Unlike so many systematic theologies, which are usually as dry as a bone, I found this one highly readable. In its discussion of the trinity I was a bit surprised that they omitted the fact that the Hebrew word `elohiym' is in the plural (Gen 1:1). It covers the major doctrines of the Christian faith. It would suit beginner to intermediate Christians and group study. Chapter headings are:
1. Trinity: God is. 2. Revelation: God speaks. 3. Creation: God makes. 4. Image: God loves. 5. Fall: God judges. 6. Covenant: God pursues. 7. Incarnation: God comes 8. Cross: God dies. 9. Resurrection: God saves. 10. Church: God sends. 11. Worship: God transforms. 12. Stewardship: God gives. 13. Kingdom: God reigns.
It includes small group resources, a general index and a scripture index.
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149 of 183 people found the following review helpful
Often Solid, But Be CarefulMay 15 2010
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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 [...]
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Book On God's Story And Our LivesApril 12 2010
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Doctrine is in my opinion an essential book that every Christian and Pastor should make sure to have on their library. It is excellently written and thoroughly enjoyable to read. The authors nailed their goal of writing a book that is both helpful for the pastor but engaging for the layman. This book will be a great blessing to the church as it will be one that could serve for discussion groups or classes.
The book is laid out to follow along the meta-narrative for God and the story of the Bible. To highlight just a few chapters I would say the chapters on creation, Trinity, and the death of Jesus are worth the price of the book alone.
So why with all the warm word would I give this book only four stars? Good question. As I mentioned the greatest strength of this book is how broad its appeal and function will be. At the same time this forced the book (seemingly) to limit itself in a critical area of theology; the doctrine of Salvation. It was shocking for me to read through such a wonderful book on theology by a theologically solid pastor like Mark Driscoll and find no chapter on salvation. This is understandable if the book is striving to reach the entire range of evangelicals. The doctrine of salvation is historically and usually the most controversial chapter and topic any theologian writes on, and sadly, often serves as a litmus test by many pastors and readers. I am left to conclude either they forgot this (which is highly unlikely given the credentials of the authors and that I have heard Driscoll preach on it countless times). Or that they left it out in the ambition of giving the book a wider audience.
Though I am sure some could point to the chapter of worship and highlight that it does talk about regeneration, this is far from an adequate treatment on the doctrine of salvation. I had such high hopes for this book and the uses it could have in the church where I pastor. Now I am left though wanting the second edition of the book to come out so they can fix this glaring omission! Or...maybe just put this chapter on the book website for those who would not want it left out.
43 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Essential Doctrine for ChristiansApril 8 2010
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Christians are called to know, appreciate, and dispense the crucial doctrines of the biblical faith. Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears have stepped up and endowed the church with a modern and simple presentation of the most important doctrinal teachings of the Christian religion. The authors previously published the "Vintage Jesus" and in this new volume they help make theology appealing in their straightforward writing style.
Pastor Driscoll (Mars Hill) and Breshears (professor of theology Western Seminary) combine to bestow this volume to Christians whereby this very readable book instructs the reader in the most basic truths of Christianity. Yes this is not Berkoff, Grudem, or Reymond, but the authors approach theology from a Reformed position as they present doctrines concerning:
- Who God is - How God speaks - How God loves - How God saves - And much more
I came to this book because of the strong endorsement from John Frame and this work is excellent for the new believer, teens, busy housewives, and others who want to learn the basic doctrines of the Christian faith in a non-technical manner. Effective, exceptional, simple, educational, and edifying. Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity or "God Does Exist!: Defending the Faith using Presuppositional apologetics, Evidence, and the Impossibility of the Contrary"
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Doctrine or Distinctives?Aug. 25 2010
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Though I have much respect for Mark Driscoll, I found the book to be less a systematic theology as represented and more of a "distinctives" book on Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I was less then impressed with his handling of many topics including his unorthodox view on the atonement where he coins the phrase Limited, Unlimited Atonement. Driscoll's attempt to reconcile the atonement between Calvinism and Arminianism is fraught with theological holes and dramatically limits the power of the cross. This was a great disappointment to me. It also sets an attitude of "everyone else for 1500 years is wrong but me". Additionally, the flow of the book can be confusing at times. I suspect this is due to the two authors trying to blend material. This is most evident in Chapter 1 where the topic seems to change from one paragraph to another and then back again.
His handling of the gospel and living a missional lifestyle is right on and well written. To be fair to Driscoll this is his specialty and he nails it. He is equally as brilliant in the chapters on the incarnation (very well done) and the handling of the church. These chapters alone make the book worth reading. Doctrine will challenge your view of the Gospel and incite you to action and for this I applaud the book.
I would recommend his book but be discerning about the theology and don't expect it to be a robust systematic theology. It is clearly not that.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Facepalms a plenty!Jan. 31 2012
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I bought this book because I live in the Seattle area and I've visited several Mars Hill Church outlets. I've found Mars Hill churches to be different (great music), successful, and for some reason I couldn't quite figure out, just a bit tweaked. So, I wanted their take on what Christains should believe, and I suppose I got it.
