Sunday, November 24, 2013

After the dust settles

Given how controversial he already is, I'm struck by how quickly the kerfuffle about the Mefferd interview escalated. The sides were lining up minutes later. 

Personally, I doubt Driscoll is worth fighting over. He's a spent force. I think he blew whatever capital he had some time ago. In theological gravity, rising stars become falling stars. 

So why the explosive reaction to the interview? Like lighting a match in a fireworks factory, it only takes one spark to ignite an instant conflagration.

This isn't really about Driscoll. He's a pawn on the chessboard. A placeholder for other larger issues.

Even before the interview, different sides were prepositioned. This is a turf war. This is about controlling the course of the modern Reformed movement. Will it go in the direction of John Piper, John Frame, John MacArthur, Scott Clark, Tim Keller, Carl Trueman, John Byl, John Collins, Douglas Wilson, Tullian Tchividjian, Philip Ryken, Albert Mohler, Wade Burleson, D. G. Hart, D. A. Carson, Tim Bayly, or Rachel Held Evans? 

Peter Enns made an abortive fifth column effort to infiltrate and destroy from within.  

It's really about anterior issues like confessionalism, continuationism, complementarianism, and Darwinism. That's why the debate gets so heated so fast. It was already polarized going in.

Up to a point, theological competition is healthy. In any big, energetic movement, you're going to have strong individuals with clashing views, as well as institutional inertia and entropy. That's a winnowing process. 

Ultimately, it's not the knights, rooks, and bishops on the Reformed chessboard who determine the state of the game, but the Grand Master who is moving every piece according to his appointed ends. Every piece has a part to play, but at the end of the day, we don't control the outcome. Thankfully, that's in far wiser and greater hands than our own. 


  1. Sometimes I wish there were a "like" button on this blog.

  2. Hey Steve,

    I'm a bit confused, but admittedly new to all this. Can you clarify something for me? Were you asking will the reformed movement go in the direction of all those names (collectively) or Rachel Held Evans, or was Rachel Held Evans just the last name in the list? How does she fall into the Reformed category?

    1. She's not Reformed. Rather, she'd like to shift the Reformed in her direction.

  3. What or which Mefferd interview? can you give us a url and who did she interview? Driscoll?

  4. I think it's funny that you put Wade Burleson in that group.

  5. First of all, I would like to say that, as for the whole incident, a plague on both their houses. Driscoll has been a jerk for a long time and its about time someone dressed him down publicly. However, it would be better if it were not for something that might have just been a bad oversight. As I explain here:

    Driscoll only a few years ago discussed the same matter in another book and had a footnote giving Peter Jones full credit and thanking him for the time he took in explaining the matter. She should have raised the matter privately first and told him she would ask on air so he would not have been caught off guard and may have been able to respond truthfully rather than in his usual obnoxious fashion. It would have been more edifying but made for less on-air theater.

    I usually have a lot of respect for Mefferd as she tends to prepare well for interviews and, although she is probably not Reformed, she does interview Reformed theologians and apologists and introduces their work and methodology to an audience that might otherwise never be exposed to that viewpoint. I just think that she stepped over the line by ambushing Driscoll and may have gained him sympathy in some quarters.

    1. Here's one of the more intelligent assessments which I ran across on Facebook:

      Carlos Griego: I am not sure what Carl Trueman is getting at here. Yes I do agree there is danger in the celebrity culture of evangelicalism but that is nothing new, Spurgeon for example. However it does not just come with a fanbase but also an antifanbase too. I am guessing if this was not Mark Driscoll most people would either give the benefit of the doubt or simply not care. But because it is many do not care if the accusations are true or not, they want to see him made out to be the villain they already claim to know him as. I have gotten to know Mark personally, he has prayed for and helped Redemption Church, which is part of the Acts 29 Network which he started, so yeah I am more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Do I agree with everything he does, no, he isn't Jesus after all. I do not think Carl Trueman's argument works in Driscoll's case as any small mistake or poor choice he may make will be held up for all to see quickly and without any research needed. Look at the comments from the post Sherry Lopez posted, when people realized Mark did not hang up on the interviewer they said "well that's not the point it's about plagiarism" when it was the point and center of all the passions before the raw audio came out. I appreciate much from Trueman and loved hearing him at a conference here in ABQ where he was one of the main speakers who had his name on posters and his books were sold...he really is my favorite celebrity pastor/leader who is anti-celebrity pastor/leader.
      about an hour ago · Like

      James T. Burt: Essentially, Mefferd accused Driscoll of plagiarism on her radio show. That's what I read, but I need to listen to the interview.
      59 minutes ago via mobile · Like

      James T. Burt: I guess the hard part is defining celebrity. True man sort of tried to do that but how is it measured? Books published? Churches planted? Twitter followers? None of these things are "bad" in and of themselves. The question may lie in the intent and effect of those things. I agree with the article that accountability is needed. And while I want that to come from my brothers, we should expect to be held "accountable" by others too. I use quotation marks because the "others" may or may not share our faith, opinions within the faith, points of view, etc. in Driscoll's case, my question would have been "Does Jones say that I plagiarized? If so, he's the guy I need to talk to. Ms. Mefferd, what else would you like to talk about today?" I have acknowledged her concern and made it a point to discuss the matter with the person whom I may (or may not) have offended. But I am in agreement that pastors, regardless of church size, books published, Twitter followers, should be held accountable. In a modern era however, it may mean that accountability is expanded when ministry is expanded. And this may not be such a bad thing.
      50 minutes ago via mobile · Like

      James T. Burt To Carlos' point, there have been plenty of other "celebrity" pastors who had a tremendous impact who have not found themselves in trouble even after being held in the light. Spurgeon, Graham, Piper, to name a few.
      46 minutes ago via mobile · Like

      Carlos Griego: I get that, and that Mark has, at times, not helped himself, however my point was that any appearance of a mistake or bad choice, and it is brought to the light and held up in such a way as to make him look bad no matter what and there are people in the church who are just waiting for those moments.

  6. I agree: this breaks down to being a turf war.

    I listened to the interview with Driscoll. It was painful on a number of levels. The question about plagiarism came out of nowhere. That's not necessarily bad, but that was the focus of the interview by design. Mrs. Mefferd's concerns were puzzling at certain points...on the one hand, it wasn't fair to Peter Jones "stealing" his IP (one may wonder if Jones cited the concepts he seems to have repackaged as they're prevalent in Van Til, Bahnsen, Rushdoony, and more) and Driscoll potentially opened the door for a lawsuit against his publisher. On the other hand, she conflates contemporary legal issues surrounding IP (which is in flux, and as it sits, is a relatively new set of legal protections) with issues of sanctification. Driscoll was flummoxed because he was there to promote himself...I mean his new book.

    Turf wars boils down to brand recognition and revenue streams.

    And nobody is talking about unrighteous wealth which has no small amount of influence in these battles. Men should be rewarded for the work they do, but from a Christian perspective, is it biblical to claim IP rights for truths ostensibly benefiting the Church?