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Rumour has it, if one follows Warren Throckmorton @ Patheos, that celebrity pastor, Mark Driscoll and his team of occasionally competent researchers, ghost writers and editors, has a new book coming out from passive-aggressive publisher, Tyndale House. (Not to be confused in any way, with non-passive-aggressive Tyndale House in Cambridge, UK.)

Driscoll & Co.’s new book is apparently called “The Problem with Christianity.”

MeWhich reminded me of the famous GK Chesterton story of when The Times asked a number of writers the question, “What is wrong with the world?” and GKC’s rather perfect response was “I am.”

Perhaps Driscoll and Co. will surprise us all with a book that won’t require grand research or worries of proper attribution — because, when one opens to Page 1 of the new Tyndale House book from New York Times best-selling author, Mark Driscoll, the reader will discover the book has a single word response to its title, The Problem with Christianity — “Me.”

UPDATE May 15, 2015: I have been notified by Julie McMahon that she has been asked in an emailed correspondence, to ask me to remove this post. That’s not going to happen. In my never humble opinion, this is simply a further working out of Tony Jones’ self-admitted Narcissistic Personality Disorder (admission on Pg 10 of pdf). Only an NPD could believe this to be a reasonable request.


This is from a series of tweets of mine this morning — Tuesday, February 10, 2015 (with a few tweet responses from fellow Canadians, James Forde and Michael Bells) beginning here — note I’ve done some editing and made additions for clarity to the Tweets.

We need to acknowledge that narcissistic & yes, psychopathic leadership is a problem in the Church — and figure out how to deal with it. This requires educating ourselves to the realities of psychopathy and NPD.  Books by Robert Hare & Kevin Dutton are good places to start.

If you’ve been an unintentional co-conspirator with an NPD/psychopath or a “commender” as my friend Futuristguy Brad Sargent puts it — admit it, apologize & make restitution — learn from your mistakes.

If you aren’t a book reader, then at least read this on NPD and this on psychopathy.

Too many Christians are now “dones” because of the actions of leaders with NPD &/or psychopathic traits. This needs to change.

Too many NPD/psychopathic leaders have been protected because of the size of “their ministries”. A trail of broken bodies is NOT the Church.

Too many narcissistic/psychopathic theologians have been protected because of their supposed “insights”. Victims be damned.

Again, if you’re a leader in the church, and have actively promoted an NPD &/or psychopath — acknowledge & repent for the sake of the Church.

James Forde: Most people get swept up in the star gazing that happens and don’t see the leader for what they are & end up as a silenced victim! Then when they have the courage &/or support to come out and bring things to light they are either accused of being jealous or nuts and those either under the spell still (or who stand to gain financially or in power) do what they can to protect the leader.

Read this 2009 NYTimes article on Mark Driscoll and ask yourself how rational Church leaders could support this man.

Go to Tony Jones’ #WhyTony Scrib site, where he admits he’s NPD, and ask yourself how these other “leaders” continue to support him while demonizing Julie, ToJo’s ex-wife. (I’m intentionally not linking to ToJo’s site.)

The celebrity-driven church actively promotes narcissistic/psychopathic leadership. This is NOT the church of Jesus. Not even a facsimile.

Michael Bells: That “model” is only a cheap plastic ‘copy’ of the real thing – it’s not even close to Jesus’ way, 🙁

I am not suggesting all Church leaders are NPD/psychopathic. I don’t believe that for a moment. However, far too many are, even if only 1% — that 1% figure is the recognized percentage of psychopaths in society. As well, according to Kevin Dutton’s research the #8 position psychopaths end up in is clergy.

And let me end this Tweetablog with an edit of this tweet of mine from yesterday,

Do not be surprised the Church is plagued with many narcissist leaders. Narcissists are attracted to power. This is a problem with the church that promotes “powerfilled” leaders — directly contrary to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 20:25:

“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” (MSG)

Updated at 1:57 PM EST February 10, 2015

This post was first published by Bill Kinnon @

First published in November of 2006, this updated post seems particularly appropriate today.


Premium-VintageMy first job out of Ryerson University was working in the marketing department of a heavy equipment manufacturing company on the shores of Lake Huron. I was the copywriter and one-man-TV-production team making an incredible $11,000 per year. It was 1978 and I was twenty-two.

I had the habit of speaking my twenty-two year old mind to senior executives without realizing the impact i was having. In a marketing meeting, I told the 50 year old VP of Sales and Marketing that he didn’t know what he was talking about. (And of course, I was right.) My boss, Bill Metcalfe said to me, “Bill, you have one of the best analytic minds I’ve ever come across, except when it comes to yourself.” I have long had the problem of not recognizing the man in the mirror.

