[This is the first post in the Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe series]
Recently, I’ve been working through Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. I thought it might be helpful to offer a bit of play-by-play, for a couple of reasons at least. One is that the book itself claims to be what Christians should believe, not necessarily a compilation of what some of them do profess to believe. From the product description on Westminster’s site, it says:
Doctrine is the word Christians use to define the truth-claims revealed in Holy Scripture. Of course there is a multitude of churches, church networks, and denominations, each with their own doctrinal statement with many points of disagreement. But while Christians disagree on a number of doctrines, there are key elements that cannot be denied by anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus.
So in other words, these are the core teachings that must be agreed on in order to claim to be a Christian. There are certainly plenty of nut-jobs out their claiming to be Christians, but claiming to be a Christian does not necessarily make one so. On the flipside, believing a certain set of doctrines does not make one a Christian either, as if Christianity could be reduced to mental assent to a few propositions, some of which may be seem more reasonable than others when examined at face value. This book then is clarifying what doctrines form the core of orthodox Christianity, with reference to some issues where valid disagreement still exists.
A helpful summary of it seemed to be in order.
The other reason I think a play by play might be helpful then, is to not only highlight what this book claims are the core doctrines, but to evaluate some of its other claims. In reading the first few chapters so far, I ran across a few items that I know from my studies in seminary to not be entirely accurate. I don’t think this is intentional on the author’s part, but seems to be attempts to nail something down in absence of a firm handle on the scholarly literature on that particular topic. You’ll see what I mean tomorrow in the post on the Trinity. At times, oversimplification can be both helpful and harmful. If they clarified everything with ultimate precision, each chapter of this book would be its own book. That of course might not be a bad idea, since if you are going to base your life on the truth of Christianity, you ought to be fairly well read in what it has historically taught to be true. It might have been better, in the cases that I highlight, to have simply omitted the material as it would not detract from the overall presentation.
On the whole though, I have found the book to very straightforward and accurate in its presentation of what the Bible teaches on the topics it is dealing with. This book should be read by anyone who wants to get a firmer grasp on what Christians have historically believed to be true. For a Christian, it will be helpful to see the threads of Christian thought traced rather extensively through the Bible. For the skeptic, it will allow one to actually see what Christians are supposed to believe, regardless of what Joe Christian in the church pew can adequately articulate. The book is divided into 13 chapters, and I’ll post on here a brief summary of each one, noting the questions it answers, what is helpful and what I think is not so much.
Here’s the posts in this series: