Saturday, November 15, 2014

a new proof that the "lessons learned" about Mark Driscoll are the hobby horses of old, Pyromaniacs' Dan Phillips

As Steve Hays noted recently over here,

In the wake of the Mars Hill meltdown, you have Christian pundits who tell us what we can "learn" from the debacle. The takeaway lessons from that debacle.

I'd just point out that this way of framing the issue is presumptuous and prejudicial. It casts readers in the role of dupes who were taken in by Driscoll, and now have some hard lessons to learn from their disillusioning experience. He betrayed their faith in him.

No doubt there are some former fans of Driscoll who fit the bill. There are, however, Christians who never cared for him in the first place. In addition, there are Christians who appreciated the good he did, especially before he began to go off the rails. But it was never unconditional support. It was the same implicitly qualified support for any minister who's doing good at the time. It always made allowance for weaknesses. And it was always provisional. Always subject to retraction.

It could be presumptuous and prejudicial, yes, and particularly in cases where people came in advance disliking Driscoll over specific issues.  For the Salon/AlterNet/Mother Jones crowd it was Driscoll's views on gays and women.  For Team Pyro, it was charismatic stuff ... except that at one point Driscoll described himself as essentially cessationist.  No matter, the hobby horse was the hobby horse.   Thus, Dan Phllips may just have a chance to do an Elliot Reid-style "I told you so" dance.

But the Pyro/Slice of Laodicea crew have been against Driscoll for charismatic/contemplative things for close to a decade to pretty much no effect at all.  If anything their rhetorical approach toward charismatics was met in kind when Driscoll opted to refer to cessationists as deists and functional atheists. 

And in light of Janet Mefferd's confrontation with Driscoll on air last year it was also essentially beside the point.  Team Pyro has nothing to commend for themselves because they only went for the low-hanging fruit, the problematic aspects of Mark Driscoll's public persona.  And where did those problems come from?  Apparently from a particular doctrinal platform and not from Mark Driscoll's character.  But challenge Driscoll on the degree to which he cribbed the ideas of others and, a year later, where's Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll's public ministry?  Both down for the count, if perhaps only "for a season".

The problem, as ever, has been that whether it's a political left or a theological right both sides have wanted to make Mark Driscoll a useful symbol for their pre-existing judgments and convictions.  I.e. the echo chamber of their own prejudices.  Attempting to understand the history of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll whether or not that history confirms what we already wish were or think to be the case has never been on the radar for Pyromaniacs so far as Wenatchee The Hatchet has been able to observe.

What outsiders continually fail to grasp is how often Driscoll has shifted on theological ideas.  If Driscoll in the next two years were to announce in public that he's an egalitarian cessationist would the issues in his character and intellectual property be different?  We'd have to find out.  Driscoll was self-described as a cessationist for years and the in-creeping of "charismatic with a seatbelt" to "I see things" may have evolved over time as more informal and formal power got consolidated around him and executive leadership. 

WtH is currently transcribing the 2008 spiritual warfare session from 2008 with an eye toward not treating the warfare talk as "just" a doctrinal statement but a type of intra-leadership political manifesto.  A person should not get hung up on the jargon and terminology or even the claims to divinely granted super-powers without understanding the political context in which this seminar was given, in the wake of the late 2007 firings and trials of Petry and Meyer and the loss of a thousand members, not so much due to the doctrinal rigor of the "Doctrine" series where Mark Driscoll presented a patently inaccurate history and summation of the rabbinical commentary on the Targum Neofiti, because the executive leadership seemed to be stonewalling and lying to members about what the reasons for the termination were.  When it was finally revealed Petry and Meyer were fired over their opposition to the bylaws (though the explanations for why the firings were "necessary and inevitable" turned out to be subject to change) a lot of people bailed.  Even people who were in leadership at Mars Hill had begun to leave in early 2008. 

So Mark Driscoll's lecture should be seen in some sense less for it's "how" (disguised as "what" in the form of spiritual warfare) and more for it's "what" in social terms, instructing the leadership culture of MH how to counsel and deal with members but also other leaders, with a warning that the wolves that could destroy Mars Hill were already within Mars Hill.  The spiritual warfare theme could be read, in a way, as the mere surface of what was going on.  Unfortunately for Team Pyro, as ever, there's a sense in which all they've ever engaged is the surface rather than the substance of the history of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. 


chris e said...

There is an interesting counterpoint to TeamPyro's 'I told you so's and Carl Trueman's endorsement of the same.

When the SGM fiasco started - with much of the same character flaws and leadership issues on display - teampyro was resolute in shutting down any 'character issues' raised in the comment threads.

Now granted, we have to be careful here - because not everything everyone says is going to be particularly balanced. Note the aftermath though - SGM one day suddenly simply 'disappeared' off the list of circles teampyro covered. In fact, a whole bunch of groups exercise collective amnesia about a grouping that was for so long a contender in their circles.

