Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Becky Garrison has a review of Mark Driscoll's Spirit-Filled Jesus at Warren Throckmorton's website

The most salient information in Garrison's review where this blog is concerned is that basically Mark Driscoll seems to make no reference to Mars Hill at all.  It's as though he went twenty years in ministry and that former network of churches known as Mars Hill the former gigachurch never even existed.

For a guy who has spent twenty years telling guys they need to think about legacy it sounds strange for a man to skip over enough years of his own legacy to have raised a kid to almost legal drinking age in the United States.  

Maybe after the six different accounts of how and why Mark Driscoll resigned that circulated between the day of Mark Driscoll's resignation and the emergence of The Trinity Church it seemed the story or stories had been told enough times. That none of those accounts can be easily (if at all) reconciled with a separate accounting documented by Warren Throckmorton is probably best just simply noted.  Any claim of Mark Driscoll that "he wanted to preach" but "they wouldn't let him" has been contradicted by Mark Driscoll's own for-the-record account enough times that one of the two positions has to be thoroughly wrong, which is not to say deceptive.

We've looked at the narratives in a diachronic sequence in the past, to see what stood out about the narratives.

Earlier accounts have it (the earliest being Driscoll's own resignation letter) that after seeking wise counsel it was considered best to quit Mars Hill.  Robert Morris' account at Gateway had it that he and Mark agreed he should take some time off to heal up, in which case Robert Morris seemed to play significant role in advising Driscoll to resign.  It wasn't until the 2015 narratives at the Thrive conference and the Brian Houston interview that God showed up, in the sense that Mark Driscoll was suddenly saying he got permission from God to leave or "was released".  Now this claim that God said Mark Driscoll was released from Mars Hill can't be squared with Mark Driscoll's own preaching and teaching the year before about how just because some guy says "God told me" doesn't mean you have to believe them.  

Actually ... one of the things we reviewed was that if we go by Old Testament narrative literature the cases in which someone appointed by God to a leadership role who is subsequently "released" tends to be in cases of self-seeking, idolatrous and wicked leaders.

So even if we humor Mark Driscoll with the assumption that he heard a voice audibly say something like "a trap has been set" (which we might want to bear in mind may have been said by someone besides Mark Driscoll first for those who want to trawl through all the available audio) or that a Driscoll heard "we are released" none of this necessarily indicates divine favor--it could, if anything, indicate divine rebuke or judgment if the Old Testament narrative literature is available to consult as ... you know, an authoritative text. But ... maybe there's too much of a praxis and ethos of double-standardized testing for leaders like Mark Driscoll through which being "released" means just shifting from neo-Calvinist to charismatic patronage.  

That Mark Driscoll was willing to apply one set of standards to others that he was not binding himself to seemed pretty clearly signaled in Real Marriage, when he and Grace tried talking to Christian counselors but found many of them had marriages at least as bad as the marriage Mark Driscoll thought he had. (Real Marriage, page 14)--if Mark and Grace Driscoll had a marriage that was bad enough that Mark felt he couldn't trust the counseling advice of someone he thought had as bad a marriage as he had then what was he doing providing marriage counseling to anyone at Mars Hill over the course of its first ten years?  It sounds like there won't be an answer to that kind of question because in Spirit-Filled Jesus Mark Driscoll has published a book in which more or less the entirety of his legacy as a public figure is simply passed over.

So we can probably surmise that there's no finding out what Mark Driscoll meant when he said he heard a voice saying "a trap has been set".  It can't have been the Board of Advisors and Accountability disciplinary process Driscoll repeatedly said he more or less proposed and agreed to submit to.  

Not mentioning Mars Hill at all might make it easier to not address how someone who sounded remarkably like Mark Driscoll told one Russ Bowen "wrong address" in 2014 but then regaled an audience in a church about how a windstorm knocked over a tree that hit his house in subsequent years; or how on the conference circuit he'd shared that one of his boys thought a news helicopter was "bad guys" and had an Airsoft rifle at hand to protect his family ... because it could sure seem to someone with access to all those accounts and bits of news coverage that somebody might have misrepresented some facts somewhere along the way.  The press can't block the driveway to a house that isn't yours, can they?  King David pretended to be insane at some point so ... 

not that Mark Driscoll is a bronze era warlord monarch in the Levant.

