Saturday, November 15, 2014

Todd Pruitt raises the question of where John Piper's discernment was on Driscoll, a possible explanation

Over at Mortification of Spin Todd Pruitt published a post November 13, 2014.

Dr. Piper mentions Driscoll’s “flaws.” Again, this is not the issue. I don’t know of anyone who criticizes Driscoll for having flaws. All of us, without exception, have flaws. The problem is that the word flaw trivializes what was happening at Mars Hill. Plagiarizing, bullying, foul language, global missions funds being used for local projects, generously offered tithes being used to buy a bestseller, etc. are far more serious than flaws.
What possessed John Piper to promote this man? Piper acknowledges that Driscoll ran his church like a CEO presiding over a corporation. He praises Driscoll’s doctrine while saying that his interpretation of Song of Songs was completely wrong. He acknowledges that Driscoll had become a wealthy man. Over the years Piper has had appropriately strong words for pastors who live and lead in those ways. Nevertheless he invited Driscoll to speak a number of times at his national conference. Many people trusted Driscoll precisely because Piper trusted Driscoll. At the very least this was a failure of discernment. And when a world-famous pastor with great influence lacks discernment the consequences are high
The controversies surrounding Mark Driscoll were not suddenly discovered six months ago. For years there have been numerous voices sounding an alarm. And now, mere weeks after Driscoll’s resignation from Mars Hill Church the whole enterprise is collapsing. I am not blaming Driscoll’s sins on the well-known men who surrounded him. I do wonder, however, why they chose to promote him so vigorously when there was so much evidence of trouble. 

Having been a former member of Mars Hill who was recruited by leadership into a number of ministries (though having always been a layperson), Pruitt raises a question that many have had that has been implicit more than explicit.  The question is, "How on earth could Piper not know about Mark Driscoll's track record?"  Well ...

Let's bear in mind that on October 10, 2007 Scott Thomas informed Paul Petry that his presence was not required at his own trial.

The next day, it seems Thomas sent an email from his Acts 29 account to an enquiring Mars Hill member and replied that "A team of elders just concluded a conciliatory process with these two men. Be patient, trust Jesus and rest in the fact that this is His church."  Scott Thomas has since gone on to add his name to a letter public apologizing to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry about the nature of their respective terminations and trials as well as their outcomes.  Regardless of what conciliatory process may have been completed by October 11, 2007, Thomas and the members of the EIT were part of a trial and voting process that Scott Thomas has apologized for. 

Which indirectly addresses Todd Pruitt's question, if it wasn't even possible for contracted members of Mars Hill in 2007 to get a clear or what turned out to be an ultimately factually accurate explanation then how would John Piper, states and states away, have been able to discern what was going on?  Most people have never known the actual person Mark Driscoll but the various personae he has developed for the pulpit and the screen and the publicly read blog.  Who Mark Driscoll, the actual man, is now may ultimately prove irrelevant to his defenders and detractors alike. 

As Wenatchee The Hatchet has written over the years, the gap between Mark Driscoll the person and Mark Driscoll the persona may be substantial.  There were a lot of people, even within Mars Hill Church, who by Mark Driscoll's account may not have or didn't even know he was the one ranting under the pen name William Wallace II.  Driscoll clarified this year that much of the comments said under the pen name were removed within a few months after publication.  Yes, and while that can be read by sympathetic eyes as a sign of Driscoll's sincerity it could also raise another question, was there an incentive to prevent so many people even within Mars Hill's circles from actually getting to see what Mark Driscoll wrote under his pen name?  Possibly, if the rantings shared by the pen name could have jeapordized funding for Mars Hill. 

Piper may have never actually gotten to know or meet the real Mark Driscoll and given how introverted Driscoll has said that he is perhaps no one amongst those who are public figures in ministry may have truly met whoever the real Mark Driscoll may be.

But republishing the writings of William Wallace II and, particularly, the historical and social setting in which Driscoll adopted the pen name, had a multifaceted aim. 

