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Some of the most viewed posts in the history of this blog have concerned certain controversial teachings and actions of Mark Driscoll and especially the response (or lack thereof) from Calvinistic leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and elsewhere who I thought should know better.  It was certainly the period in which I was most active in blogging, both here and elsewhere.  (Hopefully I will start posting more regularly in the near future.) To find these 2009 posts, you can click the “Mark Driscoll” category in the sidebar to the right, with the more important posts being here, here, and here.)

This evening while checking Twitter (a rare occurrence these days) I happened upon this review by Dr. Denny Burk of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together.  While the book evidently includes a good bit of profitable material, (as is the case with Driscoll’s ministry as a whole) apparently the content in the book regarding sexual practices within the confines of marriage goes beyond what some of us took issue with in the blog battle royal in which I was engaged in 2009.

After reading Dr. Burk’s review, I posted the following comment on that post:

Thank you for this review. I found your discussion of 1 Cor. 6:12 to be particularly helpful in light of how it is often used today.

While there is much to admire in Mark Driscoll’s ministry, I am sorry that he has chosen to put into print some of the things that have previously been hinted at on his website with regard to what many would consider to be questionable and/or deviant sexual practices within the confines of marriage. This includes (or in the recent past included) a link on the Mars Hill website to the website of a Christian sex toy vendor where sodomy was also discussed. But I have to say when looking into this issue a few years ago that I don’t recall any mention there or elsewhere of female on male sodomy!

Well, one plus (if you can call it that) is that now this is very clearly out in the open and those raising concerns cannot be accused of just dredging up the old cussing accusations. When I blogged several times about this almost three years ago, that was often the response, along with accusations of being a prudish rube from the “Old South” who doesn’t understand what it takes to reach people today in what is largely a post-Christian (if only in a nominal sense) culture. Ironically, my past is very likely much more wicked than the vast majority of those who defended the approach you call into question in this post, with some of them being pastors who are sons of prominent SBC ministers and in general being men who were raised in conservative evangelical homes.

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This giveaway is running across 3 blogs.  Today it is being held on Bob Hayton’s blog. If you’re like me, some of the books are going to be of more interest than others. This is Day 5, so there are still a lot of books to go.

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As regular readers of this blog will remember, early last year I made several posts in the midst of the controversy over Mark Driscoll that had ensued after Baptist Press published an article that was critical of certain aspects of Driscoll’s ministry.

With the exception of some admittedly overheated and perhaps hasty blog comments that I posted at the outset, for a number of reasons I have kept my distance from the current Caner controversy.  However, as I have observed it from afar, it seems to me that the way the Baptist Identity bloggers are defending Ergun Caner is quite similar to how the Southern Baptist “young leaders” and other bloggers defended Mark Driscoll early last year.

Here are some of the similarities:

1.  Those attacking our man have an agenda, are simply out to get him and are opposed to what we stand for. Questions and concerns are deflected by pointing out the perceived agenda and evil motives of the critics.  The substance of the concerns as well as the substantiating evidence are often never acknowledged at all.

2.  Our man has apologized, so shut up already. The other side notes that the apology was vague and insufficient.

Thus these two camps or movements, which have been sparring with each other in the blogosphere for several years, pretty much operate in the same way when one of their own is being criticized.  There is no doubt that at times such criticism is indeed agenda driven, but that doesn’t necessarily render it completely invalid.

Several years ago I heard an old preacher warn against being carried away by movements after having seen their effect on his ministry and that of others.  His main concern was that too often a ministry will ride a hobby horse and will focus on one narrow spectrum of truth to the exclusion of the whole counsel of God.  A related problem that we see in this case is that when a leader that is greatly admired by a particular group and is considered to be integral to (if not the embodiment of) the movement is accused of some wrongdoing, there is the tendency to react as I have enumerated above.

Yesterday Mark (hereiblog) posted the Vindication of popular ministers.  I commend the entire post to your reading, but I wish to quote some relevant excerpts here:

It seems we all must be careful in defending someone for their namesake instead of for Christ’s namesake. Men fall. This can be read all throughout the Bible. It can be seen through the past and in the present. When we defend our favorite preachers without question we may be doing them more harm than good if they are in unrepentant sin.

It can be difficult to objectively address the sin of people we respect or have some sort of relationship with. In the same manner it can be difficult to objectively address our own sin. We find excuses to let our own sin go such as pointing to someone else’s sin or even actions we don’t like. Someone may even sinfully point out our own sin, yet that does not give us a right to ignore personal repentance. Just as one popular minister does not get a pass on sin because another popular (or even unpopular) minister points it out in a manner some find unkind. In other words, one sin does not excuse another regardless of who you are.

Of course, the greater the popularity the greater responsibility. The more someone promotes and markets themselves the more scrutiny they will come under. When someone seeks attention and is successful they will surely get both positive and negative reactions. People often get back a bit of what they dish out too.

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Just over a year ago, I noted the parallels between the current contextual/missional/hipster/urban church planting movement inspired by Mark Driscoll and others and the Bill Hybels/Rick Warren inspired church growth movement of 10-20 years ago.  (Note that I did not say there was a 1:1 correspondence between the two, but simply noted a similar mentality that is evident in both movements.  I think the theology and general approach of Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller is much more preferable.)

While I rather doubt that I was the first one to connect those dots, I’m pretty sure that I spent more time on those posts and the related discussion across the blogosphere than I have on any other subject since I established this blog.  Depending on your point of view, that series of posts was either the most popular or the most infamous material I’ve ever posted in my short and generally undistinguished blogging career.  This was largely due to the context, which was the latest spat among Southern Baptist bloggers.  (For the few who may be keeping score, I am still an occasional blogger, but no longer a Southern Baptist.)

Earlier this evening, a post by Dean Bob Gonzales of Reformed Baptist Seminary tipped me off to an interesting post by Bill Streger, an Acts 29 church planter in Houston.  In my view, Dr. Gonzales accurately describes the original post in this fashion:  “An Acts 29 network pastor offers a caution to his colleagues and provides an example of a healthy and humble self critical posture.”

Pastor Streger cautions against a herd or movement mentality among younger leaders and church planters and warns against an uncritical emulation of prominent pastors and leaders as we saw with the church growth/seeker sensitive movement of the last generation.   Predictably it was this concluding sentence that provoked the strongest reaction:

“Or it could be that we’re simply following in the footsteps of the church growth movement that we’ve loved to publically criticize while privately trying to emulate – we’ve just replaced Bill Hybels and Rick Warren with Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll.”

The post in question clearly touched a nerve, as a furor ensued that appears to be almost worthy of the Southern Baptist blogosphere.  Indeed, the ensuing discussion resulted in a follow up post that some feel retracted more than was necessary.  As someone who has too often hastily posted things that were somewhat uncharitable, however true they may have been, I can to some small extent identify with Bro. Streger’s plight in perceiving that his initial post was not as carefully worded as it could have been.

The real news here may be the apparent inability or unwillingness of some who identify with Acts 29 (whether formally or not) to accept public criticism of their movement, especially from an insider.  Ironically, this bears no small resemblance to the reaction you might expect to see from some of the more rigid independent fundamentalists when one of their own dares to utter some criticism of their movement.  However, I was grateful to see that the criticism (which all things considered really seems to be rather mild) was taken in stride by many others.

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