Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Christian astronomer on the star of Bethlehem

Pressure tactics?

Settling old scores

See no evil

I'm going to comment on this post:

First off, there's the irony (hypocrisy?) of someone who does a post entitled "It's NONE of My Business." Ironic because he's making it his business to tell others what is not their business. 

But I am convinced that much of it is more playing the busybody than the noble voice of righteousness. 

Yet he has publicly inserted himself into the middle of this very debate. It's okay for him to play the busybody. 

Caner and I are not part of the same church. None of my offerings are going to support him or Brewton-Parker College. We are not part of the state convention. Our only connection is that we are part of the same association of autonomous, voluntarily-connected local churches known as the Southern Baptist Convention.

They belong to the same denomination. Caner has a corporate identity as well as an individual identity. He's a Southern Baptist. Moreover, he's now a high-profile representative of the SBC. 

It's perfectly appropriate for other Southern Baptists to publicly distance themselves from him. To disassociate themselves from him. To say, "He doesn't represent what we represent. He doesn't speak for us. "

Moreover, that would be appropriate even if you and he didn't belong to the same denomination. To the extent that he's a well-known spokesman for the Christian faith, other Christians are entitled to say, "He's not my representative. I didn't authorize him to speak on my behalf. Don't judge my faith by his antics!"

Do I have authority over Ergun Caner, or is he in authority over me? Nope. Not in the slightest. Therefore, I do not believe that a public rebuke of him is either my duty or my right.

Why cast the issue in terms of authority rather than right and wrong? Why does Miller assume you need a special right to speak the truth or point out that someone is in the wrong? Why must you be in a position of authority over someone else to say what they are doing is wrong…if it fact it's wrong? 

People confront Caner about his background stories less because they are concerned about his background and more as a result of his harsh treatment of Calvinists and Calvinism. I would also say (to be an equal opportunity offender) that many have defended him for the same reason – they supported his attacks on Calvinism!

In some cases that's true. But that's a hasty generalization. 

But  Paul told us to leave wrath in the hands of God and not to attempt to bring vengeance and justice on our own.

That trivializes the concept of vengeance. In Scripture, prohibitions against personal vengeance are intended to forestall blood feuds or lynch law. 

By Miller's logic, there is no place for church discipline. 

Is there not some value in private instead of public rebuke? I know that many have argued (convincingly to me) that Matthew 18:15 does not directly apply to blogging…I think the same principle works for personal conflict. 

That contradicts his earlier contention:

Do I have a relationship with Ergun Caner? No. Never met him. Never exchanged a word, even an online word, with him. He and I are not in the same church or association.

Either he has a personal relationship with Caner, in which case Mt 18:15 is applicable–or else he has no personal relationship with Caner, in which case Mt 18:18 is inapplicable. Once again, Miller is trying to have it both ways.

Apocalyptic allusions

i) Commentators on Revelation typically assume that Revelation is a tapestry of OT quotations and allusion. They carefully trace out the subtext, using that as an interpretive frame of reference. This doesn't select for any particular school of interpretation. Amils, premils, preterists, idealists, et al. share this underlying assumption. 

This view implies a wider gap between John's experience as a visionary and his activity as a writer. On this view, after John had whatever visions and auditions God gave him, in committing that experience to writing, he also incorporated many OT quotations and allusions into the overall product. The original visionary experience was augmented by extensive editorial activity on John's part to work in the OT quotations and allusions. It's a two-stage process, where there's a greater contrast between the raw experience and the final product.  

That, in turn, would account for verbal parallels between Revelation and OT counterparts. And that may be a correct reconstruction of the process. 

ii) However, there's another, neglected, explanation. What if Revelation reproduces the same kind of experience which generated certain OT texts? What if the commonalities are due, not to John's literary dependence on the OT, but common dependence on the same underlying experience, which gave rise to both? 

We can take the question back a step. Instead of asking why Revelation resembles some OT passages, we might ask why some OT passages are they way they are. Because that's how God revealed himself to the OT seers in question. And if God revealed himself in certain ways to seers like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, then he can reveal himself in the same or similar ways to John. The same types of imagery. Instead of John modeling his material on OT exemplars, the primary cause models their collective experience. 

On that reconstruction, Revelation is more of a direct transcription or description of what John saw and heard. John is reporting his experience. Simply writing it down, with minimal modifications. It evokes many OT passages because John and his OT counterparts both evoke a common originating experience.  It could still tie into OT history at various points, but that's because God is controlling John's experience. The tie-in would come straight from the source, rather than indirectly through John's subsequent editorial reflections.


