Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Doctrine: A book review

I have been a bit leery of writing a review of any books by Mark Driscoll, the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mostly, that leeriness comes, not from concern over the content, which is often brilliant, but over the baggage that seems to instantly arrive any time Pastor Mark comes up in conversation. Christians seem to be of two minds about him: either they condemn him as a man whose preaching has in the past included vulgarity and even profanity, or else they endorse him as a bold preacher effectively reaching the lost in a very lost place. For myself, I take the line first used by John Piper about Mark: "I can't endorse where you've been, but I like where you are headed." That seems to me about right. Pastor Mark has said and done some things in the past which I cannot endorse nor encourage others to imitate. Yet I also see in his preaching and writing a deep awareness of his own sin, a commitment to repentance, and a tremendous gifts being well used to proclaim "the faith once for all delivered to all the saints" (Jude 3). He is, in this way not unlike Martin Luther, a deeply flawed but deeply gifted man whom God used to reach many people with the Gospel.

With that caveat in mind, then, let me offer my review of Pastor Mark's book Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, which is the fourth book he has written with Prof. Gerry Breshears of Western Seminary. Briefly, I think it's brilliant, solid, and as biblically orthodox as any basic theology book I have ever read. It definitely leans toward and supports the Reformed part of the Christian tradition, but all orthodox evangelical Christians from all traditions should find themselves learning from, agreeing with, and cheering the presentation of Christian teaching contained in these pages. The book is organized around 13 of God's biblically described actions (e.g., "Trinity: God Is", "Creation: God Makes", "Incarnation: God Comes", etc.). Thus, the book follows the flow of salvation history from eternity past all the way to its consummation in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Those looking for debates about miraculous spiritual gifts, a resolution of the covenant vs. dispensational hermeneutical question, or other hotly debated points will need to look elsewhere. Instead, what you find is a lively, engaging presentation of classical Christian faith and a firm stand against all that deviates from it. For this, I think Driscoll and Breshears deserve three cheers.

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