Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Trinity Church has apparently gone from rental to purchase, revisiting Mark DeMoss' Feb `16 comment about Mark Driscoll's realistic vision and knowing he might not have more than 100 people at a new church plant

Remember back on March 12, 2016 we looked at how there was an open house?

A church building with a rich past will serve as the new home of our future church. Pastor Mark Driscoll is excited to announce that The Trinity Church will host its first ever gathering at 5pm on Easter Sunday March 27, 2016, at the Glass and Garden Drive-In Church in Scottsdale, Arizona!

In time, we look forward to launching The Trinity Church. In the meantime, we did not want to pass up this historic opportunity to gather for the first time on the 50-year anniversary of the landmark building, which opened on Easter 1966. Even though it’s last minute, as the ink on our rental contract is still wet, we look forward to meeting you at our modest open house and prayer meeting. Pastor Mark will be sharing our church vision as we begin gathering our launch team.

Well, that was back in March 2016.  There's a new announcement for June.
Hey everyone! I have a really exciting announcement. We have officially purchased our historic church home in Scottsdale, Arizona!

Every family needs a home, and this one is a wonderful fit for our church family.

So The Trinity Church went from renting to buying in just a couple of months.

Anyone remember what Mark DeMoss had to say about Mark Driscoll earlier this year back in February for The Daily Beast?
02.20.16 9:01 PM ET
Driscoll’s new website lists more than two dozen church leaders who are “praying for The Trinity Church.” Among them is Mark DeMoss, owner of a Christian public relations firm who worked for Mars Hill in 2014 during the church’s many crises. DeMoss is not working for The Trinity Church, but said he’s just trying to “be a friend,” and offered insight into what he says are Driscoll’s plans.

“I think he’s very realistic and he realizes that he might launch a church speaking to 100 people. I don’t think he’s under any big idea that he’s going to open the doors and have a megachurch immediately. But, I think he has the potential to do that again.” [emphasis added]Although DeMoss wouldn’t name anyone in particular, he says Driscoll “spent a considerable amount of time reaching out to people that he knew or thought he had offended or hurt in some way and did whatever he could do to right those relationships. He’s had some success with that, but there have been some people who were not receptive to a restored relationship.”

DeMoss said that he thought Driscoll was very realistic and realized he might launch a church speaking to 100 people; and that Driscoll wasn't under any big idea that he'd open the doors and have a megachurch immediately.  That was February 2016 and by March 2016 ...
Pastor Mark and his family moved to the Phoenix valley last year. After spending months praying specifically for a church building with 1,000+ seats along the 101 Freeway, Pastor Mark believes that God has supernaturally provided. [emphasis added] Like most older church buildings, this one needs some service projects and financial investment to make it a good home, but we are excited about its potential.

We know that God has gone before us, preparing an opportunity to minister. This building provides a wonderful opportunity for our mission: Why? So that lives and legacies are transformed!


Pastor Mark couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity for evangelism that God has provided The Trinity Church, and is praying every day for the people who will meet Jesus Christ in this building. He also looks forward to ongoing partnership with other pastors as part of Jesus’ one big Church in the valley. He says, “God is planting The Trinity Church and we are following his leadership. God has a plan that has been fifty years in the making. My youngest son and I first walked around the building after baseball practice late one night. Still in his uniform, under the moonlight of a warm and clear desert evening, my little buddy folded his hands and prayed that Jesus would provide us the building to worship Him in. God answered his prayer! God has provided a home for The Trinity Church”.

So The Trinity Church went from renting a space with 1,000+ seating to buying in three months. Does anybody want to ask Mark DeMoss if this doesn't look like the kinds of moves made by leadership that seems "reasonably" confident that it will be a megachurch the day it opens its doors
for the first official service in early August?  It seems that when it came to assessing how "realistic" Driscoll's vision was Mark DeMoss couldn't have been more wrong--Driscoll was saying earlier this year that you have to a vision so big that if God doesn't help you do it that it can't be done, wasn't he?

The announcement of the purchase is obvious enough and the question of who did the buying seems natural.

Throckmorton has noted the update over here.

POSTSCRIPT 07-03-2016

While there are those who have no doubt speculated about where all the money from the sale of Mars Hill properties has gone and would speculate further that the recent purchase Team Driscoll announced is connected ... this seems a bit unlikely.

Now, sure, Mars Hill sold millions of dollars worth of real estate in its death spiral.

West Seattle follow up once again the church that has met at that building seems to have had to buy back its own building  (about $1.7 million)
2745035  20150723001577  6/24/2015  $1,711,768.00

Puget Sound Business Journal: Mars Hill Church makes $4.2 million on sale of flagship Ballard sanctuary

Sammamish council approves $6.1 M purchase of Mars Hill property
The property was bought May 4, 2015 for $6,100,000.00 from Mars Hill Church by the city of Sammamish

and yet by December 15, 2015 the corporate HQ was a deed in lieu of foreclosure and contract forfeiture? Yep, confirmed by King County.

It wasn't until ...

Mars Hill Church closes sale of former U-District campus real estate to Cross & Crown Church as of March 10, 2016 (for $1.7 million-ish)

That it seems that the era of the corporation that was known as Mars Hill Fellowship/Mars Hill Church could officially be over.  It seems that if Mars Hill had a deed in lieu of foreclosure it wasn't rolling in money.  The monies could have gone somewhere else.

Throckmorton's got a image of the real estate valuation for the recently purchased building

It'll take some time to see about which names are on the purchase of the Arizona real estate and there's other stuff a person can do on the 4th of July weekend.

There's something else to report that merits a separate post.

Joan Arnau Pàmies on "New Music", it can be any kind of music that can be successfully assimilated into a Marxist narrative of class warfare, it seems.

I would argue that New Music is generated by: (1) the anti-establishment content of the lyrics and (2) pastiching stylistic qualities from historically black genres such as hip-hop and jazz, which potentially enhances critical readings of the history of black music through the capitalist economy. Whether Lamar provides an alternative view of the material conditions—what should be done considering these circumstances—remains to be seen.

Beethoven produced a body of work which, in my view, exemplifies the two fundamental priorities of the modern project of New Music: (1) the critique of (possibly flawed) traditional models and (2) the creation of newer (perhaps more productive) alternative means. The surface of the composer’s discourse—the rhetorical tools rooted in functional tonality—is certainly old and familiar to many, but I am not sure that his ability to question, deconstruct, and reassemble musical discursivity has been recognized by large audiences yet. Beethoven, as Adorno and Charles Rosen have argued, is possibly a Classical and a modernist composer at once. (This has also been contended by Michael Spitzer in his book Music as Philosophy[3].) In fact, one could speculate that Beethoven is the ultimate New Music composer, since the object of his critique—the Classical style—is a consistent stylistic formation relatively easy to categorize and scrutinize. From Haydn to Mozart, to the likes of Muzio Clementi and Johann Christian Bach, the Classical style demonstrates a highly systematic approach to formal development. What we know as sonata form is an example of this aesthetic. Sonata form is rooted in a dialectical means of organization, in which two contrasting themes (A and B) in different keys are ultimately reintroduced (and reconciled) in the original key of the movement after having gone through multiple potential organizational options in a developmental section. This form, in its most basic iterations, was commonly used in some movements of instrumental sonatas, chamber music, and symphonies, and was a fundamental pillar of Central European notated music in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Beethoven was thus a composer working in this tradition.
The first movement of Beethoven’s thirty-first sonata for piano is an excellent instance of the composer’s interest in disrupting the traditional logic of sonata form.


Hmm.  I thought Rosen and Leonard B Meyer clarified that sonata form was actually no dialectic at all, and that interpreting sonata form as in any way monolithic, let alone dialectic, was to impose upon the sonata tradition a mode of thought that wasn't contemporary to its evolution.  One of the most basic and by now unpardonable mistakes to make in asserting things about sonata forms is that the form is predicated on thematic contrast.  It's not.  There are reams of sonatas by Haydn where he just had one core theme.  That sonatas from Beethoven forward could be construed in dialectical terms doesn't mean we should necessarily say about sonata form as a whole that "that" is what it's about.  So if the sonata isn't necessarily characterized by two contrasting themes is it "dialectical"?  It could be but Rosen described sonata forms as being based on resolution of harmonic rather than thematic contrasts. 

