Mars Hill – Essential Listening for the Thinking Christian

Pastor Bob O'Bannon

R.C. Sproul said we live in what “may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization.” J.P. Moreland said “the contemporary Christian mind is starved, and as a result we have small, impoverished souls.” C.S. Lewis said “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers.” (See “5 Theses on Anti-Intellectualism” here).

There is a resource that can help followers of Christ in the fight against intellectual laziness and cognitive slothfulness. It’s called the Mars Hill Audio Journal. You’ve probably never heard of it, as it seems to get little attention and apparently appeals to only a limited audience, but since 1993, this resource has contributed immensely to the effort to help understanding hearts seek knowledge (Prov. 15:14).

How does American individualism influence our view of the importance of knowing history? How do automation technologies detach us from human practices that are most fulfilling to us? Is there such thing as a theology of the imagination? How has modern culture influenced us to unlearn theistic assumptions? What can we learn about the world from the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, the music of Arvo Part, and the paintings of Makoto Fujimura?

Heavy stuff, right? Yes. And thankfully, there is a place to go for Christians who don’t want their thinking enslaved to television and Facebook. The above list of questions provides a pretty good sampling of the kinds of topics that Mars Hill covers in each “audio journal” — a unique format in itself. These are not interviews you read, but conversations you listen to.

In each edition (you can subscribe to receive either MP3 downloads or receive your journal by CD), Ken Myers serves as host to as many as six different guests who each discuss a specific cultural topic in an effort to assist “Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.” Each topic  lasts about 10 minutes, with Myers asking questions and the guests giving their articulate and well-informed replies. If you’ve ever heard an extended interview on NPR radio, you will get an idea of what these interviews sound like. Also included with each journal is an insert containing background info on the topics discussed, including a list of recommended books for further reading.

For many years I have been a subscriber (off and on) to the journal, and it has consistently been one of the most exciting things to arrive in my mailbox every two months. In the 23 years of its existence, Mars Hill has never flagged. While always contemporary and in touch with the times, it never seems trendy, and the conversations are always — and I mean without exception — rich with insight and keen observation.

Many people will find Mars Hill conversations to seem overly intellectual, academic and even esoteric. But if you listen carefully (and perhaps in small doses), and repeatedly, your mind will be opened to the incredible vastness of the Christian worldview; you will think about things that previously have never occurred to you; and you will be assured that there is nothing brainless or anti-intellectual about being a Christian. At the very least, Mars Hill will help you fulfill Paul’s command in Phil. 4:8 — “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

For more general info about Mars Hill, go here. For a catalog of topics covered over the years by Mars Hill, go here (yes, you can order back issues). To listen to some sample discussions, go here. To read a recent interview with Ken Myers, go here. More importantly, go to the “subscribe” button at the Mars Hill web site and get your subscription started now.