A Review: Death by Love Part 1

Death By Love: Letters From the Cross

By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and leads the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology and chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. He and Driscoll also coauthored Vintage Jesus.”[1]

Summary:

Driscoll and Breshears have written a treatise on the attributes of Christ that have been applied to followers of Christ through the sacrificial act on the cross. First, in each chapter they elaborate on the story of someone in the church.  Second, they write in letter form, how Christ is the answer to the person’s sin through a result of the cross.  Third, they offer answers to common questions about the doctrine of the cross covered in the chapter.  The doctrines of the cross that are covered in the book are: Substitutionary Atonement (this actually is what all the other chapters flow from), Christus Victor, Redemption, New Covenant Sacrifice, Righteousness, Justification, Propitiation, Expiation, Unlimited Limited Atonement, Ransom, Christus Exemplar, Reconciliation, and Revelation.

Review:

Most of the time one evaluates a book on the whole and not the individual chapters, but the structure of this book gives one a different topic to be evaluated in each chapter.  As so I am going to differentiate my review based on each individual chapter including the introduction.

Death by Love

Introduction:

In the introduction Driscoll and Breshears address the attack on the atonement of Christ by putting forth the view of substitutionary atonement.  The exposition of the last seven words that Jesus spoke is highly meaningful and elucidates profound doctrine to the everyday man.   In most situations I have been very complimentary to Mark Driscoll and his ministry, but in this case I found some of this introduction to be worded just for shock value.  Because of this Driscoll draws attention away from the person of Christ and His character, for the sake of provoking the reader.[2]

Chapter One Christus Victor:

The character that the letter is written to “Katie” is dealing with demons tormenting her after years of abuse at the hand of others.  Christ is victorious over Satan and all the demons, through the cross! “First, Satan and demons are your foes and not in any way friends (1 Pet. 5:8).  Second, Satan and demons are actively at war against you (Eph. 6:10-13).  Third, Satan and demons want you to die because Satan is a murderer; he wants to bring death to everything in your life, including your love, joy, marriage, and ministry (John 8:44).  Fourth, Satan and demons have no claim to you, because you have been delivered forever from Satan’s kingdom of darkness to Jesus’ kingdom of light (Col. 1:13).  Fifth, in Jesus there is for you personally protection from and authority over Satan and his demons (Luke 10:18-20).  Sixth, because you are in Jesus Christ positionally and all things are under his authority, you too can command Satan and demons to obey you by the authority delegated to you from Jesus (Eph. 1:18-2:8).”[3] In the case of Katie’s torment, Driscoll most vehemently presents the Gospel truth of Christ’s victory over Satan through the cross, in a pastoral and biblical way.  At the end of this chapter as with all the chapters he gives some practical conclusions as a result of the cross. Handling the doctrine of Christus Victor over the history of the church has sometimes landed a theologian outside of orthodoxy; Driscoll does not stray from the biblical text in his exposition of this important doctrine.

Chapter Two Redemption:

Thomas is consumed by lust, and through the cross he has been redeemed.  Driscoll gives five steps[4] to understanding and living out a redeemed life.  The five steps he gives are: Conviction, Confession, Repentance, Restitution, and Reconciliation.[5] Pastorally, Driscoll ends this letter with “Thomas, as I heard your story some weeks ago, as I have prayed for you since, and as I write this letter today, I have to confess that it has really troubled me that, apart from Jesus, I think we’re basically the exact same guy.  I don’t like to admit it, but we are pretty much the same except for the one difference that makes all the difference—Jesus has redeemed me.  So, I’m praying that you turn from sin to him so that he can redeem you as well.  If you do, let me know.  Until then, I will pray.  It all comes down to you and Jesus.  You are more evil than you have ever feared, and more loved than you have ever hoped.[6] The pastoral transparency I greatly appreciated, and was overcome with the reality of this paragraph.  This chapter was not enjoyable in the present cultural understanding,[7] but was convicting and consumed with Gospel centered living.


[1] From the back cover of the book.

[2] This was brought to my attention after careful reading by a colleague of mine, Nate McLaurin.

[3] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 48.

[4] A good amount of Christian literature at the popular level has steps that are just capriciously driven.  In the case of this book the steps do not follow whims but biblical evidences.

[5] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Death By Love: Letters From the Cross. (Wheaton , Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 68.

[6] Ibid. 65-66.

[7] The humanistic proposals in the current theological spectrum are disturbed by the fact,  that the only thing that separates the believer from the unbeliever is redemption.  We were pre-redemption the same wretches that the “worst sinner” that we can imagine.

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Filed under Application, Book Review, Gospel Foundations, Mueller

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