One of the other elisions that can happen in discussing sonata forms is to overlook that in those sonatas the repeats that are often omitted weren't just there by chance.  I've written in the past about how when you factor in the structural repeats as truly structural that at a very broad level you get a sonata form that can "read" as a verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus, with provisos for the large-scale architectural aspects of sonata forms.  In other words, the way sonatas seemed to be played as instructed from the scores of the time it looks like they had slightly more in common with what we'd call a default pop song structure now, writ large, than with what 19th century music theoreticians claimed about the sonata. 

By the early 19th century the structural repeats started getting omitted in performance but also at the level of the score itself.  Beethoven's "critique" might not have been a critique so much as an allowance for a type of "compression" in which you can omit more and more of the things people could be expected to understand.  Let's take a stab in the dark and propose that if Haydn was Fritz Lang making films in one way then Beethoven, in spite of his more expansive approach to developmental economy, could do so because he'd simultaneously made a Godard like innovation of a "jump cut".  Romantic era expansion of organic development could "work" in the sense that it could presuppose Classic era forms as amenable to formal compressions and not just as a "critique" of those forms.  Leonard B. Meyer wrote in Style and Music that one of the problems of the Romantic era was that composers eschewed convention and old traditions at a formal level but they had no alternatives in practice.  Some innovations happened at the level of how to play with conventions and how to disguise them, but the conventions of the tonal idiom didn't start to really fracture until later. 

As far as Beethoven and subverting the expectations of sonata form go, he did that, but it would be difficult to top subverting the expectations of where sonata for "should" go in Haydn's work.  One of Leonard Meyer's observations about the Romantic era was that in their repudiation of convention and tradition with their quest for the becoming and the new, the music of the Romantics is very short on things like wit.  Haydn lived in an era in which the conventions and expectations of what music was supposed to sound like were so well set that he could constantly play with those expectations and subvert them.  Mozart and Haydn had a capacity for wit because they were already constantly messing with what audiences could expect. So J. A. P.'s comments about Beethoven don't seem exactly "wrong" as they seem too anchored to a mythology surrounding what Beethoven did with sonata forms that takes for granted a view on sonata forms that isn't necessarily a reflection of what that music was on the page as what some 19th century historians may have liked to say about Beethoven's response to what they thought sonata form was. 

There's nothing about a sonata form that is inimical to 12-bar blues, for instance. 

At the expense of losing nuance, if I were to oversimplify my language, New Music is an emancipatory project largely dissatisfied with the world, which thus attempts to project the possibility of other worlds. On the other hand, contemporary music is music created today based on rather superficial aesthetic qualities (instrumentation, gesture, harmony, counterpoint, texture, timbre) found in European classical music. This distinction explains why I define some of Kendrick Lamar’s work as New Music, while it cannot certainly be understood as a form of contemporary music. That is also why there may certainly exist New Music that uses some aesthetic features from contemporary music. In addition, New Music does not have to be new: Beethoven has strong New Music qualities—whether these convey any real potential today or not is an entirely different conversation. To sum up: New Music is ultimately an anti-establishment (and by that I mean all forms of anti-establishment: economic, cultural, educational, artistic) ideologico-aesthetic project, whereas contemporary music does not have to be. [emphasis added]

As a composer myself, I do my best to write New Music. Whether it is notated or not, whether it uses recent technological developments, whether and how it uses Western instruments: these are—to some extent—secondary aspects of my music. Ultimately, I am at a point in my career where my priority is to create works that do not accept a given tradition as a natural artifact. I try to persistently reevaluate the knowledge I have gained over years of study, as well as the tools that I have been given throughout my formal education. This does not come from a dogmatic position, but rather from an experimental hypothesis. My contention is that music may serve to open alternative paths for human existence, through which we may gain access to uncharted phenomenological territories.

At a time when our most immediate collective reality is not only mediocre, but also dangerous and pathologically against the creation of fairer worlds, I would like to believe that there is some work to be done in our field, where perhaps we can reclaim creativity and imagination through the difficult—yet hopefully productive—process of constant self-critique, rigorous historical analysis, and the development of a holistic praxis that is skeptical of the thoughtless reiteration of obsolete models.

At the very least, I would suggest that it is our social responsibility to stick our fingers into the small cracks in this wall of concrete located in front of us—that is, a standardized and commodified existence—which has robbed us of the possibility of imagining a better future.

New Music can be in whatever style you want if you're coming at it from a Marxist enough perspective.  Beethoven can be a paragon of New Music or the embodiment of the terrible ossified Western canon of dead white guys or capitalists depending on who's making the complaint.  It's a strange era we live in (like all the others were strange but in slightly different ways).  If enough people like a thing they annex it within their views and find ways to reconcile it with their views.  So even a Marxist can prize a Beethoven sonata.  A work of art that was a commodity can be de-commodified with the right ideology.

Now I've never really been a fan of art for the sake of art, art that has not justification other than itself.  That has always seemed like a wildly stupid reason to make art.  It's what I'd call consumeristic but it's also a mentality that leads artists to imagine themselves priests of a kind of art religion.  The embrace of an existentialist "because I choose" to life in the arts that dares to imagine better worlds ...

hey, you know Isaiah imagined such a world, or the author of the last twenty odd chapters of Isaiah.  The thing about apocalyptic literature is that in spite of the contemporary Western use for apocalyptic to imagine terrors that must be averted apocalyptic literature was attempting to imagine a better future world.  Marxism is ultimately a secularist variant of Judeo-Christian apocalyptic that imagines that there's no gods who will bring about heaven on earth, we humans will do that ourselves with a revolution of the workers. 

People have been fretting about the dehumanizing aspects of scut work for as long as there has been scut work, most likely.  There have been polemics about how Protestants developed the Protestant work ethic that rewarded selfish ambition depending on who you read and who you talk to.  Another way of formulating things could be to suggest that if you sanctify scut work by saying it's valuable you can increase productivity.  Ellul observed that communist propaganda convinced workers their work was valuable and production increased.  That was half a century ago, perhaps before the jocular axiom emerged within the Soviet system in which it was quipped "they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."  At the time Ellul was writing perhaps the Soviet workers were pretending with more zeal.

To read Marxists write about the social role of the artist any sense of class guilt that they should be artists vocationally at all is sort of like reading 19th century Presbyterians writing about public worship invoking the regulative principle or arguing against instruments in public worship. 
Marxist aspirations for the arts would seem to be of a secularist mirror image to that of church music in a theocracy and for probably obvious reasons.

Im not a Marxist and I can't take Marxism as offering any actual solutions to the plight of the working class because there are no solutions to the plight of the working class and there will never be any, if by a solution for the plight of the working class we mean anything like the idea that boring and dehumanizing scut work will stop being borning and dehumanizing scut work.  It would seem that the solution empires of the past have come up with to provide a psychological narcotic for those tasked with the scut work of building the monuments of empire was to give them roles in the building of the monument, to give them (or a select few of them that were ideally suited to photo ops by looks or intellectually suitable for the writing of press releases) a role in the story of the creation of the monuments of empire.  This can be described in a short phrase as the sum of arts histories. 

At a more local level there was a film called God's Work, Our Witness, in which one Mark Driscoll managed to use the royal "we" to describe the story of how he built his empire and along the way a few people were brought in to share their part of the story of how Mark had set about to build his empire.  Some of those people are lovely, amazing people I still consider friends, by the way.  And I used to go to Mars Hill.  Legacy was what Mark Driscoll implicitly and explicitly promised us and we bought it the way Marxists buy the idea that there will ever be a classless society.

