Saturday, January 04, 2020

Dear Jim West, Michael S. Heiser wrote a foreword endorsing Mark Driscoll's newest book, Win Your War

I promised myself I wouldn't blog about Win Your War in any substantial detail or length until 2020 and this is not, actually, the post where I intend to do that.  I've written about the business of the "father wound" stuff and what it has to do with the "Absalom spirit" from Win Your War already.

There are three forewords to Win Your War.  The first is by R. T. Kendall, who I admit I have never heard of.   Kendall mentions having met the Driscolls "a year ago" and since the book was published in late 2019 that puts the meeting in the zone of 2018.

The second foreword is by Jimmy Evans. whose connection to the post-Mars Hill Mark Driscoll, for the moment, does not need much elucidation.

The third foreword is from Michael S. Heiser, whose book The Unseen Realm is one of the books in the notes section of Win Your War, which may have the slimmest range of bibliographic references of Driscoll books I have, so far, managed to come across.  This makes reference to Heiser's work the more significant since there are not a lot of books getting referenced.

Heiser mentions on page xxiii that he was approached by Mark Driscoll to read the manuscript copy of Win Your War.  Since Driscoll makes reference to Heiser's work and has, for regular readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet, gone through a plagiarism controversy that was kicked off in an interview with Janet Mefferd near the end of November 2013, it would make sense that Mark Driscoll would want Heiser to read the book.

Whether Heiser was or is familiar with the extent and scope of Mark Driscoll's 2013 to 2014 plagiarism controversy cannot, as yet, be assessed.  Nor can it be known at the moment whether Heiser heard or read about the Result Source contract that was used to propel Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage on to the New York Times bestseller list. Since the last book that Mark and Grace Driscoll co-authored (and at this point where or not Grace wrote the material or it was ghost-written on her behalf may temporarily be moot), it's not an entirely moot point if Michael S. Heiser has or hasn't heard that Mark Driscoll was embroiled in a plagiarism controversy and a controversy about Result Source.

Why mention all that in connection to Jim West?  It took me a while to figure out why there was a proverbial bell ringing in my head about this Heiser book.  In fact it was only in the last few weeks it hit me, ah, yes, Jim West did a little review of The Unseen Realm and had nice things to say about it.

I picked up a copy of The Unseen Realm partly because West gave it a positive review and ... it also turns out Driscoll has referenced the work and approached Heiser with the manuscript of Win Your War and Heiser has written one of the three forewords to the book.  While on the one hand I don't wish to run with a common practice in watchdog blogging in which any form of association imputes comprehensive guilt, Driscoll's controversies were varied and serious enough that I would caution that Heiser's reputation as a scholar may not be helped by writing a foreword to a Mark Driscoll book, even if Driscoll has mended his ways in terms of citation and scholarship.

Back when I was a volunteer on the theology response team at Mars Hill I had to listen to the roughly 4.5 hour teaching session Driscoll did on spiritual warfare in February 2008.  I knew Meyer and Petry had been fired by that point but did not know more than that in early 2008.  I did, however, conclude that there was no way I could renew membership at the church in light of Driscoll's marathon talking about experiences with evil spirits he had; or how in the wake of the firings and trials of Meyer and Petry he described distrust of the executive elders in demonic terms; or how his temporarily infamous "I see things" claim was tied to a recovered memories approach to counseling that has been pretty thoroughly debunked as of decades ago.

It may be a while before I get to writing about Win Your War because the release of the book has reminded me of stuff I've wanted to read.  If Driscoll and the advertisers and sponsors of his book regard it as unusual it's not unusual for evangelicals and charismatics to have written and published books on spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry.  I've got James M Collins' Exorcism and Deliverance Ministry in the Twentieth Century from the Studies in Evangelical History and Thought series I plan to start into this year.  Collins mentioned in the foreword that his book doesn't deal with African American churches partly due to space and partly because he believed a proper treatment of that topic deserves a separate book unto itself.  I'm no longer Pentecostal but I recall the days when John and Paula Sanford had books out and when Rebecca Brown MD had her ... things out there. 