The first was to preserve what Driscoll published as a way to be kept in consideration for the public record.  Why?  Let's let Mark Driscoll explain this part:

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)
page 14
I grew more chauvinistic. I had never cheated on a girlfriend, but I never had a girlfriend who did not cheat on me. And now I knew that included my own wife. So I started to distrust women in general, including Grace. This affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.

Driscoll regretted his tone but expressed no remorse over the substance of anything he may have said during this nebulous "season" in which he grew more chauvinistic.  Preserving the writings of William Wallace II, whether "Pussified Nation" or "Using Your Penis" (which was far more crazy, in WtH's opinion, than Driscoll's more notorious rant), gives people a chance to look at what Driscoll said as WW2 then and observe the continuity of 2000 ideas with 2011 ideas.

And there's a second reason, which may be easier to explain but harder for some to accept as proposed.  Let's propose that in his rants as William Wallace II Mark Driscoll showed us who the real Mark Driscoll truly was when he had a pen name through which to vent his spleen.  Sure, it wasn't particularly secret, and William Wallace II tends to read more like a Tyler Durden than a William Wallace II (that Durden was the sociopathic second personality of a man who had gone insane and become the founder of a series of terrorists cels may have to be some other post for someone else to write). But nobody made Driscoll write what he wrote and that he wrote what he did under the pseudonym William Wallace II should not be forgotten.  It is an essential and unavoidable part of Mark Driscoll's legacy.  One can only imagine what his kids may surmise of any potential discrepancy between Mark Driscoll their father and William Wallace II.  One can only hope the gap is unfathomably great for their sakes.

But at a more practical level, the removal of so much material written under the pen name William Wallace II back in 2001 may be a snapshot of a larger process that could answer Pruitt's question.  Why did not John Piper and others get a fuller sense of Mark Driscoll's character flaws?  Possibly because the tracks were being covered or because Driscoll has had enough sense to behave in ways that cater to the audience he addresses. 

But in Piper's case there have been reports that people attempted to contact Piper as far back as 2008ish over the firings of Meyer and Petry.  Even if for the sake of conversation we grant that John Piper has some plausible deniability about how bad things were going at Mars Hill what would it have taken for him to believe there were significant problems?  Wenatchee can't even pretend to know. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has been persuaded that the relationship between John Piper and Mark Driscoll was mainly for show.  Piper very likely never got to know Driscoll and Driscoll has managed to hobnob with the likes of Piper, Schuller, Jakes and other famous pastors. Driscoll trained in speech communication and has refined a public persona.  It's possible none of the famous guys in ministry ever got to know the real Mark Driscoll.  As Paul Tripp noted earlier this year, there's not much outside accountability that can get that "accountable" part done. 

With respect to "Pussified Nation" if Driscoll had ever truly repented of that stuff he should have left it all up, expressed remorse over the substance of what he said and not just its tone, and shown through his life and teaching he found a different path.  That's not what happened.  Driscoll found ways to soft-pedal the same ideas and expressed some apologetic words over his "tone".  He's come back to that over the years and this gets at the core of Todd Pruitt's larger question, if Wenatchee may be so bold as to suggest this, that the descent of Mark Driscoll has come about because people stopped asking about the tone of Mark Driscoll and asked some penetrating questions about his substance, both in terms of character and in terms of how great a previously unacknowledged intellectual debt he was building his brand off of in published works while Mars Hill was letting cease and desist communication go out to a church in California.  At best Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll showed themselves hypocrites with double standards regarding intellectual property.  At worst, Driscoll may be shown to have been a serial plagiarist in a publishing context in which multiple publishers didn't catch the copyright infringement or didn't care because there was money to be made.

If the people who keep looking for "lessons" from the Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill story keep looking for self-exonerating lessons nobody will have learned anything. 

