Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reformation 21: Todd Pruitt and Carl Trueman refer to the recent apology and controversy surrounding Driscoll


Some will wonder why these stories swirling around Mark Driscoll are matters for public discussion in the first place. I understand that. The whole thing is embarrassing to the church. These controversies reinforce the widely held notions that ministers are not honest and are primarily interested in financial gain and fame. I wish it weren't happening. But it should also be understood that men with highly public ministries must welcome public critique. How many public controversies must one pastor be allowed before someone raises the inevitable question of qualification?


... But the problem in the YRR movement is not that its leaders are well-known.  'Celebrity' applied in that context is a far more complicated issue.  It involves fame, certainly.  But it also involves cultivating, via twitter and other social media, that false friendliness, that intimacy of strangers, which one finds in Hollywood culture, where the consumer thinks that they know 'Brad' or Anjelina' without having any real relationship with them.  It involves a careful system of branding and marketing, supported by formal and informal mechanisms, from literary agents to PR departments to promotional agencies, all geared towards the marketing, promotion, and protection of the brand. The result is that a pastor's power and influence are intentionally enhanced and expanded while accountability is in practice detached from a proper ecclesiastical body.   In this sense, I appreciate Kevin's concern about the term but I think 'celebrity pastor' remains a very useful concept because it highlights a particular category of person who currently holds influence in sectors of the evangelical church.

In communications class parlance the term might be called a "constructed mediated reality". It might also be described as an image in the form of something like a man.  Trueman continues:

Second, the criticism of the silence of the leadership of the YRR (certainly in the form I have made it) is not a claim that nobody in the YRR has spoken up.  Nor is it merely a claim that none seem to speak up in a timely fashion, though I believe that claim, if made, would be fairly easy to defend.  It is a claim that none of the very top leaders, the really big movers and shakers in the Reformed evangelical world, the men who are known for their strong opinions and who are typically very quick to speak, have spoken up in a clear, transparent, timely, specific, and decisive manner on the big issues and the big personalities that have challenged the movement internally, from the Jakes fiasco to more recent events.   That claim seems to me to be perfectly reasonable and, indeed, incontestable.

I.e. the people that matter most, have the most public profiles, and who have a history of sounding off as pundits on various things of significantly lesser importance than primary doctrines frequently don't seem to think there's been anything to see here.  Trueman closes with the following:

I am grateful to Kevin DeYoung for the timely reminder that we must all examine our hearts when offering criticism of others. That is a convicting point.  I would submit, however, that the YRR does not at this point look sleazy to outsiders because of the sinful motives of the critics of celebrity pastors but because of the sinful behavior of celebrity pastors.  Until the movement accepts that and does something to change its own culture, more and more scandals are likely to follow.

It may be worth noting that when I went over to see some reactions to a post I published back on July 4, 2013 one reaction to even the possibility of plagiarism in Real Marriage was "so what?"  All the identity politics to the theological or political left or right were more important, apparently.  Plagiarism?  Well, let's not even bother with that if discussing Mark Driscoll's views on homosexuals or women or on speaking in tongues or on postmillennialism can be discussed instead.  Partisans for and against were frequently content to run with the idea that Driscoll's real problem had something to do with the identity politics of particular groups.  What has also not helped at all in public discussion of the ministry of Mark Driscoll and of Mars Hill is what I've come to call imputing comprehensive guilt by tangential association.  So-and-so knows so-and-so who was at some point an apologist for so-and-so, ergo, the first so-and-so and the second so-and-so are bad, bad people.  That may be but let it be for what they say and do, not for a guilt by second or third hand association, or even first-hand association.  Wasn't Jesus Himself denounced as a friend of sinners? 

If the movement as a whole, this young, restless Reformed crowd that features a lot of guys who have entered middle-age, will not concede there are things to confess not merely as "mistakes" or as "unwise" but as "sin" then this may not speak to simple hypocrisy but to a double standard, particularly if what is permissible or must be swiftly forgiven in a celebrity cannot be excused by the rank and file church member. 

What controversies surrounding celebrity pastors who, these days, may balk at the name of the status they have so ardently sought for themselves, may point out is that the young, restless and Reformed have not even thought through the implications of a peppy axiom they have sometimes circulated, "What you win them with is what you win them to."  This seems to be an axiom that can be applied to just about anyone but the people most likely to have used it, and perhaps it's time to consider that this might be because what they've been winning people with has not been Christ so much as a mediated version of Christ.  For as often as Mars Hill may employ the phrase "for Jesus' fame" it necessitates the question of "which Jesus?" or, more bluntly, "whose Jesus?" When Driscoll began talking about his friend T. D. Jakes and referring to Osteen being a piñata for the Reformed when was Driscoll going to remind people that Osteen was a piñata for Driscoll himself in the Phillipians series at one point.

And up until a couple of weeks ago you could have downloaded that sermon for listening.

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