Book Review: Religion Saves (and Nine Other Misconceptions) by Mark Driscoll
Entertaining and thoroughgoing, Driscoll engages topics largest in the minds of Mars Hill in Religion Saves. Driscoll takes as inspiration for this book the letter of 1 Corinthians, where Paul addressed questions Corinthian believers pondered. Using technology such as web and text messages, Driscoll preached a sermon series that became the basis for this contemporary piece.
As a piece of literature, the book is engaging. Driscoll's style keeps the reader's attention by providing a masterful mixture of facts, confrontation, anecdote, debate, and humor. It resonates with the contemporary mind while providing research from a plethora of resources. The reader is considered in this work, not mere argumentation, and helpful applicatory sections give the book a worthy price.
As a theological treatise - and that is what this book becomes in the end - it is well researched. From questions ranging from birth control to the Emerging (Emergent?) movement, it becomes an essential read for Christians and pastors wrestling with the topics it addresses. It is conservative thought avoiding legalistic pretensions. It is not a detailed exposition, however, and though its citation of Scripture is present, it lacks in deep exegesis. It is a "birds-eye view" book, providing helpful biblical references, but does not dig in at any one point. It is thorough enough, however, to be used as a guide in these questions.
For Driscoll naysayers, two chapters prove interesting: one on humor, and one on sexual sins. In the chapter on humor, Driscoll reaches a bit, but then again there are too many Pharisees out there so high on themselves/their religion that they can't seem to smile. On the chapter on sexual sins, again, Driscoll's desire to provide a practical treatise has resulted in plain speech and application in detail.
There are a couple of things to be said on both chapters. First, Driscoll is not consistent in applying his messages to his real life (specifically on the topic of humor, where even a few statements in his book intended to be funny were gray at best). But then again, who is consistent? He needs to demonstrate growth and repentance in this area, as his humor still crosses the line in his public ministry. Indeed, he repeats his joke about Ecc. 9:10 again, though I have it on good authority that he promised to stop using that one in particular. I very much agree that pastors and Christians in general should be full of humor, but we must never let our levity float us across the boundaries of sin.
This dovetails into the second point. He is explicit, especially (but not restricted to) his sex chapter. In one sense, I applaud his efforts to be thorough in addressing questions not often answered by conservative Christian writers. However, if he is to use Scripture such as the Song of Solomon as his guide, he must make more use of metaphors - he is certainly skilled enough to provide a better composition - and worry less about listing every kind of sex act a man and woman can preform. It might be said that this is a book, not a sermon where young ears might be exposed to inappropriate ideas. Yet, is there not the same danger in a book by the church's pastor? (Well, it would be young eyes, not young ears, but you get the point). One word would make Religion Saves better: tact.
Bravo on a good book for contemporary Christians, Mark Driscoll. I just wish I could recommend it for everyone.
3.5/5 Stars: Recommended for mature audiences.