No Reflection
Late in the spring of 2006, Imbi and I were in the UK for a few days before heading off to teach in Nairobi. We went into London to visit a friend, arriving at Victoria Station by train to begin our Tube journey. As is my wont, I had need of a restroom and after paying some form of UK currency, made use of the facilities. Approaching the counter to wash my hands, I looked in the mirror…but I wasn’t there. It freaked me out – I was looking in the mirror but all I saw were the doors of the stalls behind me. Was it jet lag? Had I finally lost my mind? What was going on? It took my brain much too long to realize that there was no mirror. The bathroom was constructed as a perfect mirror image of itself and I was looking across at the other side of the room. But there was a metaphor here…at least for me.

I have had a hard time seeing myself in a mirror. So it’s probably a little odd that my favourite Michael Jackson song is the Glen Ballard/Seidah Garrett/Michael Jackson composed, Man in the Mirror.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could ever been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change…

But what if, like me, you have a hard time seeing yourself in the mirror.

I’m convinced there are a lot of people who have a similar problem. People who desperately need others to help them recognize themselves. (At it’s extreme it becomes Narcissistic Personality Disorder.) I think it is particularly prevalent in those attracted to leadership roles in the church. And it’s one of the main reasons we all need to be in accountability relationships.

As hard as it is for me to admit, my wife is my primary helper in this regard. She knows me, loves me, (gets regularly ticked with me) and wants the very best for me. She has seen how I often shoot myself in the foot and has helped me to do that a less often. (This part of my education has been ongoing since 1983. I may be a slow learner.) My buddy George in Pittsburgh makes a habit of calling me to account on a regular basis. Other friends I trust, recognize my blind spots and are doing their best to stop me from walking into things, situations, people that will hurt me, and my family — as well as helping to protect others I might hurt. (Special thanks to my ‘gator friends.) And in light of Ephesians 5:21, my friends also expect me to help hold them accountable.

Man-in-Mirror-multiple-mirrorsIf you have placed yourself above reproach, refuse correction from anyone and see yourself as an authority unto yourself — “I hear directly from God” as I heard one “leader” put it — let me be blunt: you’re screwed. The person you see in the mirror isn’t you – it’s only a reflection of who you think you are. If you operate this way and have a relatively well-known platform, you can expect that at some point you will experience what Mark Driscoll is experiencing today – and I’m sure he’s wondering how he got here. He thought he looked great in the mirror. And that everyone else agreed.

This updated post first appeared on on Aug-05-14 and was written by Bill Kinnon.


A-Long-Faithfulness-coverThe publishing of McKnight’s new essay is particularly relevant in light of the latest John Piper Tweet firestorm — enflamed by tweets which, it has been blogged, he intended as comfort for people in Moore, OK. This ‘tweet comfort’ after the brutal tornado that wreaked destruction on the Moore community. (Wade Burleson’s response to Brother Piper and that of Chris Hubbs are two of the best I’ve read.)

I would suggest that Pastor Piper has been consistent in his theological response to this and other tragedies. Would the key to understanding his response be his belief in what Scot McKnight says “might be called “meticulous” (or “exhaustive)” sovereignty“? (Note: I wrote about a Piper response to the 2007 I35 Bridge Collapse tragedy.)

Scot McKnight’s latest eBook/essay, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance, engages Piper’s understanding of God’s sovereignty. McKnight does it in an irenic manner. ( I purchased and read the essay yesterday. It is available in Canada here, and in the US here)

He says this about the purpose of his essay:

This essay ultimately contends for a generous evangelicalism, one in which each of our theologies is represented fairly and is accepted as a genuine element. This essay is not an argument for Arminianism, which ironically is itself–as Roger Olson has clearly stated over and over in his excellent books, including Arminian Theology and Against Calvinism–a development of Calvinism. Instead, this essay is designed to cut the nerve feeding only one kind of resurgent Calvinism: the meticulous sovereignty sort. I hope to convince the reader that meticulous sovereignty conflicts with the Bible’s presentation of human freedom, namely, the ability to choose and un-choose God. If my argument is accurate, then we are set free to explore other options for tragedies and injustices in this world besides meticulous sovereignty. The heart of this resurgent Calvinism is found in the singular, clear, and passionate vision of John Piper. There are other theologians and pastors around him, including Mark Driscoll, D.A. Carson, David Wells, and many others. Alongside these key, articulate, and passionate voices are institutions that prop up these voices: places like Southern Seminary (led by Al Mohler), Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and other lesser known but serious seminaries, colleges, and conferences (like the Passion Conference and The Gospel Coalition). [emphasis added]

I would strongly suggest that using the warning passages in Hebrews — 2:1-4, 3:7-4:13, 5:11-6:12, 10:19-39, 12:1-29 — McKnight accomplishes what he sets out to do. He ‘cuts the nerve’ that feeds “meticulous sovereignty”. He also challenges and corrects those of us who’ve bought into the “once saved/always saved” cheap grace of American evangelicalism.

I look forward to my friends and others in the Piper/TGC/T4C universe giving this essay an honest assessment — actually wrestling with McKnight’s argument — treating it and Scot McKnight with the respect deserved.

