Strange connections and tales re: Mark Driscoll, the “Evangelical Industrial Complex,” and the Strange fire conference

Okay, I must admit, I’m not the most up-to-date person on every Evangelical happening—I tend to prefer finding out after the fact, after numerous bloggers and media sources have written their synopses.   I know this is sort of anti-thetical to “social media” but well, I have other things going on in my life.

Today’s catching up…is just full of weirdness…

Mark Driscoll
One of the bloggers I follow just posted his reaction to Mark Driscoll.  I knew something vaguely was going on, and while most cite Jonathan Merritt’s summary here at Religion News Service, I think the best synopsis is here on the secular site, Slate.

Basically, Janet Mefferd, a Christian radio talk show host confronted Driscoll, infamous bad-boy pastor guy, of plagarism.  He did not take it so well.  

“You’re being accusatory and unkind,” Driscoll told her. “It seems like you’re having sort of a grumpy day.” He emphasized his longtime friendship with Jones, and accused Mefferd of being “un-Christlike.” (quoted from Slate)

According to reports, Driscoll turned the attack back on to Mefferd, instead of simply giving her the benefit of the doubt, asking more questions and offering to check if that was indeed true.

Then weirdly, Tyndale his publisher said they looked into the matter, backed Driscoll up and called Mefferd “belligerent.”  And then Mefferd produced photocopies showing side-by-side the lifted texts from the original publications written by Peter Jones and David Wheaton (not DA Carson as many have reported). Image

To date and to my knowledge, Driscoll has not apologized though his church Mars Hill did acknowledge the lack of citation error. (It did this by sending out a press release blaming his research assistant for the mistake.)

‘Evangelical Industrial Complex’
Mefferd, however, did.  She took down the interview and related materials from her website, and issued an apology.  One of her producers, Ingrid Schlueter, then abruptly resigned—implying that pressure was put on Mefferd from the “Evangelical Industrial Complex” to take the higher road.

I was a part-time, topic producer for Janet Mefferd until yesterday when I resigned over this situation. 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. (quote from Merritt)

Okay—while I can imagine this ‘Evangelical Industrial Complex,’ I can imagine sin alive and well in the church—what a dramatic name!  It’s not too much?  It brings to mind, some sort of conspiracy theory…some sort of integrated master plan.  Sure.  I guess.  I guess, I just don’t think it’s as well-oiled as it might come off to be.   The name’s also eye-catching, intriguing so much so that Slate and others are starting to write about this…  Oh Lord have mercy…

Mark Driscoll crashed Strange Fire Conference
So apparently Mefferd stumbled onto Driscoll’s plagarism because he did crashed John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference in October.  Uninvited, he started giving out free copies of his latest book and signing copies—on church property.  MacArthur’s folks invited him to leave once, and then when he didn’t, they confiscated his books.  MacArthur’s folks said that it was because books distributed at the conference were already pre-selected, pre-arranged, and to let Driscoll do his impromptu thing wouldn’t be fair to those who went through (and perhaps even got rejected by) the process.

Strange Fire Conference is about John MacArthur saying that Charismatic “fire” is not from God
So, I’m reading all this, and next to the article are related links on the Christian Post. 

‘Strange Fire’ Conference: John MacArthur Calls Out Charismatic Movement as ‘Unfaithful’
John MacArthur Takes on Charismatic Movement With ‘Strange Fire’ Conference


I didn’t get around to watching the video…but all accounts I’ve read have been clear that John MacArthur thinks that the Charismatic Movement is not in line with God.  Sure, he makes some hedging statements, but he also is very clear in unilaterally discrediting the whole Charismatic movement.

“The charismatic movement continually dishonors God in its false forms of worship. It dishonors the Father and Son, but most specifically, the Holy Spirit. Many things are attributed to the Holy Spirit that actually dishonor him. In many places in the charismatic movement they are attributing to the Holy Spirit works that have actually been generated by Satan.”

Am I discrediting everyone in the movement? No. I think there are people to desire to worship God in a true way. They’re caught up in this as well, though, because intention is not enough. But the movement itself offers nothing to enrich true worship. The Charismatic movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine. We’ve had an accurate biblical interpretation and sound doctrine long before the Charismatic movement happened, going all the way back to the Apostles, a clear stream of truth. The Charismatics haven’t added to that, but have brought chaos, confusion, misinterpretation. ”  (quotes from Christian Post)

Wow, what…balls.

