Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Mark Driscoll Affair

Many fundagelicals have criticized fallen fellow fundagelical Mark Driscoll. In a fundamentalist vs. fundamentalist match it’s often a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object! However, Driscoll's appears to have repented; but that is worth tuppence to suspicious fundies unless it equates to Driscoll eating out of their doctrinal hand!

The December edition of Premier Christianity magazine carries a news article on mega church leader Mark Driscoll. Actually that should be “ex mega church leader” because Driscoll resigned in October of this year due to a variety of scandals about the style of his leadership, (See for example this wiki page). According to Christianity Driscoll has said that “I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit”, which perhaps genuinely sums up where Driscoll personally went wrong;  spiritual arrogance may also be a fitting description at this juncture. However, I am of the opinion that the real problems can be traced further back than Driscoll’s domineering and abrasive personality, right back to “fundagelical” culture and ethos itself.

For a start I find fault with the fundagelical tendency to comb the Bible looking for definitive statements that are considered to be literally God’s (last) Word on belief and practice. This is just a repeat of my usual complaint about the epistemic method and epistemic arrogance of both fundamentalists and some (more moderate) evangelicals who operate with a similar epistemic. In particular, in the Driscoll case Christianity magazine says that “...some welcomed [Driscoll's] return to teaching about submission and authority” (No doubt supported by Biblical chapter and verse “proof texts”!). Driscoll appears to have been part of the restoration movement that claimed to have “restored” New Testament teaching on the “covering authority of leaders”. In the UK this version of Restorationism was championed in the 1970s by fundagelical leaders like Arthur Wallis, Brynn Jones and Terry Virgo (and I believe it still is championed by Virgo who is alive today).

Needless to say that for every fundagelical there is an anti-fundagelical who, although equally as diligent in “following Biblical teaching”, will shout things like heresy!, false teacher! and perhaps even worse at fellow fundagelicals who beg to differ. This is, of course, exactly what happened in the first instance with Driscoll: As Christianity says “...while some welcomed a return to teaching about submission and authority others condemned Driscoll as a false teacher”; notice that as per the usual fundagelical way of doing things they come out shooting with full-on firepower; Driscoll is roundly condemned as an all purpose heretical teacher – they don’t think in terms of shades of grey and will not accept that although Driscoll might well be badly flawed in some areas, he may be OK in others. Rather, the fundagelical tendency is to perceive the world through a polarizing filter that tends to put the latest “big preach” either into the category of a man of God or a false teaching emissary of Satan who is spreading delusion among the gullible Christian flock. By way of example a fundagelical group who would likely see Driscoll in a very bad light, repentance or no repentance, would be the reformo-charismatics, one of whom made a visit to my blog and subsequently became the subject of my scrutiny. (Among the reformo-charismatics a certain Barry Smith was their flawed teacher, a man whose wild millennium bug prognostications ended in grief)

Christianity magazine, however, points a finger of blame at Christian leaders.

“I believe many people were expecting more and certainly expecting more of the men who had a sacred duty to love the church, to love the people and to love Mark Driscoll” he [Petry] said following the resignation. “I  believe [the leaders] failed miserably."
…if there are lessons to be learned  from the rise and fall of Driscoll perhaps it is the importance of older and wiser mentors for young church leaders.

No, I don’t think that is going help because, I propose, it is the inherent ethos and concepts of evangelical leadership that is part of problem. Driscoll had contact with fellow apostolic ministry restoratonist Terry Virgo. Virgo is no doubt an older and wiser leader, but he still holds on to the over-confident fundagelical epistemic and in particular to teaching about submission, authority and patriarchy. It is the flawed evangelical epistemic receptacle that allows dubious personalities like Driscoll to have their authoritarian way without accountability. In his contact with Virgo it seems Driscoll didn’t learn very much, and least of all is Virgo likely to have made Driscoll aware of the weaknesses in fundagelical culture and ethos that conspire to allow ministries like that of Driscoll to grow unchecked before it’s too late. 

You will find some or all of the following cognitive complex I’ve listed below among fundagelicals. This complex grows out of the nutrient bed of intellectual marginalization and existential angst that one finds among fundagelicals. Consequently, fundagelical culture has reacted with (over) compensations and affectations of self-confidence. Here is my list of descriptors of aspects of fundagelicalism that constitute its ugly and all too human facets of spiritual conceit and self-deceit:

Epistemic certainty, a literal understanding of the “God’s Word” concept, a faith based on observance (belief and practice), lionizing leaders, group think and pressures, moral duress applied to dissenters, an array of anti-science concepts, susceptibility to conspiracy theorism, health and wealth teaching, patriarchy, unaccountable leadership authority, a too close identification of right wing attitudes with Christianity, a need for spiritual gurus & personality cults, anti-academic establishment, anti-intellectualism, Gnosticism, rank and file gullibility to the status quo encouraged, a cynical attitude to outsiders but not insider practices, holy remnant elitism,…..

This list will no doubt continue to grow! It is this philosophical complex that is behind the gullibility of the fundagelical rank and file. It is this compliant rank and file who are ultimately responsible for helping to foster leaders like Driscoll by giving them a platform through which they can impose their personality defects on the church.

See here for Part II: 

Relevant link:
The "visiting speaker" refered to in this post was none other than Mark Driscoll

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