First of all, this book is not that long and it isn't dry. The font is very readible and the spacing of the text makes it a very low fatigue book to read. The writing is informal and conversational style. So I have no sympathy for those who think it's dry and stuffy.
Athough the printing and writing style didn't give me any headaches, the facepalms on the way through might have given me a concussion! I expected a lot of "you should" statements with little numbers referenceing hoards of bible passages, many taken out of context. But there was more than that, and I thought it best to mention specifics rather than generalities as others often do.
Here are some of my "facepalm moments".
Page12. Tertullian mentioned as being the first to use the word "Trinity", but the reader is not told that this is in his "Against Praxeas" letter, which can be doanloaded for free from many sites and explains the Trinity way better than chapter 1 of this book.
Page 14. The authors write that "Jesus is repeatedly declared to be God throughout the Scriptures by both others and himself, without apology or correction."
This whole "Jesus is God" meme that is used at Mars Hill goes against the vast majority (the "thundering chorus" to use the authors' terms) of Scripture in the New Testament where the word "God" explicitely or implicitely (as in Jesus being the "Son of God") means the Father person of the Trinity. "God" almost always is synonymous with "Father" in the New Testament. The exceptions are few and far between, and are often rendered differently among the various English translations, some preserving the disctinction between the Father and Son persons of the Trinity far better than others.
The NIV is very good at conflating "Jesus" with "God". Other transaltions either render these passages in a way that better preservers the distinction between the persons of Jesus and the Father, or they have footnotes for these difficult passages that show alternate readings which preserve the distinction. For example, Acts 20:28 reads in my NIV "Be Shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with His own blood". My NIV also has a footnote that says that many manusctips say "of the Lord" rather than "of God". The RSV says "...church of God which he obtained with the blood of His own Son." Somewhat different, right? Beware of authors who use what I call "one translation theology".
The authors also write on page 14 that Jesus was ultimately put to death for declaring himself to be God. I read the trial account of all four Gospels, and Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin for answering "yes" when asked if he was the Son of God. That is not the same as "declaring himself to be God." Look up the word "declare" in the dictionary and ask yourself if that is what Jesus did. To be fair, the authors go over this on page 222. This is a confusing book!
Then we've got the very special translation of Gen 1:1 that supposedly shows Jesus in this passage as the "firstborn" based on a translation of the Targum Neofiti, but when I downloaded an English Targum Neofiti it said "wisdom", not "first born". Go figure.
Then supposedly the term "Angel of the Lord" is synonymous with the Son person of the trinity based on Hagar's encounter with such an angel in Genesis 16. I never would have thought of that, and when I read that passage I still don't.
The chapter on the Trinity reminds me of that old "Mr. Plow" Simpsons episode where toward the end Homer is driving his plow up into the mountains to rescue Barney who is stuck in an avalanch. Homer drives over a valley on a one lane rope bridge that sways back and forth and has planks falling out of the bottom. Then he looks to his left and see a highway suspension bridge that he could have taken. To me, this chapter is the rope bridge, and the Gospel of John is the suspension bridge. Why not start where the Trinity is easy to understand and work backwards and forwards from there?
Once I survived the first chapter, I found these other gems:
Page 48. According to the authors, Jesus can say "not an iota, not a dot" of the "Bible" can be ignored!? Was Jesus referring to the NIV, NASB, or maybe "The Message"? There's a whole lot more than an iota difference between those! Or, maybe the King James Version. If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it's good enough for me! Jesus was referring to the Law of Moses, not "the Bible".
Page 49. According to the authors, "...there are no parts of the Bible we don't believe, don't like, or won't teach or preach or obey". Well, that explains why everyone greets one another with a holy kiss (explicitely commanded five times and by both Peter and Paul) at Mars Hill churches. Oh wait...they don't do that. I guess some parts of the Bible are more "plenary" than others. To be fair, this is addressed on page 74. Why not here? Wouldn't this have been an opportune place to discuss why we desregard explicit commands in scripture if they go against the grain of culture?
Page 65. The authors write, "Likewise, the New Testament ends with its final book, Revelation, telling us that no other books of the Bible are to be written after it." John must have known they'd put Revelation in the back of the Bible! Guess what existed when the end of Revelation was written, the book of Revelation, or "the Bible".
Page 156. The authors tell us that "The Bible speaks of some non-Christians who...do some "good" things." And the examples are all people from before there could be any Christians! How about Enoch? No there's a "non-Christian" who was good!
Page 158. That serpent! That authors write that the Serpent's work is pride and self-glory. He continues his war against God. The Serpent has demons, demon possessed people, false prophets...and...he's on the cover of the book!!! And, his head is not being crushed. He is alive and well on the cover! You can't make this stuff up!
Page 181. The authors write, "As decades, centuries, and millennia pass with little change in the world, it's easy for us to lose hope that things will ever be different." Wow! Talk about cynical! Little change in the world? Jesus set in motion a chain of events that blessed billions of people over course of the past two millennia. Study history much?