I’m about to read the essay through again. I doubt it will be the last time. I do hope you will read it, as well.

UPDATE: Chaplain Mike @ Internetmonk: John Piper, Miserable Comforter

With apologies to Will Shakespeare for the title.

Perhaps it is just me — and the things I read — but there is a level of madness in the present North American Evangelical/Christendom landscape that appears to know no bounds.

From the Ridiculous

One narcissist, from his perch as a theological academic of indeterminate stripe, portrays himself as a victim of inverse racism — while another, his former traveling companion, a self-proclaimed “gigachurch pastor” commends himself as a true green arbiter of all things Jesus funny. The two proving the fine line between comedy and pathos.

Through the Painful

In the city that hosts the World that Walt built, three Megachurch pastors resign over adultery — one of them from one of the “10 healthiest churches” in America. A Charismatic voice claims it’s “the spirit of Jezebel” whilst another voice states “it’s probably more related to the feelings of isolation experienced by large-church leaders.”

To the Tragic

— the embarrassing disaster that is Sovereign Grace Ministries led by C.J. Mahaney (no matter what rearranging of deck chairs on the SGM Titanic has recently taken place) and the amended and expanded sexual abuse lawsuit they now face. (Read The Wartburg Watch posts here, here, here and here. They have been more than faithful in staying on top of this story.)

This is a tragedy at so many levels — the worst being what has (allegedly) happened to the victims and their families. Many of their stories first told at SGM Survivors over the six years that blog has existed — for those who had the willing eyes and hearts to read and comprehend.

In July of 2011, well before the lawsuit was announced, I wrote a post entitled C.J. Mahaney & Semper Reformanda or …Not So Much, triggered by the SGM Wikileaks documents;

It appears that Mahaney has both misunderstood & misrepresented the Gospel in his own network of churches while marginalizing or discarding any who dared question his motives, methods & ministry…

And later…

…a legion of wounded SGMers are in recovery from what they’ve suffered at the hands of this “ministry” led by C.J. Mahaney, their lead apostle. And this while Mahaney has trod the conference stage of the Reformed universe – as one of their “humble” super-apostles to be emulated.

In the followup post, Wait! Don’t Look Behind the Curtain I quoted my friend, Dan Gouge (from the City of God team blog),

Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan have both stood up for Mahaney and, in essence, insist that his critics shut up and that everyone else move along.

What’s remarkable about this is that there seems to be a reflex here that is shockingly similar to the one that kicked in at the Vatican when the child sex-abuse scandals started to leak into the media. (Note: Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that C.J. Mahaney is the equivalent of a sex offender.) The hierarchy circled the wagons and went about blaming everyone else while trying to protect itself. Neither T4G nor SGM is a hierarchy like Rome, but there is an undeniable star system at the top of today’s Reformed church world with a handful of powerful men who dominate conferences and bestseller lists, and it appears that they have taken to looking after their interests – the interests of the powerful – at the expense of all those whom they claim as followers. (emphasis added)

Though it has not been alleged that Mahaney was directly involved in sexual abuse, Dan’s comment was prescient in that the Mahaney-led SGM allegedly engaged in coverups not unlike that of the Roman Catholic Church. With mini-Pope’s like Al Mohler defending the honour and integrity of Mahaney, whilst Ligon Duncan cast aspersions on the victims;

I would… encourage you to ignore the assaults of wounded people on attack websites and blogs, and that you discount the opinings of those who have no real knowledge of these matters or relation to SGM or authority to comment upon them, and that you refrain from assuming that you (or they) are in a position to render judgment on these things. (The original link for this in the Reformation 21 site archives does not work — but it’s alive and well at the Wayback Machine.)

Matt Redmond, blogger and author of the very good book, The God of the Mundane, wrote this yesterday in his post, Answering Some Objections I’ve Gotten About the SGM Lawsuit

What I keep hearing is we should wait till the verdict comes in to hear both sides because SGM has totally denied the accusations. Therefore no blog posts and no articles till then. Before the trial of Sandusky, an article “Love Notices Wet Hair” was published on The Gospel Coalition site and distributed widely. That article was posted 7 months before he was found guilty. Either we need an admission of how wrong that was, or we need a similar stance. Really all they would need to do is write a blog post that said, “in light of the accusations against SGM we offer this post.” That would be a start.

