Saturday, January 23, 2016

overview of the Canon Press retraction of Doug Wilson and Randy Booth's A Justice Primer, a case study in the irony of a blogger on the net highlighting plagiarism in a book that was apparently written to address perceived problems of bloggers

Readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet probably already know that this isn't a blog that avoids a long-form discussion of a topic.  So we'll warn you up front that there's going to be a lot of quotes. One of the signal weaknesses of internet reading habits is a failure to maintain an ulta-long form sense of history and argument. Not everyone's bad at this, some are even quite good at it.  It's just that the kind of internet attention spans that frequent the net can be susceptible to forgetting how things play out.  So in order to get some sense of the recent retraction of A Justice Primer it might be helpful to consider the ease with which its co-author promoted it until certain things were brought to light.
Monday, September 7, 2015

Those who believe themselves to be hep to my tricksy ways might have surmised that I orchestrated this entire recent flap about Steven Sitler because Randy Booth and I recently put out a book entitled A Justice Primer. But whether you are disposed to believe me or not, that was a total coincidence. In this book we address biblical principles for evaluating charges that are brought against someone, anyone. The book is, I believe, quite a necessary resource for good-hearted Christians everywhere — who regularly see defamatory information scrolling by in their Facebook feed. There is even a chapter entitled “Trial by Internet,” which concludes with this sage advice: “Never get into a braying contest with donkeys” (p. 160).

Sarcasm noted. The sage advice as identified by Wilson does not seem so sage. It would be sage if it didn't seem Wilson was eager to ignore the spirit and the letter of that advice by continuing to write the sorts of things in which he proclaims Christian girls are prettier, for instance, and then marveling at being proverbially led to the gallows that even fellow Christians wouldn't affirm all the proclamations made by Wilson along the way.

A couple of weeks on ...
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
If there is one thing that Christians need to learn more about in this “click to convict” era, it is the importance of due process, presumption of innocence, hearing both sides argued, and so on. Those interested can learn more about it in A Justice Primer, a book I wrote together with Randy Booth.

Now there's a plug for one's product. :) And then something happened, somebody did a detailed overview of the book.


What’s my point with all of this? Well, the book is based on blog posts that were written to defend and protect certain men against perceived injustices by church courts and by those who were discussing the cases on the Internet. With that context, the purpose of the book becomes clearer, and we can then decide if the book’s advice is as useful as it claims to be.

As Wilson and Booth write in the book, “Persons bring charges. Persons have motivations. Those motivations need to be evaluated, just like the charges do.” (92) Persons also write books and have motivations that need to be evaluated.

It wasn't too long before Wilson, as he often does, had thoughts to share with the public on the matter.  The gist was that while his work in the book did not come up guilty of plagiarism, the writing of his co-author sure did.

Saturday, December 12, 2015
On Thursday, Rachel Miller revealed that significant portions of A Justice Primer, coauthored by Randy Booth and me, had been plagiarized. The same day Canon Press discontinued the book, posted their own statement about it, as well as separate statements from Randy and from me. They can be found here. In addition, a second statement from Aaron Rench, CEO of Canon, has now been posted here.

Rachel Miller and I have clashed in the past, but on this issue I owe her my heartfelt thanks. Better this revelation now, and a resultant mess, than to have years of calm if such calm were to be purchased by means of undetected plagiarism. I am grateful to God for sending this revelation, and grateful to Rachel Miller for bringing it.

Justin Taylor made some helpful comments about publishers and plagiarism here. Canon is already in the process of contacting the authors who were plagiarized in order to apologize to them. But yesterday Canon Press took the additional step of purchasing some plagiarism software which, as Justin indicated, is not yet industry standard, but is likely to become so. They intend to incorporate that software into their editorial processes. The first thing they did with it is run my contribution to A Justice Primer through it, which came out clean.

Nevertheless, all that said, there are some significant areas where I need to take the responsibility. Let me first make a few general statements, and then follow it up with a few specifics.

I continue to affirm the principles I laid down on this same subject in my discussion of Mark Driscoll and the charge of plagiarism against him. The particularly relevant sections are #4-6. The cash quote is here: “I am nevertheless responsible for it. My name is on the cover.” ...

The mention of Mark Driscoll's name is a reminder that Doug Wilson has not, in fact, clarified if he has any new perspective about Mark Driscoll's situation and decline in status beyond his "revenge of the beta male" narrative offered in the wake of Mark Driscoll's resignation in October 2014. 

To date neither Mark nor Grace Driscoll have addressed the question of why so much content in the first printing of Real Marriage lacked citation credits for works they demonstrably drew from. So as that goes, Doug Wilson and Randy Booth, once caught, admitted the book they published had plagiarism in it and the book has even since been retracted.  The irony of a book that seems to have addressed the frequent injustice of bloggers discussing in public things that some in ministry would prefer not be publicly discussed has since been retracted because a blogger highlighted plagiarism in the work is almost beyond words. Doug Wilson seems to have cultivated a robust sense of humor, though, so at least he, perhaps, can see how this could come across as really quite funny.