Page 197. The authors write, "The question of whether new-covenant Christians are under the Law of Moses is incridibly complicated..." Hey professor! Hey mega-church leader! Read about the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. That makes it all very clear, at least for us Gentile believers.
Page 223. Here we are back on the "Jesus is God" meme. This is not typical Bible language. It's interesting that the Gospel of Mark begins with, "The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God." These authors force me to hold "Son of God" and "God" in my head as meaning the same thing, but they do not. Why is this necessary? Why all the prooftexting and straining at scripture? Why all the one translation theology? Why is the exclamation of "doubting Thomas" when Jesus appears to him considered a doctrinal statement? Is was more like a freak out!
Page 276. The authors write, "The cross is something done by you. You murdered God incarnate". It is interesting to me that when I read the book of Acts I found who Peter held responsible for murdering Jesus. It's in Acts 2:23, Acts 3:15, Acts 4:10, Acts 5:30, Acts 10:39, Acts 13:27 and it isn't me, and it isn't anyone alive today. Also interesting is that when Paul went to the synagogues in all the towns he preached in, he didn't go in there and start accusing them of "murdering God incarnate". He didn't even do that before the Sanhedren in Acts 22, so why does pastor Mark Driscoll do this today?
Page 293. The authors write, "The early church stopped worshipping on Saturday as Jews had for thousands of years and suddenly began worshipping on Sunday in memory of Jesus' Sunday resurrection." But the two Bible verses the authors quote don't say anything about "in memory of Jesus' Sunday resurrection." In Acts 20:7, they met during the "first day of the week" and in the evening. The Jewish calendar has days starting at sun down, not sun rise. So this would be our Saturday night. One of the myths of "churchianity" is that immediately after Jesus' resurrection all the traditions of the modern church suddenly sprang into place and nothing has changed since. All I can say is study history.
You'll see this churchianity myth on page 307 where the authors just make up their own story about what it said in Acts 2:42-47, Page 351. Cain and Able misinterpreted. In the story, Able is explicitely described as one who brought the "best" of what he had. Cain just brought some stuff that was not described as "best". Cain's jealousy started after God rejected his offering. (I wonder if these authors even read the scriptures they quote!)
Oh, and that "mutual indwelling" mentioned on page 350 to 351 is just something someone made up. Does it happen while I stand and "worship" while the awesome rock band plays so loud that I genuinely fear hearing damage, or while I watch the recorded sermon on the big screen TV? (At Mars Hill, you are "worshipping" if you stand while the rock band plays, but not if you sit while they play.)
Page 352. Here we have another part of churchianity mythology, and that's the idea of "corporate worship." The authors write that, "The New Testament is clear that God's people are to regularly gather for corporate worship." No doubt that explains why meetings are never referred to as "worship" in the New Testament and "worship" is never described as a meeting. Sure, we Christians need each other and we need to spend time together. They did that in the New Testament, and their was organization and leadership and purpose in those meetings. The requirement that the authors go on to list for "corporate worship" are what I hope all meetings of Christians would be like, "corporate" or not.
Page 377. The authors write, "Generous stewards are storing up treasures in heaven", and then they quote Matthew 6:19-21 where Jesus commands us to store up treasures in heaven rather than on Earth. This is directly after a paragraph were the reader is told to aspire to grow in financial giving to "our" church. It is interesting to me that the three passages (the same story in three of the Gospels) where Jesus links giving to the poor with getting treasure in heaven are not mentioned in the discussion of "treasure in heaven". Why is that?
Page 380. It's that electricity's fault that people are workin' too hard and are continually interrupted by technology! (Sometimes these authors' read like bible-thumpers from the backwoods of Whodathunkit Misery.) Yes, in the past generation people may be overworked, but I'll bet they got overworked before that electricity too! Perhaps pastor Driscoll and professor Breshears should quit usin' the stuff! But then, how would they play video recordings of pastor Driscoll's sermons over multiple mammoth flat panel screens simultaneously in all his churches? Maybe electricity is safe for the clergy, but not safe for us laypeople.
Page 396. According to the authors, "In the Old Testament, the tithe referred to God's people giving the first 10 percent of their gross income, also called 'firstfruits' to fund the Levite priests' ministery." Actually, the "firstfruits" and "tithes" were separate functions. The "firstfruits" were offerings made at the beginning of a harvest and had nothing to do with the "tithes". The Levites "tithed" a tenth of the "tithe" they received from the rest of the Israelites and gave it to the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron also got the separate "firstfruits" offerings. Oh well, what can you expect from a mega-church pastor and a professor of theology? Accuracy? Not these days.
So, because of the ruthless prooftexting; the conflating of Jesus the "Son of God" with "God" which does not clarify but confuses; some statements that show an almost profound kind of ignorance; churchianity myths all over again; the innacuracies; and the glaring omissions of crucial scriptures where I would think they should be, and finally that healthy serpent front-and-center on the cover, I've decided that this book is not a "reference" but really just a long, confused opinion piece. It does far better at cataloging what Christians should not believe than what they should. If this is the first theology book you've read, then congratulations. Now please do yourself a favor and read some more.