It needs to be borne in mind that Mark Driscoll has shown himself to be the kind of person who will say for the record of himself and his wife Grace "we were both virgins" in spite of the fact that they both testified otherwise in the book they were on tour promoting for which they agreed to be interview subjects.  We looked at that last year in a longform analysis of an interview Mark Driscoll had with Sheila Walsh and a cohost

but it may be worthwhile to consult primary source materials again.

Interview by Katelyn Beaty and Marlena Graves/ January 5, 2012
Is there tension in teaching sexual purity before marriage while encouraging frequent and wonderful sex within marriage?
M: No, and for us, we sinned, quite frankly. We were virgins when we met and were sleeping together as high-school boyfriend and girlfriend. Then Grace came back to Christ, and I came to Christ in college, so we had to stop sinning sexually. I'd say if we both could go back and rewrite history and change one thing, that would probably be the thing we would change. [emphasis added] But we did repent and met with our pastor. And then we did get married, between our junior and senior years of college

The statement that both Mark Driscoll and Grace Martin were both virgins when they met each other could not have been more flatly contradicted by the text of Real Marriage:

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 7

Neither Grace nor I was a virgin when we met, and before long we were dating and sleeping together, which continued even after she went off to college while I was finishing high school. [emphasis added]
So on a fairly basic question Driscoll has given two mutually exclusive answers within his published record.  Why can remain a mystery but that the mutually exclusive answers were given is verifiable. 

Even the case of the nightmare recounted in Real Marriage that Mark Driscoll stated he had could seem to have chronologically moved from a few years after the birth of Ashley to just before her birth.

This is not dealing with anything explicitly to do with Mars Hill, these are just cases in which Mark Driscoll has published or broadcast in some way accounts that are confined purely to topics about his own life and family life, and it seems hard for him to maintain a coherent chronology of events on whether he was a virgin or not when he met Grace on the one hand, and the vomit-inducing nightmare connected, in Mark Driscoll's account, to anxieties he had about Grace's faithfulness.

So perhaps a complete avoidance of any discussion of Mars Hill just seemed prudential.  On the other hand, for a guy who told Brian Houston he wanted to compel young men to grow up back in 2015 it would seem that part of being a grown up is being able to account in some detail for what you were doing for the previous twenty years of your life prior to publishing a book with Charisma House.  I'll eventually probably get a copy of the book to look at but this initial review strongly indicates that Mark Driscoll and his team are presently attempting to avoid any discussion of the former Mars hill.

a commenter going by War El commented

"It was never even suggested that James MacDonald had a "gambling habit", only that he played recreational poker (frowned upon in many evangelical circles, obviously) and that he tweeted a public photo of himself from a casino with a famous player on his own Twitter account. When he was corrected by the elders, he promised to no longer frequent casinos and got rid of his basement gambling table. ..."

If MacDonald never played poker with money in the pot that's a useful clarification.  It clarifies that gambling in the conventionally understood sense of having money at stake wouldn't be applicable.  Since among the Mars Hill scene there were known card-counters it's not necessarily a given across the board that all evangelicals frown upon card games.  It is a point worth noting and a useful clarification although if MacDonald was a played recreational poker that doesn't exactly disprove the "habit" part since it's hard to imagine someone being a recreational player of poker only one time under conventional contemporary usage of English.

But the most salient detail about MacDonald was his role on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability during the 2013-2014 period in which Mark Driscoll was embroiled in a plagiarism controversy and a controversy about the use of Result Source because MacDonald was part of the BoAA that initially defended the use of Result Source as neither illegal nor unethical but unwise.  MacDonald resigned from the BoAA around the time paul Tripp did and without a lot of explanation of what he understood to be going on.

