Saturday, April 21, 2012

Paul Burkhart: Why I "hate" Mark Driscoll So Much (PS I don't)

Driscoll was good and served a purpose (like the Pope), but it’s time to move on. There’s (now) little he has to offer as a preacher, teacher, writer, leader, “theologian”, or “pastor” that isn’t present in many other men that are far more qualified in education, theology, wisdom, sensitivity, and love.

Could he grow in these things? Yes, I pray he does, but he repeatedly errs on the side of doubling-down rather than reconsideration.

Burkhart isn't the only one to notice that Driscoll repeatedly errs on the side of doubling down rather than reconsideration.  If he keeps doing that about church discipline or Redemption Groups he may find that doubling down costs him.  This would be especially true if it turned out that those Redemption Groups Mars Hill has so fervently promoted had a co-leader who got canned for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority?  Why?  Because Driscoll and his team drafted bylaws that didn't provide any check on what elders were allowed or not allowed to do in cases of church discipline back in 2007. 

I can’t tell you how weird it was going to the one Acts 29 conference I went to a few years ago with my old church (which is all about Acts 29 teaching, ethos, and theology). Seriously, everyone was dressed exactly the same–including me. They talked the same, threw the same names out, thought the same, and had read the same books. It was huge wake-up call for me. The point is this: I think Driscoll is good at creating a culture more than disciples. We need to cultivate both of those things in our people, but I think the priority should be reversed.

That sounds about right.  Group conformity is inevitable.  We all think we won't do it but then we do it and we don't realize it.  As South Park illustrated with their satire of Goth kids, they think they're being non-conformist and different but Goth kids across twenty years still wear all-black, still listen to the Cure, still smoke, still lament the pointlessness of life, and so on. 

A friend of mine once joked he gave advice to single guys at a church we were at. If the guy wore no jewelry except for a choker or a wrist bracelet and wore pin-stripped button-up shirts he might improve his odds.  Why was this a joke? Because the joke was that if the single guys started adopting the dress code of the main teaching pastor the ladies would notice.  One bitter single guy I heard out one evening remarked that he noticed all the guys who became community group leaders at this church seemed to get girlfriends within a few months.  Not true, actually. I know a guy who bombed out in the love department once he became a community group leader and it wasn't until he had labored for a couple of years, realized it was going nowhere, and threw in the towel and went to another small group that he then met his wife.  The humor there is not very difficult to savor in either case. 

Now people may disagree that Driscoll and his team have done a better job of creating a culture than creating disciples.  There's room for debate on that.  Mars Hill does not want to be identified as a denomination but as interdenominational.  Yet they bill themselves as Reformed, complementarian, evangelical, and missional.  In other words they're basically TULIP anabaptists who won't commit on either theonomistic postmillenialism or premillenial dispensationalism but they won't take a stand on what they DO advocate.  A denomination and its leadership would probably have the stones to say what they're for and not just what they're against.  A church whose main teaching pastor advocates complementarianism in theory but has made his wife his "functional pastor" in practice isn't even meaningfully "complementarian" unless the buck ultimately stops at him.  And maybe it does.

But if Mars Hill is not a denomination but a "movement" then the culture proposal is more salient.  If you're not building an institution but you want to establish a movement then what you're doing is creating a culture, at least somewhere along the way.  And how has that culture grown and changed?  The older Mars Hill gets the more it looks like every other kind of mainstram megachurch the leaders used to say they didn't want to be like.  Passing buckets for offering before a sermon?  Altar calls? Childrens' ministries? Womens' ministries? Singles events?  Yep, all those things have been done.  As Burkart has put it, there's been some good we can point to but these are goods that are done equally well or better by other people already. I could write more but ending with this excerpt seems sufficient:

The beginning of Mark Knoll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind begins with him saying “this is an epistle by a wounded lover”. That’s how I feel. In the end, I really don’t actually “hate” these men. I see how much good they have done. But I also see how much more they could do and how they have made secondary things into things of such primary importance, while becoming so insensitive to others.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Internet Monk: A Ban on the word "Biblical"

I can understand getting fed up with people throwing around the term "biblical" or "it's biblical" or a variation like "I got verses." Not much to add to this link.

Heath Lambert reviews Real Marriage in Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

Lambert concludes that the book Real Marriage is going to be positively harmful and that there are too many contradictions between the Driscoll's rhetoric and practice to make the book helpful or even practical.

JMBW Spring 2012 p 42
Make no mistake: men and women will be introduced to pornogaphy because of this book. ... The Driscolls introduce their readers to the titles of pornographic books, magazines, and videos; they provide technical names for specific kinds of pornographic films; they list the names of celebrities who have starred in pornography; they even provide web addresses where readers can meet people for sex. As I look back on that sentence I am overwhelmed that a Christian minister could be so irresponsible.  I can tell you for an absolute fact that therea re young men and women alla cross the country who will read Real Marriage, have their interest piqued by some of the details the Driscolls provide, will turn to Google for a search on those things, and will not come up for air again for hours--perhaps months and years. 

Mark Driscoll's adventures in Christian porn (or would it be better to call it sanctified erotica?) are not news to me.  I heard where he went with his inane Abishag fantasy back from the 1999 sermons.  I was in my twenties, alas, too young and ignorant of Old Testament literature at that time to realize how patently stupid the Abishag hypothesis is and how much warping of biblical texts was required to even make such a speculation possible.  A person's understanding of scripture can change a lot in ten years while Mark Driscoll's "exegesis" can remain essentially static about wifely stripteases and holy blow jobs. 

I haven't read Real Marriage and don't plan to but I am, unfortunately, not surprised that the Driscolls provide those kinds of details.  Years ago Driscoll once opined about Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima saying she was a Catholic while working as a Victoria's Secret model and getting photographed naked.  Driscoll remarked that because she was a model she apparently couldn't spell the word c-o-n-t-r-a-d-i-c-t-i-o-n and swore that he did not look up any photos of her naked.  Since he says so ... but it may be telling that he still knew who the woman was in order to make his point. 

To be fair, I suppose a guy like Mark Driscoll might consider such things to be, uh, authenticating details that make his case and argumentation more persuasive.  Let me play with this rhetorical device a bit to show you how it works.  Mark Driscoll can say that it's not all about numbers on church growth but that they want to see more people meet Jesus.  Now I could have two kinds of retorts to that which convey different levels of detail and meaning.  I could say that this is like a man claiming that he doesn't have to marry a woman who looks like some model but that if she has done modeling work he won't complain and would prefer to date her over other women.  Or ... I could say that this is like a man who says he doesn't have to date a woman who looks just like a Victoria's Secret model but if the woman he marries looks like Miranda Kerr ...  

See how that worked? Obviously one of these two lines of retort is far more detailed.  Driscoll, it seems favors the second kind of retort over the former.  In scolding young guys in his church about having unrealistic expectations about women he said that they needed to get over the idea that a woman could conjugate Greek verbs, homeschool all the kids, cook food and then at the end of the day put on clear heels and know what to do with a steel pole. 

Uh ... clear heels? What to do with a steel pole?  Uh ... who actually cares about crap like that?  Driscoll has said that the criticisms some people have had about Real Marriage say more about their problems than problems in his book.  If that's true then can't it also be true that how Driscoll authenticates his authority to speak on things like pornography and unrealistic expectations about women tells us more about his own unrealistic expectations of women than about what he thinks the unrealistic expectations of other men may be?

Getting back to Heath Lambert's review, Lambert observes that the problem with this approach is not just the above cited concern that the Driscolls will introduce people to pornography.  The other problem is that despite the lip service the Driscolls pay to practical considerations there can be precious little practical advice. 

