Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fighting for the Faith compares Driscoll on Xerxes to Driscoll on the Mars Hill bus

Or, as Chris Rosebrough asserts more bluntly, Mark Driscoll needs to repent of being a leader like King Xerxes.

Whether members or leaders of Mars Hill can concede that such a point is possible or conceivable remains to be seen. Not that many people from the original group of people who founded Mars Hill may even be left.  There may not be many people left within Mars Hill who even remember what the 2007 firings were about or what they mean.  One of the most significant obstacles for current Mars Hill members in considering that Rosebrough may have a valid point is that they do not have much by way of the history of Mars Hill prior to about 2009.  Today's average Mars Hill member will have never heard of Mike Gunn or Lief Moi or even have heard much of anything about the 2007 firings.  They won't be in a position to read the story of "Amy" for about thirty seconds and have a pretty good idea who she is.  As for the 2007 firings here would be a good place to start.

If Mars Hill members want to defend the legitimacy of what was said and done by Mars Hill executive elders in the past they should educate themselves on what those words and actions were.  They should ask who Mike Gunn and Lief Moi are, what role those men played in co-founding Mars Hill with Mark Driscoll and why there's no mention of either man now.  Questions should be raised about by-laws compliance in 2007 not only with respect to the firings of Meyer and Petry but on the subjects of Tim Beltz' installation as an executive elder in October 2007; the bid on and purchase of Tabella as the real estate that would become Mars Hill Downtown; and the disparity between the salary and work situations of Bill Clem and Lief Moi during the 2007 firing period.  Members should be aware if they aren't already about all of these things and elders should have some consideration of the roles they played in agreeing with what Scott Thomas and the EIT presented as credible grounds for the firing of Meyer and Petry.  Did anyone contact Petry during the trial?  Given what Scott Thomas told Petry and what Scott Thomas said to a member about the nature of the "conciliatory process" during that same period have Mars Hill members been told the truth about the nature of what was happening in the 2007 firings?  

These are not matters for private reconciliation meetings but for public discussion now that the information has been made accessible to the public.  For that matter that Scott Thomas took a job as Pastor of Pastoral Development at the Journey without, it seems, having resigned his membership at Mars Hill in violation of one of the clearest and most unequivocal prohibitions in the Mars Hill member covenant might be of concern to Mars Hill. In a year in which Andrew's disciplinary case made the news because he confessed to fornicating it matters that Andrew's breach of the member covenant seems to have been treated one way while Scott Thomas taking a job that would seem to have breached his then current Mars Hill membership was treated in another way.  You can go read Matthew Paul Turner's blog for Andrew's story. While anonymous advocates of Mars Hill have actually implied Andrew gave his girlfriend a venereal disease and while advocates for Mars Hill have demonstrated a willingness to trot out arrests of former elders to defend Mars Hill as an institution Mars Hill advocates have wanted to keep things "private" when disciplinary procedures and the question of competence or good will in pastoral counseling or discipline threatens to become a public concern.  For a more detailed consideration of those issues look up posts here tagged a context for a call.

The problem here is that there's absolutely no certainty Andrew's ex-girlfriend hasn't lied about things herself or that Mars Hill members have assurance of truthful statements from either Andrew or his by now ex-girlfriend.  It's easy to say the first side seems right until the cross examination but the second side is not necessarily right, either.  You can't be sure that Andrew's ex-girlfriend has been any more truthful than Andrew has been.  What if Andrew's ex-girlfriend has had a history of lying about her sexual history to somehow bolster her reputation?  If that were the case (and we can't be 100% sure anyway) it's as likely she had an incentive to lie as Andrew is said to have had.  If the letter from Pastor XXXX hadn't been posted to The City this might have been moot (and the four X's narrow down the number of possibilities to whomever "may" have had a four-letter first name who was still a biblical living pastor in late 2011 at Mars Hill Ballard, unless the four X's don't mean anything about the length of a first name. 

One thing we can be relatively sure about, whoever that biblical living pastor was wasn't James Noriega who wasn't employed by Mars Hill during the months when the Andrew situation blew up into a church disciplinary case.  Noriega's star was on the rise during the period in which the 2007 firings took place and Noriega and Clem played a role attested by Mark Driscoll in the acquisition of Mars Hill West Seattle.  Driscoll as yet has not discussed Noriega at all or whether any questions arose about whether Noriega's second marriage and history of felonies might have caused the elders to have reservations about his qualification for eldership at Mars Hill in 2006.  Driscoll did, however, discuss the role Noriega and Clem played in getting for Mars Hill a piece of real estate Driscoll had wanted for the church for a decade. 

