Update: In recent weeks (Nov-Dec 2011) Mark Driscoll has gone on record with some explicit claims of continuing revelation. We appreciate Driscoll’s ability to formulate and teach a few aspects of Reformed theology quite well, but we do not in any way agree with the notion that God continues to reveal himself to us apart from His word. Driscoll’s “visions” sound like divinations; we believe this is a dangerous element in his teaching. See THIS POST for more information.
I recently finished reading Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears’ new book, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010). Reading this book was enjoyable – all 450 pages (with study guide, topical index, and Scripture index). I appreciated the way they outlined the doctrines but then also discussed how the doctrines matter for the Christian. For example, after a detailed discussion of creation (days, theology, science, etc.), there is a section called “What difference does the doctrine of creation make for your life?” I realize that question and its answer can be annoying, but these “application” sections were very helpful and not cheesy at all. This theology book is highly practical and deals with things Christians face today (New Age pantheism, pornography, depression, agnosticism, laziness, idolatry, consumerism, pride, legalism, cults like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, suicide, and so on).
Compared to a systematic theology in the Reformed tradition (i.e. Berkhof), it overlaps about 60-70%, give or take (though it isn’t nearly as detailed). Since they don’t label this as straight up Reformed theology, I’m not going to critique them for the areas in which I disagree (you can read other blogs or books to study the differences/disagreements). I will point them out, however, in case you’re curious. I disagree when they say that the words “begotten” and “proceeds” are not overly helpful in discussing the Trinity (though Driscoll & Breshears seem to be in line with Nicea and Chalcedon). I’m skeptical about women deacons and the continuation of spiritual gifts like healings.
The chapter on covenant is, in my opinion, the worst part of the book. In an almost biblicistic manner, they dismiss the covenant of works because the term “covenant” doesn’t show up in Genesis 1-3. Being Reformed, I’m not a huge fan of a single-covenant scheme in biblical theology. Thankfully in the covenant chapter (and in the entire book) they do continually speak about Jesus, the center and focus of the OT and NT.
Furthermore, I’m still thinking about their explanation of “unlimited-limited atonement.” In some other areas (i.e. the attributes of God) they utilize Reformed theological terms but order them in a more readable way (which is fine) but sometimes (i.e. the marks of the church) they lump terms together in an unhelpful way (which is hard to read if you’re schooled in Reformed sytematics).
The strengths of this book are many. It is written in everyday language, which I appreciate – it is not at all the “Christianese” language you find in many Christian circles. I enjoyed their chapter on the image of God in man, particularly how they pick up on Calvin’s image of a shattered mirror concerning the imago. I loved how they discussed the fall, sin, and total depravity; it was penetrating and well written (they list out and explain a ton of sinful views of sin such as materialism, evolutionism, humanism, etc.). Driscoll and Breshears also don’t hesitate to point out inconsistencies in Christian traditions and practices – those little tidbits were great.
I appreciated how throughout the book they contrasted the historic Christian views with false views (as I mentioned above) – they weren’t afraid to show how Christianity is far different from Hinduism, Mormonism, Wicca, Oprah, etc. They also stressed humility in theology, and did a decent job of distinguishing essential truths and secondary ones. Taking into consideration the modern arbitrary views people have of the church, they also emphasized the need for Christian fellowship, membership, and regular hearing of the preached word. As I mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I liked their emphasis on the missional nature of the church.
Throughout the book, though there are not many technical footnotes (besides the hundreds of biblical references), they do refer in a helpful way to people like J.I. Packer, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Martin Luther, Ed Welch, Don Carson, St. Augustine, and Greg Beale, just to name a few.
Their sections on worship and idolatry as well as stewardship were some of the best things I’ve read on those topics; they were simply outstanding. Here’s an example of the stewardship section.
“It cannot be overstated that when we give to God, we are not deciding how much of our wealth to give. Rather, we are determining how much of God’s wealth we are keeping for our own uses” (1 Chr. 29.14) (p. 394).
In summary, though this book isn’t right in the “Reformed” line of Berkhof and Bavinck, for example, it is certainly worth owning, reading, and utilizing. For our readers who are Reformed, it’ll be a good book to have to see how theology “outworks” into life even if you don’t agree with it all. If you’re not Reformed, I’d encourage you to read this book. If you enjoy it, I challenge you to read Bavinck’s Our Reasonable Faith if you want to take the next step into Reformation theology. Or, read Driscoll/Breshears now, and in October when Mike Horton’s new Reformed doctrine book comes out, get that.
[One more thing, in case you were curious: there is no sketchy or crude language in this book, as there is in some of Driscoll’s older books.]
7 Replies to “A Brief Review of Driscoll/Breshears’ “Doctrine””
I need to read Bavinck some time. I keep hearing good things about him, and I haven’t really read a lot of systematic theology. I’ll have to make a point to correct that.
I’m reading Death by Love right now. He has a chapter on “unlimited limited atonement” there too. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is Amyraldianism.
Pat – yep, get the Bavinck one I mentioned there. Take your time with it; it is sort of long, but very readable and edifying.
Wes: I think it is amyraldianism, but I’ve only read a few paragraphs here and there by Breshears/Driscoll on it, so my verdict is still out, so to speak. You could probably speak better to it than I can if you’ve read that chapter you mentioned.
Monocovenantalism is all the rage today. You find it in the strangest places,i.e. in Reformed seminaries( one of which is the denominational seminary of the PCA) that are suppose to hold to the WFC but have professors publishing books that aggressively promote a strict monocovenantalic approach. Go figure.
I have read the book “Doctrine” and feel some areas are good and others are fluctuating when it comes to trustworthiness. I have problems with his special revelation section concerning dreams and visions and then saying the canons are closed. I hold firmly to the completeness and sufficiency of the OT and the NT canon and place little revlatory value on dreams and visions.
Glad you stopped by, Dr. Lynn!
Arguing that dreams and visions are part of continuing revelation is certainly a problematic thing to profess for one who holds to the sufficiency of scripture.
Thanks for the comment!
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