Mark Discoll

Was ‘The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill’ podcast series a mistake?

This is the argument of my friend (you hear his voice in the introduction to the Heidelcast) Jason Estopinal. He appeals to Proverbs 10:19, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 3:30 and Matthew 18 and concludes that Christians should not be fascinated by what one critic has called the “failure porn” of the Christianity Today podcast series The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.

Jason asked directly for my response and here it is: his argument proves too much.

By his reasoning, we should have to remove a good bit of Scripture and much of church history.

I have not only listened to the series (I have three episodes to go), but I have also encouraged Heidelblog readers to listen to it.

The series is a sort of very early draft of church history. It illuminates the nature of the so-called Young, Restless and Reformed, New Calvinism and Emerging Church movements as well as it illuminates the nature of what Carl Trueman has called “Big Eva”.

The podcast series is not failure porn nor is too harsh. If anything it is too soft on Driscoll.

Jason wants the church as an institution to deal with Driscoll, but his argument assumes something that it must prove: that Mars Hill was a church. I think not. In sociological terms, we we should describe Mars Hill (and its satellites) as a congregation but not church. It lacked the marks of the true church (see Belgic Confession, article 29). It was not disciplined. Kim Riddlebarger has argued that Driscoll did not even have elders to whom he was accountable.

Did Driscoll preach the pure gospel? Sometimes, perhaps but not consistently. Were the sacraments purely administered? No. Even Driscoll’s current congregation (more on this below) lacks the marks as defined by the Reformed churches. Mars Hill tried to discipline him and he defied them. Which ecclesiastical body would discipline him now? It certainly would not be his current congregation, which is controlled by Driscoll and family members. He is not accountable to anyone, but he continues to pose a danger to many.

Further, Driscoll did not merely sin as a private person. He abused the sheep and he often did it publicly. He made himself a pastor, although he was, by his own admission, unqualified, and then he proceeded to use his position as well as those around and under him. According to a group from his current congregation, he continues to do these very same things in Scottsdale, AZ.

As our Lord Jesus said, “to whom much was given, much from him  will be required” (Luke 12:48). It is not too much to say that he is a false teacher and to be marked out as such. In this respect, the podcast series and the several critiques published here and elsewhere perform a valuable service: warning vulnerable sheep about dangerous figures in the church. Read the full article by R. Scott Clark.