Why do these things matter? Because how elder candidates were vetted, by whom, what questions were raised about elder qualification and what connections elder vetting may have had to real estate acquisitions by Mars Hill matter.  If Tim Beltz did not qualify to be an executive elder under the pre-November 2007 by-laws when he was installed as executive elder in October 2007 and he was also known to be attending Mars Hill and simultaneously Chief Operations Officer at CRISTA Ministries when Schirmer Auditorium was lined up rent-free for Mars Hill to use that invites a question about who arranged for that rent-free deal and what role, if any, Beltz may have had in that process.  Yet for the firings in 2007 Scott Thomas explained that the firings would be done in conformity to the by-laws.  What about executive elder installments in 2007?  What about the purchase of Tabella?  Were those done in compliance with the by-laws of the time as well?  Again, these are not matters to be clarified in some "private" meeting working toward "reconciliation".  This is stuff that is on record and accessible to the public now.  The pre-November 2007 by-laws indicating how Mars Hill was to be governed are publicly available and that is why this ... 

Is deeply problematic.  What Mars Hill chose to say about the governance of the church in 2007 is so easily disproven it's disappointing that Mars Hill leadership directly or indirectly has been willing to promote things that are false such as the dubious claim that all 20 elders had to agree on everything for things to get done.

The old by-laws that were sent to MH with the 145 document so easily disprove this assertion that it's absurd to think that MH leadership could even imagine that the claim that all 20 elders had to agree on everything could be sustainable. If you aren't aware of what the old by-laws actually prescribed then there's a discussion of the relevant by-laws articles in the link below.

It's hypocritical of Mars Hill to lament the misinformation that was allegedly circulating about Andrew's disciplinary case early in 2012 when they have presented a patently false claim about the nature of church governance and by-laws in 2007. If Mark Driscoll needs to repent the entire leadership culture of Mars Hill may need to repent for lying to its congregation as to the nature of its own church governance over the last seven years.  For instance, if Noriega was fired and was one of two staff who were let go for "overstepping spiritual authority" who vetted Noriega's candidacy to begin with?  Did Mark Driscoll have in recruiting Clem and Noriega into leadership within Mars Hill?  What role did Clem and Noriega being at a church plant with real estate Mark Driscoll had wanted for ten years play, if any, in Driscoll's interest in adding Clem and Noriega to leadership at Mars Hill?  If Driscoll vouched for Noriega was Driscoll aware of Noriega's felonies in addition to a recent second marriage? Wasn't Mark Driscoll church planting scout for Acts 29 in 2002 when Bill Clem planted Doxa?  On what grounds was it justified to give co-founding elder Lief Moi a nearly 40 percent salary cut while Clem was given a full salary and the liberty to not show up to do any work for months at a time during the period when Driscoll was saying at a Q&A in early 2008 that some guys had to be fired because they weren't doing their jobs or pulling their weight? Were there at least four executive elders in place in September 2007 when the bid on Tabella was made?  If there weren't the bid didn't comply with the by-laws.  If there were was there 30 days written notice given about the purchase decision to the other elders?

Again, these are not points to be discussed in private but are matters that can be observed from records made available at Joyful Exiles and through local mainstream media coverage like the Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I and even Mark Driscoll's own public teaching.  That Driscoll's team has been selectively excising incriminating anecdotes from "The Man" has already been established here.  The trouble is that it's too late to remove the most incriminating things Driscoll has said.  Setting up a massive information suppression project to preclude the possibility that outsiders could identify which pastor at Mars Hill Ballard was the father/stepfather of Andrew's ex-girlfriend is understandable but makes it part and parcel of a larger information suppression campaign on the part of advocates for Mars Hill in general and Mark Driscoll in particular.  It has been the custom to say that if you really understand Mark's heart you'd see he's a good guy.  Mars Hill leaders have said they have nothing to hid, particularly during the 2007 firings but if that's the case what has been going on with removing the woodchipper anecdote from "The Man"?  What was with the emergence of "There's a pile of dead bodies ... "?  Does Mark Driscoll plan to ever even acknowledge that he said that?  

Chris Rosebrough has provided a general overview that Mark Driscoll needs to repent.  Listeners will hear Rosebrough's case against Mark Driscoll using vision-casting theology as a basis for pastoral decisions and authority.  Listeners will understandably wonder about other things.  If Mark Driscoll needs to repent of abusing spiritual authority or throwing people under the bus what's that referring to?  Who has been thrown under the bus? Why? I've atempted to provide the beginnings of information and documents that listeners to Fighting for the Faith may consult in the attempt to find more detailed answers.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

and a detour, Cracked on 5 reasons Megatron should have fired Starscream

G1 was simply not that good a cartoon if you can watch it without being blinkered by a mixture of childhood nostalgia and heavy doses of the sunk-cost fallacy for your creative and emotional investment. Which is not to say certain funny tropes developed from the show or that no versions of Transformers have been interesting.  But all that would warrant more words of discussion than I consider necessary.  Instead let's refer to TV Tropes on The Starscream. I would not endorse wiki-anything for a resource on something actually important like politics, religion, serious art or literature or the sciences ... but for Transformers lore or pop culture ... it's the age of the geek, baby (and there's a pop culture reference thrown in there, too, for that matter).

but first ... Star Wars Re-enacted by Ponies (and Billy Idol)

Now has anyone else noticed this?

