The Biblical Example
The best example of Christian storytelling that we see in scripture comes from Luke. In his two books, Luke weaves together selected stories to help his audience, Theophilus, have certainty concerning the truthfulness of the gospel (Luke 1:1). He quotes the Old Testament in a combined 115 verses, showing us that God’s standard for Christian storytelling is to use scripture as the primary lens through which we understand the world around us. However, this is not the model that The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill follows, as Mark Driscoll, the series’ chief antagonist references scripture more often than anyone else in the series. This communicates to the audience that the church and the Bible are 1) incredibly dangerous, and 2) that they are as likely to produce lifelong hurt as they are to bring new life filled with hope, joy, and faith.
What the church needs to hear is what the Bible tells us, that Jesus was the one who killed Mars Hill and that He ultimately disciplined Mark Driscoll (Revelation 3-4, Ezekiel 5:13). Knowing that Christ is on the throne, overseeing His kingdom protecting His people is a message that produces hope, and it is what we desperately need to hear.
What We Are Getting Instead
The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is not Biblical storytelling, it’s entertainment. We see this each time they deliberately change the music to influence how you feel about the ones speaking during the podcast. The righteous speakers have light and hopeful music playing in the background, while those meant to be seen as harmful receive dark and ominous sounding music before their soundbites. However, this is not simply entertainment, it is media with a clear agenda that is becoming increasingly obvious. At the beginning we were sold that this podcast was meant to tell the story of the rise and fall of Mars Hill, and by extension, Mark Driscoll. However, it has moved passed Driscoll and his former church and placed its sights squarely on complementarian theology. Male headship is being painted as abusive, those who hold to it are dangerous, and pastors who oppose it are the rational servants of Jesus cleaning up the mess that the complementarians left behind. There has been little to no critique scripturally of Driscoll’s theology, in spite of the contributions of Russel Moore, CT’s on staff public theologian, and a myriad of other pastors and teachers who have given their thoughts on what happened. We know what Mike Cosper thinks, what Russell Moore thinks, what sports reporters think, but rarely are we clued in on what King Jesus thinks.
Mark Driscoll was a talented communicator and much of his theology was correct, hence his lasting positive impact in the lives of many Christians. Nevertheless, he is an example of a man who did not meet the qualifications of an elder as he was not: above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, nonviolent, gentle, or well thought of by outsiders (1 Timothy 3:2-7). Instead of using scripture to help the church avoid the next Driscoll and Mars Hill, many of the episodes, some of the last few in particular, attack Driscoll’s complimentary theology as the root cause of Mars Hill’s collapse. If The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill wants to debate theology, then they can go for it, but to focus on the damage that Driscoll did, without consulting God’s word, undermines people’s trust in the Church and in scripture.
What We Need
What the Church needs are stories that shows how Christ’s status on the throne matters now. We need fresh examples of the glory of his presence, His love for both justice and His people, and how He is active and moving in the world around us. When the early church prayed that Christ would not ignore the threats of the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, Luke showed us how Christ was faithful to those prayers in the very next chapter. Mike Cosper, Russell Moore, and Christianity Today, for the good of the Church, please do the same.