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Book Review: Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions (Re:Lit) by Mark Driscoll

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It wasn't long into my new life with Jesus that questions began popping up; theological concerns as I was confronted by the many 'flavors' of Christianity, and questions about how to live my life as a new believer. For quite some time I was swamped with uncertainty as conflicting doctrines and viewpoints descenended upon me. It's only a few years in that I'm starting to feel a certain degree of stability in my walk, though questions, probing, and truth-seeking are perhaps one of the evidences of the Christian life.

In Religion Saves, Mark Driscoll – leader of one of the fastest growing churches in America – tackles nine questions of burning interest to his congregation. Determined through an online survey, the nine 'hottest' questions were developed into a sermon series entitled "Religion Saves". Religion Saves is the book format of the resulting sermons. Comprised of nine lengthy chapters, each addresses one question, seeking to uncover what exactly the Bible says about each issue, while attempting to cut through the religious trappings surrounding the topics – applications, principles, and positions which are not clearly outlined in scripture, yet adhered to legalistically.

Being previously unfamiliar with Driscoll's preaching and writings, I was surprised by his brash, take no prisoners approach to rightly dividing the word of God. A couple of chapters in, I was quite frankly horrified by Driscoll's strange brand of reverse-legalism wherein he mocks those who dress and act differently than he does. Get your flak-suit out. If you homeschool, dress funny (according to Driscoll this encompasses everything from emo-style duds to denim jumpers), and a wide variety of other practices that Driscoll deems unrighteous (whether ungodly or legalistic in his eyes), he'll nail you for it whether justified or not.

 

Thankfully the first two chapters passed by quickly. "Question 9: Birth Control" is careful to lay out the principles concerning children in God's word, but does so briefly, before delving into Andrea Yates (I can't believe he brought that up), and the forms of birth control acceptable for Christians. In "Question 8: Humor", Driscoll defends his penchant for mockery while pointing out that humor is a tool that should be carefully utilized only to point out ungodliness. Seems to me that Driscoll slings his brand of humor even at honest, good-natured folks seeking to life in accordance with the call God has placed on their lives, and not only foolish priests worshipping false gods who fail to answer their prayers.

Thankfully, the remaining seven chapters are less acrimonious, and deal with the questions of predestination, grace, sexual sin, faith and works, dating, the emergent church, and the regulative principle. The well referenced chapters on predestination and grace (approach from a strong reformed stance) are well worth the price of admission alone. Despite my concerns with the first two chapters, Driscoll generally shows himself to be a gifted divider of the word of God, pulling out what is clearly shown by scripture, and tearing down a few false religious and libertine beliefs along the way. My first formal exposure to writing from a reformed missional preacher begs the question –  can I find a similar blending of orthodox doctrine and cultural relevance somewhere nearby? I see why Driscoll's church is growing.

 

The balanced doctrinal approach of Religion Saves is paired with extensive scripture references found both in the footnotes and in an extensive scripture index in the appendix.  The appendix also includes direct quotations from the Bible in support of predestination, and additional notes for each chapter.  I rarely mention book design – but the retro-inspired, textured hardcover design and glittery gold liner pages add a certain funky appeal to the title.

Driscoll's dry wit does grow on a person, and his writing style transitions from joke-slinging to a more gracious, balanced examination of Christian doctrine and practical outworkings of God's call. While I don't recommend baby Christians tackle Religion Saves, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Driscoll's work to a believer who already understands the basics of the gospel. In fact, I'm strongly encouraging my husband to read through Religion Saves, and I look forward to discussing it with him.

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About Jennifer Bogart