Book review: in which I share the same starting point as Mark Driscoll

When I requested Who do you think you are? from what was then Booksneeze (now BookLook Bloggers) I had no idea it would take me quite so long to finish.  Granted, I was caught up in the momentum surrounding my own book at the time, but it wasn’t just that.

I found this book really hard going.

I requested the book knowing Mark Driscoll is a controversial figure and can engender great loyalty or…quite the opposite.  I decided to put that to one side and read the book on its own merits.

This didn’t help. This in spite of the fact that we seem to share the same starting point – yes, Mark Driscoll and me.  ” We’re continually forgetting who we are in Christ…”  says Driscoll near the beginning, and I raised my eyebrows, thinking, Right…that’s basically what I’m saying in my book. Yikes – have I written the same thing? But no, I haven’t, although I still agree with the premise.

Driscoll goes through the book of Ephesians, using it to look at various aspects of a Christian’s identity (he takes it as a given that Paul is the author although there is a debate on that issue). There’s a lot of what he says I agree with, as well as other parts where I wriggled about a bit. But I found it hard to engage with the content as I found the writing so heavy.

I’m not sure why, if I’m honest! It was hard to read – it didn’t keep my attention. The content was very Reformed/Conservative, as I would expect from the author, and this resulted in a lot of ‘Christianese’. I think this was part of the problem for me – there was little ‘freshness’ in what he was saying. There was no ‘find a new way of saying something old’, at least not in my view. And there was little I hadn’t already heard before.

I liked the fact the author wasn’t on the cover. I think this should only happen with biographies – otherwise you feel the book is more about the author and not the subject! Driscoll doesn’t make the book about himself, or climb up on any personal hobby horse, which is good.

It felt quite…simplistic and black and white in places, although there were nuances I didn’t expect.  He does refer to commentaries and other writers, which I appreciated, as it’s good to know a writer has been reading, and not just drawing from his own thinking. However, I felt it was more like an extended sermon than a book. 

Perhaps my standards are too high – after all I am easily distracted, as my readers know! – but I needed the writing to be more compelling in order to be able to comment on the content. I found myself skimming, and it wouldn’t be fair to critique something on it’s ‘skim-style’.

I can see from other reviews that others have found it helpful so it’s a matter of taste and background, perhaps, but there are others who struggled, too.

It took me so long to read it – to feel motivated to pick it up – that my reviewer’s account expired and I had to request to be reinstated! That’s probably why I’m reluctant to make too firm a judgement on it.

It’s OK. It’s not a book to inspire controversy. I like the premise and there are other moments where I connected with what the author was saying.  I liked how he emphasised that we do not need to be defined by anything other than Christ – we are not pigeon-holed by our past, our sins or our experiences. We are in Christ. That’s where our identity comes from.

I felt the terminology was both overly-familiar (for the long time Christian) but might also be a stumbling block for those new to faith (not crossing the cultural communication divide). It’s American in style and language, which is not a negative per se, but can be harder to read for us European types with our love of subtlety!  It’s a certain school of theology, which would jar with some, but I’m not averse to reading across theological streams. I don’t mind reading different opinions or ‘takes’ on a subject; I think it’s healthy to do so. Sometimes we lean towards one interpretation but can still seek to understand and appreciate another.

The book just didn’t grip me.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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