Mark Driscoll Resigns

Today, Mars Hill Church announced the resignation of Mark Driscoll.  Warren Throckmorton has the details.

When I started this blog I admit I did feel a bit threatened by Mark Driscoll.  He was very intimidating in a worldly sense, meaning he was a great communicator, was popular, and was enjoying a fair amount of worldly success.  That’s not to say he wasn’t experiencing spiritual success as well.  It just means that his tangible and measurable success was impressive.

I also knew, when I started this blog that Mars Hill would eventually crumble.  Friends of mine who used to be protestants said, “He’s going to fall pretty hard one of these days.”  Their words turned out to be very prophetic.  I know that Mark Driscoll is not Mars Hill and that Mars Hill hasn’t exactly crumbled yet, but this deals it quite a blow.

Dear Evangelicals, I’m noticing a pattern.  Churches, ministries, whatevers begin and enjoy worldly success but then a decade or two later they’re done.  Just look at the Crystal Cathedral, Calvary Chapel (Even though its still operating well, I include it in that it turned into the Church culture it was rebelling against), and now Mars Hill.  All once seemingly unstoppable spirit filled ministries, and now all gone or almost all gone.  It must be tiring to try and find a good Church when there are so many stories like this.

But isn’t that what should be expected with our protestant mindset when we make finding a cool pastor, good music, and a young congregation our starting point?  Style changes, music does as well, and people get older.  It doesn’t go on forever.  Instead of looking for things that pass away in your Church, why not start with this question: What is the Church that Jesus established?  Start there and when you find your answer you won’t care if your pastor is kind of a dork, the music is banal, and if you’re sitting next to old people.

For me, that question is why I’m Catholic.  The reason I’m Catholic is because I believe its the Church Jesus established.  Not everyone agrees.  Some people ask the same question and wind up being Eastern Orthodox.  Perhaps somebody believes Jesus actually established the protestant denominations, though I know of nobody who examined that question and actually concluded that Jesus established a Church 1500 years after he ascended into heaven.

Just something to think about.  As for this blog, I’m not sure it has a reason to exist anymore.  I’ll keep it up and you can still comment and I might even respond.  But now with Driscoll out of ministry there shouldn’t be too many comments about Catholicism, and if there aren’t any comments about Catholicism we probably won’t have anything to comment on.  So we probably won’t have any reason to post.

But who knows… something tells me Mark Driscoll isn’t done with preaching the “Gospel” forever.  He’ll be back, and when he is, we’ll be there to set you straight on what he says about Catholicism.

Blessings, and thanks for reading.


So we should probably say something…

about the current implosion of Mars Hill. For those of you not currently aware, there is some serious turmoil at the church right now and many questions over the leadership of their pastor, Mark Driscoll. Over the last couple of years there has been a curiously high rate of employee turnover at Mars Hill. Some of their locations are on their third pastor in that span of time, which is a lot.

More recently, Mark Driscoll was accused of plagiarizing sections of his book Real Marriage. Then, it was discovered that he used Church money to buy a bunch of books in order to vault it to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers. Remember all those pastors who left the Church? Well, this issue brought many of them out of the woodwork publicly sharing a litany of bad – even abusive experiences. Many of these former employees are calling for Driscoll to step down.

The last two days have been by far the busiest days of DriscollWatch as far as traffic goes. The reason is that our site was linked in this story from alternet, which has since been reprinted at Salon and a few other blogs that provide commentary on abusive pastors. If you’ve found this site through any of these other sources I’d like to offer you the warmest of welcomes. My guess is that you’re unlikely to find any of our content that interesting, but if you’d like a good example of the type of thing we do I’d suggest reading this article we wrote about celibacy and the Catholic Church.