That line "My little pony" refrain sounds curiously like a hook from Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself"?

Consider this a little observation in pop cultural generational comparative musicology.

compiling and future posts

I've got plans brewing for discussing Ecclesiastes again, particularly Martin Shields' commentary on the book.  Interesting proposals are that the prophets and the sages represented conflicting classes or elites within Israel that competed for ways to influence royal policy, which is not a theory Shields proposed in such direct terms but which is a strong inference that can be made from his overall approach to Ecclesiastes.

I've also got some plans to continue a bit more writing on the prophet/priest/king matrix that is neo-Calvinism's variation of a David Keirsey style personality test, but for people who are already in the leadership tracks at neo-Calvinist churches.  I do aim to compare the broad categories espoused by exponents of this pop psychology fad presented as having some modicum of textual support to what we can observe from actual Old Testament texts later.

Alert readers may have noticed that there's a smattering of pieces lately dealing with harmonic theory and practice in Western music.  Expect a little more of that.

Chamber Music Week 3 is under a few rather lazy planning stages.  Debating whether or how many album reviews to do dealing with some truly esoteric combinations of instruments.  I still want to tackle writing more about Rebay's music but that may get pushed out to some other time.  The quartets  are interesting but I've been more intrigued by Rebay's solo guitar sonatas and so those would not, properly speaking, come under the domain of any chamber music week series.

By contrast I've been thinking a lot about discussing music for double bass and guitar and particularly the works of Annette Kruisbrink, who has single-handedly written more for this instrumental pairing than (as far as I know) anyone who has written for this pair of instruments.  So I'd like to tackle writing about some of her work.  Very long-time readers may recall I haven't written about the d'Amore Duo and their albums of oboe and guitar music.  I still mean to get to that, too.

Then there's recent discoveries I've made in the realm of literature for mandolin and guitar and alto saxophone and guitar.  Yes, I admit I'm thinking of these combinations because I've been sketching out ideas for both pairings.  Because there's no rule here at Wenatchee The Hatchet that blogging about chamber music has to be about chamber music that includes the guitar I'm thinking of tackling chamber music from other settings.  Maybe a string quartet by Hindemith?  Maybe contemporary chamber music for banjo?  Maybe some music by Lutoslawski?  Maybe I haven't decided on that entirely just yet.

But that's a lot of stuff and there's still other stuff to be written.  Still, this post can be considered a kind of preview of some coming attractions.  A few posts on real estate acquisitions and observations about the mercurial employment roster in certain local institutions will also be likely to show up.  But the stuff that will be more fun for me will be to delve into a few musical things.

Carl Trueman provides an observation of the shelf-life off hipster Calvinists

HT The Brooks at City of God blog

Two things came to mind: the beautiful young things of the reformed renaissance have a hard choice to make in the next decade. You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist. 

A couple of observations here.  First, the "beautiful young things" of the Reformed Renaissance have, even in the last twelve years, turned into jowled 40-something megachurch pastors with a bit of pudge from time to time. They've gone from finding redeemer figures in Matrix movies to ripping into James Cameron's Avatar and the Twilight saga (if saga is the right word to use).  And particularly in a region like Seattle conflating what are known for Christian conservatives as biblical sexual ethics with white supremacist ideology has already happened in the United States.  It's a case of "oh I went there, took pictures, and came back."

The transition from "engaging culture" to spending more time commenting on what's wrong with culture could simply be a matter of hipster Calvinists being nearer to 40 than 20 and, as some of them keep mentioning, having children now.  But my hope, purely personal and arbitrary as it might seem, would be that whether or not you are a parent should not catalyze a complete transformation of how you, as a Christian, assess and interact with culture where children are concerned.  Just because I've never been married doesn't mean I don't know better than to show six-year old kids episodes of South Park.  I know perfectly well they don't need to watch that stuff.  I don't presume that my lifelong interest in animation as an art form means that anyone else would even have an interest in a show like South Park.  Besides, the peak of the show's creativity was seasons 4-10 and they've lost what once made them interesting (for me).

But that's the thing, isn't it, everything has a shelf life and everything in this life eventually expires.  That can include the degree to which the young, restless and nominally Reformed "engage culture" rather than participate in what still looks curiously like "consumerism".  What was considered old hat and soon-to-be-phased out (intellectual property as a concept and copyright with associated licensing) at Mars Hill ten years ago has since become the basis for an imbroglio with a church plant considered to infringe on the Martian trademark.  So very much can change in ten years and that change can have a lot to do with how well established a once little church plant ended up being and where it was in relationship to benefiting (or not) from application of current intellectual property concepts happened to be.  Trueman's on the other side of that other pond (we're here over on the Pacific coast) so what Trueman describes as the future of the Calvinists hipsters we've already seen happen here in the land of Mars Hill.  So whether or not Trueman reads this here's a former Mars Hill person who has already seen most of that stuff happen.

