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.


Sermon Review: Baptism

I’m still pretty certain I killed WordPress on my computer.  I’m unable to link anything in the text, so I had to copy and past the URL to all links.  I’m very sorry, and I’m hoping this is resolved soon. 

Hey ! Check it out!  The links are now fixed!  For some reason it seems to be my internet connection.  Wordpress works fine at this coffee shop I’m at!

Jesus Gave Us Baptism

Currently, Pastor Mark is preaching a sermon series titled, “Jesus Loves His Church.”  Recognizing the importance of baptism in the life of the Church, Mark Driscoll dedicated one sermon entirely to baptism.  One important aspect of this sermon was his critique of paedobaptism, the practice of baptizing infants.  Mars Hill Church does not baptize infants.  They practice credobaptism, in which a person must make a profession of faith prior to baptism.

Says Mark Driscoll:

Now, let me deal first with paedobaptism, and let me say this: there are Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians who disagree with us. They’re wrong. Okay? And in all humility, we love them and we want to fellowship with them, and we know that we’ll rise from death and be with them in the presence of Jesus forever.

And we don’t want to be mean-spirited or antagonistic, but we do want to be biblical, and they can use logic, or history, or reason, or tradition to get there, but there’s not a clear path to infant baptism just from the Bible. It’s just not there. And so, what I would say is, hear me on this, go back and do your own studies, but there is no evidence of any infant ever being baptized in the whole Bible.

First of all, Mark Driscoll should be commended in his admittance that logic, history, reason, and tradition all favor the practice of baptizing infants.  I, on the other hand, will admit to Pastor Mark that there is no clear path to infant baptism in the Bible if he means a clear verse in which an infant was baptized (There are a couple of verses in The Acts of the Apostles in which an infant may have been baptized, but it isn’t clear).  That being said, there is also no clear verse that says infants are to be denied baptism.  Certainly there are many instances in the Bible where adults are baptized, but the Bible never touches on the question of what to do with children of believing parents.

Thus, scripture alone does not answer the question of whether or not to baptize infants.  For whatever reason, God did not make that clear in the Bible.  If, however, we turn to logic, history, reason, and tradition to help us interpret the Bible we do see some clarity on the subject.  Clearly, infant baptism was acceptable in the early Church, and many Christians baptize their precious newborns today for good reason.  The root of Pastor Mark’s split with historical Christianity is that he doesn’t believe that anything happens to a person when they are baptized.  Baptism, for pastor Mark, is simply a way of expressing something outwardly that happened inwardly.  Baptism is an outward expression of somebody being regenerated through faith in Jesus.  He uses a wedding ring as an example:

I’ll give you an example. This is a ring I wear as a wedding ring. This is a sign that points to— What does it point to? My relationship with Grace. This sign makes no sense if I don’t have a wife. But, I wear this as a sign pointing to a relationship. So, baptism is a sign pointing to a relationship. It’s showing Jesus loves me, I love him, we have a saving relationship. And so, the sign doesn’t make any sense without the relationship.

What Pastor Mark says here is most certainly true.  It also certainly does not go far enough to express the wonders of what happens to a soul when they are baptized.  When a person is baptized – whether they are an infant, a child, or an adult – their life is infused to the life of Jesus.  Baptism is seen as the moment where is united to Christ.  This doctrine is called, “Baptismal Regeneration,” and pretty much everyone believed it until relatively recent times.  Many fathers of the Church explicitly mention it.  The Catholic Church – and Orthodox Churches – still teach the doctrine of baptismal regeneration because we received this teaching from the successors of the apostles themselves.  In fact, when we recite the Creed every single Sunday we state our belief in this doctrine.  We say, “I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”  God truly uses baptism to save us as St. Peter made clear 2000 years ago:

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. (1Peter 3:18-22)

Because Pastor Mark misunderstands baptism, he misunderstands the Catholic Church’s teaching on baptism.  Does the Catholic Church believe that baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation?  The Catholic Church says that it is, under ordinary circumstances.   This is because baptism is the sacrament whereby a person is united to Jesus.  But the Catholic Church does not believe in Sacramentalism, which is a belief that God is bound to the sacraments.  According to the constant witness of the Church throughout history, God is faithful to working through his sacraments, but He is also free to work outside of the sacraments and is certainly able save people in extraordinary circumstances like, for example, St. Dismas (the name of the thief crucified next to Jesus).  For this reason, a person who desires baptism but is unable to be baptized can certainly be saved.

Pastor Mark is incorrect in his assertion that Catholics believe you must be baptized to be saved in all circumstances, but it doesn’t end there.  He also erroneously informed his congregants that Catholics believe that baptism guarantees one’s salvation.  Relating an experience at a Catholic funeral, he says,

“So, they bring the body in, open casket. The widow’s sitting right in front of it, and I’m up there with the priest, and the priest says, “Mark’s gonna say a few words, but first, I know it’s a sad day, but the good news is even though he didn’t walk with the Lord, he was baptized as an infant so we know that he’s gone to heaven.