But while we’re here I’d like to make just a couple comments on this issue as seen from a Catholic perspective. (Warning: I’m Catholic to the core and love the Popes, even the bad ones)

  • Protestants confuse me. The whole reformation started as a big rebellion from centralized Church authority, however Protestants nowadays willingly place themselves under much more authoritarian pastors than even the most oppressive of Popes. Protestant Pastors like Mark Driscoll have sought to control aspects of their congregants lives that no Pope I can think of ever has. So what’s the deal, Protestants? I don’t get it.
  • Many people who have been involved with abusive pastors and congregations would probably think that Catholicism is the last place they’d ever want to go. Because, again, that Pope, man. He’s so oppressive! If that’s the way you think, let me point out that the Pope lives in Rome. He doesn’t know you and he isn’t going to try and coerce you into joining a community group so that his spies can report you and your sins to him so he can send you a letter explaining that you need to tithe more.
  • It is also worth pointing out the way the Catholic Church is structured in terms of money. When a parishioner puts money into the collection plate at a Catholic parish, the money stays in that parish. We don’t send the money off to Rome to be counted by the Pope’s henchmen. In fact, it doesn’t even go to the local bishop! It stays at the parish and the pastor is responsible to make sure it is used well. Of course, there is a very real possibility that the local pastor of neighborhood Catholic Church is corrupt. Well, in these cases the parishioners can inform the bishop of this and he can investigate and actually do something about it – and the bishop has nothing to gain financially by allowing abuse to continue. If you want to complain about your bishop and the way he manages money given to the diocese, you can inform Rome and Rome also has nothing to gain from allowing abuse to continue. The fact that money given to the Church stays local can help parishioners to ensure that their money is spent well and allows the Church to be more transparent with its funds. (there is a tax that parishes have to pay to support the operations of the diocese, so not all funds stay in the parish, but the point is that the bishop doesn’t tough most of the funds that come into the parish)
  • Don’t get me wrong. I’m aware that there are abusive pastors in the Catholic Church right now. I’m aware there have been horrifically sinful bishops and sinful Popes in the history of Catholicism. I’m aware that money has been abused by Catholic Clergy, is being abused by some Catholic clergy, and will be abused by some Catholic clergy in the future. But if modern evangelicalism has taught me anything, its taught me that church abuse can’t be cured through a changing of Church law and decentralizing power. Many Protestants have tried to avoid ecclesial sins by changing ecclesial structure. It hasn’t worked and I think its time to admit that. All of this is to say that the sins of priests, bishops, and Popes should no longer justify schism within the body of Christ. As long as the Church is run by humans, there will always be scandal or threat of scandal in the body of Christ.
  • Finally, Protestants need to confront the reality that schism is a scandal and nowhere in the Bible does it say that breaking away from authority and starting your own Church is a legitimate way to address the sins of people in authority. Let that sink in. The way Protestants have dealt with sin in the Church has been to start other Churches, but this is not what the Bible tells us to do. The fruit of schism has not been fewer scandals.
  • There are wonderful stories of reform in the Catholic Church that I think Protestants should know and reflect on. Take for example the story of St. Catherine of Sienna. St. Catherine was a talented young woman who loved the Lord and loved the Church, and she lived in perhaps one of the worst era’s as far as papal virtue goes. The Popes of her day basically abdicated their responsibility as shepherds of the Church and went off to France to live in a huge palace in the city of Avingon. St. Catherine convinced him to repent of his sins and move back to Rome to care for the people. The purpose of this is to show that reform is possible without schism. All schism weakens the body of Christ and, as history has shown, it has not done anything to protect good people from sins against clergy.

The Catholic Church is far from flawless, but history shows we are reform-able.  We have reformed and we will reform again.  We’ve made mistakes but, thankfully, we’ve also learned a lot of lessons from 2,000 years of mistakes.  Crusades have happened, and we know not to do them again.  Heretics were burned at the stake, and we learned not to do that again.  Children were abused at the hands of our members, and we learned that we need to take steps to ensure their safety.  Our Church is far from pure, but we are being purified.

Mark Driscoll and Acts

Hi!  Welcome to DriscollWatch!  Happy to have you.  

To catch you up to speed, I’m a Catholic. Mark Driscoll (the guy who this blog is about) was Catholic when he was younger, but now he is not Catholic.  Now he’s the preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, which is where I’m from.  I don’t usually pay too much attention to Evangelical Christians, but Mark Driscoll is different.  He’s a very talented preacher and his Church is growing by leaps and bounds.  That doesn’t bother me at all.  What does bother me, however, is that at times he lures people into his Church by lying about what Catholicism is and what Catholicism does.  So, I started this blog to set the record straight on what it is my Church teaches.

