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Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

January 10, 2009

The NY Times Magazine article on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle explores this unusual form of Christianity, neither liberal nor conservative, yet “hypermasculine” and Calvinist. An excerpt:

Driscoll disdains the prohibitions of traditional evangelical Christianity. Taboos on alcohol, smoking, swearing and violent movies have done much to shape American Protestant culture — a culture that he has called the domain of “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists.” Moreover, the Bible tells him that to seek salvation by self-righteous clean living is to behave like a Pharisee. Unlike fundamentalists who isolate themselves, creating “a separate culture where you live in a Christian cul-de-sac,” as one spiky-haired member named Andrew Pack puts it, Mars Hillians pride themselves on friendships with non-Christians. They tend to be cultural activists who play in rock bands and care about the arts, living out a long Reformed tradition that asserts Christ’s mandate over every corner of creation.

The article appears to be pretty even-handed except for the part on church discipline. However, the journalist closes with a pretty hard commentary on Calvinists:

Mars Hill — with its conservative social teachings embedded in guitar solos and drum riffs, its megachurch presence in the heart of bohemian skepticism — thrives on paradox. Critics on the left and right alike predict that this delicate balance of opposites cannot last. Some are skeptical of a church so bent on staying perpetually “hip”: members have only recently begun to marry and have children, but surely those children will grow up, grow too cool for their cool church and rebel. Others say that Driscoll’s ego and taste for controversy will be Mars Hill’s Achilles’ heel. Lately he has made a concerted effort to tone down his language, and he insists that he has delegated much authority, but the heart of his message has not changed. Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view. Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.

What do you think? Do you find this article compelling? Is the Calvinist critique fair? Read the rest of the New York Times Magazine article here.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2009 12:30 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t quote the John Calvin section.

  2. January 10, 2009 2:25 pm

    Why’s that? Funny, I was in a hurry and decided to go back and include her critique of Calvinism at the end. Too bad it ended on that note.

  3. January 10, 2009 2:28 pm

    I just thought that was the part of the article that was most discussion worthy. But I was kinda joking, you can quote whatever part you like. :)

  4. January 10, 2009 2:45 pm

    You are probably right! Oh well. What are your thoughts on the representation of Calvin?

  5. January 10, 2009 3:08 pm

    I think that’s how most folks who know a little about Calvin think about Calvin. A few paragraphs before the second one quoted above really slams Driscoll for being like Calvin, squashing dissent. It’s a really harsh comparison and I’m surprised more folks aren’t talking about it.

  6. January 11, 2009 9:42 pm

    I’m with Steve. I thought the discussion on church discipline was harsh and brash and probably failed to reflect anything deeper that was going on. It came off exceedingly authoritarian and seemed to place Driscoll in a place of commanding others to shut up and do what he said because it was his church and if they didn’t like it they could take a walk (or was it take a punch to the nose).


  1. NY Times on Mark Driscoll « Interstitial

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