Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Two Mars Hills


I had barely published my previous blog on the wonders of yoga when I was confronted by this video by Past. Mark Driscoll explaining how yoga is evil and demonic and all who practice it are hellbound.  At times like these I am astounded by the difference between Mars Hill and Mars Hill.

There are two famous churches in the USA which go by the name “Mars Hill”.  One is in Seattle, Washington and is headed by Mark Driscoll.  The other is in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is headed by Rob Bell.  Superficially they seem very similar at first.  Both are very large and both are well known and popular far outside their respective city limits.  Both are thoroughly modern with pastors who are engaging public speakers – not to mention that they both sport interesting hair and non-traditional dress sense.  Yet these two couldn’t be more different from one another*.

If you sat down the leaders of both Mars Hill churches and made the statement that “everything is spiritual” then they would both agree with you but for very different reasons.  For Rob Bell, the statement “everything is spiritual” means that your spirituality involves the entirety of your life.  In other words, you don’t have a “spiritual life” and a “normal life” separate from one another.  Therefore everything you do can be an act of worship and God is involved in everything you do.  I suspect Mark Driscoll on the other hand would agree because he thinks there are demons behind everything.  Yoga?  Demons.  Popular works of fiction?  Demons.  Popular movies?  Demonic.  Mormonism?  Founded by demons.  I’m sure if I looked harder I could find more examples but clearly the man lives in a demon haunted world.

Mark Driscoll
This leads to the two Mars Hills preaching very different versions of Christianity.  Pastor Driscoll’s demon-centric worldview necessitates a tough kind of Christianity.  At his Mars Hill Church, God is tough as nails who tolerates no sin or deviation from doctrine.  He is the Yahweh the Warrior, the God of the predestined, the One who saves only a select few from this world filled with demons and deception.  In this Mars Hill they do not flinch from using strong language or violence.  This is a church that is into MMA and Christian Cage Fighting**.  Here the measure of a man is tied to his prowess in the field of battle.  Because of this you will find no gentle Jesus here.  At Mark’s church Jesus is the ultimate Alpha Male, a tough guy who can beat up your dad (much like Mark himself).  To him, “Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” 

Rob Bell
Rob Bell on the other hand doesn’t strike me as much of an alpha male.  In fact I’m pretty sure your mom could beat him in a cage fight.  His Mars Hill Church is far more geek friendly and you are far more likely to hear a Star Wars reference than an Ultimate Fighting metaphor from his pulpit.  Doubters, heretics, the lost, the weak and the broken are all welcome.  The God of this Mars Hill is far more welcoming and has hope for all mankind.  Rob Bell’s Jesus is more likely to give you a hug than an uppercut.  One quote by Rob has always stuck with me.  In Velvet Elvis he wrote “Why blame the dark for being dark?  It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be.”  That pretty much sums up this Mars Hill.  It isn’t focused on sin or demons at all.  Instead there is a constant focus on being a light in a dark world by doing good to others.  I think the closest I’ve heard him come to apologetics was his suggestion to those struggling with their faith to join a program that helps underprivileged children.  That is where their God lives – amongst the poor and the broken.  Like the one in Seattle this Mars Hill is also quite aggressive, only here they are aggressively into charity (both domestic and internationally).

Now if my tone wasn’t a clear enough indication, I’m not a fan of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill but I am extremely fond of the Mars Hill of Rob Bell.  The funny thing is that when I was half as old as I am now it would have been the other way around.  Back then, I would have agreed with Rob’s detractors that to not preach on sin, hell and the demonic is simply unchristian.  The sheer manliness of Mark’s church would have been far more attractive.  I considered all that peace, love and charity stuff to be uncomfortably close to the antichrist agenda.  Not so much anymore though.  Nowadays the “lets call everything we don’t like/understand demonic” brand of aggressive Christianity that claims to always be right despite all evidence to the contrary drives me toward agnosticism.  It is only Rob Bell’s brand of Christianity that makes me believe that there is something to this faith after all.  I don’t think I would want to worship a God that would like to beat me up.  Violence and aggression is not the same as being tough.  An angry child can swing a fist.  Self-sacrifice, now for that you need to be tough.  Opening yourself up to constant hurt by trying to heal the messiness of humanity, that takes courage.  Cage fighting doesn’t scare me, caring for the helpless does.

*To be fair, I have never attended either one of these churches.  I have heard sermons from both and I have seen plenty of video from both so I’m fairly certain I can offer my opinion fairly here.
** A term that had a completely different meaning in the Coliseum in 1 AD methinks…


GumbyTheCat said...

