Book Review: Doctrine by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Many thanks to Crossway for a review copy of Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears.

An Overview

According to its Preface, “Doctrine seeks to trace the big theological themes of Scripture along the storyline of the Bible.”  Doctrine has thirteen chapters: 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.  Each chapter is succinct and to the point, in keeping with the Preface: “This book is packed with truth without many stories for illustration and entertainment.  These omissions are intentional.  We believe God’s Story is perfect, and we want it to be in focus.”

A Critique

Weaknesses.  We’re talking 464 pages as opposed to Grudem’s Systematic of 1264, so don’t expect a lot of detailed discussions.  Rather, as the authors indicated, we’re talking a book “packed with truth.”  Because of this, the authors tend to be dogmatic at times, without offering much to think about against opposition views.  For example, while favoring “propitiation,” the authors dismiss “sacrifice of atonement” and “expiation” (p. 259).  Second, the authors stand in the calvinistic-complementarian position.  This surfaces here and there.

Strengths.  Despite its limitations, I find Doctrine a good overview of the central truths of Scripture.  I’m particularly pleased that the authors decided to begin with a discussing of the “Trinity” rather than “Revelation.”  I’ve found the chapters on Creation: God Makes (3), Stewardship: God Gives (12), and Kingdom: God Reigns (13) quite good.  In fact, in the chapter Kingdom: God Reigns, there’s a discussion on hell, which also answers various objections to an eternal conscious punishment – sort of anticipating Rob Bell and Love Wins.  I don’t think I know of another Doctrine book that devotes an entirely chapter to “Stewardship.”

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a quick overview, to the point, yet biblical volume on the central truths of Scripture, then I recommend Doctrine.  Here’s John Frame on Doctrine, “There is much here to aid readers who have thought that theology was too complicated, uninteresting, or irrelevant.  This book is none of those things.”

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12 Responses to Book Review: Doctrine by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

    • T.C. R says:

      Chris E,

      Thanks for the link. But I’d be wary of a blog that is titled “Against Heresies.”

      • Chris E says:

        Heh. It’s named on the basis of the authors interests, rather than the authors focus. As he says there is plenty of other stuff on there.

  1. T.C. R says:

    Chris,

    I read the article and I really don’t see how their charge sticks. In the end, I like Driscoll and Breshears conclusion better. 😉

  2. Pingback: Elsewhere (05/19/2011) « Near Emmaus

  3. In fairness I too would be wary of a blog named ‘Against Heresies’ but the title is a dothing of the cap to Irenaeus rather than a statement about my own personal mission as the author of an attack blog. I’m interested in the theology and morality of heresy, and not in dedicating the little spare time that I have to denouncing all and sundry.

    If you have the time could you elaborate on your comment about the ‘charge’ in my post ‘not sticking’? I take it that Gerry Breshears is the principle author of the section denying eternal generation and procession, but to be honest, I don’t think that he describes the doctrine accurately. I would have thought that to be an absolute prerequisite in evaluating a doctrine. That is a separate issue in my mind as to where he, they, or anyone else for that matter, comes down on the issue.

  4. T.C. R says:

    Martin,

    Thanks for taking the time to interact on the matter a bit. Yes, when I saw the title Irenaeus immediately came to mind.

    The problem is that the authors, perhaps Breshears as the primary contributor to the section, do not offer much by way of “denying eternal generation and procession.”

    • Thanks for the response. The particular section I had in mind runs thus:

      “The whole attempt to define the eternal relations in the immanent or ontological Trinity seems misguided.

      First, God has given us no revelation of the nature of their eternal relations. We should follow the command of the Bible: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God” and refuse to speculate.

      Second, the Apostles’ Creed defines the Son as “begotten, not made.” The point was that something begotten was of the same substance as the one who does the begetting. But the term “begotten” could never be defined with any clarity, so it was of little use.

      Third, begotten unavoidably implies a beginning of the one begotten. That would certainly lend support to the the Arian heresy that the Son is a created being and not the Creator God.

      For these reasons it is best to omit the creedal terms “begotten” and “proceeds” from our definition of the Trinity. Our authority is not in creeds but in Scripture.”

      There is also the following comment in ‘Vintage Jesus’:

      “But if the Son is really begotten, it certainly sounds like we are headed into a cultish, Mormon-like understanding of a God who fathers children. Worse yet, it would also mean that rather than being eternal, the Son had a beginning, which is a core tenet of the Jehovah’s Witness cult.” (p. 102)

      From the above it seems that they envisage grave theological consequences if we think of the Son as eternally begotten by the Father. If it is to be omitted from the creed then it is a truth that cannot be affirmed and therefore ought to be denied.

  5. T.C. R says:

    Martin,

    Ah, well, I see the necessity of precaution on definitions here – again, back to the heresies of the first few centuries.

  6. I wonder whether the whole thing just needs ironing out. I suspect that the section is lacking some engagement with the Creator-creature distinction and anthropomorphic language rather than championing anything nasty. It just seems a little undercooked.

  7. T.C. R says:

    Martin,

    Actually, the authors are echoing Wayne Grudem, almost verbatim.

    While the engagement would certainly be helpful, as you know, using anthropomorphic language tends toward heresy, given the limitations of human analogies. This is the theological trepidation here.

  8. I think that writings on anthropomorphic language and the Creator-creature distinction need to be aired more often. All of Scripture is couched in anthropomorphic language, without it we could have no knowledge of God at all.

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