Thursday, December 10, 2015

more drama connected to Doug Wilson and company, visiting a Doug WIlson video commentary a few days after Driscoll's resignation and Wilson's theory of the revenge of the beta males (Janet Mefferd was a beta male?)

It's been a while since Doug Wilson managed to become a lightning rod in a way that had some discussion, maybe a month and a half?  That's potentially a long time for Wilson.

Now before we get to the latest, it seems worthwhile, Wenatchee The Hatchet sometimes doing what it does, to revisit Doug Wilson's occasional commentaries on controversies connected to Mark Driscoll since late 2013.

It's interesting to go back to a video Wilson did October 20, 2014, just a few days after Driscoll announced his resignation.
about 4:40ish Wilson addressed the concerns that arose about plagiarism with Driscoll's reputation. Wilson conceded that there was something objectively wrong with one of Driscoll's books.  Well, yes, and Wenatchee The Hatchet was part of the process of documenting work that was not adequately credited.  Now Wenatchee never attempted to formulate an explanation for WHY Dan Allender's work was not adequately cited in the first edition of Real Marriage. That was not necessarily the point, the point was to point out a result in a published work in which the publication process failed to give adequate credit to an author whose work both Mark and Grace Driscoll had amply attested they benefited from.
Wilson's theory that Driscoll angered many beta males by way of his success ... eh ... this video was days after Driscoll's resignation. 
Now about 8:40 in the video Wilson explained how mistakes happened in his books, stuff he had published under his name but didn't write.  If that was an attempt to explain how maybe Driscoll's plagiarism question arose because of sloppiness from research help.  No, dude, Docent Group spelled out that the research assistant was not responsible for the failures that had Driscoll's name attached. 
Wilson might have a point saying that those who try to game the system are gaming a system that's already gamed ... but hat could be misconstrued so easily as saying it's okay to cheat the system because the system cheats that that might not be the best way to frame things.  To be sure there's been plenty I've read in the last year or two about the problems of a winner-take-all publishing world ... from folks on the left.  Whether Douglas Wilson might agree with that isn't THAT interesting.
In all the conversation about rigging the game the question that Wilson and interviewer did not address in the clip is why there would have been any reason to write the book in the first place.  It's not like a reissue of Richard Baxter's The Christian Directory hadn't come out. Marriage books are a dime a dozen in Christian publishing.  Never before had Mark Driscoll built a sermon series around one of his own books.  Previously the preaching was through books of the Bible or on a set of topics--take the 2005 atonement series.  The debt to John Stott's work was not that hard to spot and he even shared with members on Midrash it was a key influence.
Wilson did not address back in 2014, or since, any of Driscoll's on-the-road in-front-of-camera narratives about God telling him he could quit.  Whether Wilson ever does address such issues remains to be seen.  Doug Wilson's theory that what we saw in 2014 was revenge of the beta males seems remarkably implausible since, last many of us checked, Janet Mefferd has never qualified as a beta male.  How was Mefferd confronting Driscoll on air about the intellectual integrity of his products constitute a revenge of beta males narrative? 
Wilson can't resist formulating controversies in terms of narratives in which envious lesser attack greaters, perhaps? 
A pertinent question here near the end of 2015 is whether Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson have shared any conversation this calendar year.  It's easy to say so and so is a friend in the midst of a controversy but what has Wilson had to say about Driscoll since the resignation beyond the above referenced video?  How does the revenge of the beta male narrative Wilson went with square with anything shared in 2015 by Sutton Turner? 
All that by way of background, it seems that while Wilson has been vague about plagiarism and things Driscoll it's at least possible because of a lack of direct familiarity with the books and situations. 
What about a book closer to "home"?  It's just been in the last few days a matter of intellectual property has come up for a book that was published by Canon Press.
Doug Wilson's publishing company has withdrawn the book and apologetic statements have been issued.  Perhaps it's for the best that neither Doug Wilson nor associates attempt to address the plagiarism controversy of Mark Driscoll circa 2013-2014 at any serious level.  After all, in the video where Wilson floated the point about how research help someties screws things up, it was the previous year that Docent Group clarified about the Trial study guide that that can't be what happened and they proved it wasn't what happened.  For more detail on that explore at your leisure.  We can't backlink to EVERYTHING in the controversy surrounding Driscoll's published books because before it ran its course it began to look as though questions of proper citation spanned as far back as the beginning of his book publishing career. 
We haven't touched on Wilson here in a while.  This was one of the last times that springs to mind.
The ideological/intellectual relationship between Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson has been discussed here in the past. Here are others for those who aren't already up to speed:
The book A Justice Primer hasn't been on my radar and will likely not rise to the level of seeming to need to be on my radar.
