Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. By Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. 464 pp. Cloth, $22.99.
The positives of Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, are that it is conservative, it is written in a way that is accessible to the layperson, there is an extensive scripture index in the back along with a relatively-good subject index, and the book is thorough for being such a short treatment of systematic theology.
The negatives are that it proclaims a moderate form of Lordship Salvation (For example, see p. 188, 270, 317), though this is not emphasized, it does not provide exegesis or exposition of biblical passages, but merely proof-texting (all Scripture references are in footnotes), it tends to view all aspects of doctrine in light of soteriology, the kingdom is presented as already/not-yet (p.411-17), and Scripture is only rarely quoted in the text. Instead, Reformed scholars are often cited to prove doctrines. See also more concerns below.
I am baffled by the choice of the publisher to use the serpent from the Garden of Eden for the cover of a book that is subtitled “What Christians Should Believe.” (Compare the cover with the image on p. 144.) It is hard to imagine less appropriate imagery.
Because of the breadth of topics covered in the book, I will not be able to give a review of every idea presented. The places I do discuss are chosen because of their interest for JOTGES readers.
The section, “Aspects of Our Humanity in the New Testament” on pages 126-30 is poor. For example, in arguing that the Bible sometimes uses pneuma as an equivalent for “soul” and “flesh” (p. 127), the authors cite Phlm 17 and 2 Cor 2:13 and 7:5 respectively as proof. Philemon 17 does not use the term pneuma or the Greek word for soul, psuche, nor does the context have anything to do with either. In fact, in the whole book of Philemon, pneuma only appears once in the closing verse (v 25, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”), and psuche doesn’t appear at all in the book. Regarding using 2 Cor 2:13 and 7:5 as proof texts for the idea that the Bible equates the spirit and the flesh, they are making the assumption that because Paul’s spirit can have “no rest” (due to not being able to find Timothy) and his flesh can have “no rest” (due to physical trials) they must both be the same thing.
Furthermore, when arguing for man being dichotomous, the authors make this unqualified statement: “trichotomy is rooted more in Greek philosophy than biblical exegesis” (p. 129). This statement turns reality on its head. Dichotomy is not from the Bible but is straight from Plato and Neo-Platonism and did not enter into Christian thought (outside of the Gnostics) until Augustine’s rejection of the Millennium. The dichotomy of flesh and soul/spirit fit well into Augustine’s Amillennialism because it played into the idea that physical = bad therefore the kingdom must not be literal. Augustine’s dependence upon Plato and Plotinus is well-documented, so it is not surprising that he borrowed this idea as well. By contrast, 1 Thess 5:23 and Heb 4:12 (along with many other Biblical passages) teach a distinction between soul and spirit.
This book also argues for two contradictory views regarding the Mosaic Law, presenting both as valid options. First, it argues that the Law of Moses is divided into three parts, Ceremonial, Civil, and Moral, and that the Christian is bound to the “moral law” (p. 198-99). Second, it argues that “the whole law is valid until its purpose is accomplished in Christ” (p. 199). The end of this section suggests the latter view is correct, but this is flatly contradicted on the previous page (second and third full paragraphs) in an ipso facto manner. The reader is left with no real guidance concerning which view is correct and the book ends up siding with both Paul and the Galatian Judaizers. This is a serious flaw in the book because it plays both sides of the most significant struggle in Paul’s written ministry.
On a positive note, I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter, “Trinity: God Is.” It was encouraging and thought-provoking, and this chapter would make the book worth picking up in paperback. The second and third chapters, “Revelation: God Speaks,” and “Creation: God Makes,” were good as well. Coming from a conservative Evangelical viewpoint, it is not surprising that I could say, “Amen” to what was written here.
Overall, this book does contain some good things, but the negatives make it so that I could not be comfortable giving it to a new believer, or even one that is not thoroughly grounded. I do, however, recommend that pastors read it. It is likely that there will be some in their congregations who will read it and they should be aware of what it says, both good and bad.
Grace Bible Church