Religion SavesIf you hang out in conservative evangelical circles (and I do), it’s not exactly kosher to admit you were blessed by the ministry of Pastor Mark Driscoll. Kosher or not, his ministry was an encouragement to me and I grieved his collapse because it hurt the body of Christ and took the focus off of Christ. Still, I was blessed by his ministry. For this reason, I have chosen to review his book, Religion Saves: And 9 Other Misconceptions.

In his introduction, Driscoll stated that while studying I Corinthians he was struck by the work of Paul to provide answers to the culturally relevant questions of the day. And, as a result, he decided to imitate by Paul by “preaching a series answering the big questions and issues in our own day, which could subsequently be addressed in an even more thorough fashion as a book.”[1]

Pastor Mark hosted a poll on his church’s website and then took the top 9 questions. They are:

  1. What does the Bible say about birth control?
  2. Why did you use so much humor in your sermons?
  3. How does predestination work?
  4. What is the hardest part of Christianity for you to understand?
  5. How do you break free from sexual sin?
  6. How does the whole faith-works thing balance out?
  7. How should Christians date?
  8. What should established churches do about the “emerging” church?
  9. Does Scripture regulate both theology and methodology, or just theology?

If nothing else, this book is provocative. This is driven largely by the topics he chooses to address, although his tone and rhetoric tend toward inflammatory. For example, when commenting on barrier methods of birth control, Driscoll says,

“Male condoms are the only barrier method available for husbands, with the possible exception of a guy with one eyebrow who refuses to use breath mints because they are not mentioned in the Bible and wears shirts bought only from an auto parts store or a beer company and scratches himself a lot and wants his wife to play ‘pull my finger’ before bedtime. In that instance, he is his own barrier method.”[2]

If you’ve read or listened to anything by Driscoll, you know lines like this one are not uncommon. However, in the midst of his “shock and awe” rhetoric, Driscoll makes some insightful statements as well. Consider another comment from his chapter on birth control,

“As pastor of an urban church and father of five children, my desire is for missional Christians to live in cities and have children for the sake of the gospel.”[3]

Basically, you have a red-blooded, meat-eating, testosterone-filled guy writing a book on crazy controversial issues. So is the book worth your time? It depends. There are a few key understandings you need to have before opening this book.

If you know the Scriptures well and are prepared to exercise your critical thinking skills, you might enjoy this book. Driscoll definitely tackles difficult topics with a great deal of candor. I say this to his credit, for many in the church simply back down from these issues. Suffice to say, Driscoll doesn’t want any elephants in the room.

Whatever your theological views, this book will probably make you uncomfortable at some point. For some, this will be caused by Driscoll’s theology while others will be uncomfortable with his sarcastic tone. In either case, you will be forced to think and evaluate why you disagree. To this end, I have benefited greatly from this book.

In the areas of sexuality, Driscoll speaks freely. This partly explains his rise to internet prominence in the early 2000s, but despite his lack of a filter, he also has some good things to say. For example in his chapter on conquering sexual sin he says,

“A repentant mind is one that wants to put sin to death because sin killed Jesus. Therefore, the goal is never managing our sin, minimizing our sin, hiding our sin, or blaming others for our sin, but rather battling our sin and killing it.”[4]

This book is not for everyone, but I have enjoyed it over the years. My wife and I were particularly blessed by his arguments that the Bible teaches that children are blessings, not burdens. You will be forced to filter out some chaff and there will be points of disagreement. But, the critical thinking that is required to work through this provocative book has made it worthwhile for me.

Final grade for Religion Saves: And 9 Other Misconceptions: B

[1] Mark Driscoll, Religion Saves: And 9 Other Misconceptions (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009), 11.

[2] Ibid, 35.

[3] Ibid, 29.

[4] Ibid, 149.