I would also like to see a public announcement about the need for any and all named parties to stop speaking at conferences. This would benefit everyone. I want you to imagine what it must be like for a victim of abuse to continually hear about the speaking engagements of those who enabled the abusers or were themselves an abuser. To see them rise in popularity. To see them above criticism. When the Reformed community does not see any problem with CJ Mahaney speaking at conferences because he has denied the charges against him and none have to be proven in the courts, our cult of personality has reached an apex. (emphasis added)

Zach Hoag, another gifted blogger and author, wrote this in his post A False Gospel of Reconciliation yesterday

I’ve written before about the current lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries and how it represents a rapidly approaching counseling cliff for the evangelical church at large – a cliff especially perilous when conservative churches deal with matters of abuse. Well, this week, more allegations were filed against SGM, and they are horrific. And, as of now, the major evangelical institutions that are closely connected to SGM – namely, The Gospel Coalition (where C.J. Mahaney, a defendant in the suit and founding leader of the SGM movement, is a council member) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (major supporter/ally of C.J. and SGM, with President Al Mohler as close friend and staunch defender of C.J.) – have not issued anything in the way of cautionary or even concerned statements regarding the man or the movement (that I am aware of). There has been total silence about a celebrity preacher and an organization that is now literally inundated with accusations of sexually and physically abusing children and conspiring to cover it all up over many years. Nor have any/many connected big-name individual leaders, themselves also institutionally powerful, come out with words of warning or grieving. Instead, powerful men like John Piper have made gestures of support in the midst of C.J. and SGM’s legal troubles.

The silence is deafening.    (emphasis and links in the original)

The attitude of many who purportedly swim in the same spiritual streams as Mahaney et al, is either that the rest of us are out to get SGM because we don’t like Mahaney, or we simply hate the beauty and truth that is NeoReformed theology.

In a Twitter back and forth with Spiritual Sounding Board’s Julie Anne Smith, me and fiery writer & Calvinist gadfly, Frank Turk (who, despite our profound theological differences, I consider a friend), Frank made this Tweet comment about the present debacle

@kinnon @DefendTheSheep Like I said: I admire the starch it takes to find a sex offender when the charges of spiritual abuse can’t work out

It would appear that Frank and many of his NeoReformed brethren see the lawsuit as simply another attack on poor C.J. — and their shared NeoReformed/Complementarian doctrine.

And therefore the tragedy is compounded as many of the NeoReformed appear most concerned about protecting the belief in the veracity of their doctrine. They don’t appear to really care about what happens nor what has happened to the victims of the cult-like behaviour of C.J.Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Whether they mean to or not, they seem to be saying,

Screw the victims, C.J. believes the right stuff.’

Zero-Sum Games & the Church

kinnon —  November 5, 2012 — 15 Comments

ZeroSum Games w 3D Shadow

a zero–sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s)Wikipedia

I Win! You lose! It’s a zero-sum game.


This is, effectively, an extension of a previous blog post from January of this year, Theology — Is It a Bloodsport? It came out of a heated “conversation” Jared Wilson and I had on Twitter. One that may have not been the most productive. What I found most disquieting in that discussion was the language of team sports as a metaphor for interaction regarding Christianity’s different theological positions.

In that post, I spoke about my own lack of indoctrination into what I see is the idolatry of sports.

I make no bones about the fact I’m not into sports. From the time I was 8 until I was 13, I lived in Europe on Canadian Air Force bases. My family didn’t have a TV and neither did any of my friends’ families. If I listened to any sports, it was on Canadian Forces Network radio—a week tape delay of Hockey Night in Canada. And as much as I love the sound of Foster Hewitt’s voice, I rarely listened to him. So I guess I was never predisposed to view life through the lens of professional sports.

I, therefore, don’t find what appears to me to be the language / actions of team-loyal sports fans being applied to theological discussions as particularly helpful.”

I would state, rather categorically, that if there is a state religion in the U.S., that religion would be organized sport. The level of angst that exists for the success or failure of one’s team is more than a little disconcerting – especially when the fan is a Christian, or a “Christian leader.”

Pascal put his finger on the problem of human life when he saw how entertainment had come to occupy a place, not as the necessary and momentary relief from a life of work, but as an end in itself. When entertainment becomes more than a pleasant and occasional distraction, when time and income become devoted to entertainment and to pleasure, when sports teams become more important to us than people—even the people to whom we are close—then something has gone badly wrong. The frothy entertainment culture in which we live is a narcotic: not only is it addictive, so that we always want more; it also eats away at us, skewing our priorities, rotting our values as surely as too much sugar rots our teeth.” — Carl Trueman, Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread, Page 111.

In my childhood, I was taught the lie, “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” The truth is closer to, ‘it doesn’t matter how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.’

Trueman again,

For many, though, sport has become an integral part of their identity, and, more often than not, it is watching sport, not actual participation, that does this. The success or failure of a team becomes the vicarious success or failure of the supporter. In other words, sport becomes a means of finding authenticity and value. Other areas of life can be neglected, malfunction, or simply go to the dogs; but as long as “the team” is doing well, all is OK with the world. Indeed, in good “opium” fashion, we can be enduring all kinds of garbage being dropped on us; but the “team” gives us hope—albeit specious and illusory—of fulfillment and happiness.” Carl Trueman, Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread, Page 123.

Many, if not most North American children are indoctrinated into their particular team fandom at a young age.