JMBW Spring 2012 p 39
Another example of impracticality was Mark Driscoll's chapter on pornography. Driscoll's chapter was fifteen pages, and only the last few concerned practical help for people struggling with this problem. ... I have counseled scores of peopel who struggle with this problem and have neer met one who was powerfully and qualitatively changed by a description of the billions of dollars spent on porn ... . People struggling with pornography simply do not need these things. That means that the thing people most need is what Driscoll spent the least amount of time developing. I was sad at an opportunity, now missed, to provide so many people with practical help.
Identifying the details of a problem is not the same as proposing a plausible solution.  Let's say for the sake of discussion everything Karl Marx proposed about the problems in certain forms of 19th century capitalism were legit (remember I said "let's say for sake of discussion", okay?). Does that mean that what Marx proposed as the solution is practical?  By extension think of Mark Driscoll as a kind of Karl Marx, just because he thinks he's diagnosed the problem doesn't mean he has and it certainly isn't proof that he's got a viable solution. Let's say for sake of discussion that he grasps correctly that certain things are problems.  It doesn't follow from that that even if this were true that his solutions are necessarily wise or practical.

As for Lambert's disappointment at the lack of real discussion by the Driscolls about friendship I'm not surprised he found so little from the Driscolls about friendship.  In some twelve years of preaching I can't say that I recall Driscoll ever demonstrating even a basic grasp of friendship.  It's apparent he has poured himself into his marriage but if you did a survey of the names he's dropped as "a good friend" over the last ten years and asked whether and when Driscoll hung out with all these people he's described as "a good friend" you might not get much of an answer. 

And that Grace was made Driscoll's "functional pastor" means the man is deluded about the significance of headship and a hypocrite.  If "it's not headship until you disagree" but Driscoll's submitting to Grace as his "functional pastor" then why not appoint Grace to the executive elder board as the Lead Pastor, eh?  If she's the spiritual authority and guide for Driscoll then Mars Hill in a very real way is spiritually headed by whomever is the "functional pastor" over Mark Driscoll.  What was Mark Driscoll's beef with Justin Brierley again ... ?  Ah, that's right, that Brierley was married to a woman who was a pastor.  But as long as we're talking "functional pastor" and not actual pastor I guess it's okay, huh?  Lambert may want to concede that the subtitle is "The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life Together"  You've got to admit that's not false advertising.

Mark Driscoll shows us the hat but does not produce the cattle

The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming. Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.” And, we all know that almost everything bloggers say is true. But, when they have something as solid as an anonymous “source,” then you can rest assured that when Jesus talked about the truth over and over in John, this is precisely what he was referring to. I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist, and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison.

If I didn't know better I'd say 2012 was the year William Wallace II made his triumphant and inevitably self-congratulatory return.  The pre-emptive strike on Justin Brierley was a little too upset and a little too personal.  But this ... now this is William Wallace II all the way.  This is in the mode of "Pussified Nation".  If you had ever heard of "Pussified Nation" and wondered how William Wallace II came across this is probably a good indicator.  Driscoll let people know in Confessions of a Reformission Rev he adopted the persona of William Wallace II to, more or less, put those unruly and ignorant young men in their place.  It was ever thus, it seems, and so Mark Driscoll has decided the kerfuffle of Liberty University warrants a response despite his belabored joking that this all seems beneath him a little bit but he's going to reply anyway.

On a little further reflection, it's inaccurate to say William Wallace II has made his triumphant return because that would imply he ever went away or was not the real Mark Driscoll.  Let's say that Mark Driscoll has recently felt confident enough to bring William Wallace II out of the closet.

Once again Driscoll assures us of his credentials. So Driscoll worked as a professional journalist?  So did Dan Rather right up to the point when he retired in disgrace.  Connie Chung ended up stepping down in disgrace for a time after a gaffe in journalistic etiquette and ethics.  If Mark Driscoll wants to keep bragging about having a degree from Wazu and saying he worked professional as a journalist what's his CV?  What journalistic work did he do?  Which publisher? 

You see, to clear up any confusion, editorializing for the Seattle Times or FOX News shilling a book or writing for the Washington Post does not count as real journalism.  None of that is journalism in any meaningful sense.  That's editorial work and editorial work, though it has value, is saved for people famous enough or who have paid their dues enough by doing actual research to get those jobs but these days it arguably tilts more toward the former than the latter.  In Driscoll's case he's got enough celebrity to get offered to write columns by newspapers who want big names.  None of that counts as professional journalism.  Nor would anything he wrote while a student at Washington State University.  Student journalism may be cool and all but it's student journalism. 

So where's Driscoll's professional journalistic work?  It's easy to brag about it but if you can brag about it you can produce the actual published work because professional journalists keep records of things like that.  This is the second time this year Driscoll has written an attack on someone and also  cited his degree in speech communication from Wazu.  Okay, then.  If he's worked as a professional journalist where is this professional journalism? 

Now if being a professional journalist is a credential worth bragging about when Driscoll takes a swipe at Peter Lumpkins then what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  How about these professional journalists? 

Brendan Kiley,
Jonah Spangenthal-Lee,
Molly Worthen

Ah, but you see none of that counts because even though those people are professional journalists they have the wrong perspective on Mars Hill and so neither Driscoll nor his fans will take years or decades in professional journalism seriously if that credential could be brought to bear on questioning Driscoll's scholarship or approach to public controversy. Justin Brierley can't count as a professional journalist because he's married to a woman who is a pastor. He's just some journalist who was guilty of trying to "exercise authority" over Mark Driscoll by asking him about controversial things he said on record.  Now that Driscoll's played the professional journalist card he's without excuse for how he reacted to Brierley and has condemned himself.

He's also a hypocrite.  Professional journalists don't count if they don't go with what Driscoll wants them to do.  Yet if it's Driscoll putting down a blogger or an actually current professional journalist then his own credential as a professional journalist, whatever that was, becomes a big deal.  We're even supposed to take it seriously. This looks curiously like special pleading which is another way of saying Driscoll's a hypocrite working with double standards on journalism as a credential.

If Driscoll wants to keep bragging about his stint in professional journalism he's welcome to produce a story that has his byline that isn't a guest column for some newspaper that asked him to opine on religion because they couldn't think of anyone else more interesting to ask.  As in a story that had to be fact-checked, run by an editor and appeared in some setting besides the Op-Ed or Religion column on some hot topic.  If Driscoll at some point in his life wrote an article like this:

That could count.  Sure, it's a feature piece and not exactly investigative journalism.  Sure, a lot of people would describe it as a puff piece but it would count as actual journalism, even if in the human interest side of things.  It lets us know, for instance, that after James Noriega's first marriage fell apart he felt broken because his whole identity was being in a husband and father.  Noriega subsequently turned to amphetamines and became addicted but eventually came to Christ.  It's a compelling story and one that obviously got Driscoll's attention.

After all, Driscoll said that Noriega was appointed to the Board of Directors in the above 2007 sermon.  Noriega would go on to contribute material to the Redemption Groups and co-lead the ministry, apparently right up to the point where some time in later 2011 he vanished without a trace from leadership.  Driscoll has been studiously silent about that.  Driscoll can preach for a long time about people who make a positive impression on him by "seeking humility" (what that means beyond simply agreeing to do whatever Driscoll tells them to do is hard to establish). Then when something comes up Driscoll is quiet.  Driscoll gave Munson a fawning send-off in late 2011 and said Munson was above reproach.  If Driscoll says anything about Munson since Paul Petry publicized Munson's involvement in the kangaroo court proceedings against Petry and Meyer it will be interesting, though unlikely. 

