At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Kerfluffle Many Christians Have Overlooked

Okay. Everyone and their pregnant poodle have commented on the Duck Dynasty/A&E/Phil Robertson/Cracker Barrel's foot-in-their-mouth controversy. So here's my opinion in short form.

1. What did Phil Robertson think a GQ reporter was going to do with his words?

2. What did GQ (and A&E, for that matter) expect a garden-variety Louisiana redneck to say about homosexuality, etc.?
3. Phil Robertson should have thought about how he framed stuff. His words on the appeal of lady parts over a man's backside, while the opinion of many people, in fact objectified women and the gift of sex. 
4. You can disagree with a lifestyle and still love the person. You can say greed is sinful (by the way, greed is one of the sins listed with homosexuality in I Corinthians 6…many Christians tend to forget that) and still love a greedy person. You can deplore drunkenness and still love an alcoholic. And you can say homosexuality is sinful but love gay people authentically. I do. Part of that is being willingly tempered by humility and admitting, "I need gay people to be willing to accept me with all my sin, like greed, pride, unrighteous anger, and the like."

Got that? It's all I'm saying about Duck Dynasty. Because it's not the issue with a Christian personality that I want to discuss.

This is:

Many people--especially evangelicals within what is commonly called the Neo-Calvinist movement--know of Mark Driscoll, the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church, a Reformed Christian megachurch in Seattle which could hold about ten to twenty of John Calvin's Sunday morning huddles at St. Pierre's-Geneva. Driscoll is a popular preacher and speaker and a prolific writer; his books Doctrine and Confessions of a Reformission Rev have been tremendously helpful to me. Driscoll is known for being forthright on being a strict biblicist, his strong complementation views on gender roles, and a master strategist on church planting and vision.

And he writes a ton. And that's the controversy that's going on.

Just over a month ago, Driscoll was interviewed on Janet Mefferd's radio talk show about his new book A Call to Resurgence when Mefferd produced some alleged instances in Driscoll's previous works. In these books, information and statements that are clearly the work of other authors (like Peter Jones, Dan Allender, etc.) are used but credit is never given to these writers. There is more detail about this Mefferd interview, but rather than reproducing it here, you can read this summary here:

Read it? Good. Now why do I think this is a bigger deal than the Duck Dynasty schmozz?

1. It's not because I have an issue with Mark Driscoll personally. I like his preaching and--while I don't line up with him on every point--I marvel at how God has used him to reach an unchurched, postmodern area like Seattle with the Gospel.

2. I am very steamed over the sloppiness of his written work, even if these matters are careless work more than they are plagiarism. For one, if your name is on the cover of the book as the author, then own up to the fact you need to do all the work in putting it together. I might have some very modest sales of Litany of Secrets, but I can at least say the entire story is mine and mine alone and all the settings are rigorously authentic. Yes, P.D. James influenced my writing, but I had the integrity to specifically state that in my preface. Secondly, in all likelihood, Driscoll seems to have had a research team do the study work for his books. In my opinion, he needs to make a decision: Be a pastor, or write his own stuff from start to finish. Don't think you can do both authentically well. 
3. In closing, I don't think that the main issue here is plagiarism or sloppiness in research. It happens to be what seems to be at the heart of American culture, especially the soft underbelly of hipster Christianity. The problem is the idolatry of evangelical leadership by their followers. The center of the Christian faith is the Gospel, not the people who proclaim it or their understanding of it. But the way some of my acquaintances talk about people like Driscoll and others (trust me, I'm not raking Driscoll over the coals on this one), you'd never know the difference. And I can tell you this: We seem to have a major crush on the personalities who herald the faith when we should be more concerned with the God who gives that same faith as a gift.

Sorry for this getting so lengthy. Maybe you disagree with me. That's why there's a comment area. But that's my take: The idolatry present in the Driscoll controversy is more hidden, but more potentially deadly, than anything that Duck Dynasty will produce.

And that is all.


revtom said...

Luke, well said. Did you read the CT editorial on Driscoll as an example of idolatry?

Luke H. Davis said...

I did, and that--combined with a re-read of Os Guinness and John Seel's 'No God But God'--is what got me thinking about the idea of what is the most striking idolatry of our day. I get really upset that so many well-meaning but skewed-thinking believers get the idea that the true lions of Christendom are the megachurch pastors because their size reflects God's thumbs-up. My dad has faithfully labored in four different congregations, none of which topped average weekly attendance of 275, but I'd like to think that CHrist was honored and the Kerygma was heralded well in each locale. When we start to desire our leaders more than delight in our God, then we're that much closer to being like Eli's sons in I Samuel: taking the ark of the covenant into battle (which, ironically, is a lot of what the Duck Dynasty reaction amounts to).