Lord of the Flies Religion

kinnon —  January 26, 2012 — 24 Comments

I woke up early this morning with my brain still buzzing about the latest from Seattle’s answer to the Western church. And in that buzzing, was the sense that what I had been reading was a modern-day retelling of the book, Lord of the Flies.

The stories here, here, here, and here are stories about power and control. They are stories about young men being taught that to be a leader in the church means to be hard, strong, quick to judgment, domineering, and at all times, in control. Nietzschean will to power is the driving force. And if you won’t be led, they will do everything in their power to destroy you, vainly believing that they are following Jesus in Matthew 18.

This is what happens when a young man becomes a Christian and then starts his own church without ever having been effectively mentored by an older-in-the-faith person. This is what happens when a new believer with a charismatic personality and practiced stage technique is never properly discipled and ends up with significant church authority.

But here’s the rub. The leader of this church is part of the neo-reformed tribe… or is that team. And yet that tribe or team, so quick to judge and respond to anything they think is outside the realm of their understanding of Christianity, is strangely silent as lives, perhaps thousands of lives, are damaged by a truly undiscipled leader. (The size of his church does not provide him with a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free pass for his actions, as only an ahistorical student of humanity would believe the number of one’s followers justifies one’s actions.)

DA Carson and Tim Keller accepted what appears to be the forced resignation of James MacDonald from the neo-reformed Gospel Coalition because he was associating with TD Jakes—believed to be a Oneness Pentecostal. (There is a letter floating around the interwebs that unpacks this. I won’t link to it here.)

But where do they stand on the actions of Mark Driscoll?

I realize that Driscoll is not a member of TGC. But. He is a part of their tribe/team. Driscoll is a Council Member of TGC (as pointed out by Deb in the comments.) So… when one of TGC stars, Kevin DeYoung, can write thousands, if not tens of thousands of words at the drop of a hat, on any particular topic that offends the Gospel Coalition world — is it fair to surmise that Driscoll’s actions are not problematic for them.

To further my point, I’ve noticed that most of the reviews of Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage by the neo-reformed have been almost obsequiously fair. (This doesn’t apply to Tim Challies’ review of the book but I would suggest that Challies is more neo-fundamentalist than he is neo-reformed.) Yes, most of these neo-reformed reviews have had issues with certain sections of Driscoll’s book but they can’t quite bring themselves to say, “Don’t buy it!” or, at least, “This isn’t a complementarian position — it is simply misogynist.”

David Fitch asks the question whether Driscoll is an outlier or an actual representative of the North American neo-reformed position. Might I suggest, that with crickets being mostly what we hear from this camp/tribe/team in regards to Driscoll, it appears he’s a representative. And that makes me profoundly sad.

Or, to return to the title, the island is on fire but where are the adults?

UPDATE: Read Wade Burleson’s post from today - Our Problem Is Authoritarianism and Not Legalism and then my buddy Jared Wilson (of recent TGC fame and fortune) from last November, 5 Leadership Signs Your Movement is Dying. And make a point of reading Fitch’s gentle caution in the comments, please.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

24 responses to Lord of the Flies Religion

  1. That’s what I love about Bill kinnon…clears the rubble, to clarity where you see the truth. Thanks Bill for saying the way it is.

  2. Delightful. You’ve hit the nail on the head! I’ve been waiting for a neo-reformed defection, but I think a ton of them are liberated fundamentalists.

  3. Can you email the letter to me? This is all strange.

  4. I always thought that a church was (in theory) supposed to describe human community functioning at it’s best nature. Lord of the Flies was a book describing human community functioning at it’s worst … I’ll just leave it at that.

  5. Disturbing that nobody in that arena has said or done much (besides perhaps feeding said crickets?). But that’s probably not too surprising, really.

    How many charismatics kept silent during (choose televangelist/revivalist of your choice) was running amok?

    How many emerging bloggers give a free pass to some of their celebrity writers/bloggers/speakers?

    Or missional? Simple church?

    Still. ‘twould be nice if somebody in Driscoll’s world would speak up. I wonder if he’d listen?

  6. Excellent post, Bill! I am so grateful for real men like you who will speak out against Driscoll and his ilk.

    You wrote: “I realize that Driscoll is not a member of TGC.”

    On the contrary, Driscoll is a “Council Member” for The Gospel Coalition. It’s ironic that he and James MacDonald are ring leaders in The Elephant Room. Will Carson and Keller force Driscoll out, too? Only time will tell…

    Council Members – The Gospel Coalition

    • Thanks, Deb. Changed in the post with acknowledgement. And people should click over to your and Dee’s very good blog.