Driscoll has avoided mentioning anything about Scott Thomas, whose role in heading up the EIT that found Munson's charges credible for firing Petry and Meyer has been documented.  That Scott Thomas used Acts 29 resources to lie to Mars Hill members about a "conciliatory process" as he prepared ot make the case that Petry and Meyer deserved to be fired is not likely to get any mention from Driscoll.  Scott Thomas felt released from leading Acts 29 the week after Petry went on record and shared that with Matt Chandler, who was kind enough to share that with folks.  Driscoll wrote a very long update on "What's Next For Me".  What's next for Scott Thomas, former head of Acts 29 and executive elder who oversaw the EIT?  Who's that?  As far as Driscoll's public discussion goes it's as though Scott Thomas doesn't exist anymore. 

Anyone else notice Scott Thomas isn't listed as an elder anywhere in publicly accessible websites associated with MH?  He probably wouldn't be listed as a pastor at this point even if, say, you could somehow look up his profile on The City.  We're not going to get a "What's next for Scott Thomas" update, are we?  Thomas has related that there are new ministry opportunities.  What would those be, now that Petry has been able to document the deceit and kangaroo court antics of Scott Thomas in ensuring Petry and Meyer were fired?

Anyone else notice James Noriega vanished from eldership in the time frame in which MH PR assured us two staff were let go for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority? Was one of them Noriega? They won't say anything at MH except to assure us that whomever these nameless people were their firings had no connection whatever to Andrew's disciplinary case.  Really?  Why did an anonymous tipper contacting Patrick Kyle at New Reformation Press explain that Andrew's case was at the center of a "confluence" of situations?  In the end who publicly touted James Noriega from the pulpit in 2007 as being added to the Board of Directors?  That's right, Mark Driscoll.  Noriega was a man who was not humble but was seeking humility. 

Driscoll only shoots the fish he sees being in a barrel. He has not, that I know of, fielded questions about Scott Thomas, James Noriega, the disciplinary cases of Andrew or Lance, and does not seem to have any interest in those controversies.  He must know they exist but they're not as fun or easy as keeping the focus on himself and his book (it really doesn't ultimately matter that he's credited Grace as co-writing the book with him at this point anyway).  As long as the controversy is about him or something he's said or done he's all for making a show of how Justin Brierley was some journalist trying to exercise authority over him. 

If Mark Driscoll were a truly professional professional journalist he'd remember that once something goes on record it's always there.  It was easier to attack Brierley as some guy married to a woman pastor than concede some things he's said and written were ill-advised or ill-timed.  Nobody is going to forget Driscoll used the Haggard controversy as an occasion to talk about wives who let themselves go and thanks to Real Marriage we can put together Driscoll was choosing to "take one for the team" because he was resenting his wife for not being more sexually available to him.  It's easier to share important lessons from shaking hands with T. D. Jakes that never made their way into how Driscoll dealt with Brierley, a journalist than to apply those lessons from Jakes, mere weeks earlier, to dealing with Brierley. It would seem as though there's no end to the special pleading and double standards Driscoll can and will employ to make points and win arguments. 

Oh ... but didn't Driscoll just tell us after his meeting with T. D. Jakes that we should seek to make a difference and to win people rather than make a point and win arguments?  That apparently only applies when Driscoll's shaking hands with a megachurch pastor whose got the numbers Driscoll covets.  It's not supposed to apply when Mark Dever has concerns about multisite because then Driscoll wants to make a point and win an argument. It's not supposed to apply to professional journalists who "exercise authority" over Driscoll by asking him about statements he's made on the record, especially not if those professional journalists are men married to women who are pastors.  But ... if Mark Driscoll wants to blog about a kerfuffle caused by bloggers who cares if it's the pot calling the kettle black?  Driscoll is not just a blogger, he's a blogger with his very own Pastor Mark TV.  But let's just pretend that's not the case.

As long as the controversy has something to do with him Driscoll's more than happy to jump in with both feet.  If the controversy involves his church having imcomptent or even malicious disciplinary procedures and precedents ("unclear communication" and "things did not go as they should have") Driscoll says nothing and his team even actively dissociates him from any controversy.  Driscoll craves any controversy that lets him be the focal point, whether it's pre-emptively assasinating Brierley's character, telegraphing that he'll shake hands with T. D. Jakes, or entertaining himself about Liberty University.  If the subject is Andrew and church discipline, or Lance and church discipline; if the subject is Scott Thomas or Jamie Munson and their roles in the 2007 firings; if the subject is James Noriega vanishing from eldership and MH's PR team stating some staff were let go in a time frame that suggests Noriega was possibly one of those men; if the very idea of a co-leading elder of Redemption Groups might have been removed for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority that never gets defined were to come up Driscoll is silent. 

When Driscoll was on The View he mentioned he and Grace had a good relationshp at first in the marriage and over time the stress of ministry got to them.  Barbara Walters remarked, summarily, "But I read the book and in it you said you saw sex as a god and your wife saw sex as gross."  Driscoll replied, "Yeah and ... " then proceeded to answer an easier question.  Walters point blank said that what Mark Driscoll was saying about the marriage to Grace in The View was not what either of them said in the book and Driscoll opted to answer the easier question, the topic about other people. 

Mark Driscoll has not really been swift to answer some questions about the theological implications of his story. He has made it clear God told him to marry Grace but that he wouldn't have married Grace if he'd known her whole sexual history (which included cheating on him one time when neither of them were really Christians).  That God providentially knew this and permitted Grace to lie so that Mark would be obedient to the divine command is a necessary theological ramification of accepting the Driscoll story at face value that, as yet, no one has really probed the Driscolls about in interview settings that I'm aware of.

If he wants to answer questions about other people he can field questions about Scott Thomas, Jamie Munson, James Noriega, Lief Moi, Paul Petry, Bent Meyer and the 2007 firings any time. Don't hold your breath waiting for Driscoll to do that.  Driscoll isn't interested in controversies that don't involve him.  As for the religious institution he's created, they issued A Call for Reconciliation rather than see any more professional journalists get involved.

At least for right now (and potentially forever) Mark Driscoll bragging about how he worked as a professional journalist is little more than a hypocrtical boast that demonstrates a double standard and special pleading. The boast is as yet  all hat and no cattle.  Since he keeps bringing it up he should be willing to produce his published work to prove his point.  Remember folks, being a pundit isn't the same as being an actual journalist.  Editorial work does not count. Even a puff piece like the Seattle P-I profile that mentioned James Noriega's past with divorce and drug addiction would count more than an editorial piece. Driscoll keeps showing us the hat and at some point if he won't show us the cattle his boast is empty.

Meanwhile, consider this example of some of Mark Driscoll's student editorial writing from 1992.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daniel Kahneman on cognitive biases--answering the easier question

In his book Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman devotes a chapter to the subject of "Answering An Easier Question".  This should explain itself just from the title alone but books must often be written because as a teacher of mine so eloquently put it, "Never underestimate the obvious."

You and I go through day after day jumping to conclusions and making judgments we never stop for a single single to analyze or reason through.  I like this song and I hate that song.  I hate the sound of that person's voice and I think that other person is smart.  Today I want radishes and garlic in my food while yesterday I wanted strawberries and oatmeal.  Why?  How am I supposed to know? 

Kahneman goes so far as to say that we often make assessments that we go with without even fully comprehending the evidence by which we came to the assessment. It is in this chapter that Kahneman discusses heuristics, which are simple processes the mind uses to provide adequate, if not fully reasoned, answers to challenges or tasks. He uses a number of examples to illustrate how substitution works and one example is that if you were asked how far so-and-so would make it in the primaries you would be iclined to answer the easier question of whether or not so-and-so has the qualities of a winning candidate.

