There’s a reason why he has a solid reputation as New Calvinism’s bad boy pastor-leader.
He earned it.
And he keeps on earning it, week after week, month after month.
Now he is in a literary brouhaha that isn’t very funny.
Plagiarism! (Or, thou shalt not steal, unless it’s from a “good friend.”)
You may have read my initial musings about the Reformed phenomenon known as “New Calvinism.” If not, you can take a few minutes to read it here: “Is the New Calvinism Really Calvinism–Or Is It Just Five-Point Evangelicalism?”
I do like some of what Driscoll preaches. I do not like a whole lot of what he practices.
Last month, Driscoll dropped by John MacArthur’s anti-charismatic “Strange Fire” conference and donated (or maybe they were “confiscated”) some brand new copies of his latest book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?
Confiscated or donated?
You be the judge:
But this was just an interesting sidelight to what was going on inside. The real story was the conference itself. Joel McDurmon of American Vision talks about that here: Reckless Fire: MacArthur’s Strange Conference.
A Call to Insurgence
Last week Driscoll was interviewed on Janet Mefferd’s syndicated radio talk show, and he was asked some rather pointed questions.
Problem: Mark Driscoll does not like to be asked pointed questions.
He prefers to be the one holding the sharp instruments and doing the asking (and the accusing, and the finger-pointing, and the Spirit-led rebuffing).
I’ve listened to the interview a couple of times. Frankly, the exchange makes Driscoll come across as an insolent, piously self-important celebrity. (“I’m sick and I’m doing you a favor by letting you interview me!”) It makes Mefferd come across as a seasoned, take-no-prisoners journalist who did her homework and stuck to her script despite her subject’s best efforts at eluding and deflecting her hardball questions.
The interview has caused a “strange fire” of controversy to combust online. It’s worth listening to if for no other reason than to catch a glimpse into the touch-not-the-Lord’s-anointed world of the Mars Hill strongman, “sex-pository” preacher (couldn’t resist) and patriarch.
As you listen to and read all the various comments and articles about this online, one of the recurring criticisms against Mark is that he hung up on Janet after their lengthy sparring on the subject of his alleged plagiarism.
Hung up? I don’t know, you be the judge:
In any case, the issues raised by Mefferd were Driscoll’s twin sins of crashing the Macarthur event (to create a new distribution channel and PR event for his book, perhaps), and that of not crediting his “good friend” Dr. Peter Jones with what Mefferds cites as 14 pages of Mark’s new book that are comprised of material lifted from Dr. Jones’s seminal work on the subject dealt with in those pages, i.e., the link between illicit sex and neo-paganism.
Some have taken Mefferd to task for being overly fixated on the plagiarism issue. Others have taken Driscoll to task for being overly fixated on, well, Mark Driscoll.
The blogosphere is ablaze. Here is a sampling:
To think that Rand Paul has been ostracized for a whole lot less!
Regardless of the outcome of this, Driscoll will continue to be the darling of the “young, restless and Reformed” crowd. Mars Hill Church will continue to spawn imitators and detractors. And the dead bodies will continue to pile up behind the Mars Hill bus.
Driscoll’s book will definitely sell a lot of copies. And it will tow the standard evangelical line on pessimistic premillennial eschatology and pietistic, quasi-covenantal, non-theonomic Christianity — you know, the kind that (in my humble, “old” Calvinist opinion) there should NOT be a resurgence of!
Why Care About Any of This?
Why does this matter? Because it highlights, for all the world (and the church) to see, what happens when a prominent, popular and controversial Christian leader holds himself to a lower standard than he holds everyone else to. An infraction that would ordinarily be considered a sin or at least a serious violation of ethics worthy of dismissal or some form of negative sanctions in a different (non-celebrity) pastoral or professional context, gets glossed over and excused when it is committed by someone who is ostensibly engaged in high-level Kingdom work that is much too important for trivial distractions that should only be of concern to mere (non-celebrity) mortals, such as plagiarism.
It’s okay to (oops!) inadvertently appropriate someone else’s “intellectual property” and unique, original, historical-theological insights without proper citation or acknowledgement. But just try that with any of Driscoll’s sermons or any other pastoral (or creative) content presented via Mars Hill Church!
Driscoll’s credibility is being challenged (again). His integrity is being challenged (again). But his approach to ministry and edgy style have caught on and caught fire (and caught hell) in the evangelical and Reformed worlds. He is a spiritual superhero to many.
The question is,…
Will Mark Driscoll’s brand of Christianity have a funeral or a future?
I don’t know. It’s too early to tell. Let’s just hope his humility and charitable disposition don’t get in the way.
The long-term project of building the Kingdom of God on earth is going to need a lot more than lone-ranger bus drivers and church buses filled with compliant, sycophantic passengers onboard following “dead-end” eschatological road maps to get us to our universally-acknowledged and intended destination known as the Second Coming of Christ.
***** UPDATE: Dec. 11, 2013 *****
It’s been a real roller-coaster ride these past three weeks, with Janet Mefferd posting additional examples of Mark Driscoll’s alleged plagiarism on her website, then pulling them off, then pulling the recording of the interview off her website, then issuing an apology for the way she handled the interview. Then her assistant producer resigning over how Mefferd was treated, posting the following online:
All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.
Brilliant take by the former assistant producer. (You can read the rest of her comments here.)
“The evangelical industrial complex.”
President Eisenhower would be proud of that new twist on his ominous phrase!
World Magazine has weighed in on the controversy.
So has The Blaze.