It's the kind of dry irony that would "probably" not be lost on Carl Trueman, at least:

who links to Rachel Miller's recent statement, of which we'll quote just a small part.
It was no secret that I read A Justice Primer with the intention of critiquing it. I said so in my original post. It is absolutely true that I disagree with Doug Wilson on many theological matters. That doesn’t change the facts that I presented in my article. I was very careful in my discussion of the plagiarism not to speculate who had done the plagiarizing. Canon seems to think that I knew Booth was responsible and didn’t say so so that I could implicate Wilson. That is not true. ...

Now that we've done that, let's go back and revisiting a fairly glowing review of A Justice Primer from The Gospel Coalition's Kevin DeYoung.
Kevin DeYoung
November 5, 2015

Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth, A Justice Primer (Canon Press, 2015). I thought this was a book on social justice, economics, and big picture politics. It’s actually a book about how the Bible would have us judge each other (or not) in the mad, mad world of blog warriors and internet vigilantes. This book is full of refreshing wisdom. I hope it reaches a wide audience. And if you already know that Doug Wilson is a good-for-nothing scoundrel (and I don’t know him personally and do strongly disagree with him at times), then that’s an indication that you really need this book. [UPDATE: It seems that portions of the book were plagiarized, which, while not changing the nature of the content, cannot help but affect one’s opinion of the book. I hope Wilson and Booth will respond to the evidence presented in the link above. NEXT UPDATE: The book has been discontinued by Canon Press because of “negligence and gross incompetence” resulting in plagiarism and improper citation.]

Did Kevin DeYoung get a galley proof copy of Real Marriage?  If Canon Press discontinued the book it sure seems like someone at Canon Press thought that this revelation changed the nature of the content of the book in some fashion! 

Now there is a point I stop to make here about the nature of what some call watchblogging, it's worth noting, as Alastair Roberts has over at his blog, that the biblical authors are (compared to modern authors) serenely unconcerned with highlighting the psychological or emotional motivations of figures in biblical narratives.  The general concern is what did X say and what did X do. 

A watchblog does not need to traffic in speculations as to the motives of parties at work.  The temptation may be there but generally the heart knows its own sorrow and no other shares its grief.  And as Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth that just as no one knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him, so only God knows the thoughts of God.  So, with a couple of simple verses revisited we can safely say that a watchblogger has no real obligation to speculate as to the motives of someone.  It can be enough to document what a person said and did.  As far as humanly possible that's what I've tried to do at Wenatchee The Hatchet regarding the history of the people and institution known as Mars Hill.  It's not ultimately of any journalistic value or historical help to people to do too much speculating as to motives.  But methods and results can certainly be discussed. 

So ... back to the situation at hand.

It's hard not to imagine that were he alive today to observe such a situation play out that Jacques Ellul would say that A Justice Primer was propaganda that became counter-propaganda against its authors' own cause when the plagiarism was discovered.  For longtime readers, yes, that's a sentence of foreshadowing there.  We're going to get to Ellul's work and its potential relevance to the history of Mars Hill and the public ministry of Mark Driscoll later this year, time and providence permitting.  Since along the way in fielding a plagiarism controversy about one of his books it seems providential Doug Wilson should have felt obliged to highlight a plagiarism controversy that was connected to Mark Driscoll.  Given the intellectual mentor dynamic the younger has spoken of about the older this ties things together thematically quite well.

Wilson and Booth at least they had the stones to do what Mark and Grace Driscoll have not done and may never do, admit the scope of citation errors in a first print edition of a book they co-authored and then have principle enough to both address the problem publicly and even retract the book.  What Team Driscoll did in the wake of their plagiarism controversy was have books retroactively fixed while staying scrupulously silent about the whole thing.  If Mark Driscoll still considers Doug Wilson's books to be useful for instruction on manliness it can seem as though some lessons were not learned here.  It's not as though Doug Wilson has not been at the center of other controversies connected to plagiarism in books with his name on them and he's still at the same church doing what he's done.  If anything the Wilson/Booth plagiarism controversy and their handling of it highlights how drastically different the plagiarism controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll was.  It seems you can weather a plagiarism controversy here and there without feeling any need to resign from your pastorate.  Just look at the case history of Doug Wilson. 

But Wilson does have a credibility problem here now.  Now that a blogger has demonstrated that a book with Wilson's name on it had plagiarism of the sort that inspired Canon Press to retract the book, a book that seems on various accounts to have been discussing how to deal with the injustice of bloggers blogging about stuff you wish they wouldn't blog about, the book A Justice Primer could now stand as a paradoxical case study in the value and perhaps even the necessity of blogs playing an observational role in the activities of public ministries and associated publications.  Wilson looked perfectly content to promote his book in the months before Miller and her help compiled evidence of problems in the book. 

