It may be helpful to highlight that the book Real Marriage opens with a narrative. That narrative is the basis from which the rest of the practical and propositional instructions of Mark and Grace Driscoll is given. This microcosm speaks to the macrocosm of Mars Hill Church as a community defined by a narrative, a narrative that the Driscolls have largely defined over the years. Think of this as being somewhat like loyalty to a political party or a national narrative or family history.
Once people buy a given narrative they filter everything through commitment to that narrative. If we treat Mark not as a pastor but as a politician or a salesman then we ignore the details of the Bible verses and look at what the real entry point is both in Real Marriage and the rest of Mark's stuff. Mark has set up a story that applies at every level at which he wants to be an instructor, for his own life, his wife, his kids, the church he co-founded. It's from within that overarching narrative that everything else gets filtered.
What this means for Driscoll as a polemicist (not to say preacher or pastor) is that Mark uses his story as the prism through which people are forced to contend with how he interprets the Bible. This has been, I think ,why so very few critics of Driscoll have been successful. They're usually stuck having addressed just one of two elements of how Driscoll's narrative works as a polemic for whatever he insists upon.
1. Either they have to focus so much on the mechanics of the text he's using to shill his particular idea that they bore people who want to know why this matters, and when there's going to be some practical application to these debates. Or ...
2. they directly attack Mark's propensity to hang his tendentious reading of a biblical text on his own narrative of his life, wife, kids, and church and risk looking like vindictive or whiny assholes by questioning everything about the narrative he presents. Here the people who assume Driscoll lies all the time and doesn't tell the real story become reflexive foils that more often than not reinforce and retrench those already sympathetic to Driscoll.
Driscoll got his degree in speech communications and has clearly refined the art of rhetorically forcing most of his critics into this Scylla or Charybys situation, a double-bind in which they are forced to question his integrity as a scholar about details most lay Christians don't even care about or to question the legitimacy of hanging his sketchy ideas on anecdotes about the wife and kids.
This really hit me when I heard Mark preach on Esther and built up to his claim that Esther was basically a prostitute by leaning on a story about Ashley saying she would run away instead of doing what Esther did. So despite that degree in exegetical theology the real zinger for the sermon was "my sweet daughter Ashley wouldn't do what Esther did and that's basically why Esther was wrong." You can't contest that approach to the book of Esther without directly dismissing Ashley Driscoll's interpretation as presented by Mark Driscoll. Of course Ashley Driscoll's interpretation of Esther's life and character is something she's entitled to but it's ridiculous to promulgate such a view from the pulpit when one has been advertising one's masters in exegetical theology, if that degree were worth something in the case of Mark Driscoll.
As was demonstrated a while back, Rachel Evans wasted a bit of time trying to get someone to comment on Esther as literature without seeing through (maybe?) the real gambit Mark pulled in his sermons. If anyone were to question Mark's interpretation they have to go through the teenaged girl he's raised in order to do so. He's used the Ashley narrative to essentially insulate himself from either exegetical disputation or from any questions about why on earth he'd use his teenaged daughter's opinion as a basis for interpreting a biblical book from the pulpit to begin with. It would take someone with a fairly vast grasp of both biblical literature and rhetorical techniques to see how consistently he does this kind of thing. But the basic tools themselves are simple.
In a way it's like we've been seeing this dynamic play out in politics in the US for decades and Mark may just be one of a handful of high profile pastors who have figured out how the emotional game works. It may explain why Mark's fans will defend him even after he's been caught plagiarizing. They're defending their own investment in the story he tells, not any specific set of things he's said or done. He seems to know this and that might be why he might be loathe let on to his own church he's been shown to be a plagiarist even on The City if they don't already know. It would explain why leaks from The City seem to have bothered MHC leadership as much or more than just negative press. Regular readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet may already know the sheer scale of leaked content from The City that has made it to this blog. Leaks of content from The City that somehow end up on Wenatchee The Hatchet seem positively irrelevant compared to controversies about plagiarism or buying a #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list or Mark Driscoll crashing the Strange Fire conference. Driscoll and company are so adept at creating their own bad publicity and MH PR has been managing to create rather than quell PR issues at intervals since the Andrew Lamb disciplinary situation erupted into headlines in early 2012.
Yet it appears that in controversy after controversy Mars Hill would rather blame outsiders than own up to the full magnitude of what they have said and done. So the Board of Advisors and Accountability has assured everyone the Result Source deal was some idea from outside Mars Hill. So what? Mars Hill Church decided to follow that advice. What was Eve's reaction when she was confronted? "The serpent tricked me." What was Adam's reaction? "The woman whom you gave me gave me fruit and I ate of it." Well, let's keep those details in mind when we consider Mars Hill's Board of Advisors and Accountability talking about how, yes, they did have someone on their staff who signed a contract in 2011with Result Source ... but the idea was suggested by some outsider, as if that had anything to do with Mars Hill having one of their representatives actually sign the agreement.
Blaming the advice on some outsider never changes the reality that someone in Mars Hill signed the agreement to begin with. Buying a spot on the NYT bestseller list for a book that plagiarized Dan Allender is still ultimately the decision and responsibility of Mars Hill Church as a corporation which has had Mark Driscoll as its president since at least 2012. It doesn't matter in the end which outside counsel provided that idea, the corporation known as Mars Hill Church had someone sign that contract. John Sutton Turner, specifically, signed that contract.
But the story has been told and those who want to believe that story about how Mars Hill Church and its executive elders were given some counsel to use Result Source that Sutton Turner signed a contract for are going to believe what they wish to believe. It's not that the contract is going to be seen in a positive light at this point, it's that the grand metanarrative or meganarrative or mythos, if you will, has already been written. Preserving that is important enough that even criticism that people might consider accurate, legitimate, and factually verifiable applied to any other situation will be interpreted in this case as "gossip" or "slander". Let's give pause to consider that these people are not defending anything less (or possibly more) than their investment of themselves into a narrative. And it seems clearer and clearer each year that those who would attempt to critique Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill will need to account for the way in which he so entwines his interpretation of a biblical text with his own family/personal story that the popular online ways of criticizing Driscoll as a bully or a failure as an exegete will mean nothing to the fan base. There will be plenty of people at Mars Hill tomorrow and likely year after year and this in spite of the cumulative evidence of citation errors and buying a #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list. The story Driscoll's fans have invested themselves into isn't the kind you can buy at a store but it can be measured in member contracts and the stories they tell.