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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Donald Miller Responds to Dr. Mark Coppenger - Sort Of

(response) A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Mark Coppenger, professor here at Southern, gave a lecture on Donald Miller's book Blue Like Jazz (currently #133 on Amazon sales rank) which was not well received by fans of Donald Miller. The most succinct critique (IMO) came from Joe Thorn, who assessed that Coppenger was reacting against the book rather than interacting with it. Thorn later shares his disappointment in Coppenger's review which, to him was "superficial" in that it attempted to decipher Miller's motives rather than engage his ideas. (reaction) Other than being an author, Donald Miller also serves as the Director of The Burnside Writers Collective, "a collection of writers and thinkers who form an online magazine." The most recent issue has the pejorative reaction to Coppenger's lecture (called "Mark Coppenger Read Blue Like Jazz and Now He's Mad!) in which Jordan Green poses five issues with statements from Coppenger (in the lecture) and Miller's response. There is nothing substantive here and was intended to be satirical. However, at the close of the post, there is the sentence which says:

"Filed Under: Standing up to a Bully."
Now, this makes sense with regards to the title (Mark Coppenger going mad), for it you click on the bold-faced "bully" link, it takes you here, which is the ABP article which reports of Coppenger being fired from his position as President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1999 because of inappropriate expressions of anger which caused "irreparable damage" to the seminary. Now, I understand that many feel like Coppenger wrongly addressed the character and motives of Donald Miller in his lecture and critique, but is this subtle, yet seriously retributive attack the way to go about this? Is this to shame Dr. Coppenger for yet "going mad" again as reminiscent of 1999? This can't help but be the case, given that the five "issues" is sandwich between the beginning statements ("Mark Coppenger, former president of a seminary somewhere") and the ending statement ("standing up to a bully"). I don't know what to think about all this honestly. I haven't read all of Donald Miller's books, nor I have kept up on all the conversation happening in recent years. I do know Dr. Coppenger as a professor, although this is in no way to defend him or his lecture. Actually, I tend to agree with Thorn that Coppenger would have a more substantive argument and larger audience had he avoided unnecessary rhetoric ("blue states, blue jello, blue ice, etc.") and stuck with the content of the book. In the future, I presume others will write a review or possibly speak about BLJ (or his other books) in a negative light; in light of this expectation, I hope that both parties will handle the exchange in a more mature and charitable manner.


Blogger Jimmy said...

Eh. The content of BLJ is not contained well in my recent memory, but I recently let a very-much-Reformed friend of mine borrow it and he loved it. I really don't understand what the deal is with the book (it's not a theology book, by the way, so you can't really file it under "Theology" and then critique it based on that). I'm going to reread it and review it when I get it back from my other very-much-Reformed friend that has it and is enjoying it.

But speaking of the topic at hand, I did not listen to Coppenger's lecture but I DID read Thorn's critique (good points) and the discussion that followed (more good points). Didn't sound like the lecture was really worth my time. I think Miller is a very gifted writer, so his "reaction" at Burnside was, well, a little weird. Sarcasm is good and all, but I'd have liked a more substantive response. Oh, well.

Thank you for the links.

3/16/2006 08:08:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


While I am interested in reading BLJ, I simply don't have the time right now (I am sunk in the Puritans!). I do not feel like I can in good conscience say anything for or against it when I have not had first-hand interaction with it. I will say that I have interacted with folks on both sides, with both having good points to make.

I am, however, going to respond a little to what I heard on the interview, in particular with postmodernism, propositional truth, and systematic theology. I think I might do a second post regarding the "gospel understood relationally", the ethical aspect of salvation, and the similarities to modern-day religious pluralism. That's the minus side. On the plus side, I agree with what most are saying, about the terrible absence of social justice in conservative evangelicalism, the balance between head, heart, and hands, the distinction between biblical and political allegiances, etc. This has been expounded on my several people, and for the sake of redundancy, I will leave it at that.

As with everyone else I assume, life is pretty busy right now, but I hope to have something together after awhile.

3/16/2006 08:19:00 PM


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