Over the coming weeks, I am going to do a summary review of Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears’ new book, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Basically, this means I will give a short summary of the content, then describing what was or wasn’t helpful. This is motivated, in part, because I think this book has the potential to be a great resource for churches to take their members through in a class setting, or as a supplement to a sermon series.
Chapter 1 – God Is: Trinity
Doctrine begins at the beginning–with the eternal God. Driscoll and Breshears (D&B) begin by describing the longings of the human heart, showing how these things reflect the designed longing we have the God of the Bible; specifically, longings for the Triune God.
As a starting place, D&B offer this definition: “The Trinity is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons–Father, Son, and Spirit–who are each fully and equally God in eternal relation with each other.” This is then is unpacked in the following pages of the book.
Scripture is used to show that there is only one God, yet that God exists as three Persons. After that, Exodus 34:6-7 is used to describe the character of the Trinue God. Following an exploration of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Old and New Testaments, we are given an overview of how the Church in history worked through this doctrine. This leads into a section that provides descriptions of theological errors related to the Trinity. Finally, the chapter ends with D&B laying out reasons why the doctrine of the Trinity matters and how it affects our life.
There are many! First is the amount of the information that is presented in a straightforward and engaging way. It would be easy to get bogged down in the weightiness of the subject and leave readers left with lots of questions and bewilderment. But D&B give enough information that it’s easy to see that this is a biblical doctrine, and they do so in a way that makes the chapter an easy read.
Second, D&B not only presents the biblical teaching, but they engage in an apologetic that clearly sets out the problems with unbiblical presentations of the triune nature of God. As this subject can be easily misunderstood, this was an especially welcome section.
The third strength was the amount of the Scripture presented in the chapter. D&B leave very little, if any, of their assertions without some footnote to at least one, if not several, verses of the Scripture to support it. This is good in that it shows what they are presenting isn’t just philosophical speculations, but teaching rooted in the Bible itself.
Finally, I appreciated that the doctrine of the Trinity was not just presented as something to be believed, but as a belief that has life-changing implications. The triunity of God makes clear both we are to live and relate, not only to God, but to one another. Furthermore, it provides a God whose character we can long to imitate.
Nothing really jumped out as a clear weakness in this chapter. Two things, did however, stick in my mind as potential weaknesses. First, there is no getting around the unique terminology involved with looking at the doctrine of the Trinity. I had heard all of this before in seminary and in other systematic theology books. But I would be interested to see if a Christian could have read through the chapter with as much ease as I did, especially if they hadn’t ever been taught much about the Trinity. Perhaps a familiarity with subject made it easier for me?
Second, I have noticed the trend in many book to footnote verse references rather than put them in parenthesis at the end of sentences. Doctrine follows this trend along with other books by Driscoll. This does make the text “cleaner” and tends to make for smoother reading. But again, I wonder what the effect will be on readers in the long-term? As the book-geek that I am, I tend to read every footnote and endnote. But the Church in the West has a tendency to not read the Bible as much as previous generations, and I wonder whether this will unintentionally encourage that negative trend.
I think this was a great beginning to the book! D&B did an excellent job of summarizing some difficult material in a way that leaves the reader feeling like it was important and life-affecting. They hit all of the point I could think of to hit, (and some more I hadn’t thought of!). I also think readers will not come away discouraged if they can’t comprehend the exact details of the three-in-one existence of God. Instead, I think they will see that it’s clearly what the Bible teaches, that the triune nature of God makes him superior to any other conception of God sinful humanity can come up with.