After all has been said and done it seems that now that both sides have been argued Canon Press has conceded plagiarism happened and the book has been retracted. 

a linkathon with a theme, what people say people shouldn't have or shouldn't do across time and space, master narratives, and things some choose to overlook
There are a substantial number of passages written over a period of many years that explicitly say that Christians must not and/or do not kill or join the military. Nine different Christian writers in 16 different treatises explicitly say that killing is wrong. Four writers in 5 treatises clearly argue that Christians do not and should not join the military. In addition, four writers in eight different works strongly imply that Christians should not join the military. At least eight times, five different authors apply the messianic prophecy about swords being beaten into ploughshares (Isa. 2:4) to Christ and his teaching. Ten different authors in at least 28 different places cite or allude to Jesus' teaching to love enemies, and, in at least nine of these places, they connect that teaching to some statement about Christians being peaceful, ignorant of war, opposed to attacking others, and so forth. All of this represents a considerable consensus.
Indeed, there is very little basis in the texts for describing the early Christian view as "divided and ambiguous." There are no authors who argue that killing or joining the military is permissible for Christians. On these questions, every writer who mentions the subject takes essentially the same position. Some pre-Constantinian Christian writers say more about these topics than others. Some do not discuss them at all. But to conclude from this relative silence or paucity of some surviving texts that other writers disagreed with the extant texts would be sheer speculation. The texts we have do not reflect any substantial disagreement. Every extant Christian statement on killing and war up until the time of Constantine says Christians must not kill, even in war.
That a growing number of Christians, especially in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, acted contrary to that teaching is also clear. That in doing so they were following other Christian teachers and leaders who justified their conduct, we cannot deny with absolute certainty. But we have no evidence to support the suggestion that such teachers ever existed until the time of Constantine.

Noah Berlatsky, who was pretty sure that Episode 7 was going to be lame, nonetheless reliably points out that if Rey is a Mary Sue it's just because she's introduced into the franchise by someone not Lucas; he also highlights that if we compare Rey to the ultra-powered white male protagonists who have been pulp heroes of yore she isn't even all that mighty.
...Before criticizing the nonsensical unlikelihood of awesome Mary Sues like Rey, then, it’s worth remembering how pulp heroes used to be rationalized. Paul Atreides (and Tarzan, and Flash Gordon) were genetically engineered white male gods; their power was naturalized through the inevitable logic of masculine and racial superiority.
 If Mary Sue’s connection to the force is less visible, well, so much the better. Maybe the gratuitousness of her power is a small step towards acknowledging that there is no one natural heroic genetic code.
 The Mary Sue is a promise that anyone can be at the center of the universe, and of their own story.

The question isn't even rhetorical here, if white male pulp heroes get to be perfect across the board at the start of their respective franchises is it that bad that Rey seems too perfect to some people in Episode 7?  Lucas pretty well explained he made the Star Wars films with boys in mind.  It's not necessarily a problem if Disney, in the interest of sustaining what was always the best kind of mass market quasi-corporate hack work, decides that a woman can do the same kinds of things Luke did.

And I happened to enjoy Episode 7.  First time I've enjoyed a Star Wars film while watching it in the theater and didn't regret watching it days later (or while I was watching it in theaters) since 1983.

Meanwhile ... someone over at New Republic decided banning all guns all across the board needs to be a conceptual option.  There are those that consider a ban on all abortions all across the board to be necessary, too.  There are people on the left and the right who don't seem to care about what's actually in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or what precedents there may be in judicial rulings.

Decades ago I had a political history teacher who joked that conservatives wish the first amendment didn't exist while progressives wish the second amendment didn't exist, which might be reason enough we keep both of them.

We live in an era of master narratives describing the other team's motives and means.  Slate featured a piece on how Prohibition of alcohol fomented the rise of the contemporary right.

It might seem like another just so story for a couple of reasons but it's not as though conservatives haven't had their versions.  Much as I was impressed as a teenager by Francis Schaeffer's trilogy it seems like a just-so story about the decline of the arts in the West that doesn't really square with a more detailed and nuanced history of the arts.  We may have a LOT more to say about that somewhere down the road but that's one incubating project among many.

Something the article could have done a bit more with was point out how a progressive and even radical change in law and government could be motivated by what was ultimately a very socially conservative goal (domestic tranquility and reducing physical abuse).

Anyone who happens to have read Friedersdorf knows that his work has had a theme on speech and campuses in the last year.

Another piece at The New Republic on the popularity of exorcisms these days.
Historian of religion David Frankfurter notes that conspiracy theories involving evil entities like demons and witches tend to flare up when local religious communities are confronted with outside forces such as globalization and modernity.

Attributing misfortune and social change to hidden evil forces, Frankfurter suggests, is a natural human reaction; the demonic provides a context that can make sense of unfamiliar or complex problems.
While Europeans practiced exorcism during the Middle Ages, the “golden age” of demonic paranoia took place in the early modern period. In the 16th and 17th centuries, thousands were killed in witch hunts and there were spectacular cases of possession, including entire convents of nuns.

A 1788 painting by Francisco Goya depicts Saint Francis performing an exorcism.Wikimedia Commons
The Protestant Reformation was a key contributor to these events. The resulting wars of religion devastated Europe’s population, creating a sense of apocalyptic anxiety. At the same time, exorcism became a way for the Catholic Church, and even some Protestant denominations, to demonstrate that their clergy wielded supernatural power over demons – something that their rivals lacked. In some cases, possessed people would even testify that rival churches were aligned with Satan.
People have historically used evil spirits to explain any number of misfortunes, whether its a physical illness or routine bad luck. But today, demons are frequently used to interpret contemporary political issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Since the 1970s, Protestant deliverance ministries have offered to “cure” gay teenagers by casting out demons. This practice now has corollaries in Islam—and even in Chinese holistic healing methods. When the state of Illinois legalized gay marriage in 2013, Bishop Thomas Paprocki held a public exorcism in protest. Politically, the bishop’s ritual served to frame changing social mores as a manifestation of demonic evil.

For those who don't subscribe formally to the existence of demons the preferred secularist alternative could be the rise of this or that rightwing political activity. Art Spiegelmann once declared that he didn't go in much for superhero comics because those are the power fantasies of children and he had adult power fantasies.  Right.  The older I Ge the less convinced I am that the difference between an adult's power fantasy and a child's power fantasy is one of any substance or ultimate distinction.  It seems easier and easier to reach this gloomy conclusion reading what people print in election cycles.  No, it seems that the difference between a child's power fantasy and adult's power fantasy is primarily that the kid knows the kid is a kid.  Adults, by contrast, not believing they have any juvenile capacities, and having acclimated themselves to social dynamics that let them wield various forms of social influence (power) see someone or something they want and decide they get to have it. 

For instance ... mangers and rock stars who feel they get to have sex with ... well, it's not that difficult to guess from the link titles

For all those folks who were dismissed as being too concerned that the rock and roll lifestyle was degenerate and nasty, could we throw those people a bone as story after story emerges showing that rock stars and managers take what they want even when the thing they want involved minors?  Thing is, people want heroes even if the heroes can turn out to have bad, bad qualities in their history.  It wasn't out of mere abstraction somebody wrote a little poem that said heroes are monsters whose use for their cause outweighs their well-known vice. It seems that you can pick a hero and he or she will stil have something monstrous about them.   Bowie is a lately assed musical hero but it doesn't mean there aren't skeletons in the closet.

Christians who would say their respective heroes at least don't cheat on their wives may miss the point, which is that some Christian celebrities of varying levels of popularity can turn out to be responsible for plagiarism. To go by how some Christians on the net react to that kind of thing, the reaction of saying plagiarism isn't "that" bad could be taken as a sign that where for worshippers of rock stars sex isn't that bad for worshippers of Christian celebrity authors taking credit for work you didn't do isn't that bad.  It seems that for each "tribe" there are sins that can't be forgiven and sins that can't be taken seriously as sins to begin with.

And on a somewhat spacier note ...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Roger Scruton on teaching judgment and some comments about classical vs pop music and his surprise at learning he had more in common with metal fans than he would have anticipated

Scruton's passion for music would be easier to admire if he didn't seem so condescending toward pop music.  I like some pop music and dislike some other pop music but I find Wagner's music detestable and Wagner to be not so admirable as a person to boot.  On the other hand, I adore the music of Haydn and I adore the music of Stevie Wonder. 

Scruton observing that the voice leading in U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" is a mess reminds me that it's a category mistake to measure a pop song that's a power ballad on the basis of any kind of polyphonic writing.  Sure, perpetual motion riffs aided by reverb and delay pedals over a relentless bass might seem like bad voice-leading ... but ... perpetual motion over a steady ground isn't unheard of in classical music.  Sometimes that gets known by the jargon "passacaglia" or "chaconne" and involves oblique motion.  Oblique motion's an approach to voice leading where most voices stay put and just one voice shifts in a way that transforms the harmony.  U2 does that, a lot of pop music does that.  It's a way to get as much harmonic mileage as possible from having very limited technique.  It's not necessarily a sign of being a bad musician, though.

I feel obliged to point out Scruton mistakes classical music for not trafficking in endless sets of variations on an unchanging theme as a contrast to pop music.  That's obviously not true.  Not even the most ardent Led Zeppelin fan would try to subject "Black Dog" to as many iterations of its core theme as Bach did with the double theme in the Goldberg variations.  The Diabelli variations are another case in point of an epic cycle of variations on a single theme.  Yes, classical music doesn't approach development and variation in necessarily the same way as pop music but it's not altogether accurate to say classical music "does" stuff in contras tto variation.  Let's remember that many of Haydn's sonata forms are monothematic forms.  Was Haydn an artistic failure for having single themed sonata forms?  No.  What it might help to remember, as Charles Rosen put it, is that in Haydn's era the distance between a popular style and a scholarly style, at least in Haydn's case, was not so great. 