Now Driscoll has mentioned Heiser but Heiser's book makes reference to work by Loren Stuckenbruck and Graham Twelftree, neither of whom get referenced in the new Driscoll book.  So, yes, for curious readers I've got The Myth of Rebellious Angels and Jesus the Exorcist by the two authors I just mentioned.  I've also picked up Amanda Witmer's Jesus the Galilean Exorcist Archie T Wright's The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature, too.
I hope Driscoll has not implied that there has not been much scholarly work on the topic of spiritual warfare because theologians are uncomfortable with it.  There's been a trend in biblical scholarship to look at exorcism, diabology and related topics going on since the 1990s.  Twelftree has specialized in the subject and he's got a book called In the Name of Jesus: Exorcism Among Early Christians I've picked up.  Susan R. Garrett wrote The Demise of the Devil about diabology in the gospel of Luke decades ago and she also has a monograph on the temptation narrative in the Gospel of Mark. 

At the level of more popular level Driscoll had an endorsement blurb of Karl Payne's book on spiritual warfare.  Driscoll has to know that this is not only not a topic that evangelicals and charismatics haven't written about but a topic on which there may be a glut. Back in 2008 he commended William Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armor, which you can get for free in PDF and other formats at Digital Puritan.  I trust my larger point is coming across, there is a burden of proof to explain why, of all the books out there on spiritual warfare for lay readers, and in light of a growing body of scholarly work on spiritual warfare and exorcism and the Enoch literature as an apocalyptic genre relevant to the interpretation of New Testament exegesis and interpretation, did Mark Driscoll think the world needs another manual on spiritual warfare?  The majority of what he had to say in 2008 has been transcribed here at Wenatchee The Hatchet so people can read Mark Driscoll's views on spiritual warfare for free and, not coincidentally, see what was one of the nails in the coffin of my renewing my membership at the church I used to attend.

The forewords to Win Your War mention that Mark and Grace Driscoll have wisdom to share based on personal experience and suffering.  There's no need to question that they have suffered and had troubles, however, it's possible to go through the Old Testament literature and notice a pattern, that leaders who get afflicted by tormenting spirits or by a spirit of calamity in biblical narratives tend to be shown as undergoing attacks because they're evil leaders who have abused their power and mistreated the people of God.  Layperson though I am, I have attempted to grapple a bit with what the biblical writings have had to say about leaders being assailed by spirits.

Back when those posts were written Driscoll's spiritual warfare audio had been purged.  It was some time after I began to quote passages from it about womens' ministry being like "juggling knives" and cross referencing Driscoll's comments about the satanic nature of the distrust of the executive elders in Mars Hill circa 2007-2008 to materials Paul Petry began to release regarding the trial he was subjected to

Should you want to hear what Driscoll has had to say in the past on spiritual warfare you can head over here.

If you want to get a sense of just how much material Wenatchee The Hatchet has written on the history of Mars Hill there's now a whole dedicated page.

I would strongly urge anyone who has considered endorsing Driscoll in the present to peruse the materials.  It's not that I'm specially qualified in this area.  My journalism degree most assuredly didn't land me any work in the field thanks to changes in the field, but what I did have the opportunity to do was compile and observe primary source statements from Mark Driscoll and other leaders of Mars Hill before they began to redact and purge material in response to a variety of controversies.  I have also attempted to handle those materials in journalistic and historical terms so that if journalists and church historians ever want to dig into the materials or books to study Mars Hill they can have some kind of resource, swamp-large as it is, that makes reference to Driscoll books as they were pre-plagiarism controversy so that they can identify differences between first and second or third editions of Driscoll's books. 

I'm not going to assume Heiser knew about any of  the above when he was approached by Mark Driscoll to read a manuscript copy of Win Your War.  In the long run my concern is that a scholar like Heiser has far less to gain from having endorsed any Mark Driscoll book than Mark Driscoll has to gain from being endorsed by someone like Michael S. Heiser. 

Back in 2006 when I started this blog the plan was to write about contemporary classical guitar literature and that's still what I find more fun to write about when I can.  There's some wonderful music being written and recorded.  I also love animation as an art form and have written about that.  I also happened, or perhaps a person could say was providentially at a place that was called Mars Hill Church for a while.  The 2011-2015 period was kind of a half-decade where I wanted to get back to musical topics but felt obliged by conscience and training (the aforementioned journalism degree) t0o chronicle what I saw going on.  I'd rather officially trained theologians and church historians could jump in at some point and really dig into what has gone in during the era of Mars Hill but as yet there have been no takers. 

Meanwhile, I find it a bit unsettling that someone like Heiser has written a foreword to the new Driscoll book because it seems he's got some scholarly credentials and it seems to me that people like Mark Driscoll have been able to get as far as they have without demonstrating any knowledge of the biblical languages by benefiting from a halo effect, relying on the second-hand credibility of being endorsed by other people who have gained a reputation through personal character or scholarly work and who have decided that Mark is a person worth signing off on.  I don't go so far as to suggest he's never been a believer but I would say the cumulative evidence of his treatment of people and the nature of his work suggests that he has not established that he is necessarily fit to continue being in pastoral ministry. 