And as for John Piper, it's easy to not regret a partnership that may have been nothing more than a partnership in mutually beneficial publicity.  That's not presuming the worst about John Piper's character, just a summary assessment of the depth of the relationship that probably existed.  It's not unfair for Reformed pastors and laity to raise the question of whether John Piper's substantial halo effect should have ever been lent to Mark Driscoll to begin with. Of course some are not very positively impressed by Piper to begin with

There have been many whom Mark Driscoll has called friends but where are they now?  What kinds of friendships has Mark Driscoll had over the years?  What if Piper was never able to address the issue of Mark Driscoll's character because John Piper never saw or heard the real Mark Driscoll?

Might be a reminder why the scriptures advised against laying hands too quickly on some people.


C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

In regard to Will.Wall.2 WenTheHatchet wrote:
"sociopathic second personality"

sociopath: I have been waiting patiently for this word to crop up in reference to MD. While the Hatchet didn't directly call MD a sociopath, he at least introduced the term in the narrative.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Actually, you probably noticed it was directly referencing Tyler Durden.

An acquaintance who saw the "Pussified Nation" thread this year said that WW2 read more like Tyler Durden than Wallace. Fight Club was popular at Mars Hill for quite some time and Driscoll was not one to really say much about that particular film (though he may have seen it).

Mars Hill guys in general seemed to fixate on the speeches about absent fathers without understanding the larger narrative framework for the Tyler Durden character in the story (whether in film or in print).

Pointing out that many a Mars Hill fan of a David Fincher film didn't get where Fincher was going is certainly several steps removed from the too-popular canard that Driscoll is in some sense a sociopath.

Now there's a case that can be made from Mark Driscoll's own teaching about spiritual warfare in 2008 (cross-referenced to his story of his marriage in Real Marriage) that some other problems may have existed but that will take the completion of the transcription of parts 2 and possibly 3 of the Spiritual Warfare series.

My own take was William Wallace II wasn't so much a character at all as Driscoll letting loose with his actual concerns under the guise of a transluscent (not to say completely transparent) pseudonym.

chris e said...

On the other hand, John Piper did listen to the Edinburgh sermon - so at least he had some indication that there were deeper issues present. Unless he considered it a disconnected one off.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Perhaps when the Edingburgh sermon was pulled down/retracted and Driscoll mentioned he had found a better way to address the same content in Peasant Princess Piper took that as further proof that Edinburgh was a disconnected one off. After all 2007 was that stressful period of re-org.

Certainly there were folks who thought that maybe/hopefully the rants of William Wallace II were just a "character" study and that Mark had actually turned over a new leaf. A bunch of us stayed at MH with that hope in mind, which at length seems to have been rather unfounded.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Tyler Durden?

" Fight Club was popular at Mars Hill for quite some time ..."

MarsHill insider discourse is full of allusions to cultural artifacts that are completely opaque to someone outside the sub-culture.

RE:Edingburgh sermon

I decided not to listen to it. Some of MD's exegesis is very old tired warn out stuff. 40 years ago I took a class on hermeneutics at Western from Earl Radmacher which included a lecture on the Song of Songs. I remember laughing all the way home after that lecture. Radmacher was into shocking his audience. I don't think he understood how jaded some of his students were. We were beyond being shocked.

When MD started doing this I compared him to Alice Cooper in the late 60s.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

RE: Discourse & Generational issues

I used to participate in forums where Michael F. Bird, Chris Tilling, Jim West and others talked about biblical studies and theology.

Michael F. Bird would occasionally say something completely outrageous more than bordering on blasphemy and I was subsequently amazed to discover that people were taking him seriously and he was publishing books which were taken seriously.

So apparently the "evangelical" framework of which I am not a participant has grown tolerant of blasphemous speech acts.

I see Bird has an introduction to "evangelical theology" which I will read a library copy of. "evangelical theology" is a misnomer, there is no "evangelical theology. Bernard Ramm figured that out ages ago.

Probably shouldn't talk about Michael F. Bird in a discussion about Driscoll. But the fight club thing made me think of Michael F. Bird. He is into that.

Geoff said...

Mike Bird would say things that were blasphemous? Like what? I've not seen anything of the sort in his books. I've seen silly attempts at humour.