Well, I find myself with a LOT left to say after cutting some slack on section 2 of the outline last week, but I'm going to rein it in (a little) and stick to one last bit of what's left of the BoB2012 panel discussion, which we find thus:
JT:I think the one with [Jefferson Bethke], who is here someplace, I think that one was in some ways an easier thing because Jefferson does not represent a movement per se. He's an individual person doing a video and received some, you know, hurtful comments, and also some iron sharpening iron push back. I think that's in a little bit different category that, say, some of the controversy with Sovereign Grace, or with Elephant Room. Um, so much to say, about both those that could be said. I take a little bit of a contrarian perspective on both of those in that there is so much dialog going on behind the scenes that not everyone is privy to. Take Elephant Room as an example: There was just a lot of conversation going on behind closed doors, private communication, and some of the people in the blogosphere were saying, y'know, "why isn't TGC saying more? Why isn't Carson or Keller saying more?" I think if you're not privy to those conversations, it can seem like stone-walling or sweeping something under the carpet, and y'know, why aren't we being communicated to. Some of that is that we're conditioned to, when there's information, it should be made public.
OWEN: Immediately. Now.
JT: And I think in the Sovereign Grace one, which I think is its own animal, very complicated, but there you have an example with uh, the wiki-leaks sort of mentality and strategy among some people who had left the movement, some who were still in it, just saying, "That's not good enough, we're gonna take this into our own hands. We're gonna go public, make documents public, nothing's off limits." There's literally no ethics involved.The reason for it, to be as clear as possible, is that I think there's something to be said in defense of David Kjos' sparse review of the panel in which he said:
The debacle of the Elephant Room, according to the representatives of The Gospel Coalition on the Band of Bloggers panel, was the objections of numerous bloggers, and the criticism of The Gospel Coalition, of which MacDonald was a founding member, for its silence on the matter. We were scolded for expressing opinions without being privy to the inside discussions of The Gospel Coalition, as if that was at all necessary, as if T. D. Jakes was an unknown quantity instead of a public figure whose heresy is well known through multiple publications. Bottom line: if you’re not on the inside, you’re not qualified to speak.Justin Taylor specifically said that this is a bad distortion of what he personally said, and I want to consider that as well as a further issue regarding the problem of transparency and disclosure overall.
Let's start where Justin starts: the Jeff Bethke incident which, as he rightly assesses, is an "easier thing". But Justin's assessment is that it was easier because Young Jefferson is just a guy with a YouTube channel.
That is: a YouTube Channel that has received 20 million pageviews. Just for comparison sake, "David after Dentist" has 110 million views in 3 years; Jeff has 20% of that in 4 months. At this rate Jeff's video will have 100 million views by next summer and will be parodied by Chad Vader before the Fall.
My point being: Justin classes Jeff and his video as "just a guy," when in fact Jeff has captured more viewers than any one time Mark Driscoll has been on national TV. Justin's view is an understatement at best -- and it minimizes what followed.
Jeff, who is not a pastor, or the leader of a movement, but who has gotten more views for his video than Jon Stewart gets for the Daily Show in any given 10 days combined, received some criticism for his video -- some of it constructive, some less than helpful. But Jeff did something which, it seems to me, is instructive: he listened and admitted his mistake(s). Of particular use for this teachable moment was the pastoral poking of Kevin DeYoung; Jeff's response to Kevin was, it seems to me, not just edifying but exemplary. Jeff made some clear mistakes, Kevin lined them out clearly and fairly, and Jeff accepted them at face value.
Some things Jeff didn't do:
- Jeff didn't pipe up on twitter toward nameless people who were vexing him
- Jeff didn't delete posts he was thereafter ashamed of, or the original video because it took some hits
- Jeff didn't ignore the comments, and didn't ignore Kevin in particular who was trying to point out his errors
- Jeff didn't go into seclusion or go into radio silence while urgent and necessary private conversations were conducted for the sake of his soul and the real people who might somehow be damaged.
Let's face it: saying nothing at all is actually less than what Jeff did. Ignoring the public spin of those doing the wrong thing, which were tantamount to lies and obfuscations, is less than what Jeff did. Failing to speak up until all the wrong that could be done was actually accomplished is far less than what Jeff Bethke did. And doing less than Jeff when your position in a movement or in a coalition or in a band of men joined together for some para-church sake is less than what ought to be expected.
Yet here's where those I am talking about, and their advocates and surrogates, will start sniffing at the criticism. JT has already hinted at the tactic in his statement, above: not everything has to be public. In fact, as JT said, public statements would hurt the private conversations.
Therefore, let's think about the perfect example of that -- the mud fight surrounding SGM -- as it is also instructive. JT, as the insightful and helpful blogger that he is, actually nails it in his statement: what happened to those with the (in my view: unreasonable) hunger and thirst for justice is that they gave up on any kind of ethics in order to make public every jot and tittle of perceived wrong-doing and to demand a pound of flesh because they said they were offended -- and not because there was any substantive offense.
From the AoR report:
One of the greatest factors that inflamed the conflicts and increased people’s wrath and clamor was the extensive use of sinful communication in talking, emails, blogs and meetings.
While every Christian would agree that gossip and slander are sinful, many in SGM failed to recognize when they initiated, participated, or listened to and read sinful communications.
When we met with people, they often justified their own judgmental and damning words with dangerous thinking such as:
• “It’s just the truth!”
