Lets just jump in and admit that there was already very little chance that I was going to be a fan of Christianity Today’s new podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Four episodes in and I think I can put my finger on the major problems.
It is customary to, on the front end, say a few nice things about anything being critiqued. But I will reject that for the time being that A. I agree with Mark Dever it is more manful to start with the critique and then build up at the end. And B. It always feels that that method comes off like what you say to the parents of an ugly baby, “It’s very alert!”
I would like to pick the many nits I have but they all boil down into the two primary flaws of the entire project to date.
- When listening with my wife she kept saying how it sounded like the true crime documentaries she watches on Netflix. And she is not wrong. The style of the podcast draws heavily from that genre. Right down to the eerie music they play in the background whenever Driscoll is being played or if anyone is talking about good things that happened in the church. The entire tone is that the good was just a cover for something deeper, something sinister. And that points to the first problem. The premise is that the criminal is Driscoll. He is guilty, he is always guilty, and anything good done by him had nefarious motive behind it. True to the true crime format you already know who the killer is and that he is guilty. But there is a twist…
- Mark was just the face. The real danger that this podcast is trying to alert people to is complementarianism.* my good friend and sometime contributor D.W. Smythe caught this before me and he is not wrong. The goal is to attach a theology that CT dislikes to a person they despise. Experts brought include Doug Pagitt, Rachel Held Evans, Kristin Du Mez. Early on Driscoll is attached to Doug Wilson and the fourth episode is devoted to how they view his position on masculinity as toxic. Ultimately the goal is to try an nail complementarianism to the barn wall over at CT.
Did Driscoll do wrong? Sadly, yes. When the podcast relies on the (real) expertise of men like Paul David Tripp, or Ed Stetzer it is at it’s best. And the things they say are damning enough. As much as I love the preaching of Driscoll, I know that he has erred and sadly looks to be repeating the same mistakes**. Mars Hill had many problems and Driscoll’s ego, temper, and lack of self-control were front and center. It would appear that those have carried over to his new church with the addition of nepotism. He had an enormous impact on the evangelical world, for good or bad. And I can understand the interest, even all these years later. The podcast itself admits Mars Hill and Driscoll were and are clickbait. I do not reject the idea of a deep forensic dive into the tragedy that was the rise and fall of Mars Hill. My objection is how this podcast is lying in it’s thesis. Mike Cosper the writer, editor, and host has an ax to grind against theological positions he does not like and he is using the story of Mars Hill to subtly take his jabs.
*Another theology that is attacked is Calvinism but that is more of a drive by assault that the sustained attack being waged on complementarianism.
**“Do you know the difference between an error and a mistake, Ensign?” ‘No, sir. ‘ “Anyone can make an error, Ensign. But that error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” – Grand Admiral Thrawn, Heir to the Empire