The reason anyone's participation in the BoAA in the spring of 2014 remains relevant to the history of Mars Hill has to do with Sutton Turner's 2015 account of what went on within the BoAA.
Posted by Sutton Turner on April 24, 2015 
When the criticism of Mars Hill Global began in the Spring of 2014, I wanted to communicate about what happened with Global, its history, the financials, and my mistakes. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to discuss these things just as I was not permitted to discuss the ResultSource situation in the detail that I felt it deserved. There was actually a division on the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) as some men wanted to put all the blame for both Global and ResultSource on me, but I am thankful for men who did not allow that. [emphasis added]

A Successful, Unhealthy Church

Many staff heard me say during my tenure, “It is a miracle this church still exists.” Jesus was saving people and growing the church in spite of issues with organizational structure, dissension within the staff, and dissension with former members. A 2007 bylaw change had split the church. The issues that led to that bylaw change and its implementation heavily impacted the culture of Mars Hill. In 2012, I asked permission to meet with those directly affected by the events of 2007; permission was denied. Those events in 2007 had unfortunately begun the cycle of distrust and a lack of transparency. One fed upon the other to build an unhealthy culture.

The Result Source contract decision was made within the context of this successful, but unhealthy church. As I have stated before, I was not a part of that decision making process back in the summer of 2011. Because of the Result Source mistake along with other cultural issues, Pastor Dave Bruskas and I began to campaign for greater outside accountability. I wrote two long blogs about the resulting new board (Result Source 2 & Result Source 3). This new Board decided to never use Result Source again and rightfully so.

A radically fast-growing church like Mars Hill would probably not die in a quiet whimper. By 2012, the Board began to plan for the worst-case scenario: how our Mars Hill churches would become independent churches and who would preach during the transition period.  We planned for a potentially fatal “what if” hoping for God’s continuing favor but realistically preparing for the day when the unhealthy culture would overcome us (Gal. 6:7-10).

I left before all of the final details of the plan were completed and executed (“When to Quit”), but I am grateful to those pastors who led and participated in the process. I am also grateful to the staff that worked diligently to give the resulting independent churches the best start possible. I know they all served well during a difficult tragedy and did their best, and I applaud their effort and the resulting work that continues to this day.

A Governing Board Under Pressure

In spite of our best effort to formulate an external board, the board began to crack under the pressure in late 2013 and 2014. Board members faced great scrutiny that affected their full-time ministries and businesses. Many board members probably questioned what they had signed up for in their volunteer role. Communication within the Board became triangulated as informal communication one-on-one and in small groups increased. One board member communicated “to the Board” his ideas for changing the culture in spring 2014. Pastor Dave Bruskas and I (who were members of the board) were not a part of that communication and were not able to discuss and possibly agree with his ideas. When Mars Hill Church was removed from the Acts 29 Network in August 2014, it came as a complete surprise to Pastor Dave and me. However, other board members knew it was coming and never told us [emphasis added] ...

James MacDonald left the MH BOAA around the same time Paul Tripp did and whether or not he knew about an Acts 29 move is moot inasmuch as Acts 29 and Mars Hill board leadership had stopped being functionally co-extensive by mid-2014 ... if memory serves.

At the same time, given what Sutton Turner shared for the record about a rift within the MH BOAA regarding whether or not to pin all the blame for both Mars Hill Global controversy and ResultSource on him in the spring of 2014 whether or not James MacDonald was against or for that is still an open-ended question. 

Having not had a chance to read a copy of Spirit-Filled Jesus for myself I might find more references to Mars Hill in its pages than Garrison did but I'd have to read a copy.  I plan to do that.

MacDonald's role, whatever it was, can't be known unless he or some other member of the BOAA clarifies for the record what he did or didn't do.  Turner's accounts in 2015 of Mars Hill's BOAA in the 2014 period indicate a board that had divisions and was perhaps in some level of chaos.  If after all of that James MacDonald believes Mark Driscoll to be sufficiently rehabilitated to endorse his new book does that mean MacDonald is willing to speak more for the record about how and why he belives that is the case?  After all, as a former BOAA member it would seem he has an unusual position from which to explain what was going on.  MacDonald wasn't very prominent on the "support" list for The Trinity Church circa March 2016, for instance.

But MacDonald was willing to write an endorsement blurb for a book.

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