Using Mark Driscoll and Robert Morris to teach the fallacy of false dilemma


Mortal pride and earthly glory,

sword and crown betray our trust;

though with care and toil we build them,

tower and temple fall to dust

– Hymn 665, The Hymnal 1982

Last Tuesday’s Warren Throckmorton post reported on Mark Driscoll’s visit to the the Gateway Conference, which was “hosted” by Robert Morris.

A video clip in the post shows Morris saying of Driscoll:

Here’s what I figure. We’ve got two choices. One is we could crucify him. But since someone’s already been crucified for him. The other choice is we could restore him with a spirit of gentleness considering ourselves, lest we are also tempted. It is very sad that in the church we’re the only army that shoots at our wounded.

So, so many problems in the above.

First, the choices are not, “Either crucify Driscoll or restore Driscoll.”

Realistically, when someone has left as much of a wake of destruction as Driscoll, forgiveness, as well as respect and trust, are going to be incremental achievements, not either-or matters. (More on this below.)

Furthermore, you can be certain “we” will not restore Driscoll.

I think more likely (and yes, a bit cynically) Driscoll will be “restored” when he reinvents himself in a new, revenue-generating way that provides him a bully pulpit without requiring him to interact with other humans.

(That ought to be read as a critique of the U.S. religious-celebrity machine, but it might just give the defensive folks a chance to flag my use of “cynically.” Such are the risks of blogging.)

Second, if we’re talking about shooting our wounded, Driscoll did far more shooting, from a far higher perch, with a far larger weapon, than anyone who writes a blog.

As far as I’m concerned, Morris has said, “Driscoll went on a rampage, so let’s make sure people stop picking on him about the disaster he left in his wake, and let’s help him feel better about himself.”

What rampage?, you may rightfully ask. This rampage, and this rampage, and perhaps more importantly, this rampage.

Third, in light of the above-linked rampages, restored to what? And for what?

Faulty Reasoning

If Driscoll had murdered someone, the applauding Gateway Conference folks would have seen no reason to jail him.

As Morris points out, Jesus died for Driscoll.

Apparently, when Jesus has died for you, your fellow Christians shouldn’t say anything unflattering about you.

Unflattering words are certainly less harsh than jail time, so jail time is out of the question.

Ergo, we shouldn’t punish people for whom Jesus died.

We’re all Christians here, so there are no consequences to actions.

I know, despite my sarcastic demonstration of his reasoning, Morris didn’t say that — he only implied no consequences for Driscoll’s actions.

Which is worse.

Good Irrationality, Bad Irrationality

Because religious authority now becomes an endorsement of wildly irrational behavior, not irrational loving-kindness or irrational self-sacrifice, but irrational sanction for nearly anything just because one is powerful.

You see — and we all must pay close attention to this — Morris is using his position as a religious authority and celebrity to neglect common-sense reasoning.

False Choices or False Dilemmas

Are all either-or scenarios wrong? Of course not. I tell my students, “Either you do the paper, or you will not pass the assignment.”

In Driscoll’s case, and in the case of all political and religious leaders, either you behave in a trustworthy manner, or you will not be trusted. Maybe feared, but not trusted.

(At least that should be the case, but religious authority often has a bad way of superseding common sense and decency.)

Seems to me this quotation floating around in my mind — judge a tree by its fruit — ought to have some relevance to people who claim to value the Bible.

That is how I judge the legitimacy of religious authority: look at the real value of its work, of what it produces, or its produce — not its popularity, not its income, not its ability to turn out voters, not its ability to fill up a Gateway Conference.

So maybe there is at least a third option available to use beyond Morris’ false dilemma. Maybe we can take a wait-and-see approach.

Sure, Driscoll might lose some income and take a dip on the Internet-buzz matrix — and those are crucial matters for eternity-minded people, of course.

But rest assured. Time will be the judge of his character.

So no, Robert Morris, I do not have to choose, and no one else has to choose, between Driscoll having religious authority or Driscoll being figuratively slaughtered by my hand.

Furthermore, as comments on Throckmorton’s blog have noted, respect and trust are much, much different from forgiveness.

Maybe the most damaging and dangerous false dilemma in this entire scenario is this: either trust and respect Driscoll, or fail to forgive him.

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One response to “Using Mark Driscoll and Robert Morris to teach the fallacy of false dilemma

  1. Pingback: Let’s use hindsight to help us anticipate abuses of religious authority | lit!