It's not surprising the metal fans were quickest to appreciate some of the ideas Scruton wanted to convey.  This isn't surprising because once you factor out timbre there's a lot about metal that is pretty easily traced to "classical" traditions and folkloric influences.  Besides, as Richard Taruskin has quoted a famous Russian opera singer as saying, the whole of opera can be described as "educated screaming".

Surely we could propose that for theatricality in musical presentation and educated screaming metal "could" be carrying on the traditions of a Wagnerian opera. :)

For a decade or so there's been talk of problems in classical music, a crisis in aging audiences and a lack of interest.  Some of the lack of interest is a lack of interest in hearing the same things over and over again.  Some of it may be that the same stuff we hear over and over again we can hear a lot more cheaply by buying a recording or listening to music online than dropping fifty bucks on a concert. 

But I'm not as sure that a "solution" will necessarily be in trying to save the symphony.  The symphony doesn't seem like it's necessarily going away but its placemen tmay change.  We're more likely to have non-classical fans hearing symphonic music in the context of a film score than a concert.  People may be more likely to know John Williams by his Star Wars scores than know Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. 

But it can seem that the alarms can forget the troubled history of written-down music.  It wasn't always easy, obviously, but let's remember that the Thirty Years War did a number on a ton o fpeople and the arts were effected.  Heinrich Schutz had to scale back, drastically, the kinds of musical forces and resources he could realistically compose for.  If we're seeing a drop in music for the symphony or the opera composers may want to cast about for cheaper and more accessible alternatives.  Being a guitarist I'm hugely biased in favor of the guitar for what should be obvious reasons. 

But we guitarists, the classical guitarists, can often bring our own trouble.  I have read and heard guitarists say the classical guitar isn't really all that suited to all major and minor keys and that thigns like sonata or fugue aren't really truly possible on the instrument.  Why?  Because the guitar has a collosal decay rate?  It does ... but that doesn't mean counterpoint isn't possible or that a sonata form can't be written for the guitar in a remote key.  If we aspire to preserve the classical musical traditions that does not preclude adapting to the resources available.  If more and more people are taking up the guitar than the piano or the clarinet we can write for the guitar.  Guitarists like to say, after all, that the instrument is like a little orchestra. 

But the guitar has been at the margins of the academic musical world.  Taruskin's Oxford History of Western Music basically treats the guitar as not even functionally in the literate musical tradition.  Now if he heard the guitar sonatas of Matiegka, Sor, Giuliani, Carulli or Diabelli he might conclude they weren't worth mentioning in a history of literate music ... but for we guitarists there's plenty of evidence the guitar has been part o fthe literate music tradition for centuries now.  But, at Matanya Ophee put it years ago in his lecture on repertoire issues, the guitar has often been treated as an outsider or as a second or third-rate member of formal music. 

Given the crisis many have been saying classical music has been in for audiences (and a comparable low sales rate seems to apply for jazz) maybe not being in the mainstream has an advantage.

There are some who look down on popular styles as bad or shallow and art music/classical music as deep and good.  I prefer a good chunk of classical music to a good chunk of pop music but that's not necessarily because I think one tradition is better than the other.  What I would suggest we can see in at least some composers, whether Haydn or Villa-Lobos, is that there have been composers in any given age that demonstrate an appreciation of the high and low, so to speak; an appreciation of the refined and the common. If in the last century classical and popular music have diverged it may have been to the detriment of both traditions.  Now this is just a personal musing but it seems that the pre-World War II blues and country idioms were not always as distinct from each other as they would later become.  You had urban and rural music but that might matter more than "blues" and "country". 

Blues is almost a century old and there's no reason you can't have a sonata allegro form in which the first theme you get actually is just a 12-bar blues.  There are people at Yale who may decide not to teach jazz or blues as part of the Western canon but the vastness of that mistake should speak for itself even if people won't see it.

I've been thinking for a while that we should not abject one tradition over against another in music.  Scruton's welcome to love the music of Wagner and Schubert and I'm welcome to find them both rather boring or interminably maudlin.  Wagner's Ring cycle, in the 21st century, has been supplanted not just by Tolkien for popular appeal but by the ever-expanding Marvel cinematic universe. 

At one point Taruskin was writing his Oxford history with the idea that what he's called the literate music tradition was essentially ending.  That was years ago, now he's not sure that's the case.  The tradition is changing and the kinds of patronage dynamics that were taken for granted half a century ago no longer apply.  I would suggest that the patronage dynamic we have now is not necessarily foundations or academies as corporations that promote pop music.  A lot of it may sound alike but then if we are willing to be a little jaded about the high art of the Baroque era might a lot of it be self-aggrandizing bling presentations for autocrats proving how enlightened they were?  There may never be an era in the history of humanity in which those who financially backed skilled artists didnt' have some self-promotion afoot.  What's stuck with me for years since Miyazaki's last film, The Wind Risess, is his gloomy observation made through Caproni about art, would we choose to live in a world with or without the pyramids?  The pyramids are feats of engineering and works of art but in a sense Miyazaki was throwing out for our consideration a possible idea, the idea that all art is in some sense a reflection of the anxieties and aspirations of an empire, whatever that empire may be.  Some of us may be adep tat convincing ourselves we just want to make something beautiful but that doesn't entirely exonerate us, does it?  Or does it?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Throckmorton: Garrison guest piece shows the mailbox that is Mark Driscoll's lately founded corporation that includes the word "church"

The box in the UPS store is small, but there is, some may hope, room for aggressive expansion. 

Certainly if churches move forward with this mailbox variety of multi-site operating expenses will probably stay lean.  Let's not forgot the membership covenant Mars Hill members were expected to comply with the month Mark Driscoll quit being pastor at Mars Hill Church.
  • I will not function in leadership or as a member in another church family (Heb. 13:17).
  • I covenant to submit to discipline by God through his Holy Spirit, to follow biblical procedures for church discipline in my relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, to submit to righteous discipline when approached biblically by brothers and sisters in Christ, and to submit to discipline by church leadership if the need should ever arise (Ps. 141:5; Matt. 18:15–17; 1 Cor. 5:1–5; 2 Cor. 2:5–8; Gal. 6:1–5, 8; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:9; 3:10–11; Heb. 12:5–11; Rev. 2:5–7, 14–25).

  • Earlier in the covenant document there's an explanation that while parties make covenant with each other the covenant is primarily a promise made by an individual to God. Based on the Driscoll stories from 2015 it would appear that if you say God told you it was okay to quit being a member even while having agreed to submit to a restoration plan that it's all good.  And you can not only dothat you can go on and start a new ministry or two along the way, hit the conference circuit, and share stories about how God told you it was okay to quit that you didn't share with the congregation in any confirmed documentation available from the year of resignation. 

    Assuming that Mark Driscoll actually did sign one of those membership covenants it would appear there's a top dog proviso that let him quit regardless of having agreed to submit to a restorative/disciplinary plan proposed by the board of Mars Hill.

    For those who might still say after all this time, "hasn't he been through enough?"  Well, if you go through struggles because wrongdoing has happened then that's just because wrongdoing got discovered, or some apostle who wrote some epistle wrote that.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?  But since some are red-letter readers of the Bible ...

    Matthew 23:1-4 (NIV)
    Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.  They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

    What has Mark Driscoll continued to claim to do if not to be a teacher and preacher of the scriptures?  He spent years admonishing members to submit to spiritual authority and then, in 2014 when presented with an opportunity to lead by example, declined to do so and went so far as to invoke in 2015 stories of how he was given special permission by God to not follow the rules of conduct he had laid down as instruction for others for a decade and a half-ish previously.

    If Driscoll were content to live a life of obscurity working with his hands to provide for his family and submitted to the kind of spiritual care and direction he told others to live by things would be different.  If Driscoll had shown himself willing to live by example what he taught others and had stayed at Mars Hill he'd have a way to keep teaching and not look like a Pharisee.  But he didn't do that.  He quit.  He not only quit, he later shared tales of how God said he could out on the conference circuit and on taped interview time.  That looks at least a little bit like a guy who ties up heavy cumbersome loads and puts them on the shoulders of other people without so much as lifting one finger himself to handle such a burden himself.  Having spent so many years warning people against the teaching and examples of Pharisees, a case could be made that Driscoll is becoming a champion Pharisee of the kind he used to warn about.

    That mailbox is presumably not the end game Driscoll and company have in mind, but it may be that there's more to this church than a couple of officers, articles of incorporation and a mailbox.  But for now, in terms of what can be documented, that's all we see of Mark Driscoll's new "church".

    over at Mortification of Spin Todd Pruitt proposes "The Reformed(ish) Industrial Complex is too insular and self-protective" and that John Piper's complementarianism can't be squared with showing up at events where Christine Caine is also a featured teacher.

    A rather long excerpt coming up here.
    Posted on Monday, January 4, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
    Not long ago my MOS compadres received criticism (some of it rather harsh) for their critique of statements made by John Piper about the roles of women in society. There is no need to rehash that particular debate now. However, it is important to remind that we here at MOS share with John Piper and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) the belief that preachers and office-bearers in the church are to be men. That is clear in Scripture. How exactly or even whether those roles of headship and submission translate into spheres outside the family and church is a worthy debate. Dr. Piper has long advocated that male headship transcends church and family and is to be reflected in civil society as well. I point that out simply to underline the fact that Piper holds to a more sweeping understanding of complementarianism than do many of us who nevertheless fully affirm what the Bible teaches about roles within the family and the church.

