“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.”
“Belief is never the point— actions are. We can be of two minds about biology or God but treat everyone around us with kindness.”
-Frank Schaeffer, “Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace (p. 24).
Below are two audio recordings which are taken from a YouTube interview of Frank Schaeffer by David Pakman. The video may be seen here. Frank Schaeffer, riding on the coattails of his famous father, Francis Schaeffer, had managed to become a rising star in Evangelical Christianity. Repulsed by, among other things, the hypocrisy of the rich and powerful Evangelical Christian leadership whom he had close contact with, Schaeffer left the Evangelical movement in the mid-1980’s, eventually finding a home in the Greek Orthodox Church. The manner in which Schaeffer describes Evangelical Christianity in the 1970’s and 1980’s sounds exactly the same as Evangelicalism today. Frank Schaeffer said “Evangelicalism may not have a Pope, but has many Popes,” and went on to describe the movement as “a cult of personality,” whose followers would buy everything the celebrities wrote and show up at any lecture they gave.
In the next audio, Schaeffer comments on the dishonesty of Jerry Falwell, adding that his behavior was typical of all the evangelical celebrities he knew. He added that “wherever they started, frankly, they turned into shysters and/or lunatics.” Schaeffer further stated that “this kind of adulation from an evangelical or any believing, religious public, turns you into an egomaniac; you’re sure you’re right about everything.” He then concludes with this insightful evaluation of Christian celebrities – “The fastest road to complete loss of faith is religious stardom. I don’t think anything destroys actual faith quicker than that.” What was true of the Christian celebrities in the 1980’s seems to be true to an even greater degree today. With the advent of the internet, social media, conferences, and books, the Christian celebrities keep themselves constantly before the eyes of their adoring fans. One can well imagine the “fan-boiz” in attendance at the last T4G celebrity worship-fest shouting out as the townspeople of Lystra had in the Apostle Paul’s day, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” (Acts 14:11 NIV)
I would like to turn your attention now to the four Christian celebrities who founded the “Together for the Gospel” conference ten years ago. As Frank Schaeffer mentioned above, I believe it would be exceptionally difficult for Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and C.J. Mahaney to maintain any semblance of humility and normalcy given the constant adulation they receive from their fans; and I don’t believe they have.
I would like to devote most of my attention to C.J. Mahaney because he is the one among the foursome who clearly screams the loudest for attention. He fancies himself a “pastor-athlete” and takes every available opportunity to remind us of his athletic prowess; though whether there is any evidence to back his claim is questionable. To my knowledge, he never lettered in any sport in high school; in fact, he claims he was a lazy youth who spent most of his time getting high on drugs. He never attended college, so one would be hard-pressed to point to any outstanding athletic ability Mahaney possessed. Perhaps he dominates his subordinates in games of Pig at the basketball hoop in the parking lot, but even if he wins those encounters I would suspect his competition throws the matches in an attempt to bolster Mahaney’s fragile ego, thus endearing themselves to the Humble One.
As evidence which supports my thesis, I present the ridiculous video below. As sickening as this worship of Mahaney is, one cannot really blame the performers. This mentality was not only encouraged amongst the Sovereign Grace faithful, it was rewarded by the leaders. Mahany loves adoration and loves winning. Before viewing the video here is an interesting quote which seems to apply to the Humble One:
“Evidently, we would be the players of a game, one that resembled a giant chess match, with our fellow human beings as the rooks, the knights, and the pawns. For this is the essence of sociopathic behavior and desire. The only thing Skip really wants— the only thing left— is to win… he illustrates what a sociopath wants. Controlling others— winning— is more compelling than anything (or anyone) else.”
Martha Stout Ph.D., ” The Sociopath Next Door” (p. 45).
Now watch the video below. Mahaney reverts to his well-worn act of flattering his fellow T4G founders by acknowledging what great scholars they are, then he reminds us that although he may not be as bright as his “pastor-scholar” friends, he is special in his own right because he is a “pastor-athlete.” Evidence of this oft-repeated claim is a framed piece of the hardwood floor of the old arena where Maryland played college hoops and two baseball mitts and a ball Mahaney uses to play catch in the parking lot with an aide whenever he needs a break from his rigorous “hours and hours, and hours and hours and hours every week in order to prepare a sermon.”
The audio file below was recorded from the video “Day in Review (T4G 2016)” The twenty-minute review of the day is not what I would expect from four Christian leaders, indeed, I find it quite unbecoming of men who should be examples of Christ-like behavior.
