Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Death by Love

Death by Love: Letters from the Cross (Re:Lit)The first sermon series I ever listened to by Mark Driscoll was Christ on the Cross. Each talk looked at one aspect of the Atonement and I thought they were all really good talks (the first one might have been a bit graphic, but seriously download them, they are free). This book, Death by Love is a adaptation of that sermon series. Rather than being a bit intellectual or a bit of abstract theology this books sets each chapter as a letter to someone Driscoll has had contact with. The point is to show how a theology of Atonement relates to real life.

Each chapter is addressed to a wide range of people who are paedophiles, religious legalistic, business men, a guy who's wife had cheated on him, Driscoll's youngest son, drug addicts, a rape victim, Christians and non-Christians. Driscoll see the Atonement as jewel that has many sides, so rather than just focusing on one theory of what happened on the cross, each chapter deals with a different aspect of the Atonement, such as: Christus Victor, Christus Exemplar, substitution, ransom, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, expiation and the tension between unlimited and limited atonement. These theories are then applied to each person to meet them where they are at. Some of it is to comfort them (Jesus cleanness you from your sin) others are to kick them up the pants (Jesus hates your sin).

A few chapters felt a little repeated, as Driscoll would find an issue someone is experiencing, be it hate for someone, or a sense of justice or debt that someone owes them, and then after explaining how that issues may well be justifiable in their circumstance, Driscoll gets them to think about their relationship with God and how that issues would relate between them and God. Most of the time people don't come off very good in relation to God.

A very minor issue I had with the book is Driscoll's attempt to relate with two of the guys in the book. In one chapter Driscoll says he was once similar with a guy who was struggling with lust as they "both went to college intent on fighting, partying, and having lots of sex with hot girls." (p67) but two chapters over Driscoll again says to the self righteous man  they they are similar as when growing up Driscoll thought he was "a 'good,' moral, religious person who was good at rule keeping" who "never did drugs or drank" and was voted the most likely to succeed (p93). Now I know there is a difference between why you think about yourself and what you actually are, and that people are multi-dimensional, but (and like I said this is a very minor point and about the only negative I could think of in the book) I wasn't sold on his relating to the two guys. Maybe you shouldn't read the chapters too close together...

Perhaps the book is also a bit edgy just for the sake of being edgy. Driscoll picks some extreme examples of people maybe to show the extent of how much God will forgive people, but then again perhaps examples more like the average reader might also have been helpful...

Overall I liked the book and what it set out to do, and I would even recommend it to people. I wish I had read the book about six months earlier when I had to write an essay on the Atonement.

You can read chapter 1 online and watch the book's video below (from the book's site):

My other book reviews by Driscoll:
A Book You'll Actually Read on the New Testament
A Book You'll Actually Read on the Old Testament
A Book You'll Actually Read on God
Confessions of a Reformission Rev


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