Monday, October 10, 2016

on the eve of what would be the 20th anniversary of the church formerly known as Mars Hill

Sunday, October 11 is my thirty-ninth birthday, the twentieth anniversary of my salvation (the exact date is known only by God), and the thirteenth anniversary of Mars Hill Church. So, on that day we will air at all campuses a special one-hour sermon from Acts 17 that I preached live this summer while standing on Mars Hill in Athens.


If there were a Mars Hill Church then tomorrow would be the twentieth anniversary.  But there is no Mars Hill now, although Mark Driscoll can celebrate another birthday. To remember the anniversary that cannot be because there is no longer a Mars Hill we'll have a series up tomorrow considering a lot of things said by one of the co-founders, the one who left the most words for the record to be considered.


Cal P said...

Thanks for the hard work in pulling together that story of Driscoll's family drama.

While I read it, I wondered about how some forms of Protestantism (perhaps Calvinism more particularly, but not exclusively, maybe Evangelicalism, I don't know) don't have much room for the individual Human person in the drama of life, death, and God's salvation. Thus, we see this almost formulaic "I didn't do anything, God did something", played out in Driscoll's pithy slogan about a nobody.

But nobody wants to be a nobody! Perhaps that's some lure of the flesh, but I tend to see that as a reflection of something good. And so we'll all go march out looking for some sort of honor, whether it's self-fulfillment, a big house, lots of children, a literal kingdom, whatever. But instead of recognizing that before the face of God, and seeing the drama of one's life as "working out salvation with fear and trembling", we see a pathological adoption of this through others means. We won't eat the Manna, but we'll certainly dream about, and seek after, fleshpots in Egypt.

Thus, my theory is that this approach makes the gospel effectually meaningless for many people, and we buy into whatever cursus honorum that our society has in place. So it's not that mega-church pastors are intentionally corrupt or devious, but merely have the access and ability to do what so many others wish they could do, with no other competing or seriously contrasting vision in place.

I know you're Presbyterian and Calvinist, and I'm not attacking the tradition wholesale, but I wonder if some unhealthy currents are due to that. I look at the Netherlands and New England, historically, and even the transformation of Puritans into Whigs in England. In the American context, it's not merchants or farmers, but some sort of self-made business man. And whatever sickness is in the American Dream oozes out of the Christian veneer.

So in the way you describe, the Irish-American petit blanc story is really in the driver's seat, and a certain kind of Calvinism obscures that fact behind a thin curtain of Conversionism and a shallow Evangelistic mission.

I write this from my own experiences as a kind of post-Evangelical who has tried to practice self-examination. But I'm probably not getting the whole picture. Anyway, that's my two cents.


Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I've wondered lately whether evangelicalism, as a distinctly American thing, has so emphasized conversion and soteriology that sanctification is paradoxically sidelined. There's "union with Christ" and "theosis" and other ways of describing sanctification as a process or disposition in which we can fan into flame the gift given to us. Perhaps since the Second Great Awakening transformational paradigms have tacitly or explicitly mandated that a dramatic change, real or merely testified, is the mark of a significant life. Endless altar calls and decisions follow. The European Christian traditions don't seem to have revivalism so front and center in their histories--maybe certain types of revolutionary apocalyptics but not revivalism in the American sense, but I've grown tired of American revivalist thought because it's ultimately nationalistic and jingoistic to me rather than concerned with following Christ, so far as I've been able to tell over the last twenty years.

To piggy back on some ideas from Ellul about propaganda, we live in a mass society and it may be that the myth of the heroic self-definable individual is a psychological tonic to the reality of how disconnected and socially insignificant we are as individuals. We keep telling ourselves and each other stories about "the power of one" because we know, deep down, it's not really true. At another level, we have a lot of people coveting "connection" when a lot of the literature we celebrate and the films we admire present that kind of tightknit social identity as oppressive and repressive. We seem to have a double bind on the matter of social identity and community.

Cal P said...

I think the problem exceeds the boundaries of the US or even the Industrial Revolution. Revivalism is a part of the puzzle, but what was it trying to recover? I think the Reformational emphasis on God's saving work and man's passivity damaged a framework for man's activity. Sanctification as a process of prayers, fasts, self-examination etc etc. gets translated into more secular concerns. The Luther cliche "God doesn't need your good works, but your neighbor does" sets up a false dilemma.

I love Ellul, and I think he's right about how mass-media does this. But I'm not sure this drive, at perhaps a deeper level, doesn't tap on some anthropological sense of subjectivity. The power of one might actually be true, but not in the way we Americans define it. We're apart of an army of martyrs and will judge the angels. But it doesn't look like Riggs or Jon McLane or Bruce Wayne or whomever.

Cal P said...

PS. I love the movies/TV shows that make you feel so paranoid about any social control or communal belonging (everything is oppressive or a cult) that only an alienated individualism seems reasonable. But then again, the Horror genre is morally conservative, and I don't see teenage sex plummeting for fear of Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees!