Theology matters, and greatly so. Churches that have lost their hold on the truths of the faith are destined to drift into destructive errors or to simply become social clubs with a religious overtone. This is why books like Mark Driscoll's Doctrine are so important.
What I Liked
Perhaps the best thing about Doctrine is that Driscoll took the time to write it. It is good for churches to see their leadership caring about the teaching of the Scripture in more than a simplistic or superstitious sense. Driscoll does his best to address important issues of the faith in a serious way--his trademark sarcasm is simply not present in this work.
Many of the chapters of this book are worthy of applause. Driscoll handles some heavy topics such as the trinity (chapter 1), the cross and atonement (chapter 8), and the church (chapter 11) with a great deal of insight. In most of these chapters, Driscoll addresses the issues with a nice balance of complexity on the one hand and explanation, simplicity, and application on the other.
What I Did Not Like
There are a few places where discerning Christians will have some questions for Driscoll as they work their way through Doctrine. In some of these cases, the issues may be quite secondary. In others, however, it appears that Driscoll makes some fairly dangerous statements.
The most serious error in this book comes early, in the chapter on divine Revelation (chapter 2). In explaining that general revelation will not bring a person enough knowledge of God to save their souls, Driscoll asserts that in countries closed to missionaries, God might send dreams, visions, or even angels to the lost to bring them the good news of Jesus Christ. Though I have no doubt that such stories have indeed been told, and perhaps by those whom Driscoll trusts, this is a direct contradiction of Romans 10:13-ff. In that passage of perfectly-inspired holy Scripture, God tells us that people will not be saved without a preacher, and the clear understanding of that passage is that the preacher will be one of God's children, a human preacher or missionary, not an angelic messenger. Besides coming from outside of the Scripture, this issue matters, because if Christians believe that God might save others without human contact through personal communication or written word (including the Bible), this will do harm to the missionary Endeavour.
There are at least two other areas where I found myself concerned about the content of this work. I found myself uncomfortable with Driscoll's openness to an old-earth creation story in chapter 3. I believe in a literal six day creation, and while I will not make this a first-level issue, I fear that old earth theories play fast and loose with the interpretation of Scripture. Also, again in chapter 2, Driscoll leans in a more charismatic understanding of revelation than I am comfortable with. I believe that a closed cannon of Scripture does not leave the door open to divine revelation in the form of predictive prophecy; Driscoll disagrees.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Overall, I am grateful to Mark Driscoll for the work that he has done in writing this very accessible systematic theology. Works like this need to be written, and well-known figures in evangelicalism need to show that such things are important. There are certainly areas where I could caution readers to read with discernment and even to reject Driscoll's conclusions, but such areas are not enough to make me recommend not reading the book as a whole. I have no doubt that my own point-of-view still needs much work before I understand all of what God wants me to grasp doctrinally, and thus I have much grace for a brother in Christ who is doing the work in a far more expansive way than I. So, my recommendation: Read Doctrine, but read it carefully--as you should any book you pick up or download.
Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 464 pp.
[For this review, I read the excellent audio book from [...]