To borrow a historical case it would have been easier for people in World War 2 German military branches to anticipate that the Allies were going to invade than to, say, invade at Normandy in particular. The outcome of that invasion, arguably, hinged on someone in the German war machine answering the easier question to a point satisfactory enough that Normandy was not more reinforced and dug in that it was.

Answering the simpler question often works just fine.  If you are presented with the question of whether or not to have this or that ice cream you can answer the question of whether or not you even want (or should) have ice crea mat all. Most of the time this process of substitution works fine. 

The trouble is that answering the simpler question can come at the price of not answering the most pressing question.  Answering the simpler question can also mislead the mind.  Kahneman uses a fun example in which spatial perception tricks the untrained viewer into thinking one figure is larger than another when all three figures in the illustration are actually the same size.  What happens is that the untrained viewer translates a two dimensional image into a three dimensional construct within the mind.  Knowing how to manipulate and guide this process is how cartoonists and animators can create countless drawings that, in sequence, convey a compelling sense of space and depth even though everything presented is two-dimensional.  The battle against Uncanny Valley is a constant one in which we humans attempt to close the distance between a perceptual process that works automatically in our minds and our ability to mimic the effects our mind can establish in an external form.  The reality is there may never ultimately be a day in which CGI will fool everybody all the time.  We can't be that confident.

Kahneman explains that substituting spatial perception for two-dimensional images is not the only substitution process.  He refers to a German study in which various students were asked two questions. The first was about how happy they were generally and the second was how many dates they had been on.  The two questions were asked in the two obvious permutations.  When asked first to assess happiness the students gave answers that turned out to have no correlation to the number of dates they had been on.  When the two questions were asked in such a way that the number of dates was followed by "how happy are you?" there began to be a correlation?  Why?  Well, one explanation is that the first question influenced the perception of the second.  Kahneman refers to this as the affect heuristic.  It's not that the students were sad overall because they didn't have many dates, they just reported being disappointed if they had not had the number of dates they wanted.

As Kahneman states it, and quite forcefully, "The dominance of conclusions over arguments is most pronounced where emotions are involved." Duh ... yet we must remember to not underestimate the obvious, right? If you were to ask whether or not the team or people you're hanging out with may be nasty or insular you might not answer the question based on a thorough examination of the entire culture and its history in one stroke.  You would, instead, simply ask, "Do I still feel like I fit in here?"  The answer then becomes very simple, yes or no. You could try to reason through everything, analyze everything you can and recognize that what you observe is not, in fact, everything to be known or observed about a topic ... but you won't be very likely to do that.  You've answered the simpler question in most cases and, having obtained a satisfactory answer, you settle into the ramifications of your conclusion.   That's the thing about cognitive biases.  Knowing what they are does not necessarily make you or me less susceptible to running on them.

The possibilities and applications of this observation, obvious though it may be, are only limited by what humans can do, eh?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

John H at BHT throws out an idea--Mary vs effeminacy

So I was reading Doug Wilson’s post on “effeminate worship”, and it got me thinking about this concern with identifying and rooting out “effeminacy” in the church.

It strikes me that a better term for what Wilson (and others) often correctly identify as problems would be sentimentality. The fact that they see “sentimentality” as a principally feminine trait is revealing in itself.

However, I wonder if ascribing Protestantism’s perennial tendency towards sentimentalism to “effeminacy” may unconsciously reveal one of its root causes: a failure to appreciate adequately the figure of Mary.

There is nothing sentimental about Mary – cf. the Magnificat – but she is the prototype of the church (and of the individual Christian) as a hearer of, and believer in, God’s word. Mary is the one who hears God’s word and then says “Let it be to me according to your word”. So she exemplifies the balance in the church between God’s speaking and our hearing.

But once you push Mary into the background, that balance between speaking and hearing in the church is lost. One result of that can be dryness, in which the church becomes all speaking and no hearing; but another result, usually in reaction against that, is sentimentality, in what matters in worship is not that God speaks and we hear, but that we speak and God hears. This turns worship into an exercise in self-expression, which can equally quickly become an exercise in narcissism and, well, sentimentality: churches and Christians competing with one another to show how deeply they feel it, man!

So that’s my answer to “effeminacy” in the church: pay more attention to Mary.


Like, right now?  Uh ...

It's like the only fun thing Giles Swayne ever composed. When I think of a Magnificat setting that sings about God bringing the cosmic beat-down on all injustice and Mary rejoicing about that this is
one I tend to think of.

Erin's story at Mars Hill Refugue, or parts of it.

I began checking out Mars Hill Downtown in the beginning of March 2009. It was then that I gave myself to Christ. I met a girl who I became very good friends with. I checked out her community group and was plugged in with a few leaders who I thought became good friends of mine. One girl in particular spent a year getting to know me. We were hanging out a lot within that year. She never judged me, or I never thought she did. She and my community group leader asked me to go through Redemption Groups after only 4 months of becoming a Christian. I didn't know what the word redemption even meant. I told both women that I didn't feel it was the right time. They asked me if I was scared. Ummm no, and to prove that I signed up. I felt forced into something that was not the right time but at Mars Hill, you don't question authority or you will get put into a 100 meetings. I will get to that later. During Redemption Groups, I was dating a guy who I really cared for. My community group had been very forceful that the boyfriend needs to come to Mars Hill community asap to meet him. I brought that up in Redemption Groups and told them that I didn't want my community to be so involved. I was told in a very loud tone "you are not to date". What?!?! The guy was getting weirded out about my involvement at the church and ended his relationship with me.
That she was urged to go into Redemption Groups four months after becoming a Christian does sound a bit odd.  It may be there's a culture within such groups that imagines that they are a vital, necessary ministry where people fearlessly tell the truth to each other and normal members who never join such groups may likely be in denial about their real sin issues.  In a church setting like Mars Hill there might be a double blind set of thoughts--those who never think of joining a Redemption Group because they figure they've got no addictive or sex abuse history may figure tha those groups are for the Christians who don't have it together while for those in the groups the people who really don't have it together because they're not humble enough to join such a group are the ones who must be living lives of secret shame.  Paradoxically it may be possible for the same emotional narrative of the other within the church could be the same on either side of that divide.
I had more questions about Christianity and even things at Mars Hill but because of my friend's leadership at Mars Hill, I noticed I was becoming more popular also. I didn't want to lose that "fame" (sick I know). I wanted to do Children's Ministry but the only way to volunteer was to become a member. I didn't know what any of that meant so I just signed up. No one walked through that process with me. I didn't even know what covenant meant but I was going to find out soon enough. My friend started a ministry called REST that I got plugged in with. It was exciting and I still support the ministry in the sense that they help those girls involved with sex trafficking. I am no longer volunteering with that team but I do pray that more women on the streets meet Jesus. I was continuing to get plugged in in everything I could. Then I realized that those ministries became more important than my relationship with Christ. My friend was still my mentor at this time and I stayed in REST because of my passion for that industry and because she ran the ministry. I told my friend that I wanted to switch to the street team and felt more called to that team. She wouldn't let me. I even looked at other organizations because I wanted to be with the women who are involved and help them. My friend was mad and told me I wasn't to go to another organization. This is when I started feeling control taking place. This is all within the first year also.
Erin gets at something I have discussed with a handful of people over the years, the people who are first part of a group see it through the halo effect. Part of that halo effect is that so long as your social capital is on the rise and you are gaining more friends, opportunities and pleasant social experiences you don't stop to consider anything that may be bad or harmful if it doesn't touch you directly or even indirectly.  I know more than a handful of people who used to remark that people who left Mars Hill must have just had issues with spiritual authority who would turn around just months or years later and themselves express outrage at how things went for them.  What changed?  Well, what changed was they were finally on the receiving end of what they assumed other people deserved not that there could have been any double standards or special pleading in how that emotional reaction welled up, right?
Over time you can conclude that your ministry volunteerism is your relationship with Christ.  After all, isn't ministry an outworking of your Christian walk and calling?  Isn't ministry where you use your giftings? Well, not necessarily.  One of the things I noticed at Mars Hill was that while I was lucky enough to get recruited into things where I was observably good at something other people tended to get recruited into ministries where the church needed warm bodies.  Read that as "security and childrens ministry". 
In 2010, my community group got so big that they had to split into two groups. I wanted to stay with my original leaders because they knew me and I trusted them. Three members of that group including one of the leaders told me that I needed to go to the new group forming. I didn't want to because a single man was leading the group and I felt uncomfortable. I was raped about 5 years ago and I still have some healing to do so I protect myself against single men especially when their is some sort of "dominance" or "control" placed to them over me. My community group wouldn't listen and they told me to join that group. This is where things started to get out of control. A female stepped up and co-lead. We were cool but we didn't get along too well. I would express my concern to others and tell them that this was not the best fit for our growth in Christ. Of course, no one listened and I was told that it was "my heart". I prayed about it a lot and knew this community group was not the place for me. I wanted out. A new church plant was coming and I signed up asap to get out of my community. It didn't work. My community wouldn't let me go at all.
This suggests that a lot of the rhetoric about protecting sexual abuse victims at Mars Hill could be pro forma. Sorry but it does come off that way.  It's worth noting MH had a woman co-lead the group but you'd think if Mars Hill cared so much about helping sexual abuse victims Erin would never have been pressured and ordered to comply with something she felt uncomfortable with. 
There's quite a bit more to Erin's story and I don't plan to quote from the whole thing.  I have, however, felt it would be useful to make some observations from Erin's story that resonate with some of my own observations from having had twelve years of direct involvement and association with the church and people in it.  There are a lot of kind, generous Christians in the church and that has not chnaged.  There are also, of course, some systemtic problems in the culture and the, er, matrix of leadership that have gone unaddressed. 

a comment at Wartburg about Redemption Groups

I'm not aware of anyone who has gone through Redemption Groups who has felt like publicly discussing what the content entails and by that I mean by name. I was hearing about the Redemption Groups as I began to have reservations about renewing membership.  I was aware Mars Hill invited CCEF to present a How People Change conference at Mars Hill back around 2006.  I also know that Mars Hill has sold books by Dan Allender. 

Driscoll once said that what Mars Hill hoped to do was to take the best ideas from various other ministries, refine out the things they didn't care for, and then create a uniquely Mars Hill ministry with the best content they found from other places.  In place of CCEF, Dan Allender, and other resources it may be the Redemption Groups constitute the first significant package of materials or product that fits what Driscoll outlined as a goal for Mars Hill in developing internal ministry approaches.  It does not require even a particularly cynical observer to notice that what this entails is assimilation, redaction, and rebranding.  I have written elsewhere that Mark Driscoll is a popularizer of thinkers and notions that are more innovative or productive than he is.  He has never come up with anything original of substance in his entire pastoral career, but he has at times done a good job of popularizing or assimilating concepts from older, better, wiser and more responsible Christian teachers than he is likely to be.

However, Driscoll has had nothing to do in any observable way with Redemption Groups.  That's more a Mike Wilkerson and James Noriega project.  Noriega, of course, has vanished from the elder listings without any comment from anyone at Mars Hill.  He disappeared around the time that MH folks assured us two staff were let go for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority.  I would take that with a cup of salt.  Now I can grant anonymous summaries aren't in themselves persuasive but the summary below is worth reading.  It's worth reading because while it is general some of the generalities fit with problems I observed in my time at Mars Hill, chief among them a dangerously truncated hamartiology in which all sin is boiled down to "pride" and a real or perceived defiance of God appointed spiritual authority or God (which are often conflated).

Free at last UNITED STATES on Wed, Apr 18 2012 at 02:44 pm

To add a few more things to what David already wrote about “redemption groups”:
1)”Redemption groups” look good paper only, the way they practice is harmful. I physically got sick and threw up when I got home after some intense sessions.

2)If the person resists revealing things about himself for whatever reason, the group would shame him, gang up to attack, denounce him as prideful, hypocritical, out of touch, in a rather brutal manner. Accusations, judgments, shaming are leveled against those who do not play their game.

2)The ugliest Christians are those whom I met in a redemption group at Mars Hill. I had never met anyone of them before walking into the first session; yet, they seemed to know all about my sins and wanted God to break my heart because of my sin. It felt like I was taken captive by the enemy and tortured so that they could get a confession out of me. Cruelty was the word. Is it reasonable to demand vulnerability from strangers? or is it sheer madness?

3)The devil likes to hide himself behind religion and church groups to wreak havoc in the church and the people who run these groups do not see the spiritual warfare aspect of it. “Lord, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.”

Vital to the understanding of the Mars Hill Church problems are two key documents for all those who want to know:

a) The ten-page letter from Paul Petry to “the Elders of Mars Hill Church” dated October 25, 2007 (posted on their website)
b) “My story – by Jonna Petry” (on this website)

I believe what the authors say in these document because I can relate to some extent.
“the wounded person is left with a sense of having been raped, emotionally and spiritually… There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse” pervasive in this mega church.

Will you join me to pray for Mars Hill Church?

For another story that involves Redemption Groups read here:
Now I am sure there are people who have had positive experiences in Redemption Groups and perhaps they will share stories and already have.  They're welcome to post a comment here if they like.  There's no way a Redemption Group concept can have a 100% success or failure rate, after all.

brand loyalty and the sunk cost fallacy

I've seen and heard it asked many a time how so many people can stay at a place or in a group where things are off kilter and even harmful.  Seeing as I'm reading Roy Baumeister's Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty and Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow I'm immersing myself in psychological examinations of human cruelty and the brain's capacity to function as a machine for jumping to conclusions.  And I'm watching episodes of Batman: the animated series, so you could say there's this overarching pattern here where I think a lot about human cruelty and where it comes from.  To say "sin" is not quite full enough an account and the older I get and the more widely I read the more I think the usual bromides I heard, particularly in Martian circles about pride, the more I believe that truncated hamartiology is wildly dangerous. 

As I have blogged before pride (or, more accurately, the theological term hubris) can be considered a kind of stem cell of sin.  Once it transforms into some other kind of cell merely addressing it as "pride" will not work.  It's like a jovial old lady who once joked, "Honey, everybody dies of heart failure."  It may be broadly true that everyone has a heart that fails eventually but it's equally true that everyone ends up braindead. :-)  Neither of those necessarily account for death by bone marrow cancer in a serious way, do they?

Now to get specific, people have asked how it is people can soldier on at a place like Mars Hill despite the things that have come to light.  If people knew how Scott Thomas managed the kangaroo court that led to the firing of Paul Petry and Bent Meeyer why would they stay?  Some people didn't know or didn't hear from sources they could consider credible enough to take seriously.  Others knew and stayed because, well, though they didn't agree with everything that had happened none of that stuff hit close to home enough for them to feel leaving made sense.  There were enough positives to outweigh the negatives for one simple reason, the negatives haven't really hit "me" so it's not me that has to fret too much over problems.

Or at least that was good enough until the negatives actually hit some of those kinds of people. 

But there's another group of people who are considered to have drunk the flavor-aid ("kool aid" is a shorthand that is not necessarily accurate but is more popular because the term is more familiar).  But, really, what does it even mean to say "drunk the kool aid"?  By itself it means nothing and is a phrase often rolled out by people who think they're better for having not drunk the kool-aid. 