Some liberals or outright unbelievers think Gen 1:9-10 teaches an obsolete geography. On this view, Gen 1:9-10 envisions a single continent encircled by a single ocean. 

Within its historical context, therefore, the conception of the “earth” in Gen 1 is most probably that of a single continent in the shape of a flat circular disc…Being a scientifically naive people, it is probable that like other scientifically naive tribal peoples the Hebrews thought of the earth as being surrounded by a circular sea and floating upon that single surrounding sea.

i) It's notable that by his own tacit admission, the wording of Gen 1:9-10 doesn't entail that depiction. So his interpretation overspecifies the text. Seely arrives at that interpretation through his understanding of comparative ancient cosmography. He must use that extraneous frame of reference. 

There's nothing necessarily wrong with using background material to interpret Scripture–although that raises the question of what constitutes the relevant background material. But we need to be clear on the fact that he is placing a more specific construction on the text than the text itself specifies.

ii) In addition, his procedure is circular. He assumes the extrabiblical passages teach the same thing. But what's his independent basis for that assumption? Even if that was plausible to an landlubber, what about ancient mariners who lived on islands or coastal regions? What about the evidence for ancient transoceanic navigation? Cf.

Also, due to cultural diffusion (e.g. trade routes), even landlocked nations could become aware of discoveries by seafaring peoples. 

iii) But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Seely's interpretation is roughly correct. One could turn Seely's contention on its head. Gen 1:9-10 would be a scientific anticipation of Pangaea: 

The book of Genesis also clearly says that the initial arrangement of land and water on earth involved the land being grouped together in one place (Genesis 1:9-10). Scientists never even considered that possibility for the vast majority of the history of science. However, science now agrees that at one time, all the continents were grouped together in one supercontinent.

Jesus' Childhood Outside The Infancy Narratives (Part 7): The Letters Of The New Testament

In previous posts, I've addressed the gospels, Acts, and Revelation. Here I want to discuss the remainder of the New Testament, the letters.

Why We Reject the Council of Trent

The Council of Trent
Earlier this week, the Council of Trent had something like a 450th anniversary of its closing date, and Steve Hays linked to a piece by Joe Carter entitled “9 things you should know about the Council of Trent”.

In the comments, a Roman Catholic writer named Erick Ybarra left a long and convoluted plea in favor of “the Tridentine doctrines”.

I’m responding here at length (in one long blog post), while responding over there to his individual comments individually, with essentially the same responses.

Erick Ybarra said:

I am not quite sure why many of you [have] an issue with the Tridentine doctrines.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Introduction to Messianic Judaism

It's Imperative that Christians Use Explicitly Biblical Arguments

A New Resource On Christmas, Paganism, And Related Issues

J.P. Holding recently published an e-book about the alleged pagan roots of Christmas. It also addresses other objections to the holiday.

Footloose footnotes

"My View on the Driscoll Flap" by Peter Pike.


Speaking on behalf of The One True Church®, his Eminence, Timothy Dolan, Cardinal Archibishop of New York, said:

Nelson Mandela was a hero to the world. His bravery in defending human rights against the great evil of apartheid made him a symbol of courage and dignity, as well as an inspiration to people everywhere. As Blessed Pope John Paul II noted during his visit to South Africa in 1995, Nelson Mandela was for many years, “a silent and suffering ‘witness’ of your people’s yearning for true liberation,” who, as President of South Africa, had to then “shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction.” In succeeding in these crucial and difficult tasks, Nelson Mandela truly made the world a better place.May he rest in peace.

When overthrowing an evil regime, you always need to ask yourself what will take its place. Are you simply replacing one dysfunctional system of injustice with another dysfunctional system of injustice. A few things I've read about Mandela and post-apartheid S. Africa:

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

-0.45% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 222

17.36 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1

total population: 49.48 years
country comparison to the world: 222
male: 50.43 years
female: 48.51 years (2013 est.)

17.8% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4

5.6 million (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1

310,000 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:

total: 49.8%country comparison to the world: 5male: 45.4%female: 55% (2011)

While best known for his work in race equality as South Africa’s first black president, he also created the Rainbow Nation – a country where gay rights and marriage equality was enshrined in the constitution. 
And so he ensured that the new South African Constitution specifically included sexual orientation and gender identity into its protections for all South Africans. 