    That is why I was so disappointed to see that at Passion 2016 John Piper shared the preaching duties once again with a woman preacher. This time it was Christine Caine (in the past it has been Beth Moore). Incidentally Caine preaches many of the troubling errors of Word/Faith and Prosperity theology. She also claims Joyce Meyer as a mentor and promotes her ministry.

    As I have written at other times, this sort of partnership by a man of great influence like John Piper with someone whose doctrine is quite troubling places local pastors in a difficult position as we seek to guard our churches from false and divisive doctrines. This was a major concern that many of us had with Piper’s embrace and promotion of Mark Driscoll. Something that he recently said he did not regret.

    As I have already stated: I agree with what Piper and CBMW and the Danvers Statement all affirm about the roles of men and women within the church. How is it that John Piper, who has spoken and written so copiously on male headship, would appear with a woman preacher (and do so numerous times)? Is this not terribly inconsistent?

    I know that asking inconvenient questions of any of the stars in the reformed(ish) firmament renders one irrelevant and invisible. I understand that one just does not publically disagree with the heroes. Yes, we in the reformed(ish) world do have our Popes.
    I wonder if any of the men who took Byrd and Trueman to task for holding what they believed to be an under-developed doctrine of gender roles will now seek answers from John Piper. I certainly will not hold my breath. One simply does not do that and keep his or her seat at the table. The phone will stop ringing. The email loop will have one fewer participant. The invitations will disappear. The blog will become irrelevant.

    I know that sounds cynical. But I have been an observer of these things for too long to believe otherwise. The Reformed(ish) Industrial Complex is too insular and self-protective. It is too sensitive to anything that sounds like critique. It is too committed to its own promotion. Early on I suppose I was too sanguine about the rise of the YRR movement. I assumed that holding to reformed doctrine would guard us from unwise practice and the celebrity culture that was so much a feature of broader evangelicalism. I was wrong.
    [emphasis added]

    Pruitt's comments could apply to the entirety of mainstream American Christian publishing, perhaps?  After all, the likes of Mark Driscolls and Rachel Held Evans seem to be okay with shooting fish in barrels by writing about the foibles of other teams.  But internal critique does not come easily to any of us, whatever our team may be. Ten years ago I was pretty happily a member of Mars Hill and was confident the leadership would self-correct away from egregious wrongs.  Well, I was wrong. It can happen to all of us, as I'm sure Pruitt appreciates.

    Setting aside as distinct the matter of complementarian and egalitarian ecclesiology, it would still be a puzzle why Piper formulates a stance that is not implemented in actual practice, and not being familiar with Caine myself, there's still the open-ended question of whether Word Faith stuff would be advisable even if there were other agreements.  It's not as though we don't live in a world where someone could be a complementarian and a Word Faither, too.

    Now I've written in the past about how for John Piper to think that Driscoll's decline was actually a defeat for Reformed theology suggests the man has an insular understanding of what Reformed theological thought is and what the Reformed scene is.  Somebody dissented from that assessment, and people get to do that.  But Pruitt raises a question about Pipers stance not just in terms of Caine but as someone who expressed having no regrets about backing Driscoll.  With the disclosure of the Driscoll promotional plan for Real Marriage this matter is worth revisiting.

    Free Copies & Book Reviews
    The following friends would be good to include on the pre-release list to help ensure an online buzz

    2. Galley Proofs - Desiring God with John Piper, Purpose Driven Network with Rick Warren, Life Church with Craig Groeschel, Perry Noble, James MacDonald who runs Walk in the Word Radio and Harvest Bible Chapel, Justin Taylor and Kevin Deyong of the Gospel Coalition, Mark Dever of 9 Marks, CJ Mahaney and Joshua Harris of Sovereign Grace, Dennis Rainey of FamilY LIfe Today, Tim Lane of the Christian Counseling Educational Forum, David Platt, Francischan, Ed Stetzer, blogger Tim Challies, each of the Senior Pastors who will be hosting the tour events.

    Did Desiring God get galley proofs?  If so then that would have been an occasion for people at DG to have spotted and prevented the citation errors that Warren Thorckmorton and others found iN Real Marriage.  This didn't happen, it seems, either because DG never got galley proofs or because if anyone at DG did get galley proofs the citation problems were not spotted in time for the first printing.  There was a second printing in early 2013 and as Throckmorton has noted, citation problems did get solved.  But could it not be construed as a failure on the part of the YRR publishing world and community that those problems in RM were never pre-emptively spotted and dealt with if, in fact, people in the YRR movement did get galley proofs? 

