Death by Love by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

October 13th, 2008

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Driscoll, Mark and Gerry Breshears. Death by Love: Letters from the Cross. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 272 pp. Hardback, $19.99. 


Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wa. He is also the president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network as well as the leader of the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative. He also has a series entitled “A Book You Will Actually Read” on various theological topics including God, the Bible and church leadership.

Gerry Breshears is professor of theology as well as the chairman of the division of biblical and theological studies at Western Seminary. You can read his many published papers here.

Overview of Death by Love

Driscoll and Breshears spend twelve chapters showing from the Bible how the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary enables the Christian to overcome all trials and tribulations faced in life. While many Christians not seminary trained flinch at phrases like substitutionary atonement, they should not be afraid to pick up this book. With chapter titles like “’I Molested a Child’: Jesus is John’s Justification” and “’My Dad Used to Beat Me’: Jesus is Bill’s Propitiation,” one can readily see the practical application of this glorious doctrine.

Each chapter begins with a short story about all too common occurrences in our world today. The stories are usually no longer than a couple pages, but provide an important context for a particular application of Christ’s death on the cross. Each story is then followed by a pastoral letter penned to the fictional person’s particular situation. This “letter” comprises the majority of the chapter and includes timely application principles to help us live out our lives in light of what was accomplished on the cross.

Also, each chapter concludes with an “Answers to Common Questions about” section. Here, the author’s answer various charges leveled at the particular aspect of Christ’s substitutionary atonement being discussed in the chapter. This is an exceptionally helpful chapter for those who have found themselves at a loss for words when trying to describe the impact of Christ’s death on the cross for their sins.

Finally, and while many may overlook this important section, there is an appendix at the end of the book that offers helpful books on the cross. Here, the authors split the list of books into sections about the cross in general, penal substitution, limited atonement, justification, and other aspects of the theology of the cross. Perhaps the most helpful list compiled is that of unhelpful books on the cross. This list includes four recently published books that teach heresy where it concerns the cross.


First, I want to confess that for some reason, I did not think very highly of Mark Driscoll before I picked up this book. I believe it was because of a certain other Mars Hill church and the pastor serving there that I was confused. However, I was intrigued by the author of two blurbs on the back of the book. One was from Dr. Gregg R. Allison and the other from Dr. Bruce A. Ware. Both men are professors at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Needless to say, after reading this book, I will not make that error again.

I would highly recommend this book to any believer, at any stage in his walk of faith with the Lord. It is refreshing to read a book so practical in application on something as essential as the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Just a quick look at the cover of the book—a pencil drawing of a mangled Christ with a crown of thorns—leads you to want to read its contents. This Jesus needs to be portrayed more than the brown-haired, blue-eyed, pale-complexion Jesus that we see today. Buy a copy for yourself and your pastor. While you are at, buy one for the next person the Lord allows you to lead to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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