President Nelson Mandela has signed South Africa's new abortion bill, clearing the way for one of the world's toughest abortion laws to be replaced with one of the most liberal. The law gives girls of any age the sole right to decide whether to have an abortion.

The South African debate [i.e. physician-assisted suicide] began 15 years ago. President Nelson Mandela engaged the South African Law Commission to carry out a project addressing end-of-life decisions. The result was the proposed End of Life Decisions Act — a Bill that was tabled in Parliament in 2000 but did not get further than that. 

South Africa has extremely high levels of sexual assault. "The prevalence of rape, and particularly multiple perpetrator rape … is unusually high," according to a 2012 report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) thinktank.
South Africa has one of the most progressive sex offences acts in the world, a new version of which became effective in 2007, Lancaster points out. "It covers marital rape, consensual sexual acts involving a minor and even the making of pornography.

The 2012-13 statistics released Thursday are the worst in a decade, analysts said. The figures show increases in the crimes South Africans fear most: murder; attempted murder; violent, armed house robbery; and carjacking.The rise in the murder rate was slight, at 0.6%. But the number of attempted murders rose by 6.5%, violent house robberies by 3.6% and carjackings by 5.4%. Drug-related crime rose by 13.5% and truck hijackings by nearly 15%.South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, with casualty figures mounting like those in a small war.

Joe Carter 
I really wish my friends would do their homework on Nelson Mandela before uncritically praising him as a moral hero. A man must be judged by all he did, not just for the parts we find praiseworthy.
Mandela worked to overthrow the government and wanted foreign militaries help the ANC take over the country. He was a communist so it's likely he wanted to help establish South Africa as a Soviet satellite. Whether that would have been better than apartheid I can't say. But let's not make Mandela out to be something he wasn't.
During the Rivonia trial, it came out that he advocated cutting off the noses of blacks viewed as traitors or white collaborators. 
Also, why did Mandela turn a blind eye to the torture and execution of dissident members in training camps in Angola during the 1980s? ( Do the ends justify the means when your enemies are on the wrong side?
He was the co-founder of the armed wing of the African National Congress and it's "commander in chief." That was a group that carried out real terrorist attacks against civilians throughout the 1980s. The ANC also routinely tortured prisoners at their detention camps. I don't recall the Founding Fathers doing anything like that.
Now it's true that Mandela was in prison during this time. But he was offered early release if he would renounce the use of violence and break links with the Communist Party. He refused. While his party was killing civilians, he was tacitly approving their actions. Why do you think Mandela was on the U.S.'s terrorism watch list until 2008? 
If the ANC had never been involved in terrorist activities (and Mandela had openly condemned such attacks) then I might see the parallels with our Founding Fathers. But to me the more relevant comparison is to the PLO in Israel. Both the ANC and the PLO believed that the ends justified the means.
And it should be noted that it wasn't the violence of the ANC that led to the changes in South Africa. de Klerk was the one who extended the olive branch and ended white rule in the country.

"Secularisation: Myth or Menace?"

"Secularisation: Myth or Menace? An Assessment of Modern 'Worldliness'" by Melvin Tinker.

Jesus' Childhood Outside The Infancy Narratives (Part 6): John And Revelation

John 1:15 implies that John the Baptist was born before Jesus, which agrees with Luke's gospel. See Lydia McGrew's post here. John the Baptist's comments in that verse would make less sense if he was born after Jesus. The context in John 1 is about Jesus' deity and preexistence, his existence prior to his life on earth. If Jesus was born before John, then John's comments make less sense, since, under that scenario, Jesus' existing before John wouldn't imply anything significant in the context of John 1's emphasis on Jesus' deity and preexistence. By contrast, if John was born before Jesus, yet John says that Jesus existed before him, that has a lot of significance. So, John 1:15 makes the most sense if the passage is agreeing with Luke's gospel about the order in which John and Jesus were born.

John's gospel also repeats some of the other themes about Jesus' childhood found in other sources. Jesus was born less than fifty years before the time of John 8:57, is from Nazareth (1:45), had a father named Joseph (1:45, 6:42), was Mary's firstborn (implied by his responsibility for Mary in 19:26-7), has siblings (7:3-10), and is sinless (8:46). See here regarding evidence in John and elsewhere that one of Jesus' brothers was named Simon.

Recall what I said earlier, when discussing the other gospels, about John the Baptist's anticipation of Jesus' adult ministry and the initial responses to John and Jesus. The same principles apply to the fourth gospel.