    Pruitt's concerns about the insularity of the young, restless Reformed seem worth keeping in mind. asdf

    a few links from here and there

    a plea to stop calling Donald Trump a fascist, however foolish you may consider his public persona and statements to be:

    But it wouldn't be American political discourse without comparing Trump to fascists, would it?
    Trump, too, is benefitting from voter discontent. Polls show that many Trump supporters come from the white middle- and working-class, a group whose status and salaries have stagnated for decades; these voters are evidently looking for a leader ready to dignify, if not solve, their problems.


    Trump has no clear plan of any kind. He is not about to dissolve the Democratic Party and banish the Clintons, Obama, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Jimmy Fallon to exile on Randall’s Island. Americans will not goose-step down Broadway; no screaming squadraccia of middle-aged Trump fans will occupy Grand Central; Amazon will not be nationalized as a “strategic state asset.” Trump is simply an opportunist, perfectly willing to change course (from, for example, saying America has to accept refugees to insisting he would “send them back” within the span of a month) and say anything (Hillary Clinton, who in 2008 he said would make a “great” president, “got schlonged” in the end). ...

    Over at Slate, a long-form discussion of slavery in the United States, but not of blacks, of Native Americans.

    It discusses the enslavement of Native American tribes and includes a short summary of a number of tribes and their approaches to slavery.  The topic is not as literally or figuratively black and white as other discussions of slavery have at times been.

    There were slavery practices by Native Americans in the Northwest of the United States ... although it might be worth mentioning that the state of Oregon had its roots in utopian aims of white settlers.

    Another long-form piece.
    The question of whether Oregon should allow slavery dates back to at least the 1840s. The majority of Oregonians (which is to say the territory’s new white residents who were systematically and sometimes violently oppressing its Native peoples) opposed slavery. But they also didn’t want to live anywhere near anyone who wasn’t white.

    Opposed to slavery ... but also didn't white non-whites in the state if it could be helped, it seems.

    On a different note ...

    Sunday, January 17, 2016

    it's a bit much to suggest America's favorite pasttime is making things tough for quality animation ... but

    The lament that Studio Ghibli is going to stop making feature length films is understandable.
    America’s favorite pastime is making sure that its culture is as inhospitable to quality animation as possible, and 2015 was another nail in a coffin that’s already more metal than wood. Unsurprisingly, the year’s best animated feature was Studio Ghibli’s wistfully bittersweet When Marnie Was There, and unsurprisingly it earned a whopping $561,085 at the U.S. box office because it never played in more than 57 theaters. American audiences have never appreciated the inimitable magic of Ghibli’s films, and now that world’s greatest animation studio has retired from the feature business, we’ve officially blown it once and for all. May your kids be too busy obsessing over Frozen to recognize the profound extent to which you’ve failed them.
    Of course the free-wheeling adaptation of the Snow Queen that transformed the villain into a sympathetic hero was going to win the Oscar over The Wind Rises. If the snow princess gets the catchiest song and that inspires people to completely reconceive the plot in light of that then, well, that's America. 
    But Aardman hasn't closed shop yet, in spite of having that devastating fire a few years ago.  Song of the Sea was a solid film.  The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack are returning, though whether they rise to their levels of previous glory remains to be seen. Sure, The Simpsons and Family Guy are unfortunately both still on the air but there's probably no helping that. 

    a joke over at Ribbon Farm about mid-life crisis as an opportunity some may take to rewrite the history of the world to revolve around themselves a little more

    If you are reasonable and very bright, a midlife crisis is an opportunity to rewrite your own personal history a little more thoughtfully and coherently. You might sublimate the envy and stoke the passion evoked by  your favorite Big History. You might develop a humbler, more realistic perspective on life, informed by the various Little Histories in the zeitgeist.

    This is of course, a game for brilliant idiots.

    If you are unreasonable and hopefully not too bright, a midlife crisis is an opportunity to rewrite the history of the world to revolve around yourself a little more. This is not anthropocentrism (that is something you can find in both the Big History and Little History sections of Walmart), it is egocentrism
    Those italics are original.
    Not that we've ever met anyone who has ever seemed to pick option 2, right?

    flash over substance might not be "just" a problem in popular publishing, some are concerned that metrics obsession is harmful within academia HT Jim West

    While gaming systems to get on to a NYT best seller list happens in popular publications the reality that things can be done to game prestige listings in academic publishing need not be overlooked.   It has become evident in the last decade that paper mills can sell services to people in nursing and some of the sciences.  It might be prudent to not assume any realm of academics is immune to gaming systems and human corruption. 

    As West has been doing for a while now, linking to author here and there, there are writers he mentions who have sounded off on how the reality in academics is that there's a prestige racket, an honor/shame dynamic going on.

    Those, it seems, most determined to convince themselves and others that there's a social dynamic "beyond high school" may be wrong.  The status games of school years don't go away, they just get better disguised from those who have convinced themselves that we humans don't play by those rules once we've decided we've "grown up".  If anything the rules seem to be easier to game and to have more informal and formal options for gaming than they did back in public schools where you either had that status or you didn't.