November 29, 2013

Review: A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll

Driscoll, Mark. A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? (Tyndale, 2013), 328 pp.

Controversial Resurgence leader Mark Driscoll’s new book is intended to be “a clarion call for every believer.” Driscoll wants believers to realize that we “are living in a post-Christian culture,” and that this involves “good and bad news. The good news is that God is still working . . . the bad news is that many believers just don’t get it.”

Driscoll sets the stage in the first chapter by telling his readers that “Christendom is dead.” He follows up in chapters two and three by describing how Christendom died (“How We Got Our Bell Rung”) and what has taken it’s place (“A New Reality”). It is in chapter three that Driscoll introduces his take on what he calls Christian “tribalism,” which he calls the “predominant culture” of evangelicalism (p. 86). Driscoll offers a broad definition of evangelicalism (pp. 95-96) and then uses four questions (“Are you Reformed or Arminian?”, “Are you complementarian or egalitarian?”, “Are you continuationist or cessationist?”, and “Are you missional or fundamental?”) to help believers identify which tribe they are a part of. In chapter four, Driscoll attempts to help his readers relate to and cooperate with believers in other tribes. These tribes, he says, are like “regions” within the larger “nation” of evangelical Christianity (pp. 118-119), and Christians must learn to unite with believers from other tribes around the essentials of the faith (p. 121). He then details these essentials with thirteen theses on topics running the gamut from Theology proper to Christian stewardship (pp. 123-136). Chapter five is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. This chapter is largely devoted to arguing for Driscoll’s own chastened form of Charismatic theology (though he prefers the term “Spirit empowered,” p. 157). Chapter six is a call for believers to live and preach repentance in the face of mounting cultural pressure. The seventh and final chapter details “seven principles for resurgence.” These seven principles form the core of the “missional” brand of Christianity that Driscoll wants his readers to embrace. In addition there are two appendices. The first contains a broad historical overview of Christian renewal movements (starting with the Reformation). After concluding his overview of church history, Driscoll then draws out several principles for “missional resurgence” and offers “a word to tribal chiefs.” The second appendix consists of an annotated list of recommended books that deal with many of the topics covered earlier in the book in greater detail.

There’s a lot to like about this book. First of all, whatever one thinks about Driscoll’s methods or his (sometimes abrasive) manner, he clearly loves the gospel and wants to reach others with it. In a culture where many Christian leaders are so concerned with reaching the lost that they water down or replace the biblical gospel in order to gain a hearing, a straight-talking, biblically-faithful gospel preacher is a rare thing and a cause for rejoicing. Driscoll also sees the importance of theology and church history, and he does an admirable job of translating systematic and historical theology for the masses. He also attempts to strike a sound, biblical balance in several areas where many Christians are prone to excess in one direction or another (like Pneumatology and Missiology, for example). Though I think he fails as often as he succeeds, I appreciate the effort. Finally, to top it all off, the book is just simply well-written. It flows well, entertains, and packs a rhetorical punch.

However, though there is a lot to like about A Call to Resurgence, there is also much cause for concern.

First of all, there is Driscoll's defense of charismatic theology. While I recognize that continuationism is a legitimate option within Evangelical theology, that doesn't make it any less wrong. Driscoll's exegesis of the relevant texts (like 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 on p. 169, for example) is shallow, and his defense of tongues as a "private prayer language" (p. 165), while typical of continuationists, simply doesn't measure up to Scripture. Having said that, I applaud Driscoll for taking a more-balanced approach than others, even critiquing some forms of continuationist theology and practice (pp. 171-173). However, Driscoll's attempt to label this approach "Spirit empowered" is less than helpful and, frankly, offensive, as it suggests that those of us who disagree with his theology are less spiritual than him (he even accuses cessationists of "quenching the Spirit" on p. 169).

Another problem is the false dichotomy Driscoll has set up between "missional" Christianity and "fundamentalism" (pp. 108-110). Apparently, a fundamentalist is anyone who does church in a way that is more traditional (and I would argue, in many cases, more biblical) than Driscoll. Mark Dever and Kevin DeYoung are fundamentalists? Seriously? Though he lumps men like Dever and DeYoung in with fundamentalism (just like a theological liberal would), they don't even fit the definition that Driscoll himself offers on p. 109. Also, though I can agree in theory with much of what Driscoll writes here about being "missional," in practice it seems that being "missional" is often a cover for pragmatism and worldliness and leads to unbiblical ecclesiology and worship practices.

Most problematic is Driscoll's advocacy of an unbiblical form of ecumenism that prizes unity over truth. Driscoll downplays important doctrinal distinctions in order to embrace false teachers (like Joyce Meyer, T. D. Jakes, and Joel Osteen, see pp. 83-86, 100), declaring them to be within the pale of orthodoxy. His advocacy of these charlatans as fellow evangelicals is more than just disheartening—it is disturbing, even sickening—and it should be enough to disqualify Driscoll from church leadership. Though, that will never happen, as Driscoll is seemingly accountable to no one but himself.

Which brings me to my final criticism: Driscoll's apostolic self-understanding. Apparently, Driscoll believes there is an office in the church higher than that of the pastor. It seems that these super-pastors, which he labels "tribal chiefs" (of which he is one, of course) are basically modern-day apostles. Near the end of Appendix A, it becomes clear that Driscoll sees himself as a "pastor-plus," one with "apostolic ministry responsibility" (p. 292). It seems that, in his mind at least, Driscoll is writing as one apostle to others hoping to influence these other modern-day apostles so that they will then lead us mere mortals to follow the path to resurgence that he has laid out for us. If this sounds reminiscent of the heretical claims of the New Apostolic Reformation (C. Peter Wagner and his ilk) that's probably because it is. The difference is that it has now been dressed up to look more orthodox. This is disturbing to say the least.

Though Driscoll gets the gospel right and keeps it at the center, on several secondary issues, I fear that he is dangerously wrong. These doctrines, though not primary, are still important, and embracing false teachings in these areas will have consequences. I fear that, for many who follow Driscoll (and perhaps Driscoll himself), those consequences will be spiritually damaging. There is much anecdotal evidence that suggests they already have been. Having said that, I enjoyed this book. I really did. Unfortunately, however, I cannot recommend it without serious qualifications.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

A Call to Resurgence is available here:

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