Monday, November 10, 2014

2-5-2008 spiritual warfare Part 1 part 3 observations--when one is strong on a stage and poor in books

One of the things that's interesting in this brief aside is that its potential application goes beyond spiritual warfare to just about any form of pitched battle.  You observe the strengths and weaknesses of an adversary and seek to minimize the advantages while exploiting weaknesses. 

And since Driscoll took the time to make an aside about ultimate fighting as an analogy for how knowing the strengths and weaknesses in the methodology of whomever you're going up against, perhaps Wenatchee The Hatchet can make a few observations about Mark Driscoll as a public figure with a particular style.

Now that Mark Driscoll tends to rely chiefly on mass media, speech, and the emotional power of the spoken word is fairly simple.  Even his books tend to be recyclings of ideas he's mentioned from the pulpit over the years (or read in the books of others, but let's not get ahead of ourselves).  His strength is in boiling things down, in bringing things to the bottom line.

But it may be worth pointing out that generally every strength can become a corresponding weakness.  If Driscoll is strong, funny, and moderately effective in the spoken word moment in front of a camera on a stage then he is remarkably and consistently and provably weak when the argument gets on to the page and involves ... er ... footnotes.

But let's go back to something Wenatchee The Hatchet has quoted before
Down below.  Driscoll made a point of raising a point in connection to the then upcoming meeting with T. D. Jakes that might give us an insight into Driscoll's possible understanding of his own shortcoming.

From PastorMarkTV
Admittedly, sometimes when speaking, a teacher presents a belief in a way that is inaccurate and unclear. So called “discernment” bloggers who are usually not connected to any noteworthy or respected evangelical Christian theologians, schools, denominations, ministries, churches, or pastors make their living taking what people said wrongly, transcribing it, and then falsely—or at least wrongly—accusing them of heresy when it is untrue.

The ear is more forgiving than the eye, and when we say something wrong, people tend to give the benefit of the doubt. But, when what is said is then written down, there is far more scrutiny as a statement is parsed like a Bible verse, which is unfair. ...

But it's not unfair, really, not if you've actually thought through your position carefully enough to start with.  But it was interesting that Driscoll made a point of saying that the ear is more forgiving than the eye and particularly that when we say (as opposed to write) something wrong, people tend to give the benefit of the doubt.

What about footnotes in books?  Maybe Mark Driscoll made a mistake?  It has since last year's interview with Janet Mefferd become abundantly clear Driscoll is not only weak in print it is in print where the accumulation of his statements has become a liability.  He's reached a point where he's contradicted himself just enough times on the most basic, foundational elements of his personal narrative and the history of Mars Hill in particular that it's difficult to assess whether we can take what he says seriously.  In 2006 he mentioned in a book that Mike Gunn and Lief Moi were tough men and good fathers and that's why he recruited them to help him start Mars Hill.  Then in later 2013 Mark Driscoll declared that the reason there was no kids' ministry in the early days of Mars Hill was because there were no kids.

There are basically only two working options for interpreting this worse-than-John-Kerry-in-an-election-year flip-flop---either Driscoll was lying or Driscoll's recollection had become so poor he can't be trusted to remember his own public narrative.  One interpretation casts doubt on his honesty and integrity, the other is reason to doubt his mental competence.  Neither is a particularly flattering possible explanation.  Beyond certain points it's no longer possible to just suggest "maybe he made a mistake" and move on.  Some mistakes are too spectacular to go without some attempt at an explanation.

Now one of the things that has often happened in blogs and in media has been that people who have arrayed themselves against Driscoll in disagreement over this or that matter has been that they make the mistake of attempting to react to Driscoll in ways that cater to the terms he sets.  Driscoll has spent the last decade and a half positioning himself as a de facto centrist against godless liberals on the one hand and uptight religious conservatives on the other.  He has also reveled in using mass media (broadcast and social) to get this point across.

What Driscoll's approach has clearly not accounted for is any capacity to take anything or everything he's said over the course of eighteen years and show the essential continuity of what he says, how he says it, and how long he has been saying it.  When Driscoll said he regretted William Wallace II and sinned and cussed a lot he explained it in Confessions of a Reformission Rev as a pen name he took up to attack liberals and emergent.  Come to find out with the re:publication of "Pussified Nation" his most loathed targets where the likes of James Dobson and Promise Keepers.  One of the core problems of those who have come to Mark Driscoll's defense is that they literally have no idea what they're talking about.  They don't know what Driscoll actually said, just what they believe he said based on what he said that he said.  This is what happens a bit too much of the time.

Wenatchee The Hatchet has apparently gotten some reputation as a Driscoll critic but this is, to borrow a play from Driscoll, uninformed and unfair.  If quoting Mark Driscoll accurately and in context and scrupulously citing sources and historical contexts to establish the ways in which Driscoll contradicts himself and has changed the public narrative of Mars Hill and his own life then the bar for being a "critic" is set very low these days. 

Perhaps Driscoll could be likened to a man who has the jabs and cuts with the arms but has no ground game at all.  The substance of his ideas that seem persuasive enough via the spoken word can fall apart on the page.  And it may be the case that Driscoll knows this so well that in tossed off sentences he's let us know that the ear is more forgiving than the eye?  Is that true?  No, not at all, but as a rhetorical gambit it lets Driscoll say that anyone who bothers to point out the fundamental problems in what he argues for and how he argues for it is just a "critic".

And that is just another tactic on Driscoll's part, the ad hominem and the reduction ad absurdium (Driscoll's usage, not WtH's)  When he failed to convince people of his ideas Driscoll has a history of resorting to directly attacking the person he's arguing with and going with the most straw man form of their position.  The shoe is never allowed to be on the other foot. 

But for those with the patience to slog through Driscollian material the shoe can and does get on the other foot, which is why the rest of the Spiritual Warfare series from 2008 is worth sharing with the world, seeing as Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll made it available for untold numbers to download and listen to already anyway.

We've seen how Driscoll explicitly stated that a belief that the executive elders of Mars Hill didn't love the church was "a demonic lie".  That Driscoll was saying this to a closed group, leaders only audience in the months after the controversial 2007 firings and removal of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry should be considered not just as an abstracted discourse on spiritual warfare.  If anything too many people have commented on small parts of the session from 2008 and not on the whole.  Too few who have examined some have considered that some as part of a sum, as part of a session that can be read as a political discourse.  Consider, for instance, Mark Driscoll's claims that counseling pastors were going too easy on members and not accounting for the possibility of wolves.

A good deal of the first half hour featured Driscoll warning of false Christians, false prophets, false teachers, and of these fakes infiltrating Mars Hill to its destruction.  If a person were to try to find a single moment or presentation in which what Steve Tompkins called the "ad hominem narrative" began to take shape this 2008 session may be as good a place as any.

And while the materials in Part 1 will seem to fit acceptably within normal evangelical understandings (as we'll see later this week in subsequent posts) it's in Part 2 that Driscoll introduces some ideas, and changes gears. 

But for now, the overview of Driscoll is that he notes you have to understand your enemy.  If you're going to make a point of critiquing Driscoll you have to see about doing it in a way that doesn't play to his strengths and also highlights his weaknesses.  As we've seen this last year his weakness is in the footnotes and in getting basic research right about historic faith and doctrine. 

One may have to wonder how he's managed to be so bad at it.  But ... moving along.

No comments: