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Death by Love, by Mark Driscoll, a book review

"Death by Love" by Mark Driscoll, a book review

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

4:37 PM

Matthew 27:31 - "And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him."


The great church reformer of the 16th century Martin Luther said, "we must know the Gospel well, teach it well, and beat it into our heads continually."  What he was saying was we must keep the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ ever before us, because we are prone to forget.

We, as human beings are forgetful, but it would be hard to forget the Gospel as one reads Death by Love by Mark Driscoll.  It is a book that it absolutely gospel saturated.  Driscoll unpacks the theology of the cross very well in this volume, but he does so in a very interesting and unusual way.  He talks about the cross and what it means to us, and about the theology of the cross in each chapter by writing a letter to someone he knows that is struggling in an area of life and telling them of the difference that the cross and the love of God makes in their situation.

In doing so he gives us a full picture of the gospel.  He shows us that we are sinners and that sin is ultimately responsible for the plight of humanity and he shows us that since we are sinners we need a Savior.  To borrow a phrase from John Newton, Driscoll shows us that we are "great sinners in need of a great Savior." 

He talks about how the love of God on display in the cross gives us forgiveness, victory, righteousness, justification, and deliverance from sin.  He also talks about the fact that we are responsible for the cross of Christ, and that through that cross God establishes a covenant with us and that He calls us to live in love and forgiveness as well

Driscoll's work is very challenging because it shows the power of the Gospel in real life situations, and many times as you read about those real life situations you see yourself in them.  Driscoll is also very challenging because he doesn't shy away from calling sin sin, and from calling people who are in sin to repent.  He is quick to point out the everyday consequences for sin, but even more importantly the eternal consequences of sin.  This is a book that certainly doesn't embrace the popular concept of universalism, where all people go to heaven, instead it is a book that is quick to point out to the reader the reality of hell. 

Driscoll is quick to point out sin, and its damaging even damning effects, but he is also quick to tell the reader of the solution to sin.  That solution isn't to try to do better, or to give in and give up, that solution isn't to claim to be a victim, or even to try to be a good moral person.  The solution isn't found in religious things and rituals instead the solution to the problem of sin is the cross of Jesus Christ.  The solution to humanity's plight is the cross and the love and the hope and the forgiveness that God gives to us through the cross. 

On that cross Jesus takes our sins and in what Martin Luther calls "the great exchange" gives us His righteousness.  On the cross Jesus also becomes our propitiation, in that He takes the wrath of God the Father in our place.  When we look at the cross we can't help but see that it should be us hanging there.  It should be us dying because the wages of sin is death.  It should be us, but Jesus willingly took our place, so that we might have the gift of eternal life.  It is the cross that makes that gift possible.

Driscoll firmly holds to this life changing theological truth in each and every chapter.  Every page drips with the Gospel and points the reader to the centrality of the blood of Christ.  One of the things that I really enjoyed about each chapter was that each one ends with Driscoll answering common objections to the doctrines that are presented in the chapter.  This is good for Christians who engage the lost on a regular basis, so that they would know "how to give an answer," when one is called for.

Some of the stories that Driscoll shares are very difficult to read because they show the destructive nature of sin.  Driscoll doesn't attempt to water these stories down or even to clean them up, so reading this book is at times very painful.  One of the only issues that I had with the book is that almost all of the stories deal with some sort of sexual sin.  Again I realize how common this type of sin is, and I know that the cross transforms people caught in this type of sin, but I also know that this isn't the only "type" of sin there is.  The cross transforms people caught in all types of sin, not just sexual ones.  Driscoll however for some reasons chooses to use these types more often than not.  Again the reader should be warned, Driscoll ministers in a very secular culture and even though he doesn't give all of the gory details of the stories included in this book, he doesn't attempt to sanitize them as some Christian works do.  Because of that some of the stories may be a little more revealing than some readers are accustomed to reading.   In one way I like that Driscoll doesn't sanitize his stories, because life and sin are definitely not sanitized.  In another way however I am not sure that I enjoy PG-13 or even R rated reading. 

In conclusion, this is a great book, that shows the great, life transforming doctrines of the cross.  It shows very vividly the damaging effects of sin, and it shows the fact that the Gospel can transform any situation.  For that I am grateful.  It is a reminder of the power of the Gospel that we need.  It shows the reality and the horror of the cross.  It gives us a historical perspective, in that it tells us what the church has historically believed regarding the cross.  However it doesn't leave the cross as a matter of history, because it is a historical fact that radically changes our world and our lives today.

8 out of 10 stars. ********