  7. I think your comment on Challies is on target. I could almost swear I am reading materials from Bob Jones University when I read his own stuff. Even when he would not hold a particular view in common with them, the feel of writing seems the same. I think this is a rather natural trajectory for the reformed in general. I went to Westminster believing that I would engage sophisticated world view interaction. What I got was cultural fundamentalism. The actual biblical studies were rigorous and current with modern scholarship. But the culture was reactionary and insular. I found many of the students there much like what I had left in the southern independent baptist circles. It was all very surprising to me. Even though at that time I was mostly reformed in doctrine, I never could go into the reformed culture and have maintained the rest of my ministry outside of its walls.

  8. Dave Fitch’s post was characteristically brilliant in my opinion. He outlines some things that most people are going to miss.

    The simple explanation for the James MacDonald thing vs. the Driscoll thing is that, in this camp, if you are able to articulate doctrine in an iron-clad way (with appropriate attention to your “associations”), you get a pass to do nearly anything that can can be given even a remote precedent in Scripture or history. (I had no idea about the MacDonald-Jakes thing, but no matter what is true about it, this seems the case elsewhere.) The idea afoot seems to be this: “If you have the rhetorical skills to defend a point, you should. Or at least no one will tell you not to.” Despite the fact that there would be Scriptural precedent for handling the discipline case of confessed & repented sin any number of saner ways, you feel like doing it this way (cause it suits the whim of the collective Personality) so it must be ok, cause hey, Matthew 18 gets sort of loosely quoted or something. After all, no core doctrinal point is being violated on paper. I might call this “leaderly licentiousness.” This will not be the last case like this, and I’m sure it’s not the first.

  9. Hey, everybody,
    I just want to say that I believe Bill’s provocations can be useful to the Kingdom if they are used to nurture and push gently our brothers and sisters (at Neo-Reformed camps etc.) to more faithful honest conversation that can lead to a joint effort (more cooperation) for the Kingdom. I see Tim Keller as this kind of dialogical figure in this camp.
    I wrote my posts on Drsicoll because, as crazy and even heated as it might get, I think we’ve got to promote talking about the obvious and working together. People among us are following blindly ideologies etc. And I think the only advantage in having Neo-Reformed, Emergent, Neo-Anabaptist, etc. camps is we all come from various places, with various lacks, various pathologies at work in our churches, as well as wonderful insights and things that God is doing among us. We should then provoke each other to truth seeking and more faithful witness. So I hope we use Bill’s always excellent provocations to further fellowship and not merely bashing of our former churches.
    To the extent that I have contributed to such bashing … I now repent (and it won’t be the last time I fail in this regard .. but I am working at it… I swear!) …
    Love this blog DF

  10. Bill,

    I was annoyed by your post this morning, and it’s been on my mind all day.

    On one hand, I’m cautious in giving credence to hearsay, and I hate pile-ons. And I think parts of Real Marriage were good, and parts of it were really bad.

    But you have a point. I’m concerned with many of the points you raise. I don’t carry a neo-Reformed card in my wallet, but I think it’s time to express concern.

    I appreciate your prodding.

    • I figured you might be annoyed but I knew you’d forgive me. 🙂

      And if there ever a time to express concern, it’s now.

  11. Bill, Well done. Lord of the Flies is a perfect analogy.

    Reading through another abuse of power story in these circles last year brought to mind another metaphorical description of what we are witnessing with so many of these celebrity Christians with Tom Wolfe’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ in “Bonfire of the Vanities”.

    Where are the adults? In their mom’s basement blogging in their jim jams, apparently. :o)

  12. Pastors today have usurped the role of the Holy Spirit. They generally tend to view themselves, and enforce that view on the congregation, as the Head of the Church, the CEO, the President of the flock. Lords over God’s heritage, they demand obedience and will not allow any questioning. They say crazy things, but are immune from critique.

  13. It’s busy here today, Bill–but then you *are* a celebrity blogger. As much as I might agree with your Lord of the Flies metaphor, our brothers and sisters in the Neo-Reform movement are not likely to listen to those from without. I’d like to suggest that our first responsibility is to pray. Our second is to develop relationships–you know, the old-school kind where people share meals and hang out together: where the sweetness of our friendships overrule the bitterness of argument.

    In short, I believe we must think (and act) within smaller circles, and pray harder.

    Peace to all!

  14. And then there’s failure…
    link to christusvictoratonement.wordpress.com

  15. Kinnon,

    You said;

    “This is what happens when a young man becomes a Christian and then starts his own church without ever having been effectively mentored by an older-in-the-faith person. This is what happens when a new believer with a charismatic personality and practiced stage technique is never properly discipled and ends up with significant church authority.”

    Right on the money.


  16. Bill,
    Thoughtful and pointed.


What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.