Mark Driscoll’s Demons – the false doctrine of the Mars Hill demon trials

Mark Driscoll and his various churches’ leadership teams hold demon trials, claiming to be able to bind demons and order them around. From this report and some of the comments in response, though, it turns out that it’s the Christians who attend the various Mars Hill churches who are the ones put on trial and ordered around.

I don’t deny the existence of Satan or demons, of course. The Bible states repeatedly that they exist and work harm in the world, even upon Christians. But I do take issue with the practices of Mr. Driscoll and his Mars Hill churches, a practice that is built on doctrine unsupported by the Bible.

It’s in comparing Mr. Driscoll’s practices to Scripture that we see he and his leadership team are making things up as they go along. They promote a false doctrine contradicting what the Bible says about demons and about the power of those who belong to Jesus.

Mars Hill Requires People to Ask God to Forgive Sins He’s Already Forgiven

Let’s start by looking at their faulty teaching on sin. In Step 10 (out of 12) the protocol says:

Often it is best to begin with addressing ancestral sin and address it first because it tends to have the deepest root in someone’s life. The counselee can pray something like, “Lord Jesus, if there are any spirits who have anything to do with me, body, soul, or spirit because of my ancestral sin, I ask that you please forgive this sin and cancel any ground they have held against me.”

One of the problems here is that under the New Covenant we are not beset by ancestral sin. That’s an Old Covenant concept (e.g., Psalm 79:8, Deuteronomy 5:9), but God promised that things would be very different under the New Covenant. (Jeremiah 31:29-30.)

And what do they mean that ancestral sin “tends to have the deepest root in someone’s life” anyway? That sounds like psycho-babble and I didn’t see any solid basis for it – Scriptural or empirical – on the Mars Hill “spiritual warfare” page linked at the top of this post.

Another problem with these trials are that they’re mistakenly premised on unforgiven sin affecting the person’s life. But the Bible tells us that Jesus’ sacrifice has already covered every sin for those who belong to him, and we have been forgiven once for all eternity. (Hebrews 10:10-14.) Contrary to Mars Hill’s weak teaching and practice of forgiveness, here’s how powerful Jesus’ sacrifice really is:

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15.)

There is no need to seek any more forgiveness for sins past, present or future. They’ve all been left on the cross, contrary to what Mars Hill falsely teaches. (For more on forgiveness see Our Need For Forgiveness – it might be different than you think.)

Taking Down Demon Names – who made that one up?

The protocol then directs the leaders holding this “trial” to identify by name the chief demon in that person’s life so that the leaders can then declare:

… we bind you by that name and upon command you will go to the pit bound by that name with all of your works and effects and all of your associates and their works and effects as well.

This is not how the Bible tells us to deal with demons. We are not instructed to get to know them through some elaborate trial protocols and then order them around. We’re told that Satan himself, the ruler of all demons, will flee at our resistance.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7.)

See how simple that is? We who submit to God – we who belong to Jesus, the perfect submitter to our heavenly Father – cause Satan to run off merely by resisting him.

Merely by resisting him. Why? Because any power he once had over us, according to the Colossians 2 passage above, has been nailed to the cross by the perfect work of Jesus our Savior.

It doesn’t take elaborate trials. It doesn’t take a 12 step protocol for identifying demons by name, binding them up, casting them into pits, and dredging up a person’s ancestral sins (whatever that means).

It takes Jesus, who nailed Satan’s powers to the cross, gives us the ability to resist Satan, and sends him fleeing from us.

Mr. Driscoll’s teachings are just made up nonsense.

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49 Responses to Mark Driscoll’s Demons – the false doctrine of the Mars Hill demon trials

  1. Sadly, this sounds way too familiar. But if word gets out that it’s as simple as submission to God and resisting the devil, that rules out the need for ‘special’ men of god with their magic words! Cuts out the middle man altogether.

  2. EricaM says:

    This kind of reminds me of Frank Peretti’s Darkness books. Very entertaining, but the “exorcisms” in there seemed more like interrogations. Understandable on the part of the angelic characters, but not so much on the part of the humans. (Although the image of an angel gleefully poking at a demon with a sword was fairly amusing.)

    The only firsthand account I have of an exorcism came from my priest, and he and the other priests involved spent some time fasting and praying before actually performing the exorcism.

    • Tim says:

      I read the first of Peretti’s “Darkness” books and was quite entertained. Couldn’t even finish the first chapter of his second book.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Tim. The whole format seems so controlling — urging the counselee to explain every detail of his/her past, not hold back, “tell the whole truth,” etc. There’s so much emphasis on doing what you’re told so it will work. To me it has cultish overtones.

    • Tim says:

      You never saw Jesus do this with the people he saved. There was no delving into a person’s past, just a simple command to the demon to leave. That was all before his death and resurrection, and now that we have the Spirit of Christ in us all we need to do is resist and Satan flees. Life in the New Covenant is so much simpler and better than what Mr. Driscoll is teaching.

    • John Masters says:

      I’ve sort of followed and read some about Scientology, and this part of their practice sounds a whole lot like Scientology practices to me.

      • Tim says:

        Right. Don’t they call it “auditing” rather than a trial? Similar in the result, though. The church gets tons of personal information. Tons.

        • mirele says:

          On Scientology’s upper levels (after you learn about Xenu), you’re supposed to remove the spirits of dead space aliens who were blown up in volcanoes here on earth 76 million years ago via auditing. These spirits are called “body thetans” and Scientologists believe they’re the source of many ailments. It really does sound like spirit possession and exorcism to me.

        • Tim says:

          Interesting, Mirele. In the auditing process, just what does the participant talk about and do?

  4. Aimee Byrd says:

    I was troubled when I saw the article you are referring to as well, Tim. You make some good points. I’ve never understood the whole premise of naming demons and all that nonsense. Sounds extremely manipulative. I do not understand how congregants get wrapped up in this stuff: it’s not church! But I do have a question, are you saying that you don’t think we need to ask for forgiveness when we sin in general? Or are you talking about asking forgiveness for “ancestral sin”?

    • Tim says:

      I definitely think we don’t need to ask for ancestral sins to be forgiven. And for our own, I think there is Scriptural support for the understanding that all our sins – past, present and future – are already forgiven. It’s not that we don’t need to confess, since confession is our agreement with God, but I don’t know that we need to seek forgiveness if it’s already been given us once for all.

  5. Pastor Bob says:

    Seems to open up a whole new topic of Demonic Activity in the life of the Christian. He (not Tim) seems to suggest demonic possession of the believer.
    Oppression/Possession …….
    If this “pastor” did not — sorry if I did.

    • Tim says:

      That’s what I thought too, PB, that the protocols suggest the completely unbiblical notion that those who belong to Jesus can be possessed. It’s not explicit, but the practice outlined in the protocols sure goes in that direction.

  6. Obviously the folks at Mars Hill are reading too much YA fiction:
    In Princess of the Midnight Ball, the chief sorcerer, King Under Stone, can be bound by using his true name.

  7. Maureen says:

    ‘Binding’ is so wrongly tossed about in prayer these days, and I’m not surprised to see it show up in the MHC Demon Trial. ‘Binding and loosing’ is not for us to command, but rather a call for US to forgive so that God’s work in the forgiven person can be completed to His Glory. And all that ‘command’ business in step 6! It can only come from a leader who’s really comfortable with commanding.

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  9. Ruth says:

    This is sounding disturbingly like the witches of Salem trials…scary beginning of a despotic religion. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne speaks exactly of this type of accusative, and intrusive, erroneous ‘religion’.