In this sense, cutting loose MD at this point seems to be more about positioning and damage limitation. Presumably if there hadn't been bad publicity over plagiarism and local fallout things would have worked out differently.

On the topic of spiritual warfare - perhaps the various shifts are best seen as being made for narrative reasons?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

chris e, that last question could be pertinent. Since Driscoll appears to have at least potentially shifted the dating of a nightmare he claims to have had from a few years after Ashley's birth to before, discussed as a possibility in this post:

It's possible that Driscoll may have presented some narratives in the spiritual warfare session that are variations of earlier accounts, too. At least in part 1. In Part 2 ... well ... we'll get to part 2.

FX Turk said...

WtH: Thanks for your anonymous feedback. We'll file it for future reference.

Fred Butler said...

I would imagine they didn't cover the so-called SGM scandal in the same way they did the Driscoll scandal is because they didn't believe Mahaney was guilty of the crimes the survivor trolls were accusing him of. Big difference.

FX Turk said...

Well, we don't spend a lot of time on Osteen, we don't ever really cover NT Wright, we've said almost nothing about Catholic scandals.

Looks like we miss a lot of things. I wonder why that is actually not at stake here?

Unknown said...

TeamPyro's founder responded via Twitter:

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Hmm, TP shouldn't be taking things so personally. Pointing out that their collective case has proven ineffectual and irrelevant isn't misunderstanding or misrepresenting their case, or even failing to take at least elements of it seriously. The trouble was that Pyromaniacs didn't mount an ultimately compelling case or one that had any bearing on Mark Driscoll as a public figure. If anything their rhetorical approach played into his strengths while Mefferd's direct confrontation hit squarely at his weaknesses.

For instance, let's take the filthy mouth. An objection to Driscoll's crude humor had a ready defense among Driscoll's defenders from within the Bible itself. Whether by appealing to large swaths of Judges; Ezekiel 16 & 23; Elijah's toilet joke about Ba'al; or even the Pauline euphemism about those who should cut themselves off, Driscoll's defenders could cite the crude and grotesque in the biblical texts as a rationalization for Driscoll's use of crude humor. If Driscoll had a potty mouth it was a potty mouth (his defenders have claimed) that is still ultimately informed by biblical precedent. That obviously worked (if only for Driscoll's defenders) for a time.

An additional problem, anyone who rejects even the possibility of a typological or allegorical reading of Song of Songs is forced to concede objecting to Driscoll's approach as a matter of debate of degree rather than quality. MacArthur's public criticism of Driscoll's approach was a good start but fell far short by failing to engage in the exegetical problems (i.e. wholesale eisegesis) Driscoll brings habitually to the text of SoS.

By affirming a "mainly marriage" interpretive approach the essential shortcoming is objecting to Driscoll over degree rather than core interpretive approach. If everyone involved lists toward "mainly marriage" and away from allegory then the possibility of highlighting the problems in Driscoll's approach will fall short if the debate is on where to land in specific texts on textual and mechanical grounds rather than differing about the ultimate aim of the text.

It could have been years ago someone at Pyro could have pointed out why the navel is the navel on the grounds of Hebrew, couldn't it?

Unfortunately for TP, where ever the goal posts may get moved, objecting to Driscoll's style as a pointer to substance was never enough to catalyze a change, and it was never the same as engaging the substance itself.

It's not that their objections weren't significant, it's that expressing them clearly never did (or could) accomplish anything.

It took Janet Mefferd publicly confronting Driscoll on the problem of his substance (down to the footnotes and sources), and World Magazine confirming the Result Source contract, to bring about some actual change.

Pointing out that years of TP's arguments were ultimately ineffectual is neither misrepresenting nor misunderstanding what they were doing. It's also not something they should take personally.

What was at stake? How about that Team Pyro opted to engage in a polemic with Mark Driscoll that played to Mark Driscoll's strengths and did noting to significantly highlight his weaknesses. It just turned out over time that the Team Pyro way of challenging Driscoll had no long term results and the Janet Mefferd way of challenging Driscoll pretty obviously did.

So Janet's way worked and the Team Pyro way didn't. That seems simple enough an observation and one that isn't open to dispute.

Jason said...

There is an awfully wide chasm to traverse between TP's character concerns with Driscoll and their apparent comfort in addressing people consistently with condescension, sarcasm, or outright vitriol. Doesn't invalidate their concerns, but they shouldn't be surprised that their "told you so" isn't being well received by all.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Jason, pretty much. As Team Pyro stuff goes and as MacArthur and Driscoll's early fanhood of goes ...

"MacArthur is to Elvis what Driscoll and MacDonald are to Lennon & McCartney: polemics among the rock star pastors"