This teaching resonates strongly with me:
Reminds me of Lynn Stringfellow’s post on Social Justice.
Every now and then I read something and have an ‘are you kidding me?!?!’ moment. This morning was one of those times.
Most of you have heard of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mars Hill Church Seattle has been one of the fastest growing churches in the United States consistently for a few years now. Their growth has mainly been driven by the preaching, teaching, and organizational gifts of the charismatic pastor Mark Driscoll.
Mark is a very polarizing figure. I happen to like him, though I admit he does or says things that often make me slap my forehead. Additionally, since I’m neither Reformed nor Calvinistic and believe the proper response in giving one’s life to Christ is believer’s baptism, it is likely he would question whether I’m his brother in Christ or not.
Anyway, today I heard news that Mars Hill Seattle is allegedly threatening legal action against another church of the same name in Sacramento.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog post announcing this:
I don’t know how many churches in America are called Mars Hill. I do know three of them; I have been assured there are many more. As far as I know, most of these churches have no connection with each other. Some of them belong to denominations, and some do not. The only ones who seem to be organically connected are those which have been “daughtered” off one of the other churches. But this short article is about the three Mars Hill churches I do know about.
The first of these to be started was Mars Hill Seattle, pastored by Mark Driscoll. He founded the church in 1996 and to this day it is one of the fastest growing churches in America and certainly one of the largest in Seattle. I am not exaggerating when I observe that Pastor Mark Driscoll has become one of the most controversial pastors in America. He regularly makes statements concerning the books, sermons and beliefs of other Christians. Many people consider his views on family, family life and procreation to be ultraconservative.
The second Mars Hill was founded in 1999 in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan by Rob Bell. Pastor Rob Bell is known for his books and videos and is perhaps just as controversial as Mark Driscoll, though often for much different reasons. His latest book, “Love Wins” presents a much different view on hell than most other Evangelicals. I do not know if Driscoll and Bell know each other personally (I suspect they do), but I doubt there is much appreciation of one man for the other. Let’s agree to say they do not line up with each other doctrinally.
The third Mars Hill I know seems caught in the middle. It is pastored in Sacramento, California by a friend of mine, Scott Hagan. Scott planted another church years ago in the Sacramento area, then moved to pastor a mega-church in Michigan and is now back leading at Mars Hill in Sactown. I have Pastor Scott’s permission to share what I am going to write next. Several weeks ago, Scott and his Sacramento congregation received a “Cease and Desist” order which came from the Seattle Mars Hill Church. They were told that the Seattle Mars Hill had copyrighted the name “Mars Hill” and they demanded that the California Mars Hill churches stop using the name and any logos with similar lettering.
I was flabbergasted. First, I could not believe that a church would try and copyright the name of their church. I suppose if you wanted to make some money on the side, you could lease the name out to others. (My friend Ken thought it would be smart to copyright the name “First Baptist” and stick franchise stickers on the name and concept…I applaud his entrepreneurial spirit). But to outright disallow others from using a name that is found in the Bible because you want a monicker and label that only recognizes YOU seems the very epitome of pride and arrogance.
Second, that a church would take legal action to require other churches to comply violates both the letter and the spirit of the Word of God. The Bible is explicit when we are told not to take other believers to court when the issues regard spiritual matters. The naming of a church is certainly a spiritual matter and it is hard to see how someone could theologically skirt around this.
Readers might be interested to know that Mark has preached on 1 Corinthians 6. Assuming the blog post cited above is true, and after reading the transcript of Mark’s sermon, I wonder if 1) he knew letter was being sent out, and 2) if he was aware of it, did he forget what he’d learned previously in teaching 1 Corinthians 6?
Literally thousands of churches in the United States alone have ‘Mars Hill’ in the name. Just do a search on Google – Mars Hill Church, Mars Hill Presbyterian, Mars Hill Baptist, Mars Hill Church of Christ, Mars Hill Pentecostal, etc., etc. – the list goes on and on.
To the folks allegedly pushing this from Mars Hill Seattle: other churches sharing the name ‘Mars Hill’ is neither a sin nor a crime. What biblical right do you have to threaten legal action or even request arbitration between yourselves and other churches unaffiliated with you for sharing it? It’s a name found in the New Testament for goodness sakes.
How does this action serve the gospel? How does this action reflect on Jesus and the church?
It is a cultural norm for businesses and corporations to copyright names and sue others who violate those copyrights, but come on – this is the church.
I know Mars Hill Seattle is a huge operation. If this letter was really sent, I’m going to assume it was blunder made by someone who didn’t know any better who acted outside of the authority of the church leadership. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
But if my assumption is wrong and this was a move endorsed by the church leadership, you ought to be ashamed and need cease this behavior.
For a long time I was confused about the difference between what the Bible calls the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant.” I imagine many outoftheoverflow.com readers still struggle with some confusion between the two.
This post has been made in hopes of clearing up that confusion.
The Old Covenant was in effect during the time before Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection when the Jews were living under the Mosaic Law, or, the Old Law, and is associated with the Old Testament and the leadership of Moses.
The New Covenant went into effect after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that fulfilled the requirements of the Old Covenant and Old Law, and is associated with the New Testament and the leadership of Jesus.
When I was in college a professor of mine named Dr. Phil Thompson presented my class with a handout put together by a man named Jack McKinney. I’d like to share the contents of that handout with you today as I’ve found them to be very helpful.
Jack McKinney uses 2 Corinthians 3 to compare/contrast the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in a way that really helped clear up a lot of confusion for me … check it out:
The Old Covenant vs. The New Covenant
McKinney goes on to note:
It was not merely the glory (GREEK: Doxa; cf. English “doxology”) which was transient in nature, but the Old Covenant itself. A close reading of 2 Corinthians 3:11 makes that clear, though some commentators have missed this. It is especially clear from 2 Corinthians 3:7, where Paul speaks of the “ministry that brought death … engraved in letters on stone” coming with glory (NIV). It does not make sense to say that the glory of the Old Covenant “came with glory.” To understand this chapter, one must turn back to the situation in Exodus 34, and even then Paul’s argument may seem a bit strange to us. Still, his line of reasoning in one that is quite acceptable to that of the rabbinical interpretation of his time. It is not, of course, as if the Old Testament were of no value to the Christian. As the tutor or schoolmaster whose purpose was to lead to Christ, it has tremendous value for us, but the fact that “now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (Galatians 3:19-23, 25; 2:19-21).
That leads me to the question: what should we do with the teachings surrounding the Old Covenant today? Should we simply ignore them, or are they still applicable?
I really appreciate the way Mark Driscoll explains this on pages 46 & 47 of his book On the Old Testament (A Book You’ll Actually Read):
I have also been asked many times whether we need to obey all commands in the Old Tesatment. The short answer regarding law is that all of the Old Testament commands/laws were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17-18). This does not mean that we do not love and value the Old Testament law. But it does mean that we are no longer under it. Similarly, when I was in high school I had to sign an attendance sheet every day, go to assemblies, and bring a note if I had been sick. Since the graduation requirements have been met, I am no longer bound to do those things. This does not mean they were bad, only that they are completed. However, there are some laws from high school that are still binding on me. For example, at my school I was not allowed to kill anyone, sell drugs, or steal. These laws are still applicable to me, even though I have graduated.
Likewise, there are three kinds of laws in the Old Testament.
First, there are ceremonial laws, which are related to the priesthood, sacrifices, temple, and cleanness. These are now fulfilled in Jesus (for example, nearly the entire book of Hebrews addresses this issue for Jews who struggled with the Old Testament laws once they were saved). These laws are no longer binding on us because Jesus is our Priest, Sacrifice, Temple, and Cleanser.
Second, there are civil laws, which refer to the governing of Israel as a nation ruled by God. Since we are no longer a theocracy, these laws, while insightful, are not directly binding on us. As Romans 13 says, we must now obey our pagan government because God will work through it, too.
Third, there are moral laws, which prohibit such things as stealing, murdering, and lying. These laws are still binding on us even though Jesus fulfilled their requirements through His sinless life. Jesus Himself repeats and reinforces nine of the Ten Commandments. The only exception is the Sabbath, because that is part of the ceremonial law. Now our rest is in the finished work of Jesus, not just a day.
In Summary, the ceremonial and civil laws of the Old Testament are no longer binding on us, while the moral laws are.
Is there value in studying the laws surrounding the Old Covenant? Absolutely.
Does that mean we’re still bound to all of them? As both Mark and Jack explain above, no.