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Christ's Death is Not A Horror Movie

Creepy music. Bloody hands. A gruesome hanging. Bloody spurting from a wound. Heavy breathing.

A trailer for Friday the 13th?


The promo video for Mars Hill Church’s Good Friday Service(s).

good_fridayWatch the video with care. It’s pretty creepy.

Certainly the death of our Lord was a gruesome occasion. Certainly our consideration of that day is a somber occasion.

But this video, and I assume the content of the service(s), is over-the-top sensationalism.

People should be moved through the propositional truths of Christ’s death for our sins. People should be moved with the weight of guilt that it was their sins that put Him there.

People should not be moved by sensational images.

A statement on Mars Hill’s own website reveals the attraction of such visceral images:

Mars Hill is full of twenty-something indie-rockers who wear a lot of black—so it’s no wonder that Good Friday is one of the most popular services of the year.

55293392oh4No, Good Friday services are not popular because they draw people to Christ; Good Friday services are not popular because the truth of Christ’s vicarious atonement is moving.

Good Friday services at Mars Hill Church are popular because they provide dark, violent, gruesome, sensational spectacle that fits well with what these “twenty-something indie-rockers who wear a lot of black” are accustomed to.

Mark Driscoll says that he believes in the Regulative Principle of Worship. But this kind of sensational, visual “worship” flies in the face of the Reformers’ vision for simple, unadorned, non-sensational, word-driven worship.

I’m getting more and more concerned with the use of sensational visual images to make a “spiritual” impact. I’ve seen their use in “conservative” churches just as much as “contemporary.”

Tomorrow, let us consider with solemnity what the King of the universe did on our behalf. Let us let the words of Scripture move us as we consider such truths.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

3 Responses to Christ's Death is Not A Horror Movie

  1. Haters gonna hate.

    On a serious note, I find it so very fascinating that people who know zero about the anti-church culture here in Seattle (and the pacific northwest as a whole) are so willing to put in their two cents and criticize what Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church provide. People like this author have no clue as to what they're talking about and falsley believe they have the spirit of "discernment" in order to justify pot-shot articles like this. Homie, please. You're not fooling anyone.

    This author (and people like him) make God sadpants and give Christians a bad name. We already have enough enemies as it is, so why write up an article in this manner? That so-called horror movie is reaching lost people in Seattle -getting them interested in Jesus Christ, and that's all that matters. Besides, I don't see this author coming to our neck of the woods and preaching to the gays and lesbians and the ultra hard-core liberal atheists. It's a place that scares people like this author from doing REAL Christian work. He's lucky he only has to preach to "less conservative rednecks" out in the boonies of wherever he hails from in S.C.

    Just so you know S.C. =/= Seattle, WA (or the west coast for that matter).

    Instead of focusing on something that's trivial and unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) how about you focus on the real mission every Christian is called to: SAVING THE LOST PEOPLE OF THE U.S. AND TELLING THEM ABOUT JESUS.

  2. This is the first time (I’m pretty sure) that I’ve read this post. I found Mars Hill’s short film on YouTube. Although I did find parts of the film disturbing to watch, I do find the respondent’s statement noteworthy: “[The short film] is reaching lost people in Seattle -getting them interested in Jesus Christ, and that’s all that matters.” Please see below for comments on that.

    Having watched the film, something occurred to me: perhaps if there is any horror film to watch, this should be it. To those who decry sensationalism, what if some people are only moved by the sensational? Ought we to seek to change them — over possibly a long period of time — before we bring them a message they will respond to?

    I think that some time ago, a ministry (maybe more than one) in Southern California held a horror presentation, perhaps at Halloween time, which may have scared the living daylights out of participants because it contained images of Hellfire to which human beings were condemned because of their sin, but was intended to lead people to Christ.

    And I am reminded of something else: Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. What if preachers in his time spoke out against him because of reaction towards (or against) sensationalism or the horrible?

    Do we not, in Edwards’ sermon, have terrible images of horror and frightfulness? “A fiery oven or a furnace of fire and brimstone.” A fiery oven or a furnace of fire and brimstone! And if you read on, it gets more horrible and frightful. Sensationalism? No? Really?

    I am not trying to mock Edwards; rather I am trying to defend him and to suggest that if we forsake Driscoll’s message, then we forsake Edwards’s.

    And may I offer:

    John 15:13 (Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.)

    Luke 16:19-31 (The rich man and Lazarus. Not a pleasant thought by any means: to be burning in fiery hell.)

    Matthew 28:19 (Christ’s Great Commission: for us to go into all the corners of the earth and preach the Good News of Christ. Here, Christ doesn’t lay down any conditions. He says it simply: go everywhere and preach.)

  3. Lest it be said that I am confusing different subjects (the former being Christ’s suffering and the latter being one’s burning in fiery Hell) I’m not sure that that would be a valid complaint. Jonathan Edwards preached about men burning in fiery Hell. Was it at all misguided or wrong for him to do that?

    I should also note that the Mars Hill film does contain a warning for the under-aged: “MH-17: Under-age requires adult permission.”

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