The plot thickens

Craig's view of divine eternity

Team colors

i) I'm going to do a wrap-up on the Driscoll/Mefferd kerfuffle. I'm less concerned with the details of this particular controversy than how it's been handled. Unfortunately, this controversy exposes an identity-politics mentality in evangelicalism. By that I mean two things:

a) Do you judge each issue on the merits? On a case-by-case basis? Or do you apply guilt-by-association? Are you predisposed to take sides based on baggage that has no logical bearing on the specific issue at hand? 

b) Do you pick your in-group based on your positions, or does your in-group pick your positions for you? In other words, do you first make an independent judgment on what's the right position to take, then affiliate with a group that shares your outlook, or do you begin with your in-group, which, in turn, predetermines what positions you will take? 

In the Driscoll/Mefferd Kerfuffle, I'm struck by the degree to which many participants automatically line up on one side or the other based on their prior affiliations rather than the issue at hand. They seem to be oblivious to how their position is dictated by their group-identity. 

Try a little thought experiment. Suppose a reporter went to the campus of The Master's College and conducted one of those man-on-the-street interviews. Suppose he quotes some statements by John MacArthur which he attributes to Joel Osteen. And suppose he quotes some statements by Joel Osteen which he attributes to John MacArthur. The tendency is for people to agree with statements based on who they think said it, rather than the content of the statement itself. If you're a fan of MacArthur, your reflexive impulse is to agree with a statement by Osteen attributed to MacArthur and disagree with a statement by MacArthur attributed to Osteen. And if you're a fan of Osteen, the same is true in reverse. 

That's the kind of dynamic I often see in play in this particular controversy. 

ii) Mefferd has issued a retraction. Among other things she says:

I now realize the interview should not have occurred at all. I should have contacted Tyndale House directly to alert them to the plagiarism issue. And I never should have brought it to the attention of listeners publicly. So I would like to apologize to all of you and to Mark Driscoll for how I behaved. I am sorry.

I don't know what to make of this. Speaking for myself, it isn't clear to me that she has anything to apologize for. 

Peter Lumpkins reacted by saying:

For my part, her obviously sincere apology should strengthen our respect for her as a credible journalist, radio host, and committed believer. Thank you, Janet, for following both godly Christian counsel and your mature Christian conscience.

That's classic double-talk. Whatever she does, she can do no wrong. She was right when she was crusading against Driscoll, yet she was right when she backed down. People like Lumpkins were rooting for her when she went after Driscoll, and they are still rooting for her when she suddenly folds. But if she was right to do it in the first place, she was wrong to break it off and reverse course. And if she was right to back down, then she was wrong at the outset. 

iii) Apropos (ii), I saw a "lead pastor" touting an article coyly entitled "Journalist Accused of Committing Sin of Journalism". And I saw other supporters invoke her journalistic credentials. But that, by itself, proves nothing. She got into a dustup with Joe Carter, but he teaches journalism–so that cancels out the journalism card. Both can play that card. 

There are good journalists and bad journalists. Geraldo Rivera is a journalist. Dan Rather is a journalist. Martin Bashir is a journalist. Rachel Maddow is a journalist. 

iv) Ironically, Mefferd may be guilty of the very thing she accused Driscoll of doing. Mefferd furnished evidence that Driscoll failed to credit his sources. But that raises the same question in reference to Mefferd. Was the incriminating evidence she adduced the result of her personal investigation, or did an uncredited staffer do the actual research? Did Mefferd really comb through all that Mars Hill material by herself to find a smoking gun? Or did an anonymous staffer do the spadework, while Mefferd gets all the credit? 

v) Mind you, I think TGC should have pulled the trigger on Driscoll some time ago. To judge by reviews, Real Marriage was sufficient grounds to cut ties. And before that, his "pornographic divination" (in Phil Johnson's apt phrase) was sufficient grounds. 

vi) For his part, Justin Taylor weighed in:

Among other things, he said:

