The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

October 11, 2021
Billy Graham established the popular magazine Christianity Today as a resource to support biblical Christian ministry and his crusades during the social revolution that swept Western civilization late last century. CT was called "evangelicalism's flagship magazine" by the Washington Post and the NY Times called CT the "mainstream evangelical magazine." But there has been a change in the magazine in recent years away from "mainstream evangelical" beliefs towards the Politically Correct, Postmodern beliefs dominating today's secular culture, which are at odds with biblical Christianity. This change is most evident in its recent podcast series on "The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill" hosted by Mike Cosper, CT's new director of podcasts.
Except for Cosper's social commentaries, the Mars Hill podcasts might have been interesting for understanding the historical drama surrounding Mark Driscoll, the big wig at Mars Hill who made a big splash in the national spotlight for his witty and controversial quips and quotes. Strange, scandalous teachings and behaviors were underway at Mars Hill which are now coming to light, according to the Mars Hill podcast.
Rather than simply reporting and describing what happened at Mars Hill, Cosper throws big chunks of his own beliefs and teachings into his podcast, so the listener has to wait until he's finished lecturing before hearing more history about Mars Hill. Cosper uses today's secular beliefs and liberal theology to correct what was wrong with the Mars Hill church, so his commentaries are misguided, having little to do with biblical beliefs. Cosper's social agenda makes it a torturous experience to listen to the podcast.
Cosper's liberal bias was especially evident in Episode 4 of the Mars Hill podcasts titled "The Things We Do to Women" where his research disclosed scandalous teachings by Driscoll. For example, Christian wives should practice oral sex on their (non-Christian) husbands as an evangelistic tool to win the husband to Christ, Driscoll said. Otherwise, if she refused to give oral sex upon request, the Christian wife is in sin, Driscoll taught, citing 1 Peter 3. In that passage, Peter does tell wives how to win arguments with their husbands, but not in Driscoll's lewd fashion.
There are other bizarre Driscoll teachings exposed in the podcast, but more bizarre than Driscoll are Cosper's views which he injects, trying to refute Driscoll's views.
Cosper corrects Driscoll's misguided teachings using sources like Kristen Kobes Du Mez, the author of Jesus and John Wayne. She scorns Christian views on marriage, sexuality, gender roles, and Christian families. So, for example, "many of today's evangelicals…know their VeggieTales" where "they learned about purity before they learned about sex—and they have a silver ring to prove it!" according to the Du Mez narrative. That is a rather scornful critique of Christian parenting. (Darlene and I used the Veggie Tales cartoons while raising our boys, but we forgot to give them "a silver right to prove it," apparently!) Her John Wayne book was a NY Times best seller, "a sweeping, revisionist history of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism," which means reinterpreting American Christianity under the harsh, scornful light of today's revisionist historians.
Why doesn't Cosper use the Bible itself to refute Driscoll's views? Does the USA-PC culture understand men, women and families better than the Bible?
So, for example, addressing Discoll's weird views about oral sex can be accomplished more simply by citing 1 Peter 3:2, which says wives should win their husbands by their "pure and reverent conduct," which does not describe oral sex. It says "the inner person of the heart" wins non-Christian husbands (1 Peter 3:3-4), which cannot describe oral sex. If someone like Driscoll thinks otherwise, well, what can you say? It's useless to argue with someone like that.
Frankly, Driscoll's views are so bizarre, are they not self-refuting? Simply by reporting his views, do they not make a more interesting story for his podcast? Why must Cosper saturate his podcasts with secular social scientists and revisionist historians?
The Mars Hill podcast criticizes Christian teachers like James Dobson, Wayne Grutem, John Piper and many other evangelicals through the secular lens of USA-PC views on women. Cosper never uses the Bible, which is strange since this is a Christianity Today podcast. The Dobson caricature is exceptionally dubious. According to Cosper, Dobson thinks that any woman who smiles at him wants sex. Did Dobson really say that? Yes, he did, according to this podcast.
Cosper clearly sides with the USA-PC view of women, which says women are victims of White Male Supremacy perpetrated by evangelical teachings, and especially Driscoll's teachings. This White Male Supremacy narrative is a big theme among modern, revisionist historians. Cosper should know that Billy Graham – the founder of Christianity Today – also relied on American White Male Supremacy to gain personal power and to motivate his massive following, according to a recent PBS American Experience episode about the Billy Graham Crusades. In the American Experience version of history, Billy Graham was the culprit – the spark – that lit the flames of today's "Culture Wars" between evangelicals and secular PC ethics. American Experience vilified Billy Graham in the same way Cosper vilifies Driscoll – excoriating the Christian view of marriage where husbands are called upon to lead and take charge of family affairs. Cosper holds up the 50-50 partnership view of marriage which the secular culture embraces, and which, by the way, doesn't work very well. Judging from the state of family life in the USA today, the Post Christian secular culture has very little to brag about.
Cosper jumps around so many different topics, teaching his secularist views with short, shallow barbs. He criticized Driscoll's leadership style by quoting a sociologist who said, "It was really essential to Driscoll's power to present the outside world as the enemy. By using war metaphors, he could demand absolute obedience and he could demand loyalty from his followers." Really? So, anyone who presents "the outside world as the enemy" is probably manipulating people into blind obedience? This describes Jesus Christ, who taught extensively "using war metaphors" against "the outside world," and the rest of the New Testament, which teaches, "Do not love the World, nor the things of the World. If anyone loves the World, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15) It also describes most groups in the USA like the Republican or Democrat parties which also are "using war metaphors" to advance their causes, especially during elections.
It would require dozens of articles to address all the shallow barbs that Cosper throws at Christian evangelicals indirectly by his efforts to criticize Driscoll. Apparently, both Cosper and Christianity Today somehow forgot that CT once embraced Driscoll in 2007, in Pastor Provocateur. In that article, CT hails Driscoll: "Love him or hate him, Mark Driscoll is helping people meet Jesus in one of America's least-churched cities," they wrote. Now, 14 years later, Cosper expresses dismay that anyone would listen to Driscoll or follow him.
If Cosper were trained as a journalist, he would restrict his podcast to the historical facts of Mars Hill, but he doesn't. If Cosper was more interested in leveraging what the Bible teaches, perhaps his mini lectures would be more biblical, but he doesn't cite the Bible. If Cosper was more experienced at leading and building churches, perhaps his lectures on leadership would be more helpful. But Cosper's leadership experience was limited to his role as a Worship Music leader in a Kentucky church for 12 years, which is not church leadership.
Cosper's podcasts about Mars Hill goes on forever and ever (12 hours and counting) since people are fascinated with the scandal at Mars Hill. During that decade of Mars Hill fame, as it happened, it was fascinating to watch the "rise and fall" of Mark Driscoll. It could be fascinating to hear that history retold, but this secularist CT podcast is torturous to listen to. And it is a sad expression of the new Christianity Today. I suppose it will be necessary to listen to more of it, however, since it's so popular. It's like the Davinci Code – I read it because everyone was reading it, so I thought it was necessary to understand all the hubbub. But it was a rather silly (uneducated) look at history and therefore a torturous experience.