You know what?  If at any point you were in that religious institution you drank it, too, there just wasn't enough toxicity in it for you to have died from it ... or you got some nasty cramps and realized you needed to see a doctor, if we're going to play with that analogy for a while.

There are a lot of people who soldier on.  First they were drawn in by the halo effect.  As Daniel Kahneman so eloquently puts it our brain is an organ designed to jump to conclusions, often with incomplete information that must be assessed instantly.  We do this uncritically most of the time because we don't need to critically assess our hunches, generalizations, and intuitions.  Kahneman goes to some length to say that the reason cognitive biases and jumping to wrong conclusions are so unfortunate is because most of the time the cognitive shortcuts, heuristics, and biases in our brains work correctly and accurately.  You know your brother doesn't like the same food you do the second you see his reaction.  You know your daughter wants a hug even if she doesn't say anything. You can tell from a look. If your date finds the movie boring you don't have to work that hard to figure that out.  A split second will often suffice.  Yet we can easily get sucked into strange things because, at heart, we all want to delude ourselves into thinking we're going to be the exceptions in the Milgram experiment. And thus we join clubs we later may regret.

But many of us don't.  Why is that?  Well, here's a possibility--because of the sunk cost fallacy, there are a lot of people who assume the best because of a halo effect.  If you combine the halo effect with the sunk cost fallacy it's remarkably easy to grasp how so many people could stay in a setting like Mars Hill despite things like a kangaroo court or an ill-advised property purchase or imcompetently executed church discipline and subsequent communication.  The halo effect means you're already, probably unconsciously putting the best light on the subject (or the worst light if you're a "hater") and then the sunk cost fallacy kicks in and you will refuse to revise or refine your assessment to fit new information.  Thus people who leave before the bad stuff touches you must have had problems with spiritual authority.  Or you assume anyone who doesn't like the stuff you like must have problems with spiritual authority. 

In a Mars Hill context the absurdity of this negative polarity halo effect in assessing outsiders becomes more apparent when Mars Hill advocates jump to this conclusion and forget that some critics of Mars Hill have been Catholic.  Earth to Mars, Catholics clearly do not, as a rule, have problems with spiritual authority! If someone is part of the Southern Baptist convention that person probably has more concern about actual accountability and protocol than Mark Driscoll will ever have in his life. 

You see we claim to ourselves to be rational creatures but we are emotional creatures and the emotional narratives we construct for ourselves allow us to make sense of our lives.  As Joan Didion so grimly put it in The Year of Magical Thinking we can't bring ourselves to admit to the possibility that these narratives we build for ourselves may be wrong, may be futile attempts to impose an order or comprehensible aspect to the chaos of our lives and deaths. 

Still, once the emotional narrative is written you do you step back from it and let it be rewritten so that you see things from a new perspective?  Many people aren't willing to do that.  Suppose people granted that the kangaroo court was problematic from the get-go?  Suppose they had some idea that Munson's rambling politesse was covering up the harsh reality that it was all politics and pragmatism disguised under spirituality? Well, as Solzhenitsyn put it the line between good and evil runs inside every human heart and who wants to destroy a part of one's own heart? The sunk cost fallacy comes to the rescue of the halo effect.

But the most troubling reality here is that the sunk cost fallacy comes to the rescue of the halo effect from every direction.  A person who has been burned now is likely to retroactively view everything over the previous ten years in light of now's emotional catharsis and that can be as much a halo effect with a sunk cost fallacy as the process that flowed up until the crisis of now.  Cognitive biases, heuristics, errors in judgment these are not just things out there. They exist within our own hearts, within our own brains.  This is not some new flash of insight. The heart is deceitful above all things and who can understand it?

James Harleman is a glutton for cinematic punishment part 2

He watched Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and now he's watched Wrath of the Titans. Still, gotta love the guy's dedication!  It's also nice to see he's back with a steady stream of content now.  A few years ago his output about film and theology had practically screeched to a halt so it's nice that he's back.  I know he's been back for a while, technically speaking, but once again welcome back to film commentary and criticism, James.  It's good that you're back.

a former pastor's regret

There's nothing to applaud here. Applause should be reserved for the pastors who have seen this and pastored accordingly. I'm sure some do it by instinct. I was not among them and that's why there's regret.

I never really understood the difficulty of living the Christian life in the real world, outside of vocational ministry. My experience of working outside vocational ministry was in part time jobs and one full-time on the way to Seminary. So that may be part of it. But I'm not sure I can lay the cause at the feet of ignorance alone.

Loving the people I ministered to seemed secondary. I would have never admitted it but that's most likely part of what was the problem. I wanted to see them do things that justified my ministry more than I wanted to love them.
Now that I'm working in a bank, these regrets are easy. It's easy for me see the struggle because I'm in the middle of it. I can understand wanting to stay home on a weeknight with my family. I can understand the need for a word of peace instead of having my toes stood upon. I loved stepping on toes more than comforting the heart. I should have been more patient with the bruised reeds. ...

I could write something about this but it so chiefly speaks for itself I'm not sure I have much to add.

HT Phoenix Preacher: The Gospel is insufficient at Reformation 21

... This insufficiency of he gospel is surely why Paul, when writing to Timothy, does not simply tell him to preach the gospel. Yes, he certainly does tell him that; but as the aging apostle looks at the world around him and wonders how the gospel is to be preserved after the first generation of leaders directly commissioned by Christ dies out, he also tells Timothy to find ordinary men to appoint as elders. In other words, Paul sees that a church structure, as well as a church message, is vital to the safeguarding and propagation of the gospel.

For Paul, the gospel is not in itself sufficient to ensure the continuation of the gospel. It needs men to preach it; it needs men, women and children to tell it to their friends. And because all of these agents are fallen, it needs a church structure to help to safeguard its content.

This is not to say that preaching the gospel is rocket science. One error we can make is to assume that only a few, highly skilled individuals can preach the gospel. The world is full of very good gospel preachers who, for one reason or another, nobody has ever heard of beyond their local congregations. I enjoyed T4G last week but (without any disrespect to the men who spoke at the plenaries) I can name a dozen men who are just as fine at gospel exposition but who will never be on a giant stage or preach to more than a maximum of a few hundred people -- often much fewer -- on a Sunday . Preaching is not an arcane skill given only to a score or men worldwide. If it were, Paul would have told us. In fact, he does not say to Timothy, 'Find a few highly skilled men with media clout and hand the matter over to them.' Not at all. What he essentially says is 'Find men in your congregation who are trustworthy and true who, if they have families, have run their households well, who have a good track record within the church, who are respected by outsiders and who are competent to teach - and trust them with the gospel.'

Or Paul could have laid out sixteen requirements for making a sermon interesting for a Q school.

Christ and Pop Culture: Keller, Douthat and Christianity's decline in the U.S.

... In his second chapter, Douthat attributes the change to five major social catalysts that have gained steam since the 1960s: 1) First, the political polarization that has occurred between the Left and Right drew many churches into it (mainline Protestants toward the Left, evangelicals toward the Right). This has greatly weakened the church’s credibility in the broader culture, with many viewing churches as mere appendages and pawns of political parties. 2) Second, the sexual revolution means that the Biblical sex ethic now looks unreasonable and perverse to millions of people, making Christianity appear implausible, unhealthy, and regressive. 3) Third, the era of decolonization and Third World empowerment, together with the dawn of globalization, has given the impression that Christianity was imperialistically “western” and supportive of European civilization’s record of racism, colonialism, and anti-Semitism. 4) The fourth factor has been the enormous growth in the kind of material prosperity and consumerism that always works against faith and undermines Christian community. 5) The fifth factor is—that all the other four factors had their greatest initial impact on the more educated and affluent classes, the gatekeepers of the main culture-shaping institutions such as the media, the academy, the arts, the main foundations, and much of the government and business world.