There's no mystery that Wenatchee The Hatchet is not, in fact, what's often called a watchblog.  This year the blog posts finally  got back to things like discussing examples of sonata form in early 19th century classical guitar music; writing about musicology; and discussing cartoons here and there.  Those who have tried to describe this blog as some "watchblog" or as "only" ever writing bad stuff about Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll say more about themselves than about this blog. There may be those who are so set on an either/or they can't read what is before them.  It has at times seemed that Wilson fans can be that way in a way not unlike Driscoll's fans and adversaries. 
But if Miller's analysis is cogent, it seems A Justice Primer has leaned so heavily on particular cases of church judicial and disciplinary issues that to divest the book content from the cases that inspired the adapted material could seem a bit ... dodgy. 
If you come to Wenatchee The Hatchet to read about Mars Hill you're likely to run into a mountain of text cited from primary statements by primary sources.  For a good chunk of a year preserving stuff faster than Mars Hill could purge it from their websites was a part-time job here. 
Not everyone who has been critical of Driscoll but has been fond of Wilson has been entirely happy with the increasingly unavoidable history of Wilson's influence on Driscoll's thought.  It may be embarrassing or even downright shameful but it cannot be avoided forever.  Driscoll and Wilson did at least once conference together and the positive mentions of Wilson's work in the extant writings of Mark Driscoll as William Wallace II has been amply documented here and elsewhere.
If Doug Wilson opts not to comment about Driscoll moving forward that may be prudent, but Wilson and Driscoll may have in common a propensity to say and do things that get them in social media.  Wilson wasn't wrong to say that if you live by the numbers you die by the numbers.  Well, sure, and if you live by the brand you die by the brand.  Driscoll so badly damaged the credibility of his brand between 2013 and 2014 that this year he apparently concluded it was a good career move to say in an interview he felt obliged to repent and make nice to Joel Osteen, someone whose preaching and teaching he described as errant back in 2007. At the time Driscoll was laying into Osteen for a prosperity mindset Osteen was asking "Mark who?"
Driscoll, if he does relaunch himself, may not have any words to say about Doug Wilson ... and unless someone can chapter and verse it, it doesn't seem as though Doug Wilson's had a ton to say about Mark Driscoll in 2015. 
Earlier this week Trueman wrote a piece at First Things.
a few quotes ---
"Douthat’s argument—that conservative Catholics overestimated their success and influence both in the political and ecclesiastical sphere, has limited parallels in conservative Protestantism."
Actually, overestimating success and influence seems like it could be a fantastic explanation of what happened at Mars Hill.  When Driscoll was promoting A Call to Resurgence in 2013 he was talking about how the decline of Christendom in the West was bad, even though back in 2006 he was celebrating precisely that decline as an assurance that Christian nominalism was going to decline and that this was better for the health of the church.  At what point did Driscoll do such a big 180 as to decide that the decline he celebrated in his 2006 book was something to fret about for his 2013 book? And in any event did Driscoll actually think Mars Hill's history of growth and popularity meant he was primed to call anybody to any resurgence of anything?  Apparently ... it's just too bad there were some problems with a lack of footnotes.
"Roman Catholics might look on Protestantism from the outside and see it as theology ruled by a mob. Speaking as an insider, it often seems to me to be ruled more by the Mob."
The things that slowly and steadily came to light about the disciplinary culture of Mars Hill make it hard to disagree with this.
"There is indeed an unbearable, kitschy lightness to so much that passes for conservative Protestant life and thought. The theology that sells is by and large a cheap, rootless imitation of the real thing. Year after year, the same brand names churn out bland, lightweight books on whatever is the topic of the moment, with no regard to authorial competence. It is the names that sell, after all."
It wasn't that long ago the controversy Wilson was facing involved a question of why he was willing to officiate the wedding of a convicted sex offender.
This, as was noted by Dan over at City of God, seemed to fly in the face of the alpha male precedent Wilson's rhetoric would seem to have established.  How did such a gap between what Wilson would have been willing to say and what Wilson did emerge? 
It can be popularly said that many do not take Christianity seriously because of Christian hypocrisy.  That no longer seems like the real core of the objection.  Gandhi's negative views of women and his racism with respect to blacks didn't prevent him from being a hero to the cause of Indian independence. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been a womanizer and even a plagiarist but did those things invalidate the cause of civil rights for blacks?  But when it turns out that the guy who is connected to Canon Press has his name connected to a book that has to be retracted because of plagiarism has proposed that maybe the real reason things went bad for Mark Driscoll was a vendetta against him by beta males when the actual controversy that began to sink his public credibility was brought up by a woman ... the reasons Douglas Wilson thought that narrative of his made any sense may be possessed by Douglas Wilson alone.


chris e said...

