I really respected Kevin DeYoung’s position that it would be best to wait until the conclusion of Mike Cosper’s Rise and Fall of Mars Hill before he rendered judgement. I spent a lot of time pondering DeYoung’s thinking. He sees Cosper has having a broad story to tell and upon completion stepping back to see the whole picture will give better perspective than a lot of up close scrutiny with no knowledge of the larger whole. And perhaps DeYoung is right, Cosper could surprise us, but I doubt it. DeYoung is a very measured and charitable guy, he knows Cosper, and most of the major players in the Mars Hill implosion and in the podcast. I think his concluding comments will be insightful. All that said, I do disagree that judgement should be reserved until Cosper finishes. He has shown his hand on multiple occasions and it is clear what his point will be: Mark Driscoll is a terrible guy and every theology Cosper doesn’t like can be attached to him in a guilt by association intermittent.
Missing the Story
What is becoming increasingly apparent is that Cosper is either incapable or uninterested in treating the story with full honesty. The most glaring example in the recent episode Demon Hunting is how Cosper focuses on the more trivial offenses of Driscoll’s hodgepodge of Pentecostalism, over and above the truly damning issue. Particularly Driscoll’s claims of visions. It is enough of a problem that Driscoll has claimed multiple times to hear God speak audibly. Not because it may or may not have happened, but simply because there is never a credible witness to back him up.** It may be that Driscoll’s will is so aligned with the Spirit of God that the two of them always want to same thing and God is just giving a little kick in the pants. But I have my doubts. The bigger issue is the frankly pornographic nature of Driscoll’s visions. Cosper does make statements to the simple truth that is would be wildly outside of anything Scripture teaches about the operation of the Holy Spirit. What gums up the works is Driscoll’s claim to have not just had these visions, but that he then talked to the people that he saw about what was revealed to him. In other words if Driscoll was/is telling the truth there would be witnesses or a distinct lack thereof.
Sam Storms did an excellent job of taking apart some of Driscoll’s other claims that were wrong or ridiculous. And that was easy to do. The real story is in this claim of visions. But rather than exploring it Cosper hoped that it would be taken as false simply by proximity to the other ridiculous things. An example is Cosper’s repeated hang up with Driscoll’s claim to read a book a day. This seems to be an exaggeration, but it could be true. I managed to read a book a day for a week. It wasn’t sustainable, and they were all of varying lengths. 365 books a year could be plowed through if a lot of them were the standard Crossway paperback. But this claim seems to rub Cosper the wrong way inordinately. And perhaps it’s because what he sees in Driscoll he sees in himself, and doesn’t like it.
Pot Calling the Kettle Black
Ultimately the podcast is becoming an interesting study in the parallels between Cosper and Driscoll. Driscoll is pretty much proven to being entirely comfortable with exaggerating, embellishing, or restructuring the truth to get the narrative or result he wants. And It seems that Cosper is very much the same. On more than one occasion important facts have been ignored or omitted because they would crimp the style of the story being told. To illustrate from another book example in the episode, The Things we do to Women, Cosper wraps up claiming that he can find no one who was helped by Driscoll’s 2009, 2 Peter sermon Marriage and Men with the infamous, “Who in the hell do you think you are?” rant. Cosper makes a point of saying one person was helped by the sermon, “And they got a book deal.” The music is ominous and from the lead up you are supposed to immediately think of the scandal from Tommy Nelson where the NY Times best seller list was gamed to boost Real Marriage to the top. The problem is that at the time of the sermon Driscoll was under contract to Crossway, and had been under contract since 2008 and would continue until 2010. The Real Marriage scandal would come three years later. This kind of research I was able to do in five minutes. But it doesn’t support the tidy narrative that Cosper is weaving. While not a bald faced lie, Cosper decently does not seem to have a problem like, Rocky the Rooster in Chicken Run, “Omitting certain truths.”
The variation on this theme is how Cosper uses verbal slights of hand to misdirect the audience. A good example is from the opening of episode 9 The Bobby Knight Problem. Where Cosper starts with the story of Driscoll’s inflammatory use of the Ted Haggard scandal as a jump off point to blog about lazy wives. The effect of Driscoll’s words still lingers, evidenced by Cosper’s use in the episode to whip up offense and anger on the part of the audience. Cosper then jumps to a second story about a blog post where Driscoll commented on the (at the time) recent Episcopal election of a female bishop. suggesting that were the trend to continue Driscoll predicted the next bishop would be a pink fluffy bunny rabbit. That statement was enough to incur the organization of a protest by local Seattle lady pastors and their husbands. But in the telling Cosper cleverly arranges and edits the second statement’s position so that the rage induced by the first causes the audience to look for offense in the second and to justify the idea of a church picketing another church. However, if proper attention is paid, the first statement is not what upset the lady pastors, it was the second. The point being that, according to scripture women can not be pastors much less bishops***. This is a position in which Driscoll is firmly in line with Scripture, church history, and most christians. His joke about fluffy bunnies is in all actuality, quite funny. The game Cosper often plays is one of obfuscation under the guise of being thorough. Cosper, rightly, takes issue with Driscoll constructing narratives to get the desired results. Perhaps he should consider evaluating his own storytelling through the same lens.
I had said in an above heading pot calling the kettle black. But perhaps the better quote would be from In the Loop, “It’s more like a kettle calling a kettle a kettle!” Cosper may not make things up out of whole cloth, but he is absolutely prone to using innuendo, obfuscation, and exaggeration to enhance his forgone conclusion. The Mars Hill story needs to be told, and told honestly, and more than likely Driscoll will not come out looking well. What then is the point of trying to convince audiences that Driscoll is worse than he is? Is he still such a threat to Mike Cosper that a fair hearing is simply out of the question?
Kevin DeYoung is a smart guy, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that a play is being run. And it is being run on many of the things DeYoung places very heavy emphasis on. Maybe this isn’t one of those times when waiting until the end is the best thing to do.
I figure if Cosper can give short episodes or one off interviews that distantly relate to the topic at hand I can similarly tack on something here. It should be noted again that the sources used in the podcast are frequently presented as experts and therefore reliable but manifestly are not. There are some that are orthodox Christians, have said damning things about Driscoll and should be heeded. Such as Ed Stetzer, Paul David Tripp, Rachel Denhollander****, Collin Hansen, and Sam Storms. But the list of “experts” trotted out that are at best unorthodox or heretics at worst is disturbing. Kristin Du Mez, Rose Madrid Swetman, and Sarah Bessie, Kyle Howard, Joshua Harris, and Doug Pagitt is just the tip of the iceberg. While not straight up dishonest (and probably more of a clear sign of where CT stands today in relation the to church) the commingling of reliable voices with wolves among us is somewhere between four pinocchio’s and pants on fire.
**It can be argued that in his being “released” from Mars Hill Grace Driscoll claims to have heard the same thing. And again that may be entirely true. But the pattern seems to be that God exclusively speaks to Driscoll when he is alone and it is always in line with what Driscoll wants to do.
***I do not accept the office of bishop formally. So if a lady pastor is a contradiction in terms then lady bishop doubly so.
****While I have nearly all good things to say about Denhollender her continued association with Boz Tchividjian is a deep concern. Boz is at best an ambulance chaser, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that he is an out and out devil. Hopefully Denhollender will recognize this sooner rather than later.