Scotterology finally broaches the Jesus' wife manuscript in precisely the way you'd expect him to.

If you know how Scott Bailey blogs you won't be surprised.  It's worth linking to.

Francis Watson on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife as a likely forgery and an Jesus' inferred celibacy from the canon and Esther's inferred character in the hands of Driscoll, a study in possible parallels

... The New Testament is silent on Jesus’ marital status. Two evangelists – Matthew and Luke – tell of his miraculous conception, without sexual intercourse, and this asexual origin sets the tone for his entire life. That Jesus did in fact practise an ascetic renunciation of sexuality is entirely plausible, in a historical context that did not share the modern conviction that a life without sex is a life unfulfilled. [emphasis added] For Christian traditions that place a high value on celibacy, Jesus is the supreme celibate; and he retains this status even when, in Protestantism, celibacy is no longer seen as a mark of the truly holy life. The Christ who offers salvation to all, the incarnate divine Son, can, surely, never have uttered the words, “My wife”? Yet it is just these words that some scribe, ancient or modern, has put into his mouth. That scribe knew exactly what he or she was doing: subverting deep-seated assumptions about Jesus in the most effective way possible, by challenging them out of Jesus’ own lips. The Jesus of this text renounces not only his celibacy but also the community for which that celibacy is integral to who he is. No Christian institution – not the Vatican itself – could withstand such a challenge, if it really is Jesus who speaks here. 

Is it Jesus himself who speaks here? If not, whose is this Jesus? Is he the creation of a would-be evangelist of the 2nd century, whose Greek text was translated into Coptic a couple of centuries later? Or does its origin lie closer to home? The fragment might conceivably preserve a suppressed item of information about the historical Jesus. Or it might reflect the views of Christians two or more centuries later, far removed from Jesus himself. Or it might be a modern creation – a forgery, a hoax. 

Given the information currently available, the third option seems to me the most credible: the text is probably a modern forgery, composed at some point after 1956, the year in which the Coptic Gospel of Thomas was first published.

Watson points out that traditionally it has been accepted that since no wife is mentioned for Jesus in the canonical gospels that Jesus was celibate.  Watson also points out that voluntary celibacy was a plausible option for Jesus in that time and culture, even though this would have been a choice in our own time and culture that is practically inconceivable (and paradoxically this often seems to be as true of American evangelical Protestant conservatives as non-Christian "liberals" despite substantial differences about prescribed practices and working ideologies).

It is useful to point out here that the inference that Jesus was celibate is one that has been made from the simple observation that if Jesus were married this detail would have been too significant a detail to have ignored by any authors who purported to tell us anything about Jesus.  It is significant in light of some other blogging claiming that arguments from silence do not apply that if that methodology were actually sound then it would be sound for an evangelical to state here that we should never assume Jesus was not married at any point in life merely because the canonical gospels do not mention Jesus' marital status.

We can consider this a case study in which the silence of the canonical gospels on whether or not Jesus was married has, traditionally, been taken as an indication that Jesus was NOT married because if Jesus was married, so the reasoning goes, that would have been important enough to get mentioned.

Coincidentally (in historical terms not for the sake of this discussion, of course) Mark Driscoll's tendentious assertion that the book of Esther does not describe Esther as a subject of sexual exploitation by a Persian ruler and Driscoll's claim about the problem of "view 2" (that Esther was a victim of sexual exploitation) is not defensible on the grounds that the text doesn't tell us outright that this is what happened to Esther.  What's good for the goose has to be good for the gander when we try to dismantle an inferential case about a figure mentioned in a biblical text where we are not told in the plainest possible terms that X or Y proposition is true of that figure.  If Driscoll wants to hedge on the question of whether a possibly teen-aged Jewish girl in Persia WASN'T subject to a campaign for a Persian king to take up, as it were, a new favored concubine having put aside the formal queen by claiming that where the text isn't explicit we have room to speculate then where the canonical gospels themselves don't mention Jesus having a wife the same force of argument (if it has any merit) would apply.

That the likely forged fragment of a Gospel of Jesus' Wife has come to light in the last few weeks is simply coincidental but the questions that have emerged along the way about an inferential case from the canonical gospels for the traditional Christian understanding of Jesus' celibacy are a useful counterexample to Mark Driscoll wanting to have his cake and eat it to about how direct a biblical text is about the sexual activity or mores of a figure in a canonical text and what can then be claimed about that in the context of preaching and teaching. In the case of the probably forged Coptic fragment and in the case of Driscoll's blithe dismissal of the viability of Esther having been exploited by a pagan ruler's whims we may consider the same potential methodology at work, take something where the canonical texts don't spell out something clearly enough for some as yet unclarified set of motives and then build a case that a traditional and inferential case grounded in an understanding of what was motivationally and situationally plausible in that time and place in which a biblical character would have lived has to be less important than a series of contemporary considerations connected to agendas that don't necessarily have much that we can observably show to be true about the times and people about which the now canonized texts had a concern.

