As much as I have enjoyed reading Death by Love, there are two other things that I think are worth commenting on. First, the book manifests an occasional tendency to confuse the effects of the atonement with one’s experiential realization of those effects. For example, in the redemption chapter, the authors indicate that a person needs to do five things in order for redemption to occur: conviction, confession, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. But the authors certainly would not want to suggest that the atonement has no effect on a person until resitution has been made for all of his or her sins. If so, we are all in big trouble. It would seem much more appropriate to say that a person will not experience the full benefit of their redemption until they have walked through these five steps. Similar confusion arises at various points in other chapters as well. This is almost certainly because, again, the authors are concerned throughout to demonstrate the practical significance of atonement-thinking. As closely related as existential realization and objective accomplishment are and should be, however, we must be careful not to conflate them.
Second, consistent with other books that Driscoll has been involved in, Death by Love is occasionally marked by an unfortunate tendency toward a form of hyper-masculinity. Thus, in this book real men are strong, protectors of the weak, who get angry when they need to and seek vengeance against wrongdoers. Such men have “raw masculine integrity” (p. 74). Wolverine would be proud. The villains of the book are often the “docile, neutered church guys” (p. 74) and the “flaccid church guys” (p. 127), who fail to get angry at the right times and do not protect the innocent. Reading through all of this, at least two thoughts come to mind. First, are these really our only options? Have I failed in the realization of my full masculinity if I do not find Ultimate Fighting to be the pinnacle of masculine achievement? And second, what makes these things specifically masculine? Shouldn’t women protect the innocent and be angered by sin as well? This comes across particularly clearly when, in one chapter, a young girl prone to promiscuous sex is encouraged to realize that he behavior is partly her father’s fault – he failed to cherish her properly. That may be true, but it does leave one to wonder why her mother is not similarly faulted for failing to cherish and protect her as she should. An overly realized masculinity that emphasizes only certain qualities runs the risk not only of mischaracterizing masculinity, but implicitly undermining the significance of those qualities for a proper view of femininity at the same time.
Nonetheless, Death by Love is a fine book that is well worth reading and pondering as we seek to become people’s whose minds and lives are shaped by the cross.