Death by Love: Letters from the Cross – Mark Driscoll

Making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland

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Death by Love: Letters from the Cross – Mark Driscoll

Death by Love is a surprising, shocking, unusual and deeply moving read. For anyone who has ever heard Mark Driscoll (coauthor along with Gerry Breshears) preach, this is not in anyway surprising.

Mark Driscoll is the Preaching and Theology Pastor for Mars Hill Church, Seattle; a church planted just over ten years ago and now numbering in the thousands. Driscoll’s vision for the church was and is to reach out to the least churched city in the United States with gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the past ten years the church has seen many, many people come to know Jesus Christ.

This is important because, within the pages of Death by Love, beats the heart of a Pastor desperate that people would turn to Christ and see, know and experience all they have in him.

death-by-love-coverThe premise of the book is a simple one, each chapter is a letter written by Driscoll to a different member of the church in which he confronts, challenges and exhorts them to look to the cross of Christ and all that he has achieved. The result is an incredible immediacy, reading this is akin to listening to Driscoll preach (indeed, this book started out as a preaching series, which can be downloaded here).

There are three reasons that I would encourage you to read this book.

Firstly, Death by Love is deeply challenging. The letter format really works. The medium of letter enables Driscoll to confront deeply personal issues in a direct and practical way. Over the twelve chapters, Driscoll confronts issues of lust, addiction, anger and betrayal and exhorts his readers to look to what Christ has achieved on the cross, which leads me to my second reason for commending this book.

Secondly, Death by Love is deeply Christiological and cross-centred. This book is a testimony to the fulness of Christ and the sufficiency of his work on the cross and is deeply refreshing. In a culture in which the emphasis is on ‘self-help’, Driscoll understands that the message of the gospel and the cross is that our help (and salvation) is in God alone.

This necessarily informs the way in which Driscoll tackles the toughest of issues. For example, the message to Thomas, a sex-addict consumed by lust, is to remind him that Christ’s work on the cross redeems him from all lawlessness with the purpose of purifying a people for himself (Titus 2:13-14).

The message to Bill, a man overcome with rage towards a father who repeatedly beat both he and his mother, is that Christ is his propitiation and that the Son of God was unjustly beaten to death that he might have life. This, then, leads me to my third reason for recommending this book.

This book is both theological profound and yet incredibly readable. This, I think, makes Death by Love a most unusual book. Across the twelve chapters, Driscoll explains weighty doctrines such as the doctrines of expiation, propitiation and limited atonement, but, in such away that even the most recent convert would be able to understand.

This is, I think, helped by the way in which the book is structured. The letter format is both engaging, immediate and compelling.  In one sense, therefore, this is an easy book to read (it is, of course, both tough and challenging, but more of this later). Each letter (or, more properly, each chapter) is followed by Gerry Breshears’ (Professor of Theology at Western Seminary) explanation of the theology which informs the preceding text.

Driscoll and Breshears’ contributions work well together. Breshears ensures that there is biblical clarity with regards to the theological concepts, whereas Driscoll makes these difficult ideas come to life in a way which is both immediate and immensely practical.

I would, however, add a note of caution before my final encouragement to read this book. Death by Love is a tough book which handles difficult and disturbing subjects. Driscoll addresses individuals who have been abused and even those who themselves have abused others. Driscoll’s style (in both writing and preaching) is direct and frank. I write this not to dissuade you from reading, but rather to ensure that you understand that this book is written to provoke and challenge. 

It is always tempting to describe significant books, like Death by Love, as life changing. I do not think, however, that Driscoll and Breshears set out to write a ‘life changing’ book; rather, I suspect, they intend to point the reader towards the life changing event in which the Son of God humbled himself to death, even death on a cross.

Death by Love shines a brilliant light upon the cross of Jesus Christ and, in doing so, illuminates the glory of the Son of God and the sufficiency of his work. I warmly commend this book to readers everywhere.

Andy Evans

To purchase Death by Love click here.