  10. Darlene Lopez says:

    I am so thankful there are others out there that scripture is their final authority. My husband being one of them. He searched the matter out just like you did, and this was one of the reasons we left. The nature of demons is to lie. Why would anyone trust what a demon says even if they “summons and put through the white throne judgement” as what takes place in demon trials. Demons Lie so why would you even believe anything they have to say? The white throne judgement is Gods job not ours, we are not God and we cant not put anyone/anything through the white throne judgement. Therefore we are to submit to God resist the devil and he will flee from us, as you stated. Resist is the proper way to to handle demons. After reading the protocol for demon trials it appered that Driscoll was implying that Christians can be demon ed possessed.
    We didnt understand why the need to know every sin and family sin history, after all Jesus covered it all, its is FINISHED you are forgiven. Your identity is what should have been affirmed not being told you have demons.
    This whole practice is just a way for the leaders/elders gather info to mind control you they prey on the info you give and the emotions that come along with it all, you walk out of there praising and trusting them even more which is what they want. All about control.
    Having left and learning more about Abuse/Victims I understand more now .

    • Tim says:

      Darlene, I am so glad you are out of there and growing in your faith. What an ordeal for you and your husband! As you say, the only thing these practices at Mars Hill promote is growing the praise of the leaders as they grow in their ability to control you.

    • Maureen says:

      Darlene, I am so sorry for all you and your husband went through. That you can speak of it so clearly and graciously is a work of God in your life – and much larger than the demonic trial you were subjected to. This situation needed Light, and you bravely did that. Many blessings on you and your family.

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    Why do preachers of the gospel quote men who pervert the Scriptures? Why would you ever quote these men in a positive light? Why would church leaders ever believe men who teach and preach doctrine contrary to Scripture are worthy of being quoted.

    Max Lucado Quote: “We never taught–the buzzphrase is baptismal regeneration, where you go into the baptistery lost and come out saved. We never taught that. Now, I am not saying there were not people in our church who believed that…”

    Water baptism is essential to salvation. (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21).

    Why would any serious church leader quote Max Lucado in a positive light?

    John Piper Quote: “We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith.”

    God want all men to be saved and all men have that choice.(2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.)(NKJV)

    Why would a preacher of the gospel quote John Piper in a positive light?

    Pope Francis Quote: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists…….”But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”

    Good works cannot save anyone. (John 8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”)(NKJV)

    How is it possible to quote Pope Francis in a positive light?

    Billy Graham Quote: “….or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that that don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be in heaven.”

    Can you not believe in Jesus and be saved? (John 8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”)(NKJV)

    Tony Campolo Quote? “going to heaven is like going to Philadelphia… There are many ways…It doesn’t make any difference how we go there. We all end up in the same place.(Carpe Diem: Seize the Day, 1994 pages 85-88)

    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(NKJV)

    Why would preachers and teachers of the gospel quote men in a positive light who pervert the gospel of Christ?

    Why not just quote Scriptures?


  15. Chris says:

    The institutional church system is a con game of Satan. It separates you from God and your own priesthood. Separates you from your resources. That tithe you think you have to give could be put to way better use by direct donation to your pet cause. Church is not a building where men run programs and hold meetings. Christ followers; You are The Church, Go out and BE The Church everyday. Embrace The Cross, die to self, and live by the indwelling life of Christ. Peace!

  16. Susy Flory says:

    Many churches use this approach. It seems that us humans would like to have simple spells or chants or verbal templates do the work for us, because we want to be in control and we want to call the shots. Fear is a huge factor, too. Thank you for speaking out on this!

    • Tim says:

      Good insight, Susy. Our need to feel in control extends to our spiritual lives too, as if we could come up with the magic formula and Bibbidy-Boppidy-Boo all troubles vanish. The point is, of course, that we’re not in control at all. God is. That’s the good news of the Gospel.

  17. jorymicah says:

    Interesting post! I like your style Tim Fall! 🙂

  18. This is an absolutely brilliant post, Tim. I’d never thought that way about ancestral sin, but you’re totally right. I am now reading different scriptures through a legal lens, as you probably see them, and getting a whole new perspective!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Liz. I hope my post stayed right in line with Scripture, because a lot of people seem to be straying from it when it comes to sensationalizing demonology.

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