• “I am loving this person by revealing this person’s sins to that person or to the community or even the world (e.g., through the Internet).”
• “Since I’m being ignored, I am justified in saying these terrible things about others.”
• “I need to protect the church or the world against these evil people.”
• “Because I was hurt, I am justified in how I hurt others by whatever kind of words I use!”
As mentioned above, AoR has often seen sins of the tongue in conflicted groups. But in working in this situation, we experienced first-hand an unusual severity of this grievous sin. It was simply shocking.
For a people who take pride in humility, who claim to have been totally indoctrinated in biblical peacemaking, and who brag about the way they share Christ and his love, we were saddened that so many of these same people minimized sinful talk, justified gossip and slander, and refused to see how such activity itself exaggerated their troubles.My point being: if this really is the only other choice as what "some bloggers" were demanding, then I agree with Justin: maybe we'd be better off just minding our own business.
But, in fact, that's not the only other choice -- and in a very specific sense, it's not what "some bloggers" were suggesting, and exhorting, and pointing out was missing.
One blogger (since we are not naming names) started an open letter to Carson and Keller when the ER2 hoopla was just getting ginned up by saying this:
As I begin to write this, I do so with a personal sense of indebtedness to both of you. I am not merely grateful for your books and lectures and sermons which have taught me so much: I am grateful for the spirit with which you have done it all. That is to say: while I am well-known through a reputation of being quite a pill for the sake of the Gospel, you both are known as fatherly men who have a graciousness I am certain I lack, and it is that spirit from which I learn much all the time.And then this:
Recently, you have both penned a detailed statement about the nature of the Gospel Coalition, and about its duties or relationship to its readers and also its council members. I found this essay instructive, and useful, and clarifying in the context it was coming from, but in my view, it misses the point of the concerns of almost all the critics of the dust-up over the Elephant Room. I wanted to offer to you an outsider's perspective on what just happened and why it is not enough merely to say what you have said so far.And then this admonition:
Now, here's what's not necessary: we don't need the reality TV version of whatever it is that has happened, is happening, and will happen between the various parties at TGC, including any trumped-up drama. But when someone publicly makes an error of this size, the broad stokes of the public resolution are, frankly, necessary for the sake of those you started your internet site up for in the first place.
Saying what you might do is an interesting approach -- and it is the approach of the essay you have already written. But showing the rest of us how to actually do it would be invaluable. It would actually put into play something the Evangelical church lacks -- an education on how to exercise spiritual responsibility, and turn a brother away from wrong-doing and toward the right path, the right orbit in our center-bounded life which is around Christ.
So I ask you as a fan, and as your far-removed student, and as a Christian who is indebted to you: help us understand how to resolve this matter. Please do not let the weak single tweet from James MacDonald that the parties #AgreeToDisagree stand as the milestone to this event. That activity would be helpful to so many people for so many reasons that they cannot all be listed, but the one most important must be said: it will glorify Christ.
This is why David Kjos was offended by the table talk at BoB2012. In fact, this is why I am offended by this little kaffeeklatsch of fellows under 40 who know things they wish they didn't know: there's no question they have a different standard for a James MacDonald or a D.A. Carson or a Mark Driscoll or a John Piper or a Mark Dever than they do for a Jeff Bethke -- and it's not a higher standard.
It really doesn't get better as you listen to this discussion: it gets worse. Collin Hansen, God bless him, pulls back the curtain for us and makes it transparent what this means, ending around 34:50. Again, to be utterly fair, I think he didn't intend to say it this way, but he said what he said. In his view, in the same way that Christianity Today would never publish anything but nice about Billy Graham and his kin, the same barrier exists at TGC for the council and its members. When you link this to Collin's foundering around about what's so bad about comments (negative comments being, on the one hand, welcome for the sake of "openness", but on the other hand, being from "parasites" who don't have any other platform or readers), it's sort of ghastly. It's like finding that darned cat which has been missing for a few weeks behind the appliances -- it's not what one wanted to find, or meant to find, but you have (for good and ill) found it. It answers a lot of questions.
by dying for it rather than jockeying for position. The real third way is to be like Kevin DeYoung or Thabiti - to say what is right regarding what is wrong, in a clear and cogent and compassionate and public way so that what is actually wrong with a brother is made clear to those one intended to attract in the first place, and so that what is right about public discourse can be modeled for the plethora of hit-piece writers and undiscerning discernment bloggers.
There are more lessons to be learned here than the really-superficial and rudimentary issue that somehow Keller and Carson are aware that Jakes is a Modalist - and those lessons are actually lessons in applying the Gospel. When a James MacDonald publicly embraces, from bad to worse, panderers, demogogues, and then a modalist, the least one can do is say, "I think my friend has made a mistake which, I hope, he will repent of." And the least he can then do in return is to say, "I have received a general critique of what's happening here, and I hope I can resolve it with my friends." And then let all the private enclaves and secret meetings which have jaded and disillusioned these poor young fellows with thoughts that cannot be mentioned ensue. But that cannot be demonstrated because these men are, it seems, too great to be burdened with running the parachurch ministry they sought to build to this high a profile. It's no wonder both James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll got a fond farewell from TGC rather than a sorrowful public final plea to repent of their terrible mistakes: there is a different standard for men like them, and men like Carson and Keller, than there is for men like me.
The proper standard, however, will be upheld in the comments, which are open. Play nice.