Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Religion Saves . . . by Mark Driscoll: Blog Tour Review

If you search my archives you will see where I have disagreed on several points, some significant and some not, with Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. I only point that out for two reasons: a) it is expected that guys of my sort ("young, restless, and Reformed" pastors in the conservative missional movement) be drooling fanboys of Driscoll, and b) this is going to be a very positive review of his latest book, Religion Saves (and 9 Other Misconceptions).

Part of the exceedingly helpful Re:Lit series collaboration of the Mars Hill-based Resurgence and Crossway Books, Religion Saves is the book adaptation of a message series resulting from the solicitation of questions via the Internet. People nominated topics and questions, the public voted, and the top 9 vote-getters became standalone sermons -- and now chapters.

This of course makes for some strange literary bedfellows. There's a chapter on the core evangelical tenet "Grace." And then there's one on "Birth Control." There's a chapter for theo-nerds on "The Regulative Principle." And then there's a chapter on "Dating" for people who actually might get some action.

For those familiar with the original message series (like myself), or even for those familiar with Driscoll, there is probably not much new here. But the assembling of these 9 popular topics into one tangible resource is still a great thing.

If you're looking for nuanced theological minutiae and intense exegetical exposition, look elsewhere. For much of the subject matter, Driscoll flies at 30,000 feet. But this is not to say it isn't comprehensive. For as characteristically blunt and sarcastic as he can be, the theology is solid, basic, and accessible. For those looking for a great evangelical exploration to the most pressing matters in the church and the culture outside the church today, I really can't recommend anything more highly. What Driscoll has created here is a concise topical theology. For his typical audience of course, primarily Gen-Y to Gen-X.

The chapter on "Predestination" is worth the cover price alone. I don't know of a short treatment as thorough, comprehensible, and irenic as Driscoll's. (Those familiar with Driscoll's ministry and preaching will know he's never hobby-horsed Calvinism anyway.) The chapter doesn't chase every rabbit trail possible, of course. That's outside the scope. It doesn't anticipate every objection. But it anticipates the major ones, and Driscoll navigates the major themes of election all through glorification deftly and -- most importantly -- pastorally.

I'd give this book to any young person in need of a topical reference. It doesn't cover as many topics as, say, R.C. Sproul's Now That's a Good Question (a long time favorite go-to resource of mine), but it covers the big ones and the interesting ones.

The only criticism I'd have is something Driscoll can't really help: he's not a writer. He's a solid thinker, a thoughtful and pastoral theologian, a biblical juggernaut competent and capable of getting to the truth with the truth quickly and strongly. But don't expect the words to sing like they may with Peterson or Wright or even Piper. He doesn't exult over the biblical text so much as he wields it.
On the flipside, such literary flair may not have aided the aim of Religion Saves. This thing is 9 straight shots of theological whiskey. With funny umbrellas stuck in the glasses.

Also: the cover is one of the retro-coolest things I've seen.

Read and/or listen to an excerpt from Religion Saves.

This post is my participation in The Religion Saves Blog Tour. Click the link to reach other reviews.


This book was sent to me at no cost, in exchange for my review as part of the blog tour. I was not obligated to provide a positive review. I genuinely liked it and would have said otherwise if I didn't. Mark's endorsing of my book had nothing to do with my appraisal of his -- I promise. :-)


Bill Kinnon said...

Based on your review, I'm going to order the book for myself.

Joseph said...

Okay, this line alone makes me want to read this book;

"This thing is 9 straight shots of theological whiskey. With funny umbrellas stuck in the glasses."

Brilliant. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jared,

Thanks for the well-written review. I found parts of RS very practical. Just a note to say I appreciate your blog and look forward to reading more from you.

Enjoy Grace,

Jonathan Dodson

Anonymous said...

Hi Jared,

I too participated in this blog tour. I think we pretty much agree. Though I did have some big disappointments.

Even though I'm not a full reg worship guy he certainly wasn't fair in his approach. Also, the faith and works chapter didn't deal with the hard subject such as the passages in James.

A big issue was the chapter on humor. He really just asserted much of his position. His "proof" was attesting to what he found funny not that those topics were actually written to be funny.

Looking forward to following your own blog tour.