My skepticism about New Music is that its advocates may not recognize they are just part of another empire.  Any of us who are artists at any level are servants of empires.  That's been the startling epiphany in Miyazaki's The Wind Rises that has had me thinking about that for a few years.

Beethoven's work was able to be assimilated into old leftist/Marxist thought by the high-brow crew and it's apparent that people who interpret the world through Marxist metanarratives can still transform Beethoven's work into New Music.  What was written in the context of capitalist/imperialist society in Europe could be transformed into a talisman of the Left by dint of a narrative in which Beethoven was subverting formal tropes of which his work was somewhat deviant from but ultimately exemplary--Beethoven's work became part of the canonic approach to much for which his work was retroactively considered super-revolutionary. 

A similar hat trick regarding the fetishes of capitalism-in-music has been performed by the New Left with respect to popular music.  Whether Beethoven or the Beatles it's still possible for a Marxist to assimilate the music into the ideology.  But then there are plenty of Christians who can assimilate Star Wars into a Christian soteriological parable. If capitalism can assimilate perfectly all modes of rebellion into its mainstream Marxists can return the favor by finding ways to assimilate art made for money into some kind of countercultural aspirational narrative.  It can seem very much like a case of "I know you are but what am I?" that gets repeated back and forth by two kids on the playground, it's just that as we know from the history of the Cold War these two kids on the playground had kind of big caches of nuclear weapons and, in different ways, their own prison-industrial complexes.

I wonder if in many ways the ideal Marxist artist makes art much the same way a Christian monastic would. 

Joan Arnau Pàmies on "New Music" on "the defeat of new music", soft-selling the entrenchment of academic music of the Sessions/Babbitt variety.
...The connection between contemporary music and academia in the U.S. is crucial in order to address New Music’s ramifications. According to Brigham Young University Professor Brian Harker, composition “found its rightful place as an intellectual proposition under the umbrella of ‘theory’ in virtually all college curricula of the early century.”[1] In this respect, “the emphasis was not on original work (…) but ‘on playing the sedulous ape’ to the best models of music literature in the attempt to know how if not what to write.”[2] Composition was thus subordinated to theory as a means to gain greater knowledge about existing music.

 However, in the beginning of the second half of the last century, the relationship between theory and composition as intertwined academic disciplines was responsible for the eventual establishment of composition as a serious scholarly field in its own right. Composition gained its current academic status through a feeble connection to the empiricism that music theory and other disciplines more prone to scientism may appear to explore, despite the fact that composition may not be easily evaluated by means of academic structures associated with scholarly disciplines such as history or physics.

 Milton Babbitt was a pivotal figure in accelerating this endeavor. With Roger Sessions, Babbitt prompted a number of young composers and theorists to explore a scientistic approach to music-making and analysis. ...

The works of Babbitt and his acolytes may be processed through the lens of Reductive Modernism, since their authors did not seem to be concerned with the critique-based project of New Music that I introduced in the second essay of this series. Nevertheless, I would like to suggest that perhaps it is not their music that is Reductive, but the academic discourse that they developed surrounding that music.
 Because of Babbitt and others, contemporary music gained access to academia and did find some solace, but the price of admission was nevertheless very high. By fundamentally treating contemporary music as a field of scientistic exploration, this type of music neglected most of its bonds with modernity and its emancipatory project based on self-critique. This compositional discourse, which echoes the prioritization of newness for its own sake, has considerable potential to be subsumed under a complacent cultural logic by virtue of the discourse’s indifference toward treating music holistically. By not expanding music’s critical capacities beyond its internal qualities (structure), I am afraid that the East Coast serialists helped to build, perhaps unknowingly, a musical-academic culture that is unable to act counterculturally.
At present, contemporary music in U.S. academia has primarily become the space where young U.S. citizens can explore sound creatively without ever needing to consider that music may perhaps be more than a commodity. Without having a desire to be polemical, I am afraid that this music has merely become the elitist entertainment of a shrinking upper-middle class that still can afford to go to college.

For those of us who say that all the arts, by definition, are the activity of leisure and that all vocational artists are by definition members of a leisure class, it's tough to take a composer who does so vocationally as having the best platform for talking about how academia in the U.S. has made "new music" such a hot house flower.  I do desire to be polemical, the academic culture of music and musicology in the United States has become toxic to the extent that popular musical styles like blues and jazz are not regarded as part of the Western canon, even within the United States, while "new music" remains in some sense required study. 

The worry that music from the New Music scene is incapable of acting counterculturally ... why would academic music in the United States, even in the early 21st century, necessarily have a shot at serving the aims of Marxists?  Not that there aren't plenty of academics and artists within academia who are Marxist to some degree or another.  Far from it. 

But academic music and musicology in an imperialist context can only ever be imperialists if Marxists keep their dogma caps on.  Why should anyone expect the Pope to write like Martin Luther?  Why should a Marxist expect an American academic composer to write anything but imperialist music, even if the composer were a Marxist?  This can be where folks forget the class warfare narrative too readily.  :)  Then again, it's not always clear that there's a narrative BEYOND the class war narrative.  What culture will exist when the great revolution comes (i.e. what fundamentalist Protestants in America would call the Rapture)?

The Marxist and the fundamentalist Christian in America are both awaiting a revolution of a kind.  Postmillenialists in the United States had a Manifest Destiny to pursue.  Cultural revolutionaries have a revolution they want to bring about but these are still just empires. 

But there's much that can be agreed with in J.A.P's assessment if we put it this way, New Music of the Sessions/Babbitt variety has always been, relative to the musical communities of other styles, been of a kind that has survived on a life support system.  It's a musical culture that can be likened to a prematurely born baby that has only survived by being placed in an incubator and kept on a life support machine.  Where as in a non-Cold War context such music might have been stillborn, the ideological battles of the Cold War permitted certain styles of music that have never been popular on the whole to survive and have the self-perception of significance within a narrative that would have its mythmakers leaving history ahead.

This was from J.A.P's part 2.  We'll get to part 3.  Part 1 didn't have anything I felt like commenting about.

at the Atlantic, cheaters are gonna cheat, a proposal that cheating is likely an outgrowth of desiring to meet the unrealistic emotional/social expectations of the romantic pair-bond

 Cultural notions of what romance is all about fill us all with heady hopes; cheating is an attempt to fulfill those hopes. That, too, is new. It used to be, Perel said, that people outsourced their expectations of happiness to cultural institutions, organized religion chief among them. People found fullness in their lives—all the stuff of the modern-day wedding vow—not just from their spouses, but from community and civic engagement and religious faith. (Or, as Perel put it: “‘Happy’ used to be for the afterlife.”)
But American culture is increasingly secular, and more to the point increasingly self-directed, in a Bowling Alone and Culture of Narcissism kind of way: We will take our happiness here and now, thank you, and we will do whatever we can to get it. Cheating often stems from the psychological manifestation of that cultural attitude: It’s a logic of “I deserve this,” Perel explains. “It would be a betrayal to myself if I didn’t pursue that.”
Perhaps, given all that, it’s time for us to rethink infidelity—and, more to the point, marriage itself. Cheating, Perel said, “has a tenacity that marriage can only envy”; that alone might be a sign that something is amiss. Long-term monogamy can offer all the wonderful things that wedding vow-ers say it does; it is also, however, a social, economic, and political structure, one that has been less defined by human nature than by cultural expectations. And those expectations are, even in this age of delayed marriage and marriage equality, heavier than they have ever been before. Marriage, so inflated with hopes that used to be outsourced to other institutions, it is probably inevitable that some of them, at least, will burst.