Now the plan for the blog is still to get back to writing about contemporary classical guitar music.  That's the long-term goal and it always has been.  I'm still incubating posts on Koshkin's wonderful new set of preludes and fugues for solo guitar.  There's now a separate page with tags of music posts if you're more into that and if you are, great, that's more the direction I hope to keep going in.

Normally I avoid "open letter" blog posts like the plague they are in Christian blogging contexts.  So why I have written a blog post that amounts to one?  Well, it's simple.  I've read Jim West's blog now for years and so it couldn't not stick with me that an author whose work he's reviewed favorably has turned out to have decided, for whatever reasons, to endorse Mark and Grace Driscoll's newest book.  I trust I've been clear in getting across that I would prefer Heiser had not endorsed the latest Driscoll book based on what I've been able to observe about Mark Driscoll's approach to leadership and his handling of biblical texts. 


Cal of Chelcice said...

Heiser's not someone who seems to keep up with, or care, about the world of Evangelicalism. He has a kind of one track mind when it comes to popularizing the "deuteronomy 32 worldview", its concomitant points for spiritual warfare, and making Evangelicals smarter about the biblical text. He seems like a guy who will plug someone if they're helping get the truth out there.

RT Kendall is an Evangelical-Reformed scholar-pastor. Years ago he had published some stuff on Calvin and the development of Reformed theology in 16th/17th c., but has generally focused on popular level education, especially as a Reformed charismatic type.

It sounds like Driscoll is trying to get some heavy-weights on his side for his re-brand.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

if Driscoll's been aiming to distance himself from the Reformed scene since he left Mars Hill then these endorsements and making any use of anything by D. A. Carson in his post-MHC books is pretty weird. I'm wondering if Driscoll's trying to brand himself as some kind of post-Calvinist while still relying on the Reformed charismatic/continuationist scholarship he was steeping himself in over the previous twenty years.

Given how extensively Driscoll and company have purged or redacted the most troublesome stuff in his MHC era audio and books actual scholars who weren't already keeping tabs on him couldn't have known the extent of what was going on.

Of course I believe they should try to get up to speed if possible.

chris e said...

While RT Kendall is originally from an Evangelical/Reformed background his spell in that most Evangelical/Reformed of pulpits - Westminster Chapel - changed him in some ways that are hinted at here:

My own feeling was that he felt a strong sense of unfulfilled purpose in his stint there, and the wondering why left him open to consider other things which may not have been wholly Evangelical/Reformed, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but could explain a little of why he ended up endorsing Driscoll's book.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

while I'm basically in the Reformed scene myself I don't think of it as a be all/end all, so if Kendall shifted out that that's not necessarily bad.

My hunch has been that neither Kendall nor Heiser necessarily knows about the controversies that attended Driscoll's late Mars Hill phase and there's a prevalence in American Christian discussions of media coverage that assumes most media coverage is hostile and ill-informed on matters of doctrine ... and this is often true. Heiser has mentioned he's not ordained, so even in the newer figures he's approached it's turning out has leaned toward figures who aren't in the Reformed scene or aren't there at the level of being ordained. That makes sense I recall R. Scott Clark saying that no really Reformed tradition would regard Driscoll's Amyraldianism as acceptable being taught from the pulpit or something to that effect.

So Driscoll seems, with this new information, to still be consistently pushing away from the Reformed scene in terms of whose endorsements he's seeking out. No MacDonald blurb since MacDonald's been busy with other stuff, maybe? However not-Reformed Driscoll is I'm sensing he's not going to go over to being Methodist and be Arminian and egalitarian.

Thanks for the clarifications.

chris e said...

"while I'm basically in the Reformed scene myself I don't think of it as a be all/end all, so if Kendall shifted out that that's not necessarily bad. "

Yes, I was mostly saying that there are - like Heiser - contingent reasons why Kendall might endorse a charismatic Driscoll.

It probably says more about Driscoll than either of them that he sought their endorsement.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

yeah, we're getting a clearer sense from who he approached as to what direction he's going in. He's rebranding as a charismatic and moving away from the Reformed scene.

I'm eventually getting to Win Your War again but there are actually, within the charismatic/pentecostal traditions, already a lot of books on the topic, per my reference to the James M Collins survey. This doesn't just so happen to be the field of research I was interested in going into when I was considering seminary.