Book Review: Religion Saves (and Nine Other Misconceptions)

“Religion Saves (and Nine Other Misconceptions)” by Mark Driscoll

Three years ago, Mark Driscoll — the pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church — asked church members and Internet voters to submit questions they would like to have answered. He was inspired to do this while preaching through 1 Corinthians, a letter in which Paul is answering questions asked by Christians in the city of Corinth. After nearly 900 questions were submitted and over 300,000 votes cast, Driscoll was able to sort the questions into broader categories, and narrow these categories down to the nine most requested.

Driscoll’s answers to these questions first became a sermon series (which you can watch or listen to online here), and then were fleshed out more fully in this book. I watched this sermon series about a year ago and thought it was quite good; Driscoll gave thorough and thoughtful answers to some very difficult questions, delivered in his characteristically engaging style. I expected to just skim the book, figuring it would basically be a transcription of the sermons. Was I ever wrong! I was not prepared for the depth of the book, which included far more material, and was, to me at least, even better than the sermons.

The nine categories/questions are:

  1. Birth Control — “There’s no doubt the Bible says children are a blessing, but the Bible doesn’t seem to address the specific topic of birth control. Is this a black and white topic, or does it fall under liberties?”
  2. Humor — “Why do you make jokes about Mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trenchcoat wearers, single men, vegans, emo kids and then expect these groups to come to know God in the same sermon?”
  3. Predestination— “Why does an all loving, all knowing, and all sovereign God will into creation people He foreknows will suffer eternal condemnation? Why does Romans 9:20 feel like a cop-out answer?”
  4. Grace — “Of all the things you teach, what parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with? What’s hardest for you to believe?”
  5. Sexual Sin — “How should Christian men and women go about breaking free from the bondage of sexual sin?”
  6. Faith & Works — “If salvation is by faith alone (Romans 3:28), then why are there so many verses that say or imply the opposite, namely that salvation is by works (James 2:24, Matthew 6:15 & 7:21, Galatians 5:19-21)?”
  7. Dating — “How does a Christian date righteously; and what are the physical, emotional, and mentally connecting boundaries a Christian must set while developing an intimate relationship prior to marriage?”
  8. Emerging Church — “What can traditional/established churches learn from ’emerging’ churches?”
  9. Regulative Principle — “Do you believe that the Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?”

While in a book like this different chapters will appeal to varying degrees to each reader, there is definitely something here for everyone. In fact, there is probably much more here for readers than they might initially expect. For instance, as a married man, I did not expect to find much of particular interest or value to me in the chapter on “Dating”, but found myself drawn very much into it. Driscoll has a way of making each topic seem relevant and important to each reader.

There really are no “weak” chapters in this book, though they vary widely in style and substance. I particularly enjoyed his examination of the Emerging Church; a difficult and often divisive topic (due to the variety of theologies and methodologies employed by emerging churches) of which Driscoll has a rather unique perspective, given his former involvement with the Leadership Network and the early days of the Emergent Village.

For many, the term “Regulative Principle” is likely unfamiliar. However, a church’s position with regard to this principle (whether using that term or not) has major implications on the life of the church and the style and form of worship there. Driscoll’s treatment of the subject is the best I’ve read, and avoids the extremes of this debate in favor of what I believe to be a more biblical “middle ground”.

If you have even so much as a passing interest in any of the topics addressed in this book, I heartily recommend it. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll learn something new, and probably have a good time in the process. Buy it here.

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