Mark Driscoll, Roman Catholic

There’s that old Jesuit quote that goes something like “give me the boy until he is seven and I will give you the man.” I’m not sure that it holds in all cases but in some fascinating instances a person might depart from the content of the teachings of their youth only to retain the forms in some mutated way. Some people point to Kant as an example since he rejected Pietism, but came up with an ethical system that seems to be a sort of continuation of Pietism by other means.

Now Driscoll is no Immanuel Kant (I think fans of either would strongly agree with that), but has a similar thing happened with Driscoll? It’s easy to forget that Driscoll was raised a Roman Catholic – and not just in the sense that that’s the box his parents checked off on the census, he was an altar boy and everything. It struck me first when looking at the way Mars Hill expresses concepts like church discipline can seem very, um, Catholic. The requirement of a comprehensive confession, the threat of excommunication, the role of a small group leader as a sort of confessor. All of what seemed kind of obtuse to many Protestants is just how things seem to go in Catholicism.

It goes further, The Stranger (no fan of Mars Hill I’m sure) points out Driscoll’s plan to have some kind of comprehensive Christian education system that instructs kids from age two in Mars Hill doctrine and so on.

“Whatever the controversies, Driscoll shows nothing but confidence in himself and in the future of Mars Hill, including a plan for the next generation called ‘Mars Hill Kids.’ ‘I want to start preparing our children for ministry at age 2,’ he said in a video last summer. He has proposed building a ‘Nickelodeon-type studio’ to broadcast kids’ shows and indoor play structures at every Mars Hill property to attract kids, ‘especially the boys, the kinesthetic learners, so they can get a little activity.'”

I suppose that church-based Christian education isn’t really a unique thing, but is there anyone who does it on a larger, more comprehensive scale in North America than the Roman Catholic church?

Of course at this point we might discuss what denomination Mars Hill belongs to anyway – except that it doesn’t. There are lots of megachurches that de-emphasize their denominational ties (Saddleback is SBC and so on), but Mars Hill just doesn’t have any at all. There were no complementarian Reformed Baptist (which is how I think one could fairly characterize Driscoll’s church theologically) denominations that would do it for Mars Hill?

Here’s the deal though with Mars Hill, it isn’t part of a denomination so much as it is a denomination. What else can one say about a church that spans several states and time zones? Factor in the Acts 29 Network (which does work with other denominations) and the influence of Driscoll-ized churches is quickly becoming global. There is really no other body to which Driscoll is accountable in all this. He has said that the elders have the power to fire him:

But in practice Driscoll tends to fire other elders instead.

Driscoll, whatever the church bylaws might say, is the unchallenged head of a de facto denomination that is ordered in a hierarchical fashion, demands strict adherence to its particular teaching of Christian doctrine and controls its members through a process of confession and discipline. Sounds like a bad caricature of Rome.