It seems we ever lament the isolation of people these days and how we don't talk to each other any more.  It seemed decades ago there were plenty of stories about how people were all up in our space and we needed to be free.  That was in the last century.  I get the feeling lately that the early "modern" classics fretted about the stifling nature of the kind of social community we now miss in the 21st century.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote something earlier in his life where he remarked on how the young man bewails his singleness and the lack of a wife until he gets a wife, whereupon he bewails the loss of the freedoms he had when he wasn't married.  This wasn't just some case of "the grass is always greener on the other side", it was more a smart-ass observation that resenting your actual lot in life rather than being grateful was the default position of many a man.  We crave the kinds of emotional and relational bonds we feel we lack unless we feel trapped and ensnared by the reality that in those kinds of relationships people actually need us for stuff and we feel we have lost our freedoms or some sense of ourselves.  The things we're nostalgic for now in pop cultural criticism seemed to be the things that some earlier generations of writers and artists declared they wanted to be liberated from.  We're fretting about ways to recover or discover for ourselves the things that earlier generations of writers and artists and songwriters felt were holding them back. 

That balance will never be achieved.  You will always be imprisoned with and by those people and things you love.  Love that prison.  Love those people. 

But along the way, if you're not already paired off maybe ask yourself why on earth you would want to be.  Years ago a friend was telling me he wasn't gifted for singleness (and it seems every evangelical guy in the north American continent keeps saying this!) and I asked him what it was he thought he was going to get out of married life.  Intimacy, he replied.  I told him that marriage is like the cave Luke visits in the Empire Strikes Back.  Minus the dark side of the force, perhaps.  But the point is that when Luke asks "what's in there?" Yoda replies, "only what you take with you."  Marriage is like that, it seems.  If you want to find intimacy in marriage then bring it with you, don't expect the other person to have brought it along to share it with you if you don't already have it yourself. 

Defining down "cheating" in the face of unrealistic expectations made about the romantic pair bond is unconvincing.  If the problem has been that we expect too much of the pair in love why would a "solution" to cheating be to define cheating down?  What if an alternative would be to propose modes of social identity and cohesion that don't have as a given the sexual bond?  As in, it wouldn't be straight, gay, etc pair-bonding but other stuff.  Our social lives seem to be defined by work, sex, or hobbies.  If religion used to be a unifying variable in the past and is so no longer then what do we come up with as analternative?

To go by journalists who write about TV the alternative narratives that play the civic role religion may have at one time would go by titles such as Mad Men or Game of Thrones.  Marxists who believe that capitalism oppresses people may want the unifying narrative to be class warfare and Marxism but Marxists are like fundamentalists who believe in the Rapture, they make their livings by constantly promising an apocalypse we never see coming along.  For those of us who are amillenialists we're not looking for a Rapture, wehther the dispensationalist Hal Lindsey style rapture or the class warfare Marxists are into.  It could still be the same 19th century postmillennialist hubristic optimism underlying a Marxist critique and a Christian fundamentalist critique of life as it is. Not that it doesn't stink a lot of the tiem, it's just that the only thing worse than life as it is is what life turns into when the people who want us to lvie for better start imposing that on us. 

So ... is Brexit to be understood in terms of class war or generation-war-as-class-war or ... ?

There have been those who have framed the recent Brexit referendum as a decision of the old against the young, of localist against globalists, and a variety of other battles between darkness and light.  Since the sun has been setting on the English empire since it fought in two nominally globe-spanning conflicts there's a sense in which this American in Seattle can't pretend to be hugely invested in what just happened.  Pop culture icons such as James Bond and Doctor Who would seem proof enough from the Cold War era the Brits know their empire has been in decline.

Noah Millman had an observation he tossed out on the net recently about how it seemed as if there was a pattern, that those most angry about Brexit seemed to be of a shared demographic:
I think that’s all pretty much right [link and excerpt forthcoming within this this post]. But I notice something. All of those links in the “shock – fury – disgust – despair” paragraph are to Anglo-American writers. What do people on the continent – those whom Britain would leave – think of Britain’s announced intention to depart?
It’s from the Anglo-American liberal commentariat, primarily, that I see the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, and the rending of garments. These people do seem to have suffered a blow to their faith. But what is the nature of the blow?

Well, the one thing I can definitely say about Britain leaving the EU is that it will take Britain out of the rooms in which the decisions about the structure of the EU are decided. It will make Britain an observer to, and an outside influencer of, rather than a participant in, European politics. The European project may go forward, or may go backward, or may go forward in a wholly new direction. But it will go forward without Britain.

Will France and Germany agree on the compromises necessary to make Europe work? It’s not clear – and never has been – but the Brexit forces the question.

here's the link mentioned in the Millman post, with an excerpt or two:
If history is moving inexorably toward humanitarian universalism, then giving it a sharp shove forward every now and then might be necessary and even admirable. And it certainly won't meet any significant resistance. It will merely hasten the inevitable.

But what if progressivism isn't inevitable at all? What if people will always be inclined by nature to love their own — themselves, their families, their neighbors, members of their churches, their fellow citizens, their country — more than they love the placeless abstraction of "humanity"? In that case, the act of ignoring or even denigrating this love will have the effect of provoking its defensive wrath and ultimately making it stronger.

It makes perfect sense to be surprised, saddened, and concerned by the outcome of the Brexit vote. But shock? Fury? Disgust? Despair? That's what a person feels when he discovers that his most dearly held fundamental beliefs have led him astray.

Wake up, progressives! You have nothing to lose but your illusions.

Now maybe one of the troubles with Brexit is that a globalist elite is upset at a decision, and maybe they can present it as old people hating young people but that kind trumped up generational resentment seems so ... American.  There may be plenty to the left and the right who hated the UK being part of the EU for a variety of reasons. 

That not everyone who has been in the European Union has been happy to be in the EU reminds me of something somebody wrote--the observation was made some fifty years ago that the ideology that ... well ... here's the quote:

Leonard B. Meyer
Copyright (c) 1967. 1994 by The University of Chicago
ISBN 0-226-52143-5

page 179-180

Although diversity had been growing since the seventeenth century, the fact was seldom squarely faced. The very ideology that nurtured pluralism tended, until recently, to eclipse its presence and obscure its significance. To believe in progress, in a dialectic of history, or a divine plan was to acknowledge, at least tacitly, the existence of a single force or principle to which all the seeming diversity would one day be related. To accept the Newtonian world view, or later the theory of evolution, was almost inevitably to subscribe to monism and to look forward to a time when all phenomena would be reduced to, or subsumed under, one basic, encompassing set of laws. The notable achievements of science were taken as proof that Truth was One. Behind the manifest variety of phenomena and events lay, it was supposed, the latent unity of the universe which would eventually be discovered and embodied in a simple, all-embracing model. Because the oneness of things was what was real, surface diversity and incongruity could be disregarded.

But this picture of the world is, as we have seen, no longer entirely convincing. ...

Meyer proposed that the ideology that nurtured pluralism had, until the 20th century, eclipsed observable diversity itself. Where Meyer went on to emphasize that the assumptions made by the ideology that fostered pluralism were suspect, I think there's another way of putting things--the actual diversity that came to be observable in the world across space and time became too big to fit within the ideals of a universal brotherhood of Man as conceived in Western European terms (insert "patriarchal/imperialist, etc" here if you like).  It was supposed that in the end we'd all discover that we bleed the same blood and that means we're the same.

But we're not, even if we are.  Our stories are different and in lieu of a shared story that could unite us all as humans we'll default to the stories that define us.  You know, people who are into Marvel are into Marvel and people who are into DC are into DC and only some are into both or you could say a majority of humanity is understandably into neither. 

We now see that the pluralism within the world, within the span of humanity, is vastly greater than the ideology that nurtured the Western conception of pluralism can possibly contain. 

The recent news about Brexit might suggest that if western Europe can't swing a shared story of pan-European identity that the progressive dream of a humanity that sees itself as one seems impossible unless a religion that envisions all of humanity as united on the basis of something or other were invented.

That's been done, like, dozens of times.  And attempts at secularist counterpoints have been of limited success.  There are not more Star Trek conventions than there are churches.

