I just finished reading Death by Love: Letters from the Cross by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. There are many wonderful things about this book. Driscoll and Breshears delight in the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and it shows. Their goal is to reveal the multi-faceted splendour of this diamond we call the cross, and they succeed. This is done in connection with letters to 12 different people with whom Drisoll has had contact in his pastoral ministry.
I’m not going to write a full, detailed review. I just want to note a few of the highlights and some of the concerns. So, here we go with some of the highlights:
- Driscoll has some excellent discussion on demonic oppression in the first chapter. He agrees that demons cannot possess a child of God; however, they can oppress and attack. I especially appreciate this: “Some people who think they have psychological problems because they hear voices or have negative self-talk are in fact undergoing demonic opposition.” (49)
- In battling demonic oppression, Driscoll recommends the imprecatory psalms (52)
- This book works with some of the excellent insights of Martin Luther. For instance, we find repeated use of “the great exchange” of 2 Cor. 5:21. In chapter 10, we find the distinction between a theology of glory and the theology of the cross.
Generally, this book will be an edifying read for many Reformed believers. I noted many helpful places for my own preaching and teaching ministry.
However, there are some concerns:
- There are some embarrassing (well, I would find them embarrassing) errors. For instance, Arminius is described as John Calvin’s son-in-law (170). The first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is quoted and then attributed to John Piper (205).
- In chapter 8, Driscoll outlines his theology of the atonement, specifically laying out where he falls on the question of intent. He portrays the Arminian position as a “faithful evangelical belief” (which it may be in some sense, i.e. faithfully following evangelicalism’s trajectory), alongside the Reformed and what he calls “unlimited limited atonement” positions. All three are respectable positions, he says. Driscoll’s own position appears to be a form of Amyraldianism. I’m not sure that Driscoll himself is clear on this issue. As to who Jesus died for, his answer is: “Jesus died to provide payment for all, but only in a saving way for the elect.” Later, he rewords this to be the familiar formula from the Canons of Dort (to which he doesn’t refer): sufficient for all, efficient for some. The crux of the matter seems to be that Driscoll wants to be able to tell unbelievers (as he does elsewhere in the book) that Jesus died for them. Why not simply follow the apostolic pattern for evangelistic preaching?
- Driscoll’s rough edges are being smoothed out. There is a remarkable difference between this volume and his earlier ones. But yet, starting off a letter to a child molester, he writes, “You are a despicable human being” (110). I once wrote a letter like that to a molester, but I was 19 years old. Elsewhere he writes of how it is good news that believers will get to see unrepentant rapists receive the justice of hell (239). There is some truth to that, but using the words “good news” is infelicitous.
- Driscoll writes a letter to his son Gideon and, as one would expect, that letter reveals a Baptistic approach to the position of the children of Christians.
So, caveat lector!