And its been fun!  There have been good comments, some nice emails, some not nice emails, and lots of interesting search terms people have used to find this.  A common theme is, “Catholic response to Driscoll” or something like that.  I get a couple like that a week.

Recently, Mars Hill began a sermon series on one of my favorite books of the Bible: The Acts of the Apostles.  Some of the social media updates sent out by Driscoll and company are… a little combative.  It seems – just seems – like he’s going for the Catholic jugular here.  My hunch is that as the series continues, I’m going to get more hits on the blog.

I’d love to pay close attention to this series… but I can’t.  I’m in the process of moving, and its a pretty big move.  I’ve been busy for weeks preparing and will continue to be busy for weeks in the future.  So… don’t expect a post about this series unless its completely egregious.

In the meantime, if anyone lurking has any questions about the material from a Catholic perspective I’d be happy to answer questions.  Just send me an email to  It might take me a little while to get back to you, but I will respond.  I would especially like to invite you to email me if you’re a Catholic (currently or formerly) who had an experience like Mark Driscoll who described it thusly:

I was raised—some of you know my story—Roman Catholic. I thought, OK, church is very formal. You kneel and sit and stand and genuflect, and an old—like, very old—person has to be the preacher. He’s this close to Jesus, so he knows the most, you know? And that church was supposed to be not very exciting, not very enthusiastic, not super passionate. I stopped going to church when I was in my teen years.

If this describes you then I want to help you get excited for our amazing, wonderful Catholic Church.  So email me so we can talk!



Sermon Review: Saints

Oh Brother…

I’ll be honest.  I don’t put a lot of work into actually figuring out what Mark Driscoll has to say about Catholics.  All I do is click on his sermon transcript, do a search for the word “Catholic” or “Pope” and usually there isn’t a lot there.  At least, there hasn’t been since our meeting a couple years back.  So when I search the word “Catholic” and it returns 19 hits, you know something is up.  So, to my fellow Catholic readers, you might want to put some padding on your hands because you’re going to be face palming an awful lot here.  And to any readers from Mars Hill, I hope after reading this you’ll understand why your Pastor gets on our nerves sometimes.

The sermon in question is quite recent.  It was delivered on January 24th 2013 and it is named, “I am a Saint.”  Within this sermon, he has an entire section dedicated to the Catholic understanding of Sainthood.  So lets go through this piece by piece, shall we?

“How many of you were raised Catholic? Okay, welcome to our mass.”

We’ve been over this one before.  I explained what Mass is and what Mass isn’t here.

My name is Father Mark. We’ll have the Eucharist in a short while, okay. I can always tell the Catholic visitors. “Father Mark, that was a good mass.” Oh, you’re welcome, good to see you.

These sound like really well informed Catholics showing up to Mars Hill!  Kidding aside, I do hope these people meet Jesus because we’ve pretty clearly underserved them.  I also pray that they will return to the Church Jesus established soon!

I was raised Irish Catholic, long line of Irish Catholic.

I’ve talked about this before, as well.  You can read up about it here, but if you don’t want to, I’ll give you the quick version: Pastor Mark was not raised Catholic very well.

I’ve been back to Ireland to the old country, and we are Catholic as far back as we can trace. Irish, devout, O’Driscoll, Catholic, including my grandmother who, after my grandfather died, joined a lay order of Catholic nuns, and she spent her final years as a nun.

Now the funny thing here is that all orders of Catholic nuns are lay orders.  In other words, to say that an order of Catholic nuns is a lay order of Catholic nuns is to be completely redundant.  All non ordained Catholics are considered laymen and lay women.  There is no such thing as ordained nuns, since women can’t be ordained.  So, in a move that is quite humorous to me, Mark tries to use his family history to prove that he was a super devout Catholic, and shows his extreme non-devoutness before he’s even done completing the sentence.

Either way, I don’t know what he means here and I’m pretty sure his own people don’t either.

Moving on…

Very devout, Catholic family, so I was baptized as a little boy in the Catholic Church, and I grew up in the Catholic Church. I went to Catholic school for a few years. I was an altar boy assisting the priest with the mass every week, and we talked a lot about saints. Actually in our home, we had pictures of various saints.

Yeah, we’ve been over this, too.  While being an altar boy might sound impressive to non-Catholics, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t   It isn’t at all.  I know because I was an altar boy and I didn’t know most of what being Catholic meant.  I became an altar boy because I wanted something to do at Mass rather than be bored and our training sessions got us out of class.  Perhaps Pastor Mark’s experience was different, but that would beg the question of why he makes so many errors when he explains Catholicism.

And so for me, I thought saints were like superheroes. They’re normal people endowed with amazing, superhuman abilities, like Chastity Man, or Aquaman, or Superman. I mean, that’s what I thought. Like, Superman could fly, and Aquaman could breathe underwater, Chastity Man could keep his hands to himself. These are like superheroes. These are like superheroes. They’re like us, but they have special powers.

Now there certainly are a lot stories concerning saints that give this impression.  I’m not going to dispute that at all, but I think this is the best time to explain exactly why Catholics venerate the Holy Men and women in our past.  First of all, we celebrate the lives of the Saints – as well as their earthly accomplishments – because in the lives of the saints we see Grace at work.  We see evidence that God does amazing things through sinners like you and like me.  Thus, to celebrate the life of a saint is to celebrate the work of God!  How can we not celebrate God’s work in the lives of the people he came to save?  Thus, while I would agree with Pastor Mark that anyone in Christ is a saint, there are certain men and women in Church history whose lives deserve to celebrated more than others.

Secondly, we celebrate the lives of the saints because the saints are our family members.  Through the Holy Spirit, we have been made children of God.  The bonds between Christians are so strong that we are family.  This shouldn’t come as a shock to and Mars Hill member, since Pastor Mark preached a sermon on this not long ago.  In your home, you probably have pictures of family members.  Some of these people might be dead, but others might be living.  No matter the case, these pictures serve as a reminder of the people you love.  In the Catholic Church, we often have statues of saints and pictures of saints for the same.

Thirdly, we celebrate the lives of the saints because their lives teach us about Jesus.  I think anyone can relate to this on a natural level.  When I was in college I made a lot of new friends.  I always enjoyed when their friends would come hang out with us because it gave me a fresh perspective on who my friends were.  Seeing how much these people valued my friends caused me to appreciate my friends more.  The same goes for our relationship with Jesus.  When I am around other Christians and when I look at the lives of the saints I actually grow in my understanding of who he was and I come to love and appreciate him more.

There is a process in Catholicism—and I love Catholics, I don’t hate Catholics.

Why does he always have to say that he doesn’t hate Catholics?  Methinks the pastor doth protest too much…

 And the sainthood in Catholicism, it started off, interestingly, where people who loved Jesus would get martyred, and then they would be honored.

The problem with this statement is… wait.  Wait a second.  That is actually a correct statement!  I’m stunned!  This statement is completely correct!  Sainthood started off in the Catholic Church when Christians would celebrate the martyrdom of other Christians.  And you know what?  On top of that, they would venerate the remains of these Christians!  Sounds weird huh?  It sort of is to us, but it wasn’t to other cultures.

Now, you might be wondering when this crazy practice began.  You might be inclined to think that it started in the “dark ages.”  Well, the truth is this practice started almost immediately within Christianity.  You can read a little bit about it here and a little bit more about it here.

So, interestingly enough, this practice of venerating saints and their relics seems to be something perfectly acceptable and perhaps even encouraged in the apostolic age.  Which leads me to an interesting question… If Mars Hill is preaching a Gospel that has always been believed then why are some of these practices of the apostolic age (like venerating saints and their relics) not done?

Well, that’s not necessarily bad,

Of course it isn’t.  It’s actually good because it celebrates Christ’s victory over death in the lives of ordinary Christians!

but then over time it got very political and very complicated,

Says who?  Oh, says Mark Driscoll.  Doesn’t seem complicated or political to me, but what do I know?  I’m just a practicing Catholic.

and so papal leadership put together sort of rules.

We’ve been over this as well.  Read up on it here.  Catholics have a lot of rules, but the Catholic Church needs a lot of rules because the Catholic Church is so unbelievably huge!  We need the rules to keep order in the Church and to make sure that everyone’s rights as a Christian are respected.  Mars Hill is not nearly as big and since Mark Driscoll has more direct authority over Mars Hill members than the Pope has over Catholics, they don’t need as many rules.

Some guys in hats had a meeting, it was all very official, and somebody wrote it down, okay? And Father James Martin, he lays out a ten-step process to become a Catholic saint…

From here on out, Pastor Mark just relates the process for canonization.  But just to be clear, let it be known that the Catholic Church does not “make” saints.  God makes saints.  The Catholic Church can only declare the truth that one has in fact been made.  To do so is a service to people like me – it provides me with reassurance that this Christian’s life is worthy of my respect because of what God has done in them and through them.

If you are a Mars Hill member – or just a regular non-Catholic coming across this post – I would encourage you very strongly to celebrate the lives of the saints.  There is so much to learn, and your relationship with Jesus will grow much stronger because of it.  Your faith will increase by learning about the real, tangible effects of grace in the lives of these extraordinarily blessed Christians.

Another Quibble Related to the Previous Quibble

The Resurgence just posted an interesting article on facebook about St. Patrick (  There are many interesting things in the article.  One interesting thing is that The Resurgence declares that St. Patrick is not technically a Saint.  Their reason for saying that he wasn’t technically a Saint is that he was never formally canonized.

While it is true that St. Patrick wasn’t formally canonized, it is not true that this fact alone means that he isn’t a saint in the Catholic Church.  The reason is that there was no formal process of canonization in the Church at the time.  Canonization is handed down to us from the early Church who (informally – it was by acclamation of the people) declared the martyrs to be in heaven with Jesus.  To say that formal Canonization is needed to declare one a saint would leave some interesting holes in the Roman Calendar.  We also would have to conclude that Mary, St. Joseph, St. Peter, St. Paul, Mary Magdalene, All of the apostles, and all of the early Martyrs also aren’t technically Saints as they were never formally canonized.  But doing so would be pretty dumb.  So let’s just get it out of the way and say that St. Patrick is, in fact, technically a Saint according to the Roman Catholic Church.

Of course, this wasn’t the only interesting thing.  Without providing any evidence whatsoever, The Resurgence claims that “The Roman Catholic Church had given up on converting such “barbarians,” who were deemed beyond hope.”  To deem something must mean that they are referring to some kind of official statement declaring something.  The Resurgence provides no evidence for such a claim.

There is, however, evidence that the Catholic Church had missionary activity in Ireland before Patrick’s arrival.  In fact, Pope Celestine I had already established a diocese there and sent a man named Palladius as its bishop (  St. Patrick was sent as his replacement (the fact that he was sent also conflicts with some of the details in the Resurgence article).

So, again, a ministry of Mark Driscoll is guilty of sloppy scholarship, this time completely re-writing history in order to perpetuate their own understanding of what ministry should look like.  If their interpretation of history is correct, they owe it to everyone to provide evidence for their claims.

UPDATE 3/17/13 – It appears as though mark Driscoll has made some updates to his article at the Resurgence.  There are now some notes for further studies, which is very helpful.  It also looks as though he elaborated on the “Roman Opposition” section to include some new material.  Keep this in mind as you read the above.


WordPress has been acting crazy all day for me.  I’m hoping to add better links to this post soon.  In the meantime, you might have to copy and paste the evidence into your browser.

Folks, I have a bit of a problem and I have to write about it here.  I offer this as a plea to Mars Hill: Please be responsible scholars.

For example, please cite your sources accurately and attribute quotes correctly.  For example, on your facebook page you recently attributed a quote to Mark Driscoll that should have been attributed to St. Augustine.  Now don’t get me wrong, please.  I respect Mark Driscoll, but he’s no Augustine.  The quote in question can be found here.

Overall, Mark and Mars Hill are fairly good at citing sources, but this isn’t an isolated incident.  Mark recently tweeted “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”  Nice quote, but not Mark Driscoll.  Its CS Lewis.

Yeah, it can be a bit tough to attribute quotes sometimes, and I get that.  Mark probably heard the CS Lewis quote and just thought it was a nice quote and couldn’t remember where he heard it.  Furthermore, it can be tough to fit quotes into twitter because of the character limit.  But it isn’t just in facebook quotes and tweets.  A recent blog post takes the cake as far as lazy scholarship goes.