Rachel Held Evans, in her latest book, talks about her Roll Tide addiction,

I grew up in the great state of Alabama, which journalist Warren St. John deems “the worst place on earth to acquire a healthy perspective on the importance of spectator sports.” 1 In Alabama, the third most important question after “What is your name?” and “Where do you go to church?” is “Alabama or Auburn?” So soon after I learned to identify myself as a nondenominational, Bible-believing Christian named Rachel, I learned to identify myself as an Alabama fan. My little sister and I knew what intentional grounding was before we’d acquired the dexterity to play with Barbie dolls, and as kids we liked to imitate my mother, who had the habit of willing an Alabama running back down the field by moving closer and closer to the TV set the longer he stayed on his feet. By the time he danced into the end zone, the whole family—Mom, Dad, Amanda, and I—would be huddled together around the TV, screaming our heads off, nervously looking for any yellow flags on the field.” Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Page 2

At it’s very worst, this American obsession with winning teams is exemplified by what was allowed to happen under Joe Paterno’s leadership at Penn State. Winning at any cost — even if that cost was children sacrificed on the altar of pedophilia. UPDATE 3: View this graphic. And weep.

But I would suggest that for most Americans, the worship of sports is milder than that, but perhaps more insidious.

Trash Talking

One of the manifestations of this is the prevalence of trash talking that began in sports but has become a very noticeable part of social interaction. It’s roots may be in the rather innocent, “Hey batter, batter” of baseball but the language is far stronger today — and much more destructive.

I note these two stories on American President, Barack Obama, known as a hyper-competitive player. From CNN,

Reggie Love, the man by President Barack Obama’s side for two years in the White House, said the president leads like he plays basketball… …“He’s a competitor, and I think when you compete … you can’t spend all your time sort of being overly emotional or reactional to what’s going on,” Love said.

Obama trashing Rubio2

And then from Politico,

It is Obama’s own burning competitiveness, with his remorseless focus on beating Mitt Romney — an opponent he genuinely views with contempt and fears will be unfit to run the country…

Obama is sometimes portrayed as a reluctant warrior, sorry to see 2012 marked by so much partisan warfare but forced by circumstance to go along. But this perception is by most evidence untrue. In the interviews with current and former Obama aides, not one said he expressed any reservations about the negativity. He views it as a necessary part of campaigning, as a natural — if unpleasant — rotation of the cyclical political wheel.

Obama’s trash-talking competitiveness, a trait that has defined him since his days on the court as a basketball-obsessed teenager in Hawaii, was on display one night last February, when the president spotted a woman he knew was close to Sen. Marco Rubio in a Florida hotel lobby. “Is your boy going to go for [vice president]?” the president asked her. Maybe, she replied. “Well,” he said, chuckling, according to a person who witnessed the encounter. “Tell your boy to watch it. He might get his ass kicked.” [emphasis added]

Obama is simply a product of the dominant culture.

His team will do anything to beat the other – and that sentiment is reciprocated. To a Democrat, Republicans are knuckle-dragging fools who hate women and want to return to the 50’s. To a Republican, Democrats are Socialists who will steal the election in order to worship Stalin or Satan, take your pick.

The trash-talking, zero-sum gaming of U.S. Politics is in danger of destroying the American nation.


I’m more concerned about what it’s doing to the church.

Matthew Lee Anderson, in his review of RHE’s new book, says this at the end of his rather long (but must read) review:

…I am increasingly saddened by the state of our Christian discourse online, including my own involvement in it.

I’m no Roman history expert, but I take it that it was their love of entertainment that led them to the Coliseum. It’s a bloodthirsty idol, entertainment, for it knows no boundaries nor respects no persons. Over the past two years, Christians have engaged in a variety of controversies—which they have been doing for a long time, but which seem to be coming and going with a greater rapidity while being discussed at a significantly more shallow level. I think of Rob Bell’s book, Jesus>Religion, Mark Driscoll’s book, the Wilson dustup, and now this conflagration. And there are, I think, others I am forgetting.

In each, the form of arguments have rarely been commendable and the level of discourse ennobling. We have increasingly, it seems to me, been taken by these controversies and fought for pageviews in the midst of them. And that has meant mostly fighting each other, clashing verbal swords and letting the digital blood flow in the streets. I know well that there is a time to disagree and to draw lines. And I also know that when the controversy is upon us, the drumbeats of war always beat the loudest, and it is usually in such moments that we should speak of peace. Perhaps we would all do well to wield our intellectual swords with a good deal more care.

One of the reasons I’ve had such a hard time blogging in these past six months, is what went down this summer on The Gospel Coalition blog of Jared Wilson’s when he used a Doug Wilson quote on his Fifty Shades of Grey Post, now deleted – and the Internet blog storm that was created — the Wilson dustup mentioned by Anderson, above.

I’ve known Jared through our relationship with the late Michael Spencer, for probably five years. I’ve held him in high regard for most of the time. But I was shocked by his response to the people who were profoundly offended by his blog post, particularly in the way he trash-talked them on Twitter, as well as in the comment sections of the multiple posts he wrote based on his first post.

If you follow Jared on Twitter, you’ll know he’s a huge sports fan — especially football. I honestly believe that Jared was engaging in social media debate in a manner little different than what he would do amongst his friends known as The Thinklings. His responses were simply representative of the perspective formed by the culturally dominant world of sport. Trash-talking being a normative response.

Jared is hardly the most egregious example of Christian trash-talking. And its not limited to his fellow Calvinists.

Some of the stuff I read from Christian Progressives in response to Evangelicals and other Christian conservatives is really little different from how Democrats feel about Republicans — only its shared with less love and affection. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

As I bring my own, too long, post to a close, I realize that perhaps all this is a plea like that of the late Rodney King, “Can we all get along?”


Perhaps, we could all simply become less resounding gongs or clanging cymbals — the ones Paul, the Apostle spoke of here.

UPDATE: Read Michael Kruze’s post here: America’s Increasingly Tribal Electorate

UPDATE 2: Todd Littleton advances the conversation much further.

…is for good people to do nothing. (This quote is often mis-attributed to Edmund Burke. I have little doubt he would have agreed with it, whether or not he actually stated it.)

I am no longer astounded by the number of people — purportedly “good people” — who willingly go along with evil being perpetrated in the church. The specific evil of which I write is that of the easy destruction of peoples’ lives when they dare to question spiritual authority. (The previous post points to the practices of a particular leader who gets a pass from other leaders in supposed relationship with him — to their shame.)

I’ve written at length about the problems with the authoritarian style of Mark Driscoll and what I believe are the problems with his ministry. Contrary to the opinion of many, I do not hate Mark Driscoll. I do, however, hate the leadership style he has been allowed to assume and to teach other men to practice (and it is gender specific). I believe it to be so far from the biblical model of servant leadership as to be almost antithetical to what the New Testament teaches.

In 2007, two pastors, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, who disagreed with changes to the leadership polity of Mars Hill were subsequently dismissed with apparent prejudice. They dared question the desired direction of Mark Driscoll in terms of his power and authority. Until very recently, these two men remained virtually silent on what they and their families had experienced.

Bent Meyer spoke out first on The Wartburgh Watch. And Paul and Jonna Petry have responded with their blog, Joyful Exiles.

Jonna Petry’s “My Story” is more than worthy of your time to read. It is a powerful story of excitement with something they believe to have the potential for much good in Seattle — that gets turned into one man’s personal ministry. A ministry where those who dare disagree with that One are discarded at best, or destroyed at worst.

From the full document,

…we started attending regularly, heard a number of the pastors preach (because in those days they took turns preaching), listened carefully to what was said and mostly delighted in what we experienced. Mark Driscoll stood out then, as a persuasive speaker with a strong attitude but, we had confidence the leadership team, Mark included, was committed to the distinctive of biblical eldership. Though Mark was young, he was surrounded by a group of godly older men – Bent Meyer being one who also had years of pastoral experience behind him. This was very reassuring to us.

The church was growing and we became completely immersed in loving, serving and teaching. My father (who had not been in church for almost 40 years) and my sweet stepmother joined us monthly and then weekly for worship services – ferrying over from Poulsbo, Washington, to spend the day with us. Mark often used the expression that our church was “family” and we rather believed it – so effective in building a sense of belonging.

But those things began to change,

Mark pressured all the elected executive elders [with the exception of Jamie Munson] to resign their posts, saying a new structure was necessary. Mark also decided that Lief would no longer function as the pastor of the Ballard campus (the primary and largest campus where Mark taught mostly in person) and as a result the two of them had a horrible falling out. This was an ominous sign for me because Mark had often spoken about his love and appreciation for Lief’s willingness to go “toe-to-toe” with him and how this was vital for the health of the church. (Pg 4)

What had begun as a multiple teaching leadership, elder-led church devolved (and I use that word intentionally) into one man rule. To the point where Jonna writes,

What started with a beautiful beginning – three families sent from Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland to plant a “daughter church” in Seattle that would be authentic and relevant to reach the lost – has turned into the personal ministry of one very ambitious man. Although it is still called a church, I think a more honest and accurate name might be “Mark Driscoll Ministries,” not unlike the name for Billy Graham’s organization, a man who Mark has said he greatly admires. I think what we are seeing demonstrates a confused ecclesiology and I fear this is also being taught to many other young church planters through the Acts 29 Network who want to “have” a church just like Mark’s. (Pg 13) [emphasis added]

Jonna acknowledges her own mistakes in allowing the Mars Hill church system to grow in it’s dysfunction,

I have my own sin in all this. I contributed to the dysfunctional system. I acted in pride, idolatry, fear of man, people pleasing, cowardice, and favoritism. I am truly sorry for all the ways I personally hurt people by my words, my actions or inactions, directly or indirectly, during my time at Mars Hill Church from 2001–2007, especially as a part of leadership. And now, I am also very sorry for how my years of silence regarding the spiritual abuse that I suffered have indirectly contributed to the abuse of other precious people. Though truthfully, I don’t think I could have written about it any sooner. (Pg 13) [emphasis added]

Jonna ends her story powerfully,

If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included. To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future. We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse. Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.

Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots. Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.

A Christianity which perpetuates the exaltation of mere men to god-like status, while belittling and wounding so many of God’s children in the process, is completely antithetical to what Jesus taught and is just as harmful to the leaders as it is to those who follow. Sadly, this is not the love of Jesus Christ or the power of the gospel we are called to demonstrate to one another and to the world. (Pg 14) [emphasis added]

To which I can only add, a loud AMEN!

Please read the entire document, and the full blog of Paul and Jonna Petry, Joyful Exiles. If this doesn’t cause you great concern with the Celebrity-Driven Church culture in North America, nothing will.

Side Note: Imbi and I are on the road in the EU working on a number of projects. This is the primary reason for my blog silence. The introduction of Paul’s and Jonna’s blog was well worth me taking a moment to write this new post.

Over the weekend, I read an article written by Don Carson and Tim Keller called Carson and Keller on Jakes and the Elephant Room. Then on Monday, Scot McKnight wrote a post called Why? In that post, he wondered why people react to John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Al Mohler, but not to Tim Keller, when they all espouse, effectively, the same views on theology and ecclesiology.

So those two posts are the primary triggers for this post of mine where I do want to ask, the gospel according to whom?

Carson and Keller were writing from the platform of The Gospel Coalition. Note the definite article “The”, at the beginning of what they call their network. It isn’t A Gospel Coalition. It is The Gospel Coalition. We can deduce from the title that the men involved with TGC believe they represent The Gospel. And it is men, not women, in The Gospel Coalition. So it’s safe to assume that the only leaders in what they understand to be “The Gospel” are men.

What else do the men of TGC believe? Well, they are all either neo-reformed as Dave Fitch’s designates them or neo-Puritan in Scott McKnight’s descriptor, so the men of TGC would identify the gospel with a form of Calvinism. (Fitch would note that this would be Calvinism from within a North American context.) Is it fair to say that there are no Arminians involved with TGC; male nor female? Were they alive today, neither of the Wesley brothers would be welcomed to the TGC table, though it would be okay to sing a few of Charles’ hymns… as long as the worship leader was male, of course.

This is what they say about themselves,

We are a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices

And later,

We want to generate a unified effort among all peoples—an effort that is zealous to honor Christ and multiply his disciples, joining in a true coalition for Jesus. Such a biblically grounded and united mission is the only enduring future for the church. This reality compels us to stand with others who are stirred by the conviction that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ is our only hope of eternal salvation. We desire to champion this gospel with clarity, compassion, courage, and joy—gladly linking hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic, and class lines.

But is it not fair to believe that this example of “a true coalition for Jesus” is one limited to truly reformed and patriarchal Christians? Which either means they don’t believe the rest of us are Christians or we simply don’t understand what the gospel is — if only we’d agree with them, then we could join. These dear men claim to want to gladly link hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic, and class lines, (but not gender), but can we surmise that that would only be as long as you agree with their theological and ecclesiological positions?

So, it would seem, “the gospel”, in The Gospel Coalition is masculine and truly reformed. Their table is limited — much like their view on The Atonement.

But let me return to the 1st trigger for this post, Carson and Keller on Jakes and the Elephant Room. Now Keller & Carson’s primary concern is with where TD Jakes stands on the Trinity. This has been written/spoken about ad nauseam in the days since James McDonald’s ER2. Jakes claims to be Trinitarian and it seems Carson and Keller don’t believe him to be Trinitarian enough.

They then go on to express concern about the prosperity gospel which they write Jakes preaches. How odd that it’s a concern when Jakes preaches it, but not when Stephen Furtick does. Note that Furtick has been a part of both Elephant Rooms.

So, here’s what I want to ask Carson and Keller; if a poor Trinitarian understanding and the prosperity gospel are hindrances to relationship, where does blackmail fit in?

No, that’s not a non sequitur.

You see one of the celebrity pastors who is a part of The Gospel Coalition is CJ Mahaney. Mahaney and a number of his fellow leaders in Sovereign Grace Ministries stand accused of blackmailing the original cofounder of SGM, Larry Tomczak. This was, apparently, done in order to stop him from publicly disagreeing with SGM’s move towards a Calvinist theological position. (This happened over a decade ago, but was only fully revealed in the last year). One of the men involved with Mahaney at the time has publicly admitted it, asked for forgiveness and revealed the others’ complicity.

This is not news.

I wrote about it in this post, C.J. Mahaney & Semper Reformanda or …Not So Much. And it’s been covered in depth all over the blog universe. Just Google “CJ Mahaney blackmail” and you can read to your heart’s content.

