bear responsibility for your own actions.

We are accountable for our own actions– whether male or female!


*A version of this post ran previously. The doctrine taught by MD remains toxic as ever!

Republished with permission from

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