I’d love to go back and time and hear what the priest actually said.  My guess is that Mark may have misunderstood him.  But perhaps the priest truly did say this.  It is certainly possible, and if so, we can forgive Pastor Mark for picking up the idea.  But, contrary to this priest’s assertion, baptism – at any point in one’s life – is not a guarantee of salvation.  In Catholic theology a person can “lose their salvation” by committing a mortal sin.   The sacrament of reconciliation then becomes the normal way a person repents and reintegrates their life into the life of Jesus.

Mark Driscoll has, unfortunately, misrepresented the Catholic Church’s teaching of baptism and has accused her of teaching unbiblical doctrines on the grounds that it doesn’t conform to his own personal interpretation of scripture.  Jesus saves!  Jesus also gave the Church the great gift of baptism which he now uses to save Christians by applying the grace of his death and resurrection to their life.  Pastor Mark encouraged his congregation to go home and do their own research on these question.  Hopefully members who belong to his congregation will stumble upon this post and clear up any confusion pertaining to the truth of what Baptism has always meant for 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.

Free Book Offer for Mars Hill members!!!

Surprise!  A brand new post on Driscollwatch!

Yes, we’re still on Hiatus, and at this point we have no plans to not be on hiatus.

So why are we posting?  Well, Pastor Mark and his wife Grace have recently put out a new book called Real Marriage.  The book has already sparked a bit of controversy within Christianity in that it apparently endorses anal sex within marriage.  This would not be a new thing for pastor Mark.  He has already endorsed the practice, with admitted reservations, on the Mars Hill Blog.

The Catholic Church condemns anal sex – even within marriage – because it is not marital in nature.  A lot of non Catholic Christians – ok, even a lot of Catholics – do not take Catholic teaching on sexuality very seriously.  From the outside it looks like a bunch of obscure and arbitrary, and oppressive rules that keep husbands and wives from enjoying each other completely.  While there are a lot of rules, they are certainly not obscure or arbitrary.  The rules that Catholics have for sex (i.e. Do not fornicate! Do not commit adultery! Do not use contraception! do not have anal sex!) are all about our freedom!  Our freedom to love as God loves!

Pope John Paul II dedicated the first five years of his pontificate to teaching the faithful about real marriage.  His series of Wednesday audiences (now known as the Theology of the Body) were designed to help married couples live the fullness of marriage.  Young Catholics around the world are embracing the late Holy Father’s wisdom as they apply it to their vocations as husbands and wives and, yes, even celibates.  The Theology of the Body is unlike any other theological work on human sexuality.

The Theology of the Body is only now being popularized.  One of the leading voices in its popularization is a man named Christopher West.  He himself has a controversial approach and, at his own admission, is far from perfect.  But he has been quite successful at popularizing the Pope’s teaching and his book, Theology of the Body for Beginners is the best thing we have seen for men and women who aren’t well versed in theology.

So, if you are from Mars Hill OR you are a pastor from an evangelical Church, we want to buy Theology of the Body for Beginners for you.  I will buy a copy of this book for the first 5 Mars Hill Church members or evangelical pastors who email me at  The things that you like about the Driscoll’s Real Marriage will likely still be present (complementarian views of sexuality, etc.), but will be elaborated upon at a deeper level.  Yes, it is a shift in world view, but it might set you free to love your husband or your wife as God loves.

True love is beautiful.  Marriage is beautiful.  The Catholic Church’s teaching about marriage is beautiful.  We want to share it with you.  Just send us an email and so we can tell you the truth of what marriage really is.

Update: Not sure how people are misunderstanding this post, but just to clarify, I am NOT giving out copies of Mark Driscoll’s book.  I am giving away 5 copies of Chistopher West’s book called Theology of the Body for Beginners.

Update II: Only one book was claimed despite some relatively heavy traffic, so I’ll extend the offer to any evangelical protestant who wants a copy.

On Hiatus

Well, as you’ve probably noticed, Driscollwatch has been on hiatus and will continue to be on hiatus. The reason is actually good. Several months ago we contacted Mark Driscoll and actually had the opportunity to meet up with him for coffee and a little bit of theological discussion. It was a wonderful meeting and hopefully will not be the last.

Pastor Mark seemed to be quite sensitive to our concerns and since our meeting he hasn’t said anything about Catholicism we’ve taken issue with. We are continuing to monitor Mars Hill, however any issues we have will be dealt with Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill staff personally before they are written about here.  I will, however, be continuing to monitor the comments if you’d like to discuss anything written up until this point.

We are thankful to Mark Driscoll and the folks at Mars Hill and look forward to future meetings.