Noah Berlatsky predictable contests the idea that "grit" rather than privilege indicates success ...
Modest talent, firm commitment; Duckworth would probably find both of those in my life story. When I first entered school, I bombed the IQ test for being placed in the honors track; I was not, according to standardized measures, very talented. But my third grade year, I had a teacher who focused on writing skills, and I fell in love. I was determined to be a writer, and eventually I succeeded. I was the valedictorian of my high school class, majored in creative writing in college, and stuck with my dream even as it became clear after school that no one was interested in publishing my poetry. I applied to MFA programs for three years, but when that didn't work out, I moved into writing criticism. And I now make a living writing, in spite of standardized testing and MFA programs both.

That's grit. Right?

I'm sure Duckworth could fit my life story into a grit narrative if she wanted to. I'm less convinced. IQ test or no IQ test, my dad was a college history teacher, and my family always had tons of books around the house—I had resources and support, and it was always more likely than not that I'd do well in school. The teacher who inspired me in third grade was in England; my family spent a year in London for my dad's sabbatical that year—an opportunity most of my peers certainly didn't have. After my poetry dreams crashed, I was able to turn to freelance journalism and criticism in large part because my wife has a steady job. "Grit" in my case is less about continually striving in the face of trials and adversity, and more about having sufficient luck and resources that those trials and setbacks weren't overwhelming.

Duckworth acknowledges this to a certain extent in her book; she notes, for example, that one of the best ways to cultivate grit is through extracurricular activities. However, people living in poverty generally can't afford to enroll their children in dance, swimming, karate or band classes. "There is a worrisome correlation between family income and Grit Grid scores," she admits. Duckworth's grit test is, in part, merely yet another way to separate the rich from the poor. People with grit know they can overcome challenges because they've overcome challenges in the past: an experience you're much more likely to have if you have the material resources that allow you to keep pursuing your goal via other means if, for example, you can't get into a program in your chosen field.

Grit is, at its core, merely a re-statement of the ethos of meritocracy. People who work hard succeed, and deserve to succeed. Those who don't work hard… well, they deserve to succeed less. But as Thomas Piketty has pointed out, throughout history, in most of the world, "hard work" netted you bupkis. Jane Austen's heroines focus on marrying well rather than on a career because they know that in a stratified society such as theirs, the income from work will almost never rival the income from inherited capital.

That last sentence there might elucidate why some guys don't like Austen, since in Austen's narrative world the heroine prevails through lining up or accepting a suitable proposal, whereas many a guys' narrative is the hero's journey a la Campbell where the journey may be refused but the greatness is embraced at some point anyway.  Would that correspond to a woman saying "no" to a marriage proposal and later agreeing to marry the guy anyway? 

Many of us are Charlotte Lucas in the end, playing the hand we've been dealt.  Maybe an Elizabeth Bennett can protest that we should hold out for more or better, but the Lizzys of the world have station and beauty and wit enough to hold out for a better offer because a better offer will be made. 

So if Noah Berlatsky recognizes his career trajectory in letters has been a Charlotte Collins rather than an Elizabeth Darcy trajectory it's cool to observe that "grit" isn't going to be a substitute for playing the hand you've been dealt. His larger point is that many people have been dealt a hand that, in the context of the economic game of society life, isn't even a "playable" hand.  My skepticism about the right over the last twenty years has been that they deny that some people get dealt a hand so bad they can't play with any chance of "winning".  But my skepticism about the left is that, to keep with the card game analogy, there are any better cards in the deck.  You can redistribute the cards as much as you want but someone will always get losing hands.  You can debate who should get the losing cards and why and see what paradigms of payback "ought" to guide that process but even the most enlightened sorts of people on the left will never transcend the paradigms of payback.

whatever the Ben Op is, it seems unlikely to be a low church thing in the US--low church Americans are busy trying to salvage the empire that Ben-Opers say we should disconnect ourselves from
The “Benedict Option” refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents. Put less grandly, the Benedict Option — or “Ben Op” — is an umbrella term for Christians who accept MacIntyre’s critique of modernity, and who also recognize that forming Christians who live out Christianity according to Great Tradition requires embedding within communities and institutions dedicated to that formation.

Not sure I'm going to grab the book when Dreher's thing on the Benedict Option comes out.  I've read bits and pieces here and there.  What I've read so far has suggested to me that whatever the Benedict Option may be ... it probably won't be possible to formulate within a low church tradition (that's not quite as oxymoronic as it might first seem to be to people from high church traditions).

Why does it seem like the Benedict Option won't be possible from a low church American idiom?  Alastair Roberts got at some of the reasons I think it won't be feasible in his piece for Christ and Pop Culture called "Evangelicalism's Poor Form":

...  There is a sort of evangelical folk religion, most of which is largely unauthorized by pastors or elders.typically experienced as a set of abstract and explicit doctrines or beliefs held by individuals, but more as a distinctive cultural environment within which such beliefs are inconsistently and idiosyncratically maintained. The official beliefs of evangelicalism exist alongside a host of other miscellaneous elements and the cross-pollination from the surrounding society, all sustained within local churches and a shifting constellation of denominations, movements, ministries, groups, and agencies.

In Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith argues for a movement from the category of “worldview” to that of the “social imaginary” (68). While the former category accents the cognitive and theorized dimensions of our Christian faith, the latter is founded upon the recognition that much of our Christian formation occurs on an affective and non-cognitive level. Our characters and minds are forged through bodily practices, institutions, liturgies, rituals, stories, icons, and the material culture that surround us. In our fixation upon the trickling down of culture from the beliefs in our minds we have frequently failed to appreciate the ways in which our thinking bubbles up from the world of our bodies, via our imaginations.
Evangelicalism’s innocence of or resistance to form has been a key factor in its development and one of the reasons for its many successes. Its characteristic fluidity rendered it more versatile, footloose, and adaptable than many other forms of Christianity, facilitating gospel outreach, missionary endeavour, movement into new contexts and less hospitable fields, and proactive adaptation to new cultural developments. It is also one reason why evangelicalism has widely come to find the core of its identity in the parachurch, rather than in more established ecclesiastical structures.

Where form has become a matter of theological ambivalence, it can become a continual focus of pragmatic concern. Evangelicalism has displayed an immense degree of innovation in the area of church structure for this reason, instrumentalizing ecclesiology for the sake of mission, producing a vast menagerie of ecclesiologies and modes of church: seeker-sensitive churches, purpose-driven churches, house churches, cell groups, megachurches, multi-site churches, Internet churches, pub churches, drive-in churches, etc.

This same protean nature is displayed in evangelicalism’s largely uncritical welcome and adoption of new technologies and cultural forms. Evangelical churches are often distinguished by such features as their use of contemporary musical styles, modes of dress, conspicuous use of state-of-the-art audio-visual technologies, their colloquial manner of speech, heavy online presence, and their ecclesiastical architecture that breaks with tradition to adopt the pattern of modern auditoriums. Evangelical identity is also widely expressed through the forms of a consumer society: through corporate models of Christian leadership, through the production, marketing, advertising, and selling of a Christianity that functions like a “brand” on everything from mints to keyrings. Few pause to question whether these forms of expression might be shaping us in unhealthy ways, assimilating us into culturally prevailing habits, dynamics, and ways of life and perception, all beneath the cover of a thin veneer of Christianity.

When American evangelicalism has spent generations repudiating "dead formalism" and "mere religion" in favor of adaptively assimilating attractional methods refined in marketing, then the informal culture at play may preclude the preservation of those things that those who would resort to a Benedict Option might want to preserve ....

or, far more likely for American evangelical conservatives who might wish to formulate a Benedict Option on their end, inventing such a culture from the ground up.

It's not a big shock that an Eastern Orthodox Christian could propose a Benedict Option.  The high church traditions have traditions and cultural properties they consider worth keeping.  That any of us, if we wanted to, could go listen to the Masses of Palestrina or get recordings of Byzantine chant or look up the Anglican prayer book tells us that these are traditions that have studiously kept their best arts and literature around for safekeeping.  Peter Leithart can blame it on Marburg if he likes but American Protestants may never produce the literature he wants not because they're Protestants, but because they're Americans. 

The popular assertion that the Dark Ages referred to the West after the fall of the Roman empire and before the Renaissance seems more than a bit sloppy.  There was a renaissance a millennium ago, if not the kind of one that modern secularists might want to recognize as such.  But let's just concede that the "dark ages" lasted from the fall of the Roman empire to whenever a contemporary secularist wants things to have gotten better.  The emphasis would still be on the fall of the Roman ... empire. 

This could be one of those times where the fall of a centralized military/political empire as the start of "dark ages" seems counterintuitive, if our intuition has any moorings in what's known as traditional liberalism of either a non-Marxist or even a Marxist variety. 

If people want an era in which there's no imperialism the Dark Ages should be our most favoritest era in the human history ever.

To cycle back to Dreher's description "The “Benedict Option” refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire [emphasis added], and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents."

The reason the low church traditions in the United States will probably never successfully embrace or formulate a Benedict Option is they're too busy trying to maintain the American empire on the one hand, or to wrest social prestige or control within it back to the level they feel they deserve on the other.  In a variety of ways Americans to the left and the right within the context of an American empire are laboring to make Christianity conform to the American ideal rather than considering themselves aliens and strangers to this land.  So in that sense I just can't even find the possibility of feeling bad for the Southern Baptist Convention if it is seen as hijacked by neo-Calvinists or as losing influence.  To the extent that Christians on the left and right have seen fit to ally themselves to the American empire in the hopes of socially engineering the kind of empire they want America to be, that's not going to be a Benedict Option, whatever the Benedict Option may be.

Ironically there are those who lean right as well as left who believe that the future of the United States should stop being an imperial one.  Thanks to the propagandistic narratives the left and right have been busy spinning about each other within their own respective echo chambers there will be no common ground.  One of the weird ironies of reading political commentary from across the political spectrum is that the left and the right have had some agreement, in some circles, on the problem of the United States having become to imperial.  I've tended to describe myself as a moderate actual conservative rather than a neo-con, and for at least a decade (or more) I've felt the Department of Defense should be one of defense rather than offense.

All empires die.  The United States is going to wither.  My skepticism about revivalism over the course of my life is that generally revivalism has always had at its surface, not even as a subtext, a lament that America has stopped being great and that if we would just turn to God in prayer that America would be great again.

Well, Babylon was described as great.  What did God do to Babylon?  Christians, whether leftists or rightists, who think that America is an empire worth saving are making the same category mistake.  The focus is on the empire of this world rather than Christ.  By all means contriute as positively as you can within the system in place as you feel led by conscience. 

But the American low church tradition, with its emphasis on revivalism, will probably never formulate a Benedict Option.

Friday, July 01, 2016

while some complementarians debate the Trinity, let's not forget that if we actually read the Bible some women in Iron Age patriarchal monarchies were trusted to address military, judicial and religious policy with generals and kings in a way that CBMW seems to have never picked up on

Being sorta Reformed (Presbyterian, Calvinist, even a supralapsarian sort) I've tried to keep some track of what's gone on in the last month on complementarian debate about the nature of the Trinity.

This, then, is the tragedy of the moment in the reformed evangelical world—and I don’t think that’s too strong a word for it. We are master Bulverists. In one sense, this makes Trueman and Goligher’s initial posts even more inexcusable, of course: If they are right about Big Eva, then all the more reason to be careful in how they structure their criticism. Even so, there is absolutely no reason for us to still be talking about that after the more even-handed critiques raised by other scholars. (Dr. Trueman’s response to Dr. Mohler was also quite restrained, it should be noted.)

One of the troubles with formulating the debate between different modes of complementarian thought is that by sticking with a debate at the level of the Trinity complementarians seem determined to not pay any attention to the narrative literature of the Bible to see what that might tell us about what options were considered possible/acceptable to women in the pages of the biblical narratives.

The reason CBMW and Team Piper can seem so remarkably stupid when holding forth on the topic of what women should or should not, or can or cannot be able to consider with respect to respecting male authoritah is that it seems as though these are guys who have immersed themselves in dogmatics that have willfully steered clear of the biblical narrative literature.  As in just about any of it.  I remember slogging through that foreward to that book about biblical manhood and womanhood and other than reading an incoherent tautological swirl I can't remember either of the two concepts being defined except in some nebulously dynamic relationship to the other. 

But somewhere along the line that Sarah Palin running mate thing inspired some guys to say that women having those kinds of roles was a sign of a failure of some kind in society.

As Barry Webb put it in his NICOT commentary on the book of Judges, the book of Judges never actually TELLS US that ANYONE thought Deborah was not supposed to be judge over Israel or a prophetess. 

There's another observation Webb made about how prophets didn't really predict anything in the book of Judges but rebuked Israel for disobedience but that might be for some other time; the observation that there was no remotely eschatological component to prophecy in the book of Judges and that it was generally tied to judicial activity is something we can get to later.  For now, let's repeat again that Deborah was not described as judging Israel or being a prophet counter to some otherwise disclosed divine plan for a patriarchal alternative.  Didn't the Lord say back in Deuteronomy that the Lord would raise up a prophet?  Who's going to tell God it shouldn't have been that woman Deborah?  Apparently today's super-Calvinists who have a thing for complementarianism of a stripe.

That debates about the Trinity are so prevalent in the Reformed blogosphere seems completely embarrassing.  I've found it sad that the Trinity is being invoked because it's not like we "have" to go to that level of Christian doctrine. 

Complementarians who are concerned about enforcing womanly docility ... you know, it's like for them Numbers 27 just isn't in the Bible.  Does that story not instantly spring to mind the second I mentioned it?  Let's revisit how the daughters of Zelophehad went to Moses and Aaron and Eleazar and the elders of the congregation and made a case to make an exception to land inheritance laws.  And the Lord said what the daughters had said was right.  So ... change the inheritance laws.  Should a man die without sons, daughters get the inheritance. God introduced an exception to the existing laws after women petitioned for a change in the precedents because of a unique case.   Where John Piper's posse had that thing about whether or not a woman should be a police officer because that might involve saying stuff of some kind, the daughters of Zelophedad petitioned for (and got) a change in the Mosaic laws regarding inheritance and daughters from Moses who, in turn, got the changes ratified from God according to Numbers 27.

There are other narratives in the Bible where women are shown as not settling for mediation and enquiring of the Lord themselves.  But we'll just allude to those cases.  Ideally you should already know about those.

In the course of blogging and interacting with some bloggers, I've commented a little bit over at Wendy's blog this year.  One of the questions that came up was whether there was anywhere in the NT where women are described as teaching in authority over men.  I proposed over there what I'll briefly repeat here, the conflation of "prophecy" with pastoral activity such as preaching and teaching is a basic category mistake.  In the Old Testament the responsibility for educating the people at large is designated to the priests.  Prophets play and advisory, ad hoc judicial role.  Someone proposed along the discussion at Wendy's blog that Moses was a prophet who publicly instructed.  Well, yes but no.  Moses was a prophet but for everyone who doesn't remember Numbers 11-12 off the top of their heads, God said that prophet was at one level and Moses was at a higher level.  MIRIAM was a prophet, MOSES was the lawgiver. 

Whatever prophecy was it apparently wasn't exactly public teaching.  Let's not ignore the seventy elders from Numbers 11 who were appointed to do what?  Help Moses adjudicate the case law and handle legal issues.  They prophesied, but for a little while.  Moses wished that all Israel might prophecy.  Why?  Well, here's a suggestion, if they could also prophecy to the point of knowing the will of the Lord in a particular context then Moses would certainly not have to keep adjudicating every single case they'd previously been bringing before him. 

As I pointed out in conversation at Wendy's blog (and will have to repost here some time) the prohibitions in the New Testament epistles make it impossible to suppose prophecy would really mean preaching.  Why?  Because if women were barred from speaking at all in the churches yet could prophesy with a head-covering AND the daughters of Philip the evangelist became famous for being gifted in prophecy then prophecy had to be something besides public/group instruction. The prohibitions regarding women (setting aside the debates about the possibilities of interpolation/redaction for the moment) clarify what prophecy could NOT be based on the claims that women could not do X in groups.  For instance, if you read through this ...

