By David George Moore. Dave blogs at Two Cities.
Bear with me a bit, but some personal background is needed. Theologically, I have sympathies with a “Calvinistic” understanding of salvation, but a deeper commitment to the “consensual Christianity” that theologians like Wesleyan Tom Oden have written about. This is the Christianity which finds its anchor in “what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.” I am a graduate of both Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Towards the end of my time at Trinity, my thesis adviser, Wayne Grudem, asked me to be the first executive director of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I was honored to be asked, but turned Wayne down. I have known some of the men in the Gospel Coalition for many years. Ironically for my post, it is one of those men who first introduced me to Tom Oden’s writings. That was over twenty years ago. One other personal comment is needful for this post. In the early years of the Jesus Creed blog (back in the Beliefnet days), I found Scot McKnight willing to respond regularly to my comments, even when I disagreed with him. It is one reason why Scot’s invitation years later to be a regular contributor was an easy one to accept. Now to the nub of my concern with the Gospel Coalition… Watching the Mark Driscoll implosion was sobering and terribly sad. Early signs of Driscoll’s problems were observed by Tim Keller (The New York Times, Aug. 22, 2014):
He was really important — in the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously. But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/us/mark-driscoll-is-being-urged-to-leave-mars-hill-church.html?_r=0
It is encouraging to see Keller’s candor, but I find it perplexing why John Piper has no regrets for Mark Driscoll being invited to speak for the ministry of Desiring God. To Piper’s credit, he wishes he had been a better friend to Driscoll. I continue to have questions about how the Driscoll implosion was handled by the Gospel Coalition, but that is not what I want to address. Rather, it is something which seems more endemic among the Gospel Coalition: the penchant to either not answer valid criticisms and/or marginalize those who raise serious concerns. I will offer a specific for each starting with the last first. Carl Trueman used to be one of the most quoted people on blogs and twitter accounts sympathetic to the Gospel Coalition. Now his name rarely comes up. If you don’t pay attention to these sorts of things it is because of Carl’s writings on Ref 21 and in First Things where he detailed his own concerns about the ways in which the Gospel Coalition seemed to mishandle various matters. As to not answering valid criticisms, let me provide a recent example. Denny Burk approvingly linked (Dec. 6, 2014) to a Doug Wilson post. In that post, Wilson detailed several criticisms with the Biologos Forum for its less than biblical understanding of origins. I decided to raise a question on Burk’s Blog:
I truly would appreciate the answer to the following question: Why do you guys make so much of this issue [age of the earth, Adam and Eve, etc.], but never call out Tim Keller? I have watched Al Mohler go hard after people who hold to theistic evolution, but Keller is left untouched.
Denny did not respond, but another reader did. That reader simply said people know Keller is more “moderate” so therefore he does not get criticized. I responded to that reader by saying, “Regardless of what Keller’s personality and posture may be, I am asking why he gets a pass and others don’t. Others could also be categorized as ‘diplomatic,’ but they are not part of the Gospel Coalition, so they alone become targets of criticism.” I can only speculate why Burk did not respond. He frankly did not respond to anyone, but I still don’t think there is a sufficient answer to my question. In Tom Oden’s endlessly fascinating memoir, A Change of Heart, he mentions how Stan Gundry of Zondervan reached out to him:
In the late 1970s, my friend Stand Gundry of Zondervan Publishing House met regularly with me every year for an extended conversation at the American Academy of Religion. One year when we met in New Orleans for AAR, we talked about my possible participation in the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), and he as a board member urged me to join.
I think the Gospel Coalition could learn much from this model. The Gospel Coalition would be better served by having people like Fred Sanders, Roger Ols0n, and Scot McKnight involved. Oh yeah, and that Trueman guy as well. He is a very committed Calvinist! Let me close with a challenge I have posed in various places. It always engenders deafening silence. I am still waiting to hear a name given. Here goes: Name a person within a Christian organization who raised a serious concern, and was not booted or marginalized for doing so. Even though Charles Barkley is friends with both Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, and Coach Belichick, good old Chuck was more than willing to question whether they were telling the truth about “Deflategate.” Evangelical organizations, churches, parachurches, and schools are in desperate need of people like Charles Barkley. As Peter Vardy says, “It takes courage to stand up to your enemies. It takes more courage to stand up to your friends.”