How does Ross Douthat’s analysis compare with some older thinkers? Lesslie Newbigin blames the marginalization of Christianity in the West on the outworking of the 18th century Enlightenment—which promoted the sufficiency of individual human reason without faith in God—for a great deal of the shift. In this he understands historical patterns as being caused by ideas and intellectual trends working their way out through a society’s institutions. I see no reason why Newbigin’s history-of-thought approach and Douthat’s sociology-of-knowledge approach cannot both be right. A third kind of analysis could easily find the faults within the church itself. As H. Richard Niebuhr points out in his essay, “The Independence of the Church”, the church becomes weak and even corrupt whenever it becomes successful in a culture. This is an important factor to add. For example, why did the mainline and the evangelical church get co-opted by American political parties and lose credibility? Wasn’t this due to a lack of robust, vital orthodoxy within them? If all these approaches are right and complementary, Christianity in the West has been the victim of “a perfect storm” of trends, factors, and forces.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Henri, the existentialist black cat who speaks in French, has another film

Henri Parts 1 and 2

"The fifteen hours of sleep a day have no effect. I wake to the same tedium."

The existentialist black cat who narrates his ennui in French has returned. I can tell you from the two minutes of non-stop laughing I did after that above line from the new film that it has, in its way, been worth the wait. :)

Adolf Schlatter fans rejoice ...

Logos is apparently considering undertaking a translation of Adolf Schlatter’s classic ‘Glaube im Neuen Testament‘. This book has, astonishingly, never been rendered into English (a fact that continues to appall). So I hope they do. It’s brilliant. Even the opening preface is a delight (because Schlatter tells the story of a little old lady who thanked him for his work- it had helped her understand what faith was better than anything else).

Schlatter was an awesome scholar. Really a polymath. He’s not read widely enough because of two factors: biblical scholars in America can scarcely manage to bother with Hebrew and Greek. Forget about learning German. And second, Schlatter wrote so much it would take an army of translators working for years to finish his corpus.

So hooray for Logos for at least trying to get a remarkable volume out to a larger public.

As someone who only began discovering Schlatter's work in the last year or so (thanks very much to my pastor!) I'm excited to learn that there may finally be some more English language work toward getting Schlatter's work available.  I never learned German, which is sad considering how much I love the music of Bach, Haydn, and Hindemith, but such is life.  Anyway, I'm still slowly reading through Schlatter's challenging but amazing commentary on Romans.  It really is that much work and it really is an amazing book.

So if you can't read German this is good news.  I just barely remember enough of basic koine Greek that while I admit I have to work hard I can figure out most of what Schlatter talks about when he casually drops long Greek phrases in.  Which is to say I can pronounce most of the words a little and context clarifies a lot.  Schlatter is not for a casual reader of biblical literature!  You seriously must be able to recall massive amounts of text and employ associative memory dozens of time per page.  Fortunately it is humanly possible to do that.  :)

West has been nice enough to tag all posts Schlatter here--

I'm terrible at tagging things so I may have to learn from West's example. :)

Mars Hill, Acts 29 and enough boards for making tree houses.

April 11, 2012


Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll announced that he was stepping down from the reins of Acts 29 late last month to make room for Chandler, the lead pastor at The Village Church in Highland Village in Texas. Driscoll remains on the organization's current three-member board which also includes The Journey's (St. Louis, Mo.) lead pastor, Darrin Patrick. The group's headquarters will move from Seattle to Dallas.

Driscoll seemed to have left the door open about the possibility he would remove himself from the board if needed for the greater good of the group, he implied in his statement last month about his decision.

"I want him on the board. He's a great advantage to the men, the movement, and the network as a whole," Chandler told CP when asked about Driscoll. "I think culturally and theologically he has some spectacular gifts. Driscoll will absolutely remain on the board. He would gladly step off if he thought that was best for the network. I don't think anybody believes that's best for the network."

Who is currently listed as on the board?

Mark Driscoll, Founder & President (executive elder "prophet" at Mars Hill)
Darrin Patrick, Board Member
Matt Chandler, Board Member (they haven't changed their website to reflect Driscoll saying Chandler's president yet, have they?)
Dave Bruskas, Vice President of Acts 29 (executive elder "priest" at Mars Hill)
Sutton Turner, Secretary/Treasure of Acts 29 (executive elder "king" of Mars Hill)
Scott Thomas, Network Director (although there's an announcement that suggests this, too, needs updating).
March 28, 2012

I am thrilled that Acts 29 is moving to Dallas and will be led by my friend, Pastor Matt Chandler. I think it is good for the network that other leaders will add different perspectives, nuances, and emphases. It will only be a better network as healthy, reproducing churches will continue to plant churches for the glory of God.

I was honored to serve in Acts 29 as God allowed some amazing outcomes in spite of man’s feeble efforts. I never deserved the opportunity. I never deserved the love of so many planters. I never deserved the fruitfulness God enabled.

But I wasn’t planning to stay forever. I was anticipating a change for my ministry in the future, and the move to Dallas makes it a perfect time to allow new leadership to emerge. I am looking forward with great anticipation how God is going to shape the network and the planters to effectively pursue His mission with greater Spirit-empowerment and clearer gospel purposes.

see also here, where Phoenix Preacher quotes from Matt Chandler's letter explaining how the previous weekend (would have been weekend of March 24, 2012) Scott Thomas told him he felt released from leading Acts 29.

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29.  He is excited about what God has next for him.

One of the relevant questions is how enmeshed Mars Hill is with Acts 29 as a whole.

again from the article published April 11, 2012

... Driscoll and Chandler acknowledge that Acts 29 was in need of some restructuring. The network of church planters that "emerged from a small band of brothers" to more than 400 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries had not been overhauled since its beginnings.

"A29 was feeling growing pains," Chandler said. "For well over a year we noticed at the national board level that there were some cracks in the organization. Not necessarily of people, but how we were running Acts 29 as a network. We were really running a network of 422 churches on six continents the same way when it was 80 to 100 churches on one continent.

"There were some multiple issues across the whole network that was feeling the strain of trying to run the network as though we were still 80 to 100 churches. We honestly haven't tweaked things as we've grown," he explained.

Acts 29 will not only be moving its Seattle-based headquarters to Dallas, but deciding how to continue with its connection to Mars Hill Church, also based in Seattle.

"A29 was so kind of meshed into Mars Hill that right now we are just trying to untangle where one begins and the other ends. We are gathering information right now. Our hope is that A29 is completely in Dallas by September," Chandler said.

"Acts 29 has been primarily funded by and run by Mars Hill," he noted. Chandler estimates that about 80 percent of the organization was funded by the church and it is a matter of deciding on the operational priorities moving forward, including which employee positions to keep.
"Those are some of the questions we are trying to answer even now," he said. [emphasis added]

Chandler said that his main goal is to empower the pastors and ministry leaders of the organization.
"I think there are a lot of guys in the network that are extremely gifted that have never really been asked to do much in the network. I'd like to ask some of those guys to really step up and take some serious ownership of the network," he said. "In regards to just the immediate future, that's my hope is to really empower very gifted, very godly Jesus loving guys to really play an important role in the shaping of A29 culture and ultimately the care of our pastors and the churches we want to plant."

80 percent of organization being funded by Mars Hill is not a small ratio, is it?

Driscoll has mentioned plans to create a Mars Hill Network inside the Acts 29 network.  If Acts 29 wants to distance itself from Mars Hill and the reality that it is, in essence, an extension of Mars Hill leadership that will be a long, long journey and if all the executive elders who run Mars Hill are still on the board then, ultimately, any distancing between Acts 29 and Mars Hill will look purely pro forma.