Of course, Twoo Christians™ would say that you are not saved, because you prefer a feel-good, works-based gospel over faith-based, fire and brimstone, grim fundie-style doctrine.

The problem is, assuming for the moment that Christian paradigm is true, these opposing doctrinal philosophies cannot both be true. Yet there are millions of Jesus-accepting devout believers who subscribe to Mark Driscoll's version, and there are millions of Jesus-accepting devout believers who subscribe to Rob Bell's version. Since it can be safely assumed that salvation, and the path to salvation are the most critical parts of Christianity (since otherwise, there is absolutely no reason for the religion's existence), the question becomes "So who's right?"

If one assumes a perfectly fair and just God, then the answer must be "Neither". Because a perfectly fair and just God would not create or allow situations where people love God and Jesus with all their hearts, only for God to tell them at their White Throne judgment "Sorry, sucker, you picked the wrong avenue. Off to hell for all eternity you go, I don't care how much you loved my Son!"

Although I agree that Bell's approach is much more palatable, realistic and loving than Driscoll's, it is still wrong for people to say his way is the only true path to salvation.

Both approaches tend to treat God like a computer program that cannot deviate from its pre-programmed instruction set (i.e. the Bible). And when any Christian says that there is only one path, they are treating God in exactly that matter.

All religion and doctrine are man-made. If there is a God he had nothing to do with all the religions and denominations within religions, the way I see it. If God exists, and we are his creations, then he must accept that we are exactly what he created us to be - unique individuals with unique outlooks on every aspect of life. If there is a heaven and hell, logic dictates that God would judge us on how we conducted our lives and what was in our hearts, not which religion we followed (don't even get me started on the geographic/cultural aspects of religion-choice!), or which particular sect of a religion we followed, or which doctrinal flavor within a denomination we followed. Otherwise God is neither fair nor just, nor would such a being be worth worshiping.

My scenario above makes Christ and Christianity unnecessary. Just as it makes all specific religions unnecessary. I think what's important is to look at the commonalities inherent in most religions (the ethic of reciprocity being a prime example) and doing the best we can to live the way God wants us to. If there truly is some sort of God out there, everyone gets the same chance to reap whatever benefits may exist in whatever afterlife there may be. Anything less than that, and God is an unfair and unjust being not worthy or respect, much less worship.

ProChoiceJesus said...

Well, I'm thankful that Jesus and His plan of salvation is not dependant on the self-motivated opinion, plan, and view of GumbyTheCat. He said it at the end of his post..."My scenario above makes Christ and Christianity unnecessary." That statement voids the entire post, which is wrought with incorrect thought & deceptive beliefs. Jesus said it himself "There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, salvation is found in no one else, if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved"...etc, etc. Jesus, who is God manifest in the flesh, said it Himself, He is the only way. And, there is definately a specific doctrine, created not by man, but by God, by which we may enter eternal life and avoid hell (a thing Rob Bell unfortunately denies, which makes his manmade doctrine extremely suspect). GumbyTheCat thinks it important to look at the common traits among religions...and to do the "best we can" to live the way God wants us to do. That is salvation through our own effort, earning it by our works, which is certainly impossible and condemned by Jesus Himself as well as his apostles. Gumby has created a god (notice the little "g") of his own creation, and has outlined another flavor of humanistic religious thought, making man and his opinion about God and salvation much more important than what God has revealed thousands of years ago as Truth. Nothing new here, man has been molding gods and creating false plans of salvation since the beginning. Certainly hell will be full of all who wrongly believe they can have god however they want god, and please him by their own constructs. "ALL of our (our own, personal man-made) righteousness is likened unto bloody tampons," ("filthy rags" in most translations). That's literal Greek translation of that verse, which was given to those who think they can earn God's love & salvation, and who want God to fit their own selfish molds & desires. Still the truth reaches out as long as we have breath flowing through their nostrils. Romans 10:9-13 is a good place to begin. There is no other way, no matter how badly you want it.

Ashton said...

The point is this Gumby: The Jesus of Rob Bell will accept Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll's militant form of Christianity doesn't accept Rob Bell's approach. So it's not a question of either/or. I'm with Rob Bell assomeone who tries to reflect what the God of love is truly like.

Anonymous said...

I really like what you said there, Ashton. I think your observation neatly encapsulates the polarity of these two leaders and the brands of Christianity they both represent.