In a post titled Scandal! Ex-Nun Marries Former Priest, Pastor Mark had this to say:

Among the readers of Luther’s booklet were Katherine and the other nuns in her convent. They longed to escape, marry, and become mothers. So they wrote to Luther, asking the renegade monk to help them escape. To do so was an offense punishable by death.

A couple of things about that bold part.  First of all, I spend a lot of time defending the Catholic faith on the internet and elsewhere, and I’ve never heard anyone claim that before.  It seems like if it were true, I would have had it thrown in my face by now and I haven’t.  It also seems to me like we’d have a lot murdered nuns throughout history.

True, there was a penalty for apostate nuns, but looks to me like the penalty was excommunication – not death.  Catholic Encyclopedia: 

In the case of an apostate nun who leaves a convent enjoying pontifical cloister, she incurs the excommunication reserved simpliciter to the Sovereign Pontiff [Constitution Apostolicæ Sedis, n° 6. See Vermeersch, “De religiosis institutis et personis.”

So perhaps Mark’s claim is true.  I’ve never heard it before, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  If it is true, however, he owes it to his readers to supply some evidence.

The Church Discipline Controversy

We have had quite a few hits here over the last few days thanks to controversy at Mars Hill concerning Church discipline.  Recently, a member of Mars Hill was placed under Church Discipline and released the documents outlining his path back into the good graces of the church, as well as a statement posted on Mars Hill’s inner website called, “The City” in which members were taught how to respond to this young man if they ever saw him in public.

You can read up on the controversy here.

As a practicing Roman Catholic this whole thing strikes me as being very strange and, yes, abusive.  As a Catholic what shocked me most was that this young man, Andrew, was being disciplined for what we call “Private sin.”  In the Catholic Church, we do excommunicate, but it is most often for “Public sin.”  There is more to excommunication in the Catholic Church than that, but that is an important distinction that Mars Hill doesn’t seem to have.

But this whole thing is frustrating to me for a different reason.  Pastor Mark repeatedly makes the Catholic Church (as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church) out to be nothing more than a bunch of legalistic rule following and powerful people lording it over people without power.  Remember that video that went viral recently titled, Why I hate religion and love Jesus?  Well, the young man in the video is a Mars Hill member and pretty much sums up most of what I have heard Driscoll say about “religious people.”

If these documents are authentic they are far more controlling and legalistic than anything I have experienced as a Catholic.  I am not saying the Catholic Church’s leadership is beyond criticism.  Spiritual abuse and other types of abuse happen in the Catholic Church too.  We certainly have some unfortunate moments in our history that include prescribing a severe set of penalties for people who didn’t see things our way.  It just drives me nuts that he saw the speck in our eye and couldn’t see the beam in his own.

It has been claimed repeatedly here at Driscollwatch that we love and respect members of Mars Hill Church and their pastor, Mark Driscoll.  As far as we could see, this was just a typical evangelical Church.  Obviously, we didn’t know the whole story.  So, if it needs to be stated, while we respect people who seek to know Jesus Christ, we do not support this system of “discipline” described in these blog posts and we condemn any spiritual abuse inflicted by any religious tradition, including our own.  Extra prayers will be offered for anyone who has been wounded by Mars Hill because of this system.

And we pray for Mark and the elders of Mars Hill to rethink their disciplinary procedures.

Some required reading: This post from The Internet Monk about how having a seal of confession helps Roman Catholics avoid this problem.  Also, this response  to the Religion vs. Jesus video from Fr. Dwight Longenecker at First Things.  The Key line…

The young man in the video was clearly attracted to a Jesus Christ who was a young, table-turning radical. His Jesus was impatient with the religious establishment and on the side of the sinners and revolutionaries. His Jesus was the quintessential outsider—the rebel with a cause—a punk who all those rich hypocrites excluded and persecuted. In other words, he was just like the young man in the video.

We all fall into the trap of making Christ in our own image, so it is understandable, and if understandable, forgivable. This, however, is the main justification not only for religion, but also for a dogmatic religion. A dogmatic religion corrects our tendency to make Jesus in our own image.