But you're never going to hear Mark Driscoll make a serious case that Jesus was married because he's going to take seriously the argument that if Jesus WERE married the canonical texts would have mentioned that.  For the book of Esther, since Esther isn't Jesus, Mark Driscoll has the luxury of proposing his curious ideas about Esther being a beauty peagant mistress-in-training and defends that this is possible because Esther as a text doesn't explicitly spell out that Esther was sexually exploited.  You can't even sustain this counter-argument inferentially if you propose that Vashti was asked to wear only her royal crown and parade naked before partiers. (minute 14:00)  Just because you can't confirm or deny, according to Driscoll, that Esther was sexually exploited by a perverted king (and Driscoll makes a significant effort to emphasize how perverted the king was) would not mean that Jesus was celibate because, after all, you can't confirm or deny just from what the canonical gospels say that Jesus WASN'T married. Now by now you may have inferred that I obviously consider Jesus' celibacy and Esther's sexual exploitation at the hands of a pagan ruler to both be strong inferential cases to be drawn from canonical texts.

One of the most obvious reasons the book of Esther would not presume to come down as though directly from God is because nothing about the provenance of the feast of Purim could be construed as having been instituted by or through Moses.  Putting a festival that developed from an exilic narrative on the same level as the origins (literary and traditionally) associated with Passover is not something that would be lightly done, would it?  Well, let's recall the Sadducees had the minimalist approach to the canon that would not have considered Esther legitimate.  If within Judaism in the first century CE there was not unanimity regarding what was canonical and what wasn't, what was authoritative and what wasn't then it's not exactly a big leap to propose that if powerful and influential groups within Judaism had not yet considered Esther canonical it's no surprise that early Christian authors and advocates, who were attempting to avoid making Gentile converts observe Jewish feast days and dietary laws, spend a bunch of time in Esther, a book with the obvious literary point of explaining why Purim has been observed within Judaism.  Which is to say that of course pious Jewish authors wanting to explain the origin of Purim would avoid insisting that God directly authorized a festival that wasn't mentioned in the Torah.

The questions about how Esther and independent Persian accounts raise questions as to the historicity of the entire narrative of Esther is a big chunk of why many people wouldn't rush to preach through it and those questions are precisely the sort Driscoll will, if he stays close to habit, will scrupulously avoid.  If you'd like an old-school, public domain discussion of the background, provenance, and questions of historicity of Esther as at least one of many possible starting points check this out and start reading at page 460. If formal marriage between Persians and women of other tribes was strictly forbidden (go check out page 464 in the linked document above) then Haddasah really would have had to have been not the queen in any Persian formal sense but simply one of the king's most favored (for a time) concubines.  The queen was put away but not divorced, after all. That it is possible for Persian accounts and the book of Esther to potentially be understood as having their own biases and that Esther may have presented Hadassah as a queen when she would not have been recognized as a queen of any sort by Persian customs would be an entirely separate discussion.

Another separate discussion would be about the "technical definition of a eunuch" as "someone who used to have a life and joy and hope." But more on that, perhaps, sometime later. Mark Driscoll has decided that Vashti made the right decision in not complying with the royal command (19 minutes into this sermon) Fair enough, I agree, but it means that Grace Driscoll's use of Vashti as an example of a disrespectful and unsubmissive wife in Real Marriage could turn out to be completely wrong and Grace Driscoll's application of Vashti as a case study of a disrespectful wife means that inside of 2012 two Driscolls have presented contradictory interpretations of Vashti's decision.

This is a matter for discussion in small groups around Mars Hill, to be sure.  So who would you propose is right, Pastor Mark or Grace (and Pastor Mark back in the period in which he went along with that for the publication for the book)? If the Driscolls themselves don't come down to a single interpretation of Vashti's character or decision then surely there's room for wiggle room in interpretation since Grace is Mark's "functional pastor". I lean more toward Mark Driscoll's most recent take but this is coincidental. It's still curious that what Driscoll preached in his Esther series flatly contradicts what was in his bestselling marriage book in the same year.  Well, maybe this is proof he hasn't made up his mind which view he's going to back. Perhaps he is still testing the winds before he decides which way he spits.

(Driscoll has an aside in recent weeks about sages "wise men" not being wise that will be a useful segue-way later this week to highlighting some more blogging on Ecclesiastes.  It's actually a helpful observation to point out that sages and professional "wise" people were not always seen as wise.  To flip things around a bit, sages and professional wise people did not necessarily view prophets as great, either.  Let's see if later this week we can discuss that later.)

Now "if" Christians traditionally infer that Jesus was celibate because no wife (or wives) ever get mentioned does this mean we ignore that because, you see, where the Bible doesn't clearly say X we can never infer that X was the case from other internal evidence?  If, however, the internal evidence is actually a bit more than might first appear then just as an inferential case could be made that Jesus was celibate "because" no wife was mentioned an inferential case that Haddasah was one of many young women taken up in a compulsory quest for a new favored queen (or concubine since Persians were not necessarily supposed to have non-Persians as queens depending on which sources you consult) is not a bad inferential case to make either.