As the cofounder of Acts 29, I’m honored to work with great men, amazed at what God is doing, and excited for what remains. But, after examining what is best for the men in our network in the next season, the board and I have, without reservation, decided to appoint Pastor Matt Chandler as our president and allow him to oversee the daily operation of Acts 29.

... Every man who has ever served on the A29 board is a blessing. We have experienced uncommon unity and collaboration. But, going forward, we need multiple smaller boards. In the present state, the board has been too big to meet but once a year. We need real accountability, real brotherhood, and the ability to move faster.

The following are three changes that will take place on the A29 board.

1. The Board of Acts 29 will be myself, Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor Darrin Patrick, and Pastor Dave Bruskas. Each man has been able to hand off their network to full-time staff, thereby freeing them up to go to the next level of leadership and help me work across all of Acts 29 and serve all of the networks that comprise the A29. Each man also has a church staff that is large enough with sufficient funding to do more than one network and help invest in others. Furthermore, Pastors Darrin and Matt can help me be in community with wise counsel from A29 and navigate the ever-increasing complicated waters of the broader church and culture, and represent us in the media and at events, as well as through preaching and publishing. Pastor Dave runs the entire ministry side of Mars Hill and can assist me with the details of running Acts 29 centrally

How big was this board that was too big to meet but once a year?  Seen the board now?  It's basically half Mars Hill executive elders and half whomever else got asked to join.  If the kit and kaboodle is moving to Dallas then how does having all the Mars Hill executive elders make it easier to have a full board meeting more than once a year unless the Mars Hill executive elders (all three of them) jetset between Seattle and Dallas Fort Worth however many times the board is supposed to meet?

It might seem as though in the wake of Andrew's story of church discipline going public and Petry going on record in early 2012 that the only way to divest Acts 29 of a Mars Hill influence would be if the executive elders didn't seem to be half the board.  And another puzzle is that when MH PR indicated that staff were let go months prior to the Andrew situation (like around September 2011?) they may not have realized that some people were actually paying attention to the elder shuffle and noticed Noriega disappeared from the elder listings around the time the MH discipline clarification notice said some staff were let go for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority.  The trouble, though, is that without an actual definition of what overstepping spiritual authority means nobody knows.  The passages cited about elder discipline mention

1 Timothy 5:19-21
Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 
Rhetorical questions, did this happen?  Was an elder who displayed a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority assessed as being guilty of this by reliable and certain testimony?  Was this elder who sinned among Mars Hill reproved before everyone so that the local church could take warning?  Is it sure those things were done without partiality and that nothing was done out of favoritism?

Meanwhile, there might be enough boards proliferating in a future Acts 29 to build a treehouse but if the core board consists of the executive elders of Mars Hill and they are the ones who agree with Driscoll to appoint Matt Chandler as the president of Acts 29 then Mars Hill will retain a massive amount of power to guide and influence Acts 29 everything.  Chandler has expressed that there's no reason Driscoll shouldn't still be on the board and that nobody wants him gone.

Well, if the foundational plank is a board that has all the executive elders of Mars Hill on it then any formal distancing or geographic distancing between Mars Hill and Acts 29 will be pro forma.  All the boards in the treehouse will not change that.

HT Mockingbird: Jonah Leher on creative impasse ... and Highway 61 Revisited

Since this involves the story of how Bob Dylan got to the point of writing his album Highway 61 Revisited I can't help linking to this.  It was Pinkfloyd's Dark Side of the Moon that inspired me to take up the guitar but it was Bob Dylan's landmark album that constituted what I would call a personal psychedelic experience.  I had never heard anything like this stuff before and it blew me away.  Hearing Pinkfloyd spurred me to take up the guitar but hearing Dylan spurred me to think of a way I wanted to approach creating music as a whole.  At the time I thought only in terms of rock and pop and yet Dylan's music seemed to come from places that didn't just involve rock and pop, which was new for me.  I began to read and read about Dylan and how he approached things.  Dylan often said to never just stop at his stuff, to go back further, to go back to things he found inspiration in and to just keep following back. 

That's what I did.  I followed Dylan's music back to his influences and then followed the thread further back.  Around the time I got all the way back to William Byrd, Leonin and Perotin, and hit bach and Haydn and Ellington and Monk and pre-WWII blues along the way I realized that while Dylan inspired me to learn rock songs this journey he urged people to take was one that had led me almost completely away from rock or pop or even folk.  How do you justify listening to Edgar Varese or Messiaen or Koshkin as "folk"? You don't.  Even Dylan's sometimes villified Christian phase was part of the lesson for me, that if you're seriously attempting to express where you're at this will not necessitate conforming to just any old person's idea of what "rock" should imply.   

That Dylan could be this sort of inspiration and still not be a great, nice guy has not exactly shaken my world.  Remember the axiom that power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely?  The other part that gets less frequently quoted is the supplemental observation that great men are almost always bad men. This applies even when we are discussing mere influence and not formal authority. But I suppose that observation becomes an entirely separate idea, doesn't it?

"No one divided over a doctrine that they felt was secondary."

Papias says:
April 16, 2012 at 10:37 AM
I heard something last week that spoke to the idea of “the main thing”, that went something like this: “No one divided over a doctrine that they felt was secondary.”

It gave me pause…

Carl Trueman made an observation about the neo-Reformed that has stuck with me lately.  The sacraments?  Eh, that's boring stuff.  Who cares about what we might agree on about the things we're shown Jesus explicitly telling us to do as believers in the Gospels when we can insist to everyone that complementarianism is a deal-breaker if you don't buy it.

there's been more than one nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody
[EDIT, here's a newer link that should work better

Long-time readers here at are no doubt familiar with Denver Moore, a man who was without hope until God set him on a different course after he met up with a wealthy art dealer and his persistent wife at a homeless shelter in Fort Worth, Texas. The story of this providential meeting can be found in the bestselling book Same Kind of Different As Me, written by Moore and that art dealer, Ron Hall, with assistance from WORLD senior writer Lynn Vincent.

In his email to friends, Hall shared that, despite all the attention and praise he received at these events, Moore wanted to be introduced in a certain simple way. "Tell 'em I'm a nobody that is tryin' to tell everybody about somebody that can save anybody," Moore told Hall. [emphasis added]

"That 'Somebody' was Jesus," Hall wrote shortly after Moore's passing, "and Denver woke up in His arms on Saturday. His famous quote and the final words in his book are 'We are all homeless workin' our way home.' Welcome home friend; you were a good and faithful servant."

There's nothing new under the sun, right?  That might go triple for catchphrases.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Triablogue splits hairs over long hair arguments

Sorry, it's a goofy pun but I couldn't resist making a goofy pun title this morning. Despite the linked blog post being written by Steve Hays it's astonishingly short, for Steve. :)  A discussion about long hair would seem to invite such lengthy hairsplitting as to require scrolling through two pages of text but so it goes.

Tornados sweep across the Midwest

John Piper, who seems to have never met a twister that made headlines in the last few years he couldn't turn nto a lesson about a "gentle" warning to repent, may have an opportunity to refurbish some old content. I hope he doesn't but after how he fielded earthquakes, tsunamis, collapsing bridges, and tornadoes in the past ... .

Jim West remembers the death of Handel

Who died on this date in 1759. He was no Mozart, Bach, or Haydn, but he was in the top ten of the all time best.

True, Handel was not at the same level as Mozart, Bach or Haydn for me, either,but Handel should be remembered.  Messiah isn't near the same level as the Mass in B minor or the Matthew Passion or Art of Fugue but it's got some great moments in it.  And while I'm not so huge a fan of Mozart I confess that Hilary Hahn can get me to even like some Mozart.  And Haydn, he's wonderful, too. :)