Look what came in the mail yesterday!
One condition: I have to review it here and tell you what I think.
This is a lot like telling a kid that he can have a piece of candy, but only if he promises to eat it, so I’m quite happy to oblige.
The first thing you notice when you pick up the book is the excellent design. It’s a sturdy hard-copy with a knurled texture containing an intriguing graphic of a family walking out of a typical-looking church building… and they appear to be on fire. Part of the flame is the provacative title of the book: Religion Saves. This, of course, is the exact opposite of the message of the book.
The book is based on a really neat idea: pastor Mark explains in the introduction that upon reading through the book of 1 Corinthians, he noticed that a significant purpose of the letter is to address questions from the church in Corinth. And the more he thought about it, the more intrigued he was by the idea of preaching a series of sermons that are answers to questions from people today — questions specific to our time and culture. So, last year, Mars Hill opened up a portion of their website for a forum called ‘Ask Anything‘. Over a series of voting cycles, people all over the world were allowed to post questions: any questions. These were then widdled down to the 9 most popular questions through a voting process. In the end, 893 questions were asked, 5,524 comments were made, and 343,203 votes were cast.
The result was nine questions, and pastor Mark preached a sermon on each one in a series by the same name as this book. You can download the video and/or audio of each of these for free here. This book is basically another form of responding to those questions, with a chapter devoted to each one.
I plan to write a short post about each chapter as I go through the book, but let me end this first post with pastor Mark’s explanation of the title (from the introduction of the book):
Before we proceed, the title “Religion Saves” merits a bit of explanation. The one thread that weaves this book together is religion; many of the questions that made the top nine are highly religius in nature. Religious people are prone to go beyond the teaching of the Bible to argue for positions that are not clearly taught in Scripture. They are further prone to go beyond the biblical principles on these issues and seek to impose their method on others, as if they alone are truly biblical. Reigious people tend to have very strong and vocal opinions about the issues we will examine. In fact, religious people were often the most devoted voters for the questions that comprised the “Religion Saves” sermon series and this book.
Religious people mistakenly think that they are saving people from such things as a fruitless life, sinful sex, bad relationships, unholy humor, wayward churches, evil birth control, and what they call “strange fire.” However, religion never saved anyone, and religious answers to complex questions are simply misconceptions, which is why I have titled this book, “Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions.”
So as you can see, the purpose of this book — and of these chapter reviews — is not directed so much at non-believers as at the most religious of believers. This book isn’t so much an apologetic or a call to holier living as it is a call to repentance.
And with that in mind, I hope you’ll tune in, invite your friends, and let me know what you think as we go through this together!