Now Driscoll has managed to not get to discussing Esther's character.  Perhaps he hasn't decided what he's going to publicly preach regardless of whether or not he's made up his mind about her already.  While the debate about the provenance and veracity of a fragment purported to be the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is in the news among bibliobloggers, it doesn't hurt to point out that the inferences and arguments from silence that have come up in that set of discussions and debates can inform us about methodological and textual assumptions Driscoll has brought to his buzz-generating blog posts about Esther and the book of Esther.  It's possible to take Esther seriously without necessarily taking everything a guy like Mark Driscoll says about Esther or interpretation of Esther seriously as he builds up a buzz for his latest preaching series.

Monday, September 24, 2012

modal mutation, when you want to sing about superwomen who bail on you in the winter

Last week I discussed how if you have a limited vocal range but want to get some momentum in your song through instrumental/harmonic forces then oblique motion is a good tool.  I used Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" as an example of how a famous singer/songwriter could work around his legendarily small vocal range by which chords he played on rhythm guitar.

Well suppose you have a vocal range that seems almost limitless but you want a musical effect that is very dramatic and can be handled within a narrow range anyway?  It just so happens that Stevie Wonder is the man for this task.  In Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You this is exactly what he does.  Sure, there's elements of oblique motion in here, too, but the key thing is the modal mutation.  In the opening hooks for both halves of this song Wonder opens with a sweet, lyrical lilting tune in a very narrow range (a third for Superwoman and a rising and falling melody within a fifth in Where).

What he immediately does in the second half of the initial phrase is what we theory fans would call modal mutation.  On a staff the note names would not change, they would still be in the same spots on the staff lines and spaces, but the nature of the naming would change.  Where "Superwoman" starts with E major the melody shifts into E minor (parallel minor, which means the tonic/root chord hasn't changed but the scale we're building from it has).  Because Wonder hasn't modulated but has drastically changed the key the theoretical name for this kind of device is mutation rather than modulation.

Modal mutation is the wonderful harmonic device that defines the hooks of both halves of this classic double-feature of pop music.  It's used to great musical effect in both cases.  In the first part we're told about how Mary wants to be a superwoman but it's not going to happen because of who she is.  The bright optimism of the opening major-key phrase is instantly blunted by the tune being repeated in parallel minor.  In the second half of the song the coming of summer is mentioned with a shimmering major (seventh) chord but now that summer's gone?  The melody Wonder sings turns to parallel minor.  The modal mutation is actually very violent but because of the sing-song rising up and down within the scale is what it is Wonder lets this harmonically violent gesture become gentle and wistful.  He's trying to convey that this hurts a lot but he's trying to be nice about it, if you will.

The minor form of the key dominates in the second half where it was major in the first part of the song but the rising chromatically altered bass line is steady in both halves.  "I think I can deal with everything going through your head" is the same rising pattern for 'where were you when I needed you last winter".  The same music line serves as a harmonic mirror image text-painting two opposite sentiments from the same failed relationship.  In the first half we're told about he thinks he can cope with everything in the woman's head but in the second half we see that she bails on him (for reasons that don't have to be especially clear) and the pattern could be laid out as follows:

Subtonic (major chord built a whole step below tonic)
Tonic (with a passing leading tone/dominant function in the second half to restabilize the entry for the major key phrase before the next modal mutation pattern).

Now I don't actually have the sheet music for this or access to what I would consider a reliable transcription or arrangement but because what I'm analyzing is chiefly the bass line and Wonder's voice with a broad reference to harmony these observations are "probably" okay.

If you want a dramatic musical shift and want to do it within a melodically narrow range this is a good compositional/harmonic device to use if the material you're working with (textually or thematically/melodically) warrants it.  In classical music one of the masters of modal mutation within phrases as a source of pathos or comedy would be Haydn.  It's not a big shock, is it, that in classical music and pop music masters of modal mutation might still tend toward the happy and upbeat but use modal mutation as a way to cultivate an element of surprise (Haydn did get one of his symphonies nicknamed the "Surprise" symphony, after all, but not necessarily for modal mutation).

So, uh, here endeth the lesson.

At TWW: Nick Bulbeck discusses smallpox, genetic overlap, and other things

As Driscoll's dog and pony show about Esther kicked into gear and he let slip that the earlier bit about Esther beginning as a godless beauty pageant mistress/queen was one of a few views and that he was "leaning" toward that view, questions have arisen about who keeps Driscoll accountable and who ordained him.

