Book Review: Vintage Jesus

I’ve commented on Mark Driscoll before: planting pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, leads a church planting network called Acts 29, all-around provocateur. His new book is Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions, and it’s intended to be the first in a series introducing core Christian doctrines to the postmodern crowd. If this volume is any indication, the series should be great.

The book, as I said, is written with younger people in mind, especially people with little church background who are interested in the answer to the question who is Jesus? Each chapter asks and answers a related question, things like Is Jesus the only god? How human was Jesus? What did Jesus accomplish on the cross? Why should we worship Jesus? There are 12 chapters total, each of which is followed by a brief “Answers to Common Questions” section.

There are two things I especially appreciate about this book: First, it is thoroughly biblical. Not just in the sense of not containing things that contradict the Bible—I mean that the book itself is saturated with Scripture. Nearly every fact Driscoll puts forward about Jesus is backed up with a Scripture reference (although I wish this weren’t just done with footnotes), and he is always appealing to the Bible as the basis for the book’s arguments. The authority here is clearly with the Bible, not with Driscoll-the-author and certainly not with Driscoll-the-celebrity-Christian. Second, the book is theologically solid. Again, I don’t just mean the lack of bad theology, but good, careful explanation of important truths. Driscoll explains why it’s significant that Jesus calls himself the Son of Man (and it wasn’t to emphasize his humanity!), what it does and doesn’t mean that Jesus “emptied himself” (Phil 2:7), and why the Virgin Birth really is vital to true Christianity. This is a good book on Christology that’s written in an easy style—not one that’s dumbed down its content.

As I mentioned recently, there’s been a lot of chatter about some of the content of this book, specifically the use of humor. The first thing to say is that Driscoll is a great writer. He’s engaging and entertaining without being silly. In fact, I laughed out loud several times while reading Vintage Jesus. It’s also true that sometimes his humor pushes the line, and sometimes jogs nonchalantly right over it. So there were a few times I raised my eyebrows reading this book, and two or three times when I just flat-out thought something was inappropriate. It’s not a question of whether Driscoll takes Jesus seriously; the book really proves that he does. It’s a matter of “filthiness and crude joking” (Eph 5:4), which we are told to avoid. I’m not saying I avoid this any better than Driscoll—I’m convicted even as I write this—but I’m saying those things are most definitely out of place in a book about our Lord.

But again, this was only a very small part of my reaction to the book. All the theology and most of the humor is great. Driscoll is an equal-opportunity offender as he challenges our culture’s images of Jesus. He puts Jesus in his rightful place, the place God the Father gives him, the place the Bible gives him: the very highest place, worthy of all honor and glory and worship. And he does this in a style that’s not only readable, but gripping and appealing as well.

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