Pride would be readily apparent to even the most undiscerning conference-goer if each man were to praise himself for the great sermon he had preached that day, only slightly less obvious was their praising each other for their awesome sermons. Yet the technique seemed to work; in an audience of 10,000 fans, the “cult of personality” described by Frank Schaeffer was alive and well. Many in the audience were pastors, yet I have not seen one negative comment regarding this blatant display of pride.
As I watched the video I was reminded of the “NFL Today” postgame show. Four or five former coaches and players sit around a table and review highlights from the day of football, telling their audience what great athletes these NFL players are, occasionally reminding us of their former glory days. Well, enough, it is the rare athlete who is actually humble, but one would expect Christian leaders to exhibit a different behavior. What we were treated to was a twenty-minute Christianese version of an NFL endzone celebration, the sort of which has been prohibited in the NFL for several years now due to the blatant excess that sports fans found repulsive.
This two minute clip illustrates Mahaney being Mahaney. It is nothing new for him. He frequently seizes control of the spotlight when he feels he is not getting enough attention, resorting to his time-tested technique of flattery and humor. It is a pitiful display, reminiscent of a performance by the high school class clown, the only difference being Mahaney is 60 years old, and supposedly a Christian pastor. Such is what passes for humble leadership in today’s Christian Evangelicalism movement.
“The prizes we give ourselves are empty because we humans are both creator, judge and jury. Where is the objective outside observer? If something is called “great” the only real question is “compared to what?” Mom knew this. She knew that posturing, preening and awarding prizes to ourselves is dust. So Mom stopped in a hotel hallway to change the unhappy life of one hotel maid instead of going to an important meeting with important people.”
Frank Schaeffer, “Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace (p. 27).
“So high indeed are our spirits, that when it becomes the duty of any one to reprove or contradict us, we are commonly impatient both of the matter and the manner. We love the man who will say as we say, and be of our opinion, and promote our reputation, though, in other respects, he be less worthy of our esteem. But he is ungrateful to us who contradicteth us and differeth from us, and dealeth plainly with us as to our miscarriages and telleth us of our faults. Especially in the management of our public arguings, where the eye of the world is upon us, we can scarcely endure any contradiction or plain dealing. I know that railing language is to be abhorred and that we should be as tender of each other’s reputation, as our fidelity to the truth will permit. But our pride makes too many of us think all men contemn us, that do not admire us, yea, and admire all we say, and submit their judgments to our most palpable mistakes. We are so tender, that a man can scarcely touch us but we are hurt; and so high-minded, that a man who is not versed in complimenting, and skilled in flattery above the vulgar rate, can scarcely tell how to handle us so observantly, and fit our expectations at every turn, without there being some word, or some neglect, which our high spirits will fasten on, and take as injurious to our honor.
I confess I have often wondered that this most heinous sin should be made so light of, and thought so consistent with a holy frame of heart and life, when far less sins are, by ourselves, proclaimed to be so damnable in our people. And I have wondered more, to see the difference between godly preachers and ungodly sinners, in this respect. When we speak to drunkards, worldlings, or ignorant unconverted persons, we disgrace them to the utmost, and lay it on as plainly as we can speak, and tell them of their sin, and shame, and misery; and we expect that they should not only bear all patiently, but take all thankfully. And most that I deal with do take it patiently, and many gross sinners will commend the closest preachers most, and will say that they care not for hearing a man that will not tell them plainly of their sins. But if we speak to godly ministers against their errors or their sins, if we do not honor them and reverence them, and speak as smoothly as we are able to speak, yea, if we mix not commendations with our reproofs, and if the applause be not predominant, so as to drown all the force of the reproof or confutation, they take it as almost an insufferable injury. Brethren, I know this is a sad confession, but that all this should exist among us, should be more grievous to us than to be told of it. Could the evil be hid, I should not have disclosed it, at least so openly in the view of all. But, alas! it is long ago open to the eyes of the world. We have dishonored ourselves by idolizing our honor; we print our shame, and preach our shame, thus proclaiming it to the whole world. Some will think that I speak overcharitably when I call such persons godly men, in whom so great a sin doth so much prevail. I know, indeed, that where it is predominant, not hated, and bewailed, and mortified in the main, there can be no true godliness; and I beseech every man to exercise a strict jealousy and search of his own heart. But if all be graceless that are guilty of any, or of most of the fore-mentioned discoveries of pride, the Lord be merciful to the ministers of this land, and give us quickly another spirit; for grace is then a rarer thing than most of us have supposed it to be.”
Richard Baxter, “The Reformed Pastor”