I thought that Ms. Mefferd acted unprofessionally and that authors should know something about her modus operandi here. First, she has every right to raise the issue, but it should have been done first to Mark or his publisher offline. It’s a violation of the Golden Rule. 
I find that odd because he seems to be alluding to the Mt 18 criterion. Yet I believe Justin agrees with D. A. Carson on how often that's misused:
Since Mefferd was publicly commenting on something that was already in the public domain, I don't see the relevance of Mt 18. And even if it wasn't in the public domain, some things ought to be brought to light. 
Justin continues:
Third, she told an untruth (conspiracy theorists notwithstanding) that he hung up on her. Her producer even emailed a breathless report to bloggers trying to make a story out of this. Maybe she has apologized for this but I haven’t seen it.
That's a technical issue which I'm in no position to confirm, but it raises a valid issue. 
Justin goes on to say:
This is not the first time I’ve observed this behavior from her. I think it is very problematic that she has given a platform to a known slanderer regarding the SGM situation. She also tried to try the case in the court of public opinion and proceeded in an unbiblical way. In other words, this didn’t seem like a one-off situation.
I don't have an informed opinion to offer on the SGM allegations. I do think it was imprudent as well as premature for Carson, Taylor, and DeYoung to go out on a limb in defense of Mahaney.
In fairness to Justin, whom I like and respect, it's a fact of human psychology that if you're constantly subjected to unreasonable criticism, you are apt to discount even reasonable criticism from the same malicious source. 
vii) I've already alluded a twitter war between Mefferd and Joe Carter on the Driscoll affair. This was preceded by an earlier shootout between Mefferd and Carter, which generated yet another comment thread:
So that supplies some of the background leading up to the current hostilities. 

God's goodness in your pain

Download your Google data

Just a bit of recent news in case some people don't already know. You can archive and then download your Google data including Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Google Drive, YouTube, etc. See here for more information.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Living in the memories of God

Here is a review of Dementia: Living in the Memories of God by John Swinton.

Mammograms for millennials

According to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), DNC Chair:

You know, for millennials, young adults in particular, because they have an opportunity to stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old, many of them need to be aware they can do that. That's going to give them comprehensive coverage that so many of them don't have now. And the focus needs to be on making sure that we can get young people who are often healthier into the pool so that it lowers the overall cost of health insurance. Whether it's making sure they get access to preventive care like mammograms...


1. Okay, so it sounds like Schultz thinks it's a good idea for all women in their 20s to use mammograms.

2. On the face of it, it might seem like a good idea for all young women to get a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. (I doubt Schultz is referring to using mammography diagnostically, which would be an even more thorny issue to discuss.) Who doesn't want to take every precaution and make use of every possible resource to detect breast cancer early?

3. Indeed, mammograms could be a good idea for women under 40 if the woman is at significant risk for developing breast cancer (e.g. if the woman carries the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes). But that's not what it sounds like Schultz is getting at. No, it sounds like Schultz is addressing all young Americans, including young women, which includes young women who don't have a significant risk for developing breast cancer.

4. What's more, call me cynical, but it sounds like Schultz is using mammograms as one of the ways to sell ObamaCare to "millennials," particularly young "millennial" women.

5. In any case, it's quite arguable whether it's beneficial to use mammograms to detect breast cancer in women under 40.

a. For instance, according to a reliable medical resource widely used by physicians called UpToDate:

Performance characteristics of mammography are poor for women younger than 40. In a review of results of 73,335 initial screening mammograms in women aged 35 to 39 years, the recall rate was 12.7 percent and positive predictive value was 1.3 percent [93].

b. Moreover, according to the Mayo Clinic:

When to begin screening mammography

Experts and medical organizations don't agree on when women should begin regular mammograms or how often the tests should be performed. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors, your preferences, and the benefits and risks of screening. Together, you can decide what screening mammography schedule is best for you.

Some general guidelines for when to begin screening mammography include:

Women with an average risk of breast cancer. Many women begin mammograms at age 40 and have them every one to two years. Professional groups differ on their recommendations, with most, including the American Cancer Society, advising women with an average risk to begin mammograms at age 40 and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommending women wait until age 50 to begin regular mammograms.

Women with a high risk of breast cancer. Women with a high risk of breast cancer may benefit by beginning screening mammograms before age 40. Talk to your doctor for an individualized program. Your risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer, may lead your doctor to recommend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in combination with mammograms.

In addition, the Mayo Clinic notes risks associated with mammography. Here are some of the risks and limitations (I'd especially note the third point about difficulty in interpretation):

Mammograms expose you to low-dose radiation. The dose is very low, though, and for most women the benefits of regular mammograms outweigh the risks posed by this amount of radiation.

Mammograms aren't always accurate. The accuracy of the procedure depends in part on the technique used and the experience and skill of the radiologist. Other factors — such as your age and breast density — may result in false-negative or false-positive mammograms.