And yes, I realize that SGM’s board has approved Mahaney’s return to SGM leadership but I also realize they did this before the real investigation report from an outside party has been completed. One might wonder whether this was done so he and his right hand man, Dave Harvey, can appear as speakers at April’s Together for the GospelT4G. (Read the linked-to above BHT post from an SGM member.)

This video of Mahaney with his three T4G co-founders made me sick to my stomach, when I viewed it this morning. These men should be ashamed of themselves. But they apparently don’t know what “shame” means… or “research” for that matter. When the CJ-Stepping-Down scandal first erupted last summer they chose to believe Mahaney over the hundreds hurt by his ministry. Isn’t that typical for the celebrity-driven church.

So back to Carson and Keller. Perhaps they can help me with my confusion; if a poor understanding of Trinitarian theology and the preaching of prosperity are cause for concern (and I don’t disagree that they are), should not one be concerned about a significant leader in your movement who uses blackmail to get his own way. (Trust me, there are many, many more reasons to question Mahaney’s fitness for church leadership, but this one will suffice for the moment.)

The fellows of TGC and T4G are more than willing to call out anyone they believe to be doing harm to their understanding of The Gospel.

Except, it would seem, if it’s one of their co-council members. (And I haven’t even mentioned a certain West Coast church leader, also on said council… well, not in this post, anyway.)

UPDATE: Todd Littleton adds to the discussion with Komen, Lifeway, SGM and T4G Or, Maintaining the “as is” Structure

I just spent the last hour working on a post called Power, Authority and Control. And I just don’t have the energy to finish it. As you might imagine, it references the recent nonsense from John Piper on Christianity being masculine, more Mark Driscoll than I care to think about and the latest missive from 9Marks on church discipline — as if it’s a line from Hotel California, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

The post references the upcoming T4G conference where the recently reinstated CJ Mahaney, he of blackmailing-his-church-cofounder-fame, will share the platform with men who will teach young males about the importance of exerting proper control of their sheep. If there was truth in advertising, or a at least Christian advertising, the conference would be called Men Together for the Patriarchal Gospel.

So here are some of the things that I’m tired of:

1) People who deny that they believe that patriarchy is a first-order issue, but then do everything in their power to make it such.

2) The people who insist that they have the answers for the church simply because of the size of their audience. Would they please spend some time in 20th century history. Assuming they are literate, that study should defeat the argument for them.

3) The supposedly Christian publishers who promote anything as long as they think there’s a market for it — I’m getting more convinced every day that I should only read Christian writings from authors who’d been dead for at least 40 years.

4) Celebrity-Driven Conferences that could fill almost every waking moment, if one were so inclined, but in the end have limited to no impact – other than on the bank accounts of attendees.

5) People who want to die on the hill of Scriptural Inerrancy, but really what they believe is truly inerrant is their interpretation of Scripture.

And finally,

6) People who find the Judgment Seat of God to be particularly comfortable for their Gap-covered butts and are busy pontificating from that place — letting us all know whether we are in or we are out.

One of the interesting comments on David Fitch’s recent post about Mark Driscoll & the neo-Reformed was Scot McKnight’s. Scot said he prefers NeoPuritan to neo-Reformed.

…I have now landed on NeoPuritan as the heart of this movement. Puritanism is, of course, personal zeal before the Lord for holiness and, also, zeal for reforming church and society according to biblical (and not ecclesiastical) teachings.

This got me thinking about the Puritans and specifically about the Puritan theologian & preacher, Jonathan Edwards (a hero to many) and perhaps his most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

…God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards (natural men held in the hand of God) as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger…

Which then caused me to think about how Jesus taught us about God the Father’s character, in the story of the Prodigal Son.

As you remember, in that story, we see the younger son who effectively tells his father that he wants to view him as dead so he can immediately recieve his inheritance.

The father’s response is neither to ignore him, punish him or even disown him. Rather, the father gives his younger son what he demands, his inheritance — the father no doubt knowing that his son will end up as a wastrel.

The son quickly burns through all his inherited wealth and sinks to the point of finding himself sleeping with pigs — particularly gross to Jesus’ Jewish audience— and though he believes his father will no longer see him as his son, he hopes that he might at least be a hired servant on his father’s estate. So he heads home… or at least to what was once his home.

Jesus shocks his audience when he tells them of the father’s response. He sees his son coming from a great distance — as if the father has been looking, hoping and waiting for his prodigal son to return. And the father runs to his pig-stinking, wastrel son — throwing his arms around him and kissing him. (While the son attempts to apologize and asks to be a hired servant.) The father then has him clothed in fine robes, puts a ring on his finger and throws a party in his honor.

Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

Jesus’ audience, “tax collectors and sinners” and grumbling “Pharisees and teachers” would have all been shocked. This was not how they had been taught to view Yahweh.

I would ask, is this a story of Jesus showing us sinners in the hands of an angry God? Or are we all sinners in the hands of the Prodigal’s Father.

Perhaps a little food for thought in light of what’s going on in some parts of the NeoPuritan world right now.