Home > Current Events > some early analysis on Detwiler, Mahaney, Harris, et al

some early analysis on Detwiler, Mahaney, Harris, et al

I was waiting for a conference call to start when I visited Michael Newnham’s blog Phoenix Preacher and found his article noting [link] that C. J. Mahaney is on hiatus and offering that it’s because the Brent Detwiler paper trail is now available for download at Scribd [link].

Peter Smith offers a perspective piece in the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal [link]. This is a good-not-great piece; Smith appears to be focusing on Al Mohler’s take on the situation and the Sovereign Grace Ministries position on male church leadership in a way that clutters the narrative, but he manages to identify most of the major players and distill their contribution into a soundbite.

I would recommend downloading the Detwiler archive, despite the fact that Scribd requires signup for download. It’s 600+ pages of PDFs; I may cache a copy here if I get time to read it closely and offer more opinion. At first glance it’s pretty sloggy stuff: I have a hard time imagining that grownups in the 21st Century really speak to one another this way. There’s a lot of Christianese, for lack of a better term, and sometimes it’s hard to tell how it would correspond to plain English if it could be translated. If you are (as I am) the sort of person who considers stuff like “you invalidated my feelings” mumbo jumbo you’re in for some rough sledding here.

I am only marginally interested in this particular scandal. There are no SGM churches in New Mexico, and while I believe modern evangelicalism has a sickness unto death I think the new Calvinist movement is at best retrograde, so I can’t imagine ever attending an SGM church if one were to be planted here.

That being said, I am inclined to say this sort of crisis, for lack of a better word, was probably inevitable. The Young Restless Reformed cultural movement, for lack of a more euphonious term, isn’t a return to the roots of Protestantism; it’s a new movement, and as such it needs to learn things the hard way in the same way all new movements do. It’s no surprise that this would be their crisis, either: Reformed types take most of their theology from Paul the Apostle, and tend to be a bit authoritarian. That SGM is a “church network” rather than a denomination solves some problems and creates others; in particular, because it has a lean (not to say opaque) authority structure invites bad behavior on the part of leaders. Those are the choices they made; these are the consequences of those choices.

I have to admit I don’t have high hopes for the trouble here being resolved correctly. I’m not a fan of Josh Harris, and I don’t think he’s up to the task of leading SGM through this crisis. Everything I’ve read by or about him has led me to believe that he’s shallow and immature, and he’s the sort of person who would say all the right things from the pulpit while permitting all the wrong things to be done offstage, not least because he’s the leader and the most important thing to him is continuity of operations. I hope I’m wrong: that he has a depth I haven’t seen, that he’s teachable, and that he’ll learn and do the right things during this episode.


  1. July 14, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Unfortunately, I think your assessment of Josh Harris is exactly right. But time will tell, I suppose.

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