The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
Mars Hill is a popular church among SPU students, but are its teachings accurate
By AMANDA LENGYEL, Layout Editor
Published: November 16, 2005
Mark Driscoll is wrong. I know this is a strong statement; I would not write it unless I meant it, and could back it up.
Two weeks ago, I never would have said this. Two weeks ago, I felt some reservations about Mars Hill Church, but still defended it among my more critical peers. Today, the nicest thing I can say about Driscoll is, well, he seems passionate - horrifyingly misled, but passionate - about sharing the Christian gospel. I think.
My support for Driscoll and his church fell away on Sunday, Nov. 6, when Driscoll used the pulpit to spread gross falsehoods to about 4,500 people who attended his sermon that day. Driscoll made outright statements about the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) that were factually false. Furthermore, he made these statements in a very disrespectful and demeaning manner.
To illustrate this, I'll outline the false statements Driscoll made, as well as the actual Catholic theology. All quotes of Driscoll are taken from the online posting of his sermon, "Jesus Died to Forgive Us" on the Mars Hill website (marshillchurch.org).
"The way you and I get justified is through Jesus Christ. How exactly does this transpire? This is the great debate between Catholics and Protestants." Driscoll is saying that Protestants are saved by Jesus Christ, but Catholics disagree. This is false.
According to the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (CCC), justification is "the gracious action of God which frees us from sin and communicates ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ' (Romans 3:22)." This is a point on which the Protestant and Catholic Churches agree. From the beginning, Driscoll's entire sermon was built on the platform of a falsehood.
Driscoll then went on to outline how he thought the Catholic Church taught salvation, saying, "First, you're saved by baptism." Ummm, wrong! As stated above, the RCC believes people are saved by grace.
To be saved as a Catholic, you do not have to be baptized. The CCC says "Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification." It is a sacrament, not a requirement, and it further emphasizes the justifying work of Christ.
Further misconstrued was the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Yikes! Driscoll had fun sharing his own take on this Catholic doctrine. According to him, "Throughout your life you'll commit sins, so what you do, you'll go to the priest, because the mediator between you and God is the priest, not Jesus... Not that God would forgive me, the priest would forgive me."
These sacraments, as defined by the CCC, are "the sacramental celebration in which, through God's mercy and forgiveness, the sinner is reconciled with God and also with the Church, Christ's Body, which is wounded by sin."
Sinners are not forgiven by the priest but through God's mercy and forgiveness. That is a big difference.
In the CCC's definition of "mediator" it says, "Jesus Christ is the ‘one mediator between God and the human race' (1 Timothy 2:5). Through his sacrificial offering he has become high priest and unique mediator who has gained for us access to God's saving grace for humanity." This leaves no room in the Catholic faith for any other mediators. It is said, plainly and obviously, that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. How then, could Driscoll think that the priest was the mediator?
Moving on to some of the false - and horribly disrespectful - comments, Driscoll attempted to explain his conception of Catholic purgatory. "If you commit a pretty bad sin you go to purgatory... [purgatory is] kind of like going to the airport and missing your flight... you can't go anywhere, you can't get out, there's nothing to do and it's just sort of this terrible place that you wait till you get picked up to go somewhere you really want to be."
Oh, make sure to insert riotous laughter of the congregation right after "missing your flight."
Again, the CCC defines purgatory as: "a state of final purification after death and before entrance into heaven for those who died in God's friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of heaven." Purgatory is a place with a very important purpose. It is the last state of sanctification, which requires suffering (Rom. 5:3-5) of a Christian before they enter the presence of Christ.
Regarding indulgences, Driscoll offered a theoretical conversation between a surviving relative and a priest. It went like this:
Priest: "Aunt Sally is in hell."
Relative: "Well, how much does that cost?"
Priest: "Umm, like, $29.95!"
As entertaining as that was for the Mars Hill congregation, it had nothing to do with what indulgences truly are in today's Catholic Church.
This is clarified greatly at www.catholic.com, where it explains that it is traditional to give a stipend to a priest performing a memorial Mass for the dead, a Mass for the benefit of someone in purgatory. This stipend is usually around $5.
Thus, indulgences are neither a way to "buy your relatives out of purgatory" or "a money-making bonanza" used to build St. Peter's Basilica, as Driscoll accused.
These are just some of the many falsehoods Driscoll propagated about the Catholic Church. Driscoll's errors of fact and entirely unnecessary attitude of childish disrespect require a correction and apology - if he misleads 4,500 people, he needs to step up and admit he was wrong in front of 4,500 people.
Or, he could at least apologize to people specifically asking for an apology.
My friend, fellow Catholic and fellow SPU student, Joe Howard was at Mars Hill with me. After hearing Driscoll's sermon, he sought to find the pastor so he could discuss what he felt were the errors in it.
Howard instead met Driscoll's personal assistant who informed him that Driscoll is too busy writing sermons, teaching, and formulating theology, to meet with people. Howard was informed there was a panel of other pastors and volunteers he could talk to, but not to Driscoll. He was also told that all of Driscoll's e-mail is filtered by Driscoll's assistant, and it is unlikely Driscoll would see any e-mail Howard wrote about the sermon.
Howard persisted, against these odds, in his quest for truth behind the pulpit and e-mailed Driscoll on Tuesday, Nov. 8. He has yet to hear back from anyone at Mars Hill.
When the factual inaccuracies and disrespectful nature of Driscoll's sermon are combined with his inaccessibility, I can't help but agree with the group on www.facebook.com called "Mars Hill: Possibly a Cult."
It frightens me that one of the largest churches in Seattle is propagating falsehoods and will not accept correction or criticism.
I have to wonder how many people believed the errors they heard from Driscoll on Nov. 6.
Does Mars Hill believe Driscoll's falsehoods, or are they simply afraid to speak against him?
I, for one, was afraid to too loudly express my opinions during the service, because the large security guard several feet to my right was giving me dirty looks.
Wait! Security guards at church? Something seems very, very wrong with that.
This is all to say, be careful! If Driscoll will so willingly misconstrue about the beliefs of a church of 1 billion people, how can we know he is not twisting the Bible, so that it too fits his personal theology?
With more errors than I can count in one sermon, how many others does Driscoll regularly tell to his congregation of 4,500? And worse, do they believe the lies?
I hope not. But after that sermon, I am afraid. Very afraid.
This is not to say that Driscoll is mind-washing people, but I feel that something is wrong - so wrong that it publicly demands correction and apology.
So, be careful, critically analyze what you hear at church, and whatever you do, don't drink the Kool-Aid.