I would say that a fifth (kind of) view alternative to the four presented at CBMW is not hard to come up with.  The daughters of Philip the evangelist were regarded as having recognized prophetic ability and taken seriously enough to merit mention by Luke but that since prophetic gifting did not necessarily entail either an apostolic level of authority (Paul basically ignores Agabus' warning, for instance) or the requirement of public instruction that the complementarian, the daughters of Philip could have an advisory role not just for the disciples but for others.  Since prophetic activity in general (as distinct from explicitly canonized prophecy) was pretty easily observed to be advisory there's room to modify the "complementarian" view presented by CBMW to cast off any potential conflation of prophetic activity with what Mark Driscoll so lazily called "writing books of the Bible". 

Going back to the Old Testament to survey the sweep of prophetic activity (and by this I mean narratives about prophets, not just the prophetic books, which need to be regarded as distinct by virtue of canonicity within the larger range of descriptions of prophecy), we see that nobody seemed to have any intrinsic problem with women being prophets.  If Josiah's court consulted Huldah for the reliability of the book of the Law it's because they trusted her judgment.  2 Kings 22 shows Josiah rending his clothes and asking the priest to enquire of the Lord.  What does the priest do?  He and others go to Huldah.  Huldah tells the group that to the man who sent them, wrath was coming but to the king, things would go better. 

One of the things here that seems puzzling is why Huldah would address "the man who sent you" (the group) in a dramatically different way than she addressed the king.  My only guess here, not being a textual scholar, is that the narrative seems vague as to what the priest may have said.  Josiah sends the priest and the PRIEST chooses to go see Huldah.   If the priest himself doesn't recognize the book of the Law for what it is, would he want to admit in front of a known prophetess he doesn't even know the book is what it is? Perhaps Huldah, getting the sense that the priest wouldn't come by to verify the credibility of a possibly canonical law book unless he himself didn't know, makes a sideways rebuke to him before addressing the king.  That's just my best guess. 

Let's not undersell the point here, when Josiah rends his clothes and tells the priest to go enquire of the Lord about that book of the law that the priest himself doesn't recognize to be a legitimate book of the law, the priest goes to the woman who is known to be a prophet.  The Josiah-era reforms happened because of a prophetess. 

If there are complementarians who would insist that Deborah was not "supposed" to have been judge over Israel or a prophetess because in the time of the Judges Israel was far from God, should Josiah have not heeded the words of Huldah the prophetess?  Should Josiah have just held out for some dudely bro prophet to confirm that this was, in fact, the book of the law?  The absurdity of the alternative seems obvious to me but it probably won't be to the types of complementarians who are already committed to the idea that Deborah was in some sense a providential back-up.  The kinds of young restless Reformed dudes who would endorse meticulous sovereignty in defending John Piper talking about a collapsing bridge think that God somehow didn't exactly want Deborah to a be prophet and judge, or Huldah to verify the book of the law?  I'm not that kind of complementarian (I'm not particularly keen on complementarianism or egalitarianism as I believe they're both just pissing contest teams about how can grant or gain access to institutional power within 501(c)3s in the United States at the moment). 

Believe it or not, we haven't even remotely exhausted case studies from the narrative literature in which women said things authoritatively to kings and were taken seriously as having a prophetic and judicial prerogative.  How about the woman from Tekoa who rebuked David? 

How about the woman of Abel Beth maacah?  Don't remember her?  2 Samuel 20 ... When Joab besieged that town a wise woman bargained with him to end the siege in exchange for the head of one usurper.  Joab was willing to suspend the siege to talk with her because, as she pointed out in her case for clemency on the city, her hometown was known as a place of wisdom.  Joab's reply was that he wasn't there to destroy the town but to seek one man.  So Sheba lost his head. 

One of the reasons I can't take complementarians from the CBMW/John Piper side seriously when they talk about the Trinity is because if they were going to make a case for their side, invoking the Trinity is an idiotic way to do that.  Carl Trueman and others have been making that point in a variety of ways.  Aimee Byrd and Wendy Alsup have been addressing other elements.  Wendy and I are in agreement that while the NT does not show women operating in priestly roles there's no indication they weren't taken seriously as able to work in prophetic roles--we've got some consensus about the basic idea that prophetic activity was not necessarily priestly instruction.  As I hope has been cleared up here with reference to Numbers 11-12 prophetic activity can be pretty broadly connected to judicial/policy matters and establishing veracity of religious polity in consultation with nobility and the priestly class.  This isn't just observably the case in Judaism ... by the way.

Divination, Politics and Ancient Near Eastern Empires

The seventy elders were described as prophesying in Numbers 11, If complementarians took seriously the ad hoc judicial aspect of prophecy throughout the OT and took more seriously that prophetic activity was generally advisory and that this is strongly implicit in the arc of Deuteronomy 16-18 then it might be easier to make some kind of consistent case for why women can prophecy but not necessarily take on the priestly role of instruction.

Trouble is, a lot of Protestants have insisted that prophecy is preaching and preaching is what pastors do and after a few centuries of that, well, you might as well concede the whole argument to egalitarians if that's what you honestly think the Bible says about prophecy.  Or it also might mean you don't actually know what the Bible says at all regarding prophetic activity ...

This admittedly rambling blog post has touched on just a few cases from Old Testament literature discussed in this book by Esther J. Hamori that was published last year.

Women's Divination in Biblical Literature: Prophecy, Necromancy, and Other Arts of Knowledge
Esther J. Hamori
Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library
(c) copyright 2015 by Yale University
ISBN 978-0-300-17891-3

It's not a difficult read and while I didn't quite agree with Hamori on a few points (I don't take it as given that Huldah's initial rebuke was to Josiah as she seems to, for instance), her book is a useful overview in case anyone wasn't familiar enough with the Old Testament to know of the stories she discusses from the narrative literature.  I haven't seen any indication that either the Gospel Coalition or the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has reviewed Hamori's book.  They will probably not care for her take on the necromancer of Endor.  I found it improbable that she proposed the necromancer isn't in any way condemned in contrast to Saul.  Condemnations of necromancy are abundant enough in Jewish literature that some things didn't have to be explicitly condemned to carry an implicit rebuke.  When Saul was warned that rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft the author of Samuel seems to tip us off to an irresistible irony--having stubbornly declined to carry out instructions from Yahweh when given them in more direct and unsolicited ways, at the end of his life Saul seeks a word from the Lord but only finds one after he has embraced the use of necromancy and this gets him yet another rebuke and a confirmation of his rejection.  It's one of the thematic ironies of Israel seeking a king in Samuel, they sought a king like other kings and God warned them that their punishment would be that they would actually get what they wanted. 

To bring back an reference to Barry Webb's commentary on Judges, it was interesting Webb proposed that when we see how the later judges appointed their sons to rule after them or with them, and when we consider how bad the judges themselves became, it's possible to have some sympathy for Israelites wanting to make things official.

So far it can seem as if CBMW is more dedicated to explaining away cases like Deborah or Huldah in light of Baptist complementarian commitments in 21st century America rather than dealing with the narratives on other terms.  It could seem at first blush that women in Iron Age patriarchal monarchies had more freedom to question generals and kings and priests as to their knowledge of the scriptures and the ethics of their decisions and commitments than CBMW seem to want from women at blogs.  Hamori's book might be a useful contribution to evangelical discussion ... if any evangelicals would bother to read it. Well, okay, one has, and is currently recommending it be read.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

former MH PR chief Justin Dean got a product available on how to Bad Pres Proof Your Church you can buy, replete with tried and true techniques that will help your church handle PR crises the way ... Justin Dean did.

Bad Press Proof Your ChurchDownload a complete Crisis Plan for your church + one-on-one training.

If you follow the linkage it gets you to ...