Mammograms in younger women can be difficult to interpret. The breasts of younger women contain more glands and ligaments than do those of older women, resulting in dense breast tissue that can obscure signs of cancer. With age, breast tissue becomes fattier and has fewer glands, making it easier to interpret and detect changes on mammograms.

Read the rest here.

c. Similarly, the National Cancer Institute lists benefits and harms of mammography screening here. Note the benefit best applies to women above age 40 since the study was conducted among women aged 40-74, while the harms can apply to all women who undertake mammography screening.

I'll simply list the headings, and suggest people click on the link to read the entire page:


  • Decrease in breast cancer mortality


  • Overdiagnosis and Resulting Treatment of Insignificant Cancers

  • False-Positives with Additional Testing and Anxiety

  • False-Negatives with False Sense of Security and Potential Delay in Cancer Diagnosis

  • Radiation-Induced Breast Cancer

6. This post is not at all to denigrate mammography as a screening tool. Mammography is highly useful. But in the right context. And that's something a woman (or man) should discuss with their physician.

Obviously no one should take the word of a blog post such as this one. After all, who knows how trustworthy any of this truly is? By the same token, neither should they take the word of the Chair of the Democratic National Convention on this topic.

9 Things You Should Know About the Council of Trent

Did Jesus Die to Save Everyone?

Skynet won't save us

I'm going to comment on this post:

Throughout its history, evangelicalism has consistently empowered dynamic leaders.  Dating back to its inception in the colonial period, George Whitefield’s itinerant ministry blossomed both as a result of his skill in promoting his ministry and his ability to connect with auditors in a manner that transcended most other preachers of his day.  This popular appeal marked a “new model of leadership” in Christian circles that circumvented both established ecclesiastical patterns and ministerial norms.**

True. That's because Whitefield was forbidden by his ecclesiastical superiors from conducting his evangelistic campaigns. Does Mullin think Whitefield should have allowed them to silence him?

Social media has only exacerbated personality-driven leadership as individuals can friend, follow, and subscribe to a constant stream of thought-forming and ministry-shaping information that comes via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.  As a result, acolytes consume a steady diet of material from their favorite evangelical leader (or his/her assistants) increasing affection, loyalty, and commitment. 

You mean like this:

You can follow him on Twitter @msmullin

or this:

Welcome New Anxious Bench Blogger Miles Mullin!May 4, 2013 By Thomas Kidd

Moving along:

Because of the personality-driven leadership inherent in contemporary evangelicalism, the tribalism it nurtures, and the reality that most of American evangelicalism subsists in some variation of the free church tradition, the final outcome of this story is clear.  There is no authority that can adjudicate this matter other than the authority upon which both Driscoll and Mefferd have built their ministries: evangelical popular opinion. 
This is the troubling reality of the personality-based leadership that encompasses much of American evangelicalism.  Often, charisma and dynamic communication skills trump character and integrity as popular appeal wins the day.  And for those of us who wish it were otherwise, there is no court of appeal with the authority to hear our case. 
But the degree to which a great speaker has influence multiplied exponentially in the American context where a religious marketplace void of any overarching ecclesial authority emerged. Before the 18th century, there were legitimately powerful checks upon popular embrace of great speakers. Even today, there are checks in hierarchical church structures. In contemporary evangelicalism--especially in the free church tradition--there are virtually none.
i) To begin with, Mullin teaches at a Baptist institution. Isn't that in the free church tradition?
ii) It's funny how some people are so blind to the obvious. It's not as if the "overarching eccesial authority" solution hasn't been tried before. That experiment has been repeatedly tested and repeatedly failed. Just look at liberal mainline denominations which have formal accountability structures. Not only do those "hierarchical church structures" fail to police orthodoxy and orthopraxy, but they become instruments to persecute orthodoxy and orthopraxy while they simultaneously enforce heterodoxy and heteropraxy. 
Or take the recent hiring of Ergun Caner. There's an accountability system in place: the board of trustees. He is answerable to the board. But, wait, it was the board that hired him. Reportedly, a unanimous vote.
You always have naive Christians like Mullin who think there's a Skynet solution to what afflicts evangelicalism. If we just put the right system in place, that will protect us. But, of course, the system is run by sinners. It becomes a shell-game where you simply move sinners around. Where you empower some sinners in relation to other sinners. Unaccountable bishops or unaccountable trustees instead of unaccountable pastors of independent megachurches.