Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA is certainly no stranger to addressing what can be considered some of the more controversial religious and cultural topics of our day. His forthright style combined with what is clearly a passion for both the unchurched in his area of the country as well as what he would likely label the “frozen chosen” within the body of Christ, truly makes him a love or hate him type author. In his book Religion Saves + Nine Other Misconceptions, Driscoll once again dives in to a number of topics that unfortunately for many other Christian authors, have remained somewhat taboo.
The first controversial issue Driscoll discusses is that of birth control. He does an excellent job of identifying the various methods of birth control, getting past the emotional, often knee-jerk reactions many have concerning whether it is righteous for believers to use birth control or not. I was pretty fascinated with the history of birth control and the methods used by the ancients to prevent pregnancy. Driscoll rightly notes the need for godly wisdom and much prayer for families trying to decide what course to take. Of course, Driscoll overwhelmingly denounces abortion as a means of birth control, rightfully labeling it as “the sin of murder.” With that said, other forms of birth control are within the bounds of what can be considered as proper for believers and legalistic approaches such as no birth control ever, while a valid approach, are in the opinion of Driscoll overly legalistic, a position I would tend to agree with.
One area where Driscoll has shall we say gotten himself in a bit of hot water with some is in the area of humor. He admittedly has a tendency to poke fun at any and all groups of people which for some might seem just a bit over the top and outside the bounds of behavior that is becoming of a pastor. For Driscoll, his use of humor is rooted in his “mission to both put people in heaven and put the fun back in fundamentalism.” He also notes his belief “that evangelicalism needs a better patron saint than Ned Flanders of The Simpsons fame.” On many counts, I must admit I have to agree with that assertion. It is also important to remember the type of people Driscoll ministers to on a weekly basis on what is often termed as the “Left Coast.” Seattle, WA is not exactly known as a bastion of Christianity in many respects so the indie rockers, hippie types, gays, Mormons and other people groups often form the focus of his ministry and are often the type of people that wander into the various Mars Hills campuses. Driscoll reminds the reader that Jesus was not a suit wearing, stuffy preacher who never took time to have a good laugh and at times, to take people to task using descriptions that certainly got a rise out of the recipients. After all, how many times have you heard someone called “You brood of vipers”? Jesus quite often poked what could be termed as fun at the Pharisees using them as a teaching lesson in the process. Can this be overdone? Most certainly it can and some may say that Driscoll sometimes goes a bit too far. With that said, it was nevertheless interesting to see the various ways God uses humor throughout Scripture to make some valuable points.
Yet another thorny issue, this one an often debated theological topic, is that of predestination. If there is one chapter in this book that I would recommend focusing on, it would be this one. Even for the most gifted theologian who is well versed in the nuances of this particular doctrine, understanding how and what predestination is all about can be admittedly quite difficult. Driscoll does a great job of unpacking this difficult theological truth. Helpfully, he provides the reader with the historical background of how the two major approaches to this topic developed in church history. This development led to the establishment of what are the two major camps in regards to predestination specifically that of Calvinism and Arminianism, named after John Calvin and Jacob Arminius respectively. Throughout this chapter, Driscoll does use some rather heady theological terminology such as infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism (say those words ten times fast), however, he adroitly explains those one hundred dollar theological terms in a way all readers will be able to understand. Perhaps what I appreciated most about Driscoll’s discussion of predestination was his commitment to the use of Scripture to state his case. Far too many preachers and theologians refer to the writings of old dead guys (Driscoll’s term for the great theologians of days gone by) in reference to a topic such as predestination. While there is nothing wrong with that approach, it is always best to find our instruction on a theological topic from God’s Word. Driscoll’s conclusion to this important chapter was quite wonderful and I appreciated his statement that “the predestinating hand of God the Father reaching down to me through Jesus makes me worship him for being such an amazing Dad.”
One final chapter I found truly helpful in this great book is Driscoll’s treatment of sexual sin. In an age where the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah seem like mere child’s play, addressing what sexual sin is and how it should be dealt with from a biblical perspective is desperately needed. Unlike the portrayal of sexual deviancy as enjoyable and harmless, Driscoll rightly declares “sin leads to sadness, suffering, and ultimately death.” In noting the horrible impact that pornography has on society at large and individuals who are trapped in that sinful habit, Driscoll aptly notes “Pornography has the sad effect of objectifying people, thereby divorcing them from their body and consequently diminishing their dignity as God’s image bearers.” That is a very important statement to grasp. Sex outside the bounds of covenant marriage is quite frankly cosmic treason against a holy God. It completely twists the design for which God designed that most wonderful intimate activity, the joining of two as one. The “sidekick” of sexual deviancy, namely lust, draws people into various sexual sins, ultimately trapping them in a world that seems right, but whose end is the way of death. Driscoll provides a number of biblically rooted ways for people to break free from the bondage of sexual sins, clearly noting that sheer willpower is not enough. Only the power of God is sufficient to break the chains of bondage in this area that is gripping so many people in our day and age.
I highly recommend Religion Saves + Nine Other Misconceptions by Pastor Mark Driscoll. The various topics addressed in this book are many that people quite honestly need to read about and are issues which are very important in today’s society. While people may not totally agree with Driscoll’s style of ministry, they will find this book to be extremely timely and helpful and one that is grounded in sound biblical doctrine.