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An alternative possibility, given the case study involved, is that you could spend hundreds of hours here or elsewhere reading about the life and times of the former Mars Hill Church for no more money than it would cost you to maintain your existing internet connection.  If it be said that you get what you pay for, well, even Dean's content is steeply discounted, and at least Wenatchee The Hatchet can testify to having met the three co-founding elders of the late Mars Hill Church, which Dean may not be able to say.

Caveat emptor's probably the nicest thing to say at the moment.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mark Driscoll and the influence of porn: "When I came to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple"
How many of you would think that a couple that doesn't have enough sex is experiencing demonic spiritual warfare? It's true. How many Christian marriages divorce?  Well, statistically, more than those who are not Christian. When non-Christians can work it out a rate that is more successful than Christians that would indicate to me that Satan has really found a way to climb into bed between a husband and a wife and, in one way or another, cause devastation.

When I'm meeting with a couple and one of them, maybe it's the husband, says, "Well, my wife's not being very nice to me so I'm gonna deny her sex and until she's nice to me I'm gonna withhold it."  That's demonic. ...

To be sure, there are sex addicts in marriage who are unreasonable in their expectations of their spouse but what I'm talking about is the common situation where one person in the marriage wants to be intimate more often than the other and they're rejected, they become bitter,  Satan comes in and feeds that bitterness, baits the hook of their flesh with the temptation of the world, and all of a sudden Satan puts in front of them images and people and opportunities to lead them astray and to destroy everything.

Back in 2008 instructing leaders of Mars Hill (but not from the Sunday morning pulpit), Driscoll formulated the negative version of his teaching, warning that not-enough-sex-within-marriage was part of the ordinary demonic.  It would seem that that wasn't the approach Mark Driscoll took with his wife.  Instead, he came up with a positive formulation, that more frequent sex with him would cure his mood swings and depression.  We'll start with a long excerpt in which Grace Driscoll (or whoever wrote the words with her name attached to them, in case that's what happened), explained how she had to come to an understanding that sex was something close to a real, physical need for her husband.

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 121
... When we married, I (Mark) tended toward sex as god. I was a newer Christian who had accumulated most of his knowledge about sex from culture, locker-room talk, and sinning sexually with a few young women. Conversely, Grace was raised in a home that was religiously conservative when it came to sex, had sinned sexually, and had been sinned against sexually. She considered sex gross. For her I was too much sexually. For me she was too little sexually. We made very little progress for many years until we had spent considerable time talking through our sexual history and beliefs, working together through many hours in the Bible and Christian books to arrive at a unified view of sex as gift.  Once we came to the same place in our thinking about sex, we began to work as allies instead of enemies. Our marriage has never been the same since, and our sex gets better all the time.

When we got married, I (Grace) didn't understand the physical and emotional aspects of sex for men. It seemed with his high sex drive that was all Mark wanted from me and that he didn't appreciate anything else I did. His drive seemed to get stronger the less we had sex, and I wondered if it was an idol to him or if that was normal for me. I later realized it was partially a real physical need, not an obsession, since he wasn't masturbating  or getting relief some other way, which I am thank for. I read somewhere that if you have sex more, it actually decreases the necessity for frequent sex over time for most men. I tried that but it didn't seem to change anything for Mark.

But is sexual intercourse partially a real physical need for an unmarried man or an unmarried woman?  What about a gay man?  What the Driscolls have frequently failed to articulate in the midst of this "partially a real physical need" about Mark Driscoll's self-perceived need for sex is whether it's really a need and, if so, in what way.  That said, Mark Driscoll was clear enough about why he believed he needed more frequent sex.

page 164

As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I cam to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple. For years, when I would endure depression, I tried to talk to Grace about it. Her natural inclination was to want to have long talks about our feelings toward each other, and I know that connecting with her like this is important. But sometimes I was jsut too frustrated and ended up blowing up and hurting her feelings. The truth was I wanted to have more frequent sex with my life, and we needed to discuss how that could happen.

To make matters worse, seemingly every book I read by Christians on sex and marriage sounded unfair. Nearly every one said the husband had to work very hard to understand his wife, to relate to her, and when he did that to her satisfaction then, maybe, she would have sex with him as a sort of reward. After many years I finally told Grace that I needed more sex. I asked if we could have sex more days of the week and try a variety of positions. She'd be the one to decide exactly how we would be together. Grace said that helped her think about our intimacy throughout the course of the day, which helped prepare her mind and body. To our mutual delight, we discovered that both of us felt closer more loved and understood, and were more patient with each other if we were together regularly in some way. And whether my depression was testosterone-induced or not, I just generally felt happier.

But the question that needs to be asked after surveying all this material from Mark Driscoll about himself and on the topic of sex is this--if Mark Driscoll would deign to tell guys in 2016 how to shae free from the influence of porn or strip club culture has he really  engaged all that seriously with the possibility that proximity to strip clubs in his youth and his peculiar attitudes about sex haven't been the cart before the horse?  Mark Driscoll's preaching and teaching for public record on the topic of sex has been taken by a number of Christian critics as functionally being a type of verbal pornography.  As we saw early on in this series from his writings as William Wallace II, there was a point at which Mark Driscoll advocated that there was functionally such a thing as "redeemed" Christian pornography between a husband and wife and he insisted on saying to those who questioned the scriptural and ethical basis for this idea that they were "tweaked in the head".

When Driscoll made fun of interpretations of Song of Songs as a typology of God's love for the Church he peppered his sermons with "I love Jesus, but not like that!" even though he has had no problems with the Groom and Bride metaphor when it appeared in Revelation.  The speed with which Driscoll deployed gay panic jokes to dismiss allegorical or typological readings of Song of Songs and his emphasis on certain texts having to mean what he says they mean in spite of a lack of demonstrable competence in the relevant Hebrew and cherry-picking secondary literature suggests that Mark Driscoll has had a long, long history reading what he wants to read into Song of Songs.  What he's wanted to see in Song of Songs makes it seem improbable that he, of all people, is in a very good place to instruct young guys as to how to shake free of the influence of porn. I can't have been the only person who'd never even heard of the phrase "clear heels" before Mark Driscoll peppered it into his sermons.

My friend Wendy has blogged in the past about how at Mars Hill there was a teaching there that told wives to be their husbands' personal porn stars.

Wendy was discreet in how she broached the subject and described the teaching at Mars Hill in general terms.  While I believe that's necessary, since Mark Driscoll has deigned to vodcast this year about how some guys struggle with porn and that a whole generation is in a battle over this, it seemed necessary to build upon Wendy's observations that at Mars Hill there was a teaching to the effect that a wife should be her husband's personal porn star.  There was no shortage of material to draw upon to illustrate the point.  Driscoll has been able to sell himself as the guy who talks straight talk about sex the way other people won't or don't, as though Christian writing about sex hasn't been a cottage industry for evangelicalism for a generation.

Evangelicals have been making the case that sex within marriage the conservative evangelical way is hotter and healthier since the Reagan administration.  A guy who convinces his wife that the cure for his mood swings and depression is more frequent sex and who sincerely believes this is the one thing that will cure him ... who should trust that guy to instruct young guys who admit to being hooked on porn?  It's not that difficult to establish from the rest of this set of posts who did the lion's share of work formulating the ideal that a man's wife would be his personal porn star within the culture of Mars Hill.  When Mark Driscoll used to scold men for having unrealistic expectations about what sex lives with their wives would be like it seems as if he did everything except look at his own face in the mirror considering where these guys might have gotten those unrealistic expectations he was talking about.


For those who don't remember the various reviews of Real Marriage when it came out in 2012, Heath Lambert noted a very specific irony about the book in his review of it.
The Driscolls desire for people to avoid a pornographic culture, but much of their book grows out of that same pornographic culture and will guide many people into it. [emphasis original]

Had Lambert had an opportunity to read everything presented in this series of posts prior to his 2012 review he might have narrowed "The Driscolls" down to just Mark Driscoll.