Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions. By Mark Driscoll. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009. 287 pages. Hardback, $19.99.
Mark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He wrote this book in response to a series of questions he asked visitors to the church’s website. He wanted to answer their most controversial questions.
Each chapter deals with a different subject. The nine are: birth control; humor (when used in sermons that offend certain groups); predestination; grace; sexual sin; faith and works; dating; the emerging church; and the regulative principle (i.e., that the Bible regulates both our theology and methodology).
The three chapters that would probably be the most interesting to readers of JOTGES are: predestination; grace; and faith and works. In chapter three (Question 7), Driscoll discusses predestination.
He points out that there are two broad schools that deal with the topic, Calvinism and Arminianism. He gives a short history of how each developed. He sees the differences between the two as a non-essential issue. Godly people differ in their understanding of predestination. In addition, such godly people can also differ on whether it is possible to lose one’s salvation by not persevering in faith (pp. 70-75). The author admits that he holds to the Calvinistic position.
Driscoll clearly sees repentance as turning from sin and as being separate from faith. Both are necessary for eternal salvation (pp. 75-76). When it comes to election, the author notes that some scholars say the Biblical references may refer to nations and not individuals. However, he sees them as indicating individual election. Everyone deserves to go to hell. If God has chosen to save some, this in itself is gracious (p. 93).
The order of salvation is also important for Driscoll. Regeneration occurs before conversion. With regeneration, the Spirit gives faith and a repentant heart (p. 94). A person can know if they are of the elect if they hate sin and love Jesus (p. 101). A better statement would have been that even if one accepts individual election, he or she knows they are of the elect if they have believed in Jesus for eternal life.
It is clear from this chapter that Driscoll falls squarely within the Lordship camp. This becomes even clearer in his chapter on grace. He wonders at the extent of God’s grace. Common grace is extended to all people, but saving grace is extended only to the elect. Saving grace is efficacious and never fails (pp. 110-12). This brings about a change in life. If there is no change, the person never possessed eternal life (pp. 116-17).
Driscoll discusses several kinds of grace. Regenerating grace causes a person to be born again and gives new desires. Afterwards comes converting grace, which brings the gifts of faith and repentance of sin. Persevering grace enables every true believer to continually repent of their sin and return to Jesus if they stray (pp. 118-24).
In the chapter on faith and works, Driscoll states that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone (p. 162). However, works necessarily follow. Regenerated people live their lives with a new Lord, who rules over them. Their faith is seen in the good works that come about from regeneration. To prove this point, he cites Matt 7:15-10 and Jas 2:14-26 (pp. 178-79). Driscoll does not discuss the context of these verses, and many readers of JOTGES will recognize that Driscoll’s conclusions do not square with the contexts.
The author’s summary on faith and works is found at the end of the chapter. He recounts how some recent converts met at his house. They were completely different people. If they hadn’t changed their lifestyles he would have been “hard-pressed” to believe they were Christians. He says that a person cannot meet Jesus without change (pp. 179-80).
In the other chapters of the book, Driscoll does give some practical pastoral advice to those with questions about things like dating, birth control, and the emerging church. One might find some food for thought here. But for those looking for a clear presentation of the gospel of grace, they will not find it in this book. Driscoll clearly accepts the common belief that without works one does not have eternal life. The negatives of this book outweigh the positives. As a result, I do not recommend it.
Kenneth W. Yates
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society