How…is this helpful to the church at large?  How…does him saying this honor God?  How…does him saying this love his neighbor?  What then of all the Charismatic Christians to do?   What is the point of him saying this?

Also—to focus a whole conference on this and to name it such: “Strange Fire.”  It’s weird—wouldn’t it be more constructive to focus on something right and true, like Jesus is King, or the Word is Truth or whatever, than on a negative?  Then everyone is positioned…uh, negatively…  How is that helpful or edifying?

And the big zinger—-wow…to say, “But the movement itself offers nothing to enrich true worship. The Charismatic movement as such has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine.”

I googled my New Testament Professor to see if he had comments on this.  I’m happy to say that he did.  Rikk Watts (and his predecessor Gordon Fee) is a Pentecostal Christian and an esteemed Biblical scholar.  I found this in my seminary’s student rag, Et cetera (starts on page 2):

“Well, I think it’s important to remember that none of us have windows into others’ hearts and if it were not for God’s mercy none of us would stand. But I find it difficult to understand why one would characterize something as “strange fire” when its fruits are so often a deeper love for Jesus and Scripture, and a passionate desire to be holy, to fellowship with other believers, and to evangelize. Who exactly is going to motivate people to do these kinds of things if not the Holy Spirit?

“And that raises for me a rather sober prospect.  We all know that remarkable and climactic moment early in the gospel accounts where Pharisees from Jerusalem, in their first official  confrontation with Jesus, declare in effect: “We can’t deny that there’s power at work here, but we are convinced you’re on the side of Satan.” Jesus responds, first, by pointing out how self-contradictory that is—would Satan be involved in destroying his own kingdom? Second, that being so his power must instead be from God, in which case, they are at serious risk of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Now, I’m not about to make that judgment – that’s not my call – but this story, I think, should give us pause. Unquestionably, Charismatics and Pentecostals make mistakes, sometimes serious ones. But what Christian of any stripe would care to cast the first stone in that regard? To declare emphatically and in such a wholesale manner that this is not the work of the Holy Spirit … well, it might be courageous; but, frankly, it’s not the kind of courage I’d want to have.”

I think, that is a fair response to John MacArthur.  Bewilderment, grace and mercy.  And hey, uh, don’t just judge our “strange fire” but check out our “strange fruit” too!!!!  (This interview, by the way, is worth a full read.  He addresses clearly what cessationalists like MacArthur believe, ponders motives why, and shares a story of how God’s used himself charismatically to bring others to know him.  Interview starts on p2, it’s a pdf of a newsletter, so it might be a little cumbersome to scroll through—but it is well worth it.)

And I am also bewildered because I am a charismatic.  I am culturally not a Charismatic because I have not spent enough time in that subculture to know the names, the terms etc.  But all my Charismatic friends who have spent time in that sub-culture, after praying and talking to me, will call me a charismatic.  I have no shame in saying this—my real non-anonymous self has no shame in saying this either.

I’m not saying that there haven’t been very damaging abuses in the Church at Large regarding Charismatic things—the most alarming illustration was in that violent and sinister movie, There will be Blood of the pastor clearly faking things.  That scene creeped me out…  I’m not saying also that the fire doesn’t need a fireplace—a proper place, context and theology for things of the Holy Spirit…

However, without the Holy Spirit—with out “strange fires,”  I am convinced I would have ended my life long ago.  I am convinced I would not know his love, I would not be in ministry.  I would be a very, very, very bitter and lonely person if not dead.

Rikk Watts shared this in my New Testament class:  in Ancient Near East culture, a clay figurine was not considered a “god” until it was breathed into, and literally given breath.  [I know this is a disturbing statement to some, but it is well backed up by orthodox Biblical scholars:] the New Testament took its cues from the culture around it, and referenced them to communicate and incarnate to its Ancient Near East Jewish audience.  A person is not born again, is not alive in the sense of Jesus dying to give life to the full (John 10:10b), in the sense of the New Life talked about in Romans and Galatians until it’s been breathed into it by the Holy Spirit. [Watts shared this years ago—and if it’s wrong, it’s because my memory fails me and I butchered it—not Watts.]

Nevertheless, I know this to be true—I came alive for the first time in my life, when the Holy Spirit breathed on me, at my elite public university.  I never felt such unconditional love, and I never had that much unconditional love for everyone else.  And for those who knew me before, we can testify that I changed, that it was a miracle.  How can that not be because of the Holy Spirit?

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