Just to be clear; on repeated viewings it appears that in the video you link DW starts off talking about how a particular editor changed something in one of his books and then goes on to talk about research assistants and ghost writers in general. At least in that video there isn't any connection between the two (i.e he doesn't say at any point that he does use RAs or ghost writers).

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

good point, which makes it all the stranger to mention any of that at all.

It's a point that seems irrelevant to mention if DW didn't use RA's or ghost writers and in the case of MD a RA was publicly exonerated the previous year. It's the kind of case that, for Wilson to bring up, makes a defense of MD that presupposes the necessity of a base line of incompetence, ignorance, oversight, or even potential corruption that could only exonerate Driscoll individually at the risk of impugning the industry. Or so it seems to me.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

then again, Canon press retracting a book after the plagiarism was revealed is a step better than retroactively changing all the controversial published work and letting the press report the plagiarism as being entirely alleged on the part of the publishing industry.

chris e said...

I assume he was just pontificating about the more general case of Ministers of mega churches with large amounts of staff to help them write each book.

It's good to see Canon Press retracted the book - OTOH that entire world is quite small (even if the number of different bodies/groups/institutions make them seem larger than they are) which can lead to a completely different set of issues. Randy Booth, the co-author of this book, is the minister in charge of the investigation of the conduct of Christ Church over the two abuse cases.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

probably the case, which lets the pontificating be easily retracted, and if that's the case then it's not unlike Mark Driscoll from the days of not really talking about the Haggards but using the Haggard controversy as an occasion to pontificate. If pressed the wife was not really discussed after all but brought up in a way that folks on the internet assume the worst.

Which after a decade or so could be some of the cause of the self-inflicted troubles of guys like Doug Wilson and Mark Driscoll. If they don't take to the net to talk about why Christian girls are prettier or why some Christian pastors are stuck in marriages with women who let themselves go to begin with the rest of the world couldn't so allegedly grievously misunderstand what the real nature of the polemic was. Or ... maybe people do understand some of what's going on when local firebrands say stuff calculated to offend a base they may feel obliged to offend in order to keep the brand going.

Booth's role in the investigation would seem to remove any shred of vestigial credibility from the movement but the power of compartmentalization among loyalists may be great. Driscoll advocates led off with how he didn't cheat on his wife or embezzle money as if what was needed to raise a question of Driscoll's fitness for ministry was going to be sexual sin or theft but not the systemic use of the flock for self-aggrandizing conduct that transformed a Christian community into a mercenarily used vehicle for personal celebrity. Partisans for Driscoll and Wilson at this late hour may not be willing to confront the fact that they are tempted to soft pedal or excuse in their pet public figure what they would find unacceptable in others.

chris e said...

As an outsider, it would seem to be somewhat irregular for a church to start a business, and then when it had grown to sell it on to the son of the pastor. Even when the Is are all dotted, optically it doesn't look great. It's very much in the ministry as small business vein that we see in parts of the tele-evangelical world (in this case, church as incubator).

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

reminds me of how on the Mars Hill side of things Driscoll having a super-majority of intellectual property credited to him and not the church began to seem weird. If it was all about Jesus and loving the church why was the intellectual property so often registered to Driscoll or individual authors? The significance of this became apparent when the Trial study guide was retracted swiftly after Mefferd produced evidence of plagiarism while the books that were copyrighted in some way just to Driscoll got quietly revised after the controversy to give citations where they had been missing.

Wilson's revenge of the beta males fantasy seems to say more about his preferred conspiracy theories than about anything that actually happened in the final years of Mars Hill.

Mike said...

Wilson might actually be right about the revenge of the beta males, but he is wrong if he fancies himself an alpha male. I'd like to know in which universe a paunchy, oddball little bully, premier of a congregation that could be described crisply as "not a mega" in sleepy eastern Idaho, who would be laughed at by a bona fide alpha, is an alpha male. He is an odd little character, a sideshow. He is an alpha only in his fevered imagination.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Mike, that leads me back to my earlier question as to what made Janet Mefferd a beta male. :)