In purely temporal terms he ordained himself by nominating himself for the job he has.  As to who keeps him accountable, the question might be better reframed as who currently gets the potentially thankless job of being described in public or to members of Mars Hill as keeping Driscoll accountable, who may or may not still have that role within mere months of having been credited as having that role even if that role could be demonstrated to mean anything to begin with.  Even the +10 friend on Driscoll's scale, if a wife, has to submit to the husband's authority and respect him even if the wife ends up being a "functional pastor", which makes it hard to imagine why a guy who does that wouldn't just admit to being a functional egalitarian.  But what do I know?  Single guys don't know anything about "relationships", after all. :)

But all that is too mercurial to discuss in much detail.  Things change so swiftly at Mars Hill that even people who are paying attention can wonder what happens to people there.  Longtime readers of this blog may be aware that a Jeremy Echols seems to have had a roller coaster experience at Mars Hill going from (apparently) an advocate of pastoral shufflings in 2008 to definitely getting ordained as a pastor at Mars Hill West Seattle in 2011 to abruptly disappearing from any pastor listings in earlier 2012.  Most people would have no idea who that person is or why the name would be of any significance.  Understood.

But at a larger level the question has kept coming up how so many big names in evangelicalism and the broadly Calvinist American church keep thinking Driscoll is the bee's knees (though not everyone seems to be so into saying this kind of thing since Driscoll shook hands with T. D. Jakes and said he was open to learning from other "tribes").

Now earlier I quoted from Nick Bulbeck's comment at Bill Kinnon's blog in which Bulbeck proposed that Mark Driscoll has transformed the Bible into a sock puppet that always agrees with him.
But that, surely, is not all that might be said for the rise of a man like Driscoll in the realm of megachurches.  Men like this do not become superstars overnight or without the investment of countless people.  It takes a village to raise a child as the old axiom goes; it takes a village to appoint a superstar no matter how badly the self-selected superstar may have had ambitions of being one.  As was discussed in a podcast about Driscoll's popularity his most basic soteriology holds up and so because of things like that he's welcomed with open arms.  Bulbeck proposes an analogy from medicine and human physiology to provide a somewhat different but overlapping possible explanation.

Nick Bulbeck UNITED KINGDOM on  said:

As you state in the article:

I once again ask, “Where are Driscoll’s advisors hiding?”

You might rephrase that question thus: How does someone so lacking in understanding of what the Bible says, and of why God gave it to us in the first place, gain such a devoted following as a great “bible teacher”? Bear with me a moment here – and apologies in advance if all this is merely a verbose statement of the obvious.

When researchers a few years ago analysed the genome of smallpox (strictly speaking, of the variola virus), they found something that surprised them: it shares many of its genes with us humans. This was thought to be a major reason why smallpox is so virulent and so contagious; it is able to produce proteins that are familiar in the human body, thereby evading the immune system and binding to the cells themselves. You might say that, while smallpox is anything but human, it imitates a few crucial elements of the “technical specification” of humanity at the molecular level.

In the same way, our friend from Seattle is loud and effusive in his profession of support for a number of crucial doctrines that are beloved of conservative Christians. To name a few: the authority of scripture; penal substitutionary atonement; total human depravity. And one more: an implicit faith in the primacy of doctrine over, say, character or fruit.

Now, all these could be said to have come under attack, in the last two or three generations, from liberal theology and “higher criticism”. I don’t doubt that a proportion of liberal theological academics were, and are, secular intellectuals with no particular resonance with the gospel or kingship of Jesus, who instinctively reduce him to one more specimen to be studied and labelled to fit their anthropological theories. (The same is probably true of some conservative theological academics. And it could be that the same is true of me – in a way, I hope that never ceases to scare me.)

In this context, someone who comes in and makes a big thing about defending traditional conservative doctrines is ticking some very important boxes. He’s defending true Christianity against those evil liberals, after all. Thus, he gets a free backstage pass into the inner circle, with or without Christ-like character, and regardless of what kind of fruit his ministry produces.

As long as you bang on, and on, and on, and on, about how you’re just teaching the biblical bible according to the scriptural scriptures, and keep ticking a few important doctrinal shibboleths, then you must be “sound”. Few will look behind the curtain to observe that the bible is a mere ventriloquist’s dummy in your hand, speaking only with your voice and saying only what you tell it to say. And it seems that very few evangelicals accept that, as per Mark 3:11, you can have (some) accurate doctrine but an unclean spirit.

Belief in “PSA” is no test for whether I am a genuine disciple of Jesus. The question is: Does my belief in PSA move me to self-righteousness and pride, or to worship?

a few thoughts inspired by Things I Think at Phoenix Preacher this week

There has been much that has been said about the stratification of the United States into red and blue, and how there is a red truth and a blue truth, red facts and blue facts, and about how the parties lie constantly.  I've gotten plenty of spam about the "lamestream media" and the liberalism of the mainstream media and sometimes I hear about the conservatism of "establishment" media and things like that.  From the liberal and conservative side I may hear a tale or a whispering of how this or that executive order is going to suspend the Constitution, halt elections, and establish martial law.  I'll come across expressions about how the people who don't have jobs must not really want to work.  Now maybe those people haven't been in a position where they simultaneously have had a decade of skills and experience that aren't useful on the job market; a disability; and maybe are young enough to operate under the illusion they can actually do just about anything they set their minds to.  Or perhaps they have been so reliant on a series of programs in the social safety net that they may find it easier to talk about illegal immigrants ruining the American economy or jobs without realizing that Social Security has become the sort of inverted pyramid where even if there "weren't" illegal immigrants doing work that "real" Americans generally don't do there'd be a long-term challenge to the viability of the system.

Nations rise and fall and the possibility that this nation is going to fall no matter what the left or the right attempt to do may not be something that will warm the hearts of people.  Perhaps at a popular, subliminal level the questions "we" wrestle with are whether the end will be with a bang or a whimper.  It might end up being both.  Apocalypticism as a genre for expressing the catastrophic social and emotional significance of what were instigated as more this-worldly and mundane events is something we can credit to authors in the Old Testament.

But an apocalyptic sense of panic seems to pervade commentary to a degree that spills over into, how do I find a way to put this, partisan coverage.  It's like it's in the water everywhere.

I've been thinking about something I was taught years ago, almost twenty years ago.  I was taught by a journalism professor that if you're a journalist of any kind then you have biases and you can't pretend you don't have them.  If you're a good journalist (or a good Christian, for that matter) then your pursuit of the facts and the truth will entail discovering things that you may find uncomfortable.  You should pursue them anyway if your goal is that of an essentially journalistic enterprise.  If you aren't willing to pursue the facts to that discomforting level where your own ideas and convictions about people, places, and things get overturned or crushed then what you're pursuing is not really journalism.  You're embarking on marketing or public relations and while that is something many people pursue and make careers out of you should have enough honesty and character to concede that at that point you're an advocate.  Some people split the difference by going for what is called "advocacy journalism" and I suppose that must seem to work for a bunch of people.  It would seem that what is still called for is that no matter what advocacy you concede to and no matter what loyalties you profess these should still not get in the way of figuring out what the facts are.  You may not be able to figure something out because of this or that bias, to be sure, but shouldn't we be open to discovering that our biases blind us?

It can often feel to me as though the simple command to "love your enemies" and "bless those who curse you" and "pray for those who persecute you" are things that American Christians left and right often don't have any interest in doing.  It's easier to just say why Bush is an antichrist or Obama is an antichrist as though the United States had to be the new Jerusalem under attack from Satan or the seat of the Devil.  Even in prophetic books laments could be raised for terrible cities.  Even in prophetic rebukes of wicked cities laments could be raised for so much death and devastation, for a society that has fallen that could have been a catalyst for better things.  The trouble seems to be that we WANT to forget the humanity of whomever we have designated the enemy of whatever it is we treasure.  We may speak of them as though we "pity" them but that "pity" can often be circumlocution for loathing and resentment.

I'm not sure why I'm thinking of how the guys who complain the most about America going to hell in a handbasket often seem to be the postmillenialist Calvinists.  Who's the pessi-millenialist again? That, I admit, is a lazy observation but am an amillenial partial preterist so I find that my eschatological approach doesn't quite fit what Americans tend to expect I ought to think.  Years ago I recall that a friend of mine had to explain to a guy that I wasn't a heretic for being an amillenial partial preterist, it just meant I had actually bothered to read theologians who weren't American. Given the way American politics and religious tensions go reading someone who has ideas that aren't from America may not be a bad idea. The world, after all, is considerably bigger than the United States. What could it hurt?

Bill Kinnon is back with a blog post

After quite a bit of a hiatus Bill is back with a blog post that is long for him but average length for me. :) I share Bill's reservation about "gospel-centered" in as much as this becomes a shorthand that is too short.  When we speak about the gospel we have to explain what that is, what it means and at a more basic level we have to remember that "good news" varies depending on who's telling it and to whom.  The risk with a pervasive use of a modifier like "gospel-focused" whatever is that we lose sight of whose good news it was to begin with and it becomes an imprimatur for whatever we were likely to go on talking about anyway.  This was why some bloggers began to have doubts about whether the Gospel Coalition or Together for the Gospel was more the Calvinist Coalition and Together 4 Calvinism.   Now I happen to be a Calvinist (though probably a very bad Calvinist or a pseudo-Calvinist for some) but I have other things to do with my life besides constantly differentiating my thought from things super-Calvinists consider deal-breakers.  I may agree that a certain preacher or two merely call themselves "Reformed" for the halo effect it confers as much as for any quasi-adherence to Reformed anything ... but I'm not necessarily going to see things the way super-Calvinists might, either.  But all that is relatively unimportant.

That there is a mentality toward leadership within Christian circles that manages to pay lip service to everything Jesus taught about leadership and greatness in the kingdom of God while paying fealty in practice to greatness as defined by the world and particularly in North America (and more specifically the United States) is worth noting regardless of theological boundaries.

If I weren't chronically situated to not be buying books I would very seriously considering getting the book.