A new book A Call To Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? by Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington has come out that seeks to give a clarion call to help Christians understand that they live in a post-Christian culture and how to live in that culture as Kingdom citizens. This review will focus on three areas of strength and three areas of concern.
In chapter one Driscoll talks about cultural Christianity by explaining how it is dead and how true Christians need to stand up for the Truth. Chapter two explains the new paganism through the lens of oneism and twoism. Two-ism is the biblical doctrine that Creator and creation are separate while atheistic oneism is the belief that there is nothing and no one beyond physical matter. The third chapter explores how tribes communicate and helps the reader understand where they are on the spectrum on Calvinism/Arminian issue, complementarian/egalitarian, continuationist/cessationist, or missional or fundamental issues. Chapter four covers ground that Mark has covered in his book Doctrine. The point of this chapter is to try to provide a doctrinal and theological framework so various theological traditions can work together. Chapter five explains how the Holy Spirit has empowered the people of God for the mission of God. Chapter six explores the biblical teaching on repentance. Chapter seven explores how God has called His people to mission. Finally the book concludes with two appendix aimed at helping readers understand various tribes, their history and concludes in the second appendix with a long list of recommended reading on the issues the author examines in The Call To Resurgence.
Mark has a keen eye for understanding what people think and why they think the way they do with a view to teach his readers/listeners the truth about biblical Christianity. This is no small feat and to be honest, I know very few people who can do this as well as Driscoll can. Second, I appreciate Mark’s emphasis on the family and on being godly men. Christian men today need strong godly examples in a culture that emphasizes to men that they are to be functionally women. For this reason I appreciate Mark’s strong teaching on men leading their families and being a one woman man. Finally, I appreciate that Driscoll is a man who is seeking to broaden his horizons to speak to the broader evangelical world. The broader evangelical world needs voices like this. While I have concerns about how Driscoll does this and will register those concerns here in a second, I appreciate the fact that Driscoll is trying to speak up on issues that many Christians are concerned about.
Areas of Concern
My first concern about this book is the tone. I remember sitting in the Ballard campus of Mars Hill at a service where Mark cracked a joke about Mormons in the middle of his sermon. At times in this book I got the sense this was the same Mark who liked to crack jokes in his sermons. I understand people like to make jokes and Mark believes in the importance of making jokes. I’m not against making jokes but I think at times Mark thinks he is acting appropriately when in fact he isn’t. Removing the jokes from this book would help the reader to take seriously the serious message he is declaring.
Second, during the course of Mark’s book he sets forth his vision of being strongly evangelical (Chapter four). Mark has been criticized in the past for making poor judgment calls in regards to who he associates with. This book continues this trend when he states regarding the Elephant room two, “The big idea was pretty simple: get Christian leaders to sit down and talk to one another in an informal and respectful way. The hope was to model civility among Christian leaders and the importance of talking with people instead of just about them in an effort to build mutual understanding, if not affection, among leaders for the good of the church” (84). He tells a story about a conversation he had with T.D. Jakes (pages 84-85) and then notes, “The point is that Christianity has become so splintered and separated that even Christian leaders don’t know one another. I likely had as little knowledge of T.D. Jakes ministry as he did of mine” (86).
In contemporary evangelicalism today it is not popular to name, names, and it is even less popular to “call out people” for being a heretic. In the case of Jakes though he is a heretic. At The Potter House’s website, under their statement of faith regarding God, they state, “There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”[i] The keywords here are “three manifestations.” If Jakes believed in the Trinity he should use words like “simultaneous,” “coeternal,” or “coequal” when referring to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s relationship to one another. T.D. Jakes view on the nature of God is known as modalism. Modalism is a heresy that teaches the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not simultaneously exist as distinct persons. Rather, God at some times and places is the Father, at some times the Son, and other times the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly teaches about the Trinity that: There is but one living and true God (Deut. 6:4; Is. 45:5-7; 1 Cor. 8:4), an infinite, all-knowing Spirit (John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, eternally existing in three Persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)–each equally deserving worship and obedience.
When Driscoll a recognized leader in the young, restless and reformed movement doesn’t make a distinction between Jakes who is a heretic and himself, I raise my eyebrow and wonder, “Does Driscoll have doctrinal discernment?” He encourages his readers in this book to understand the difference between primary doctrine that is directly related to the Gospel, and second order doctrines. As I’ve thought long and hard about this book what unsettles me the most and what I think undoes the work he has set out to do is the embrace of Jakes as a Christian leader.
Driscoll preaches the Gospel in a city that is pagan. He is also challenging the Church in this book to stand up for the Word of God and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, and to unite for the mission of God. While all of that is good and even noble to want unity in the Body of Christ—unity can never come at the expense of sound biblical doctrine. By stating as he does that in Elephant room two the purpose was “get Christian leaders to sit down” (84-85) Driscoll undermines his ability to speak to the people of God and does serious damage to the Body of Christ. This is a man who has written eloquently on the Trinity in his book on Doctrine and in his sermon series by the same title. This is a man who has connections all over the evangelical and Reformed world from respected leaders such as D.A. Carson, John Piper and R.C. Sproul, who has gone on TV with some of the most hostile cultural critics Christianity has and defended the Truth. Yet, when push came to shove Driscoll didn’t call Jakes a heretic, he leaned over and said something to Jakes he couldn’t repeat in his book (85) and enjoyed fellowship with a man in Jakes who denies a central tenet of orthodox biblical Christianity.
The final critique comes from page 225 where Driscoll states:
“Paul is the biblical author who speaks of predestination, sovereign grace, and election. Those who hold more Reformed theological beliefs are most likely to be criticized by other tribes for lacking in overall evangelistic zeal and Christian converts. And while this Reformed group likes to say that they are most true to Paul’s teaching, to be truly Pauline is not merely to believe what Paul believed, but also to do what Paul did. He traveled upward to twenty miles a day on foot, preached the gospel to anyone and everyone, suffered repeatedly, was imprisoned, and was nearly unstoppable when it came to evangelism” (225).
When one zooms out and looks at even a cursory reading of the Reformed literature—one can see that John Calvin was very deeply interested in training men to go out and plant churches from Geneva. Furthermore, one of Mark’s favorite men in church history Charles Spurgeon must be included in this as according to Mark, Spurgeon didn’t “do what Paul did”. This comment by Driscoll perpetuates the myth that Calvinists aren’t interested in evangelism and mission but only interested in doctrinal precision. That myth is not only incorrect it has no basis in church history because the Reformers, Puritans and later leaders of Reformed churches were not only doctrinally solid they were also steadfast in their commitment to missions and evangelism.
As has been noted by many people already (Aaron Armstrong and Tim Challies for starters) A Call To Resurgence has some good things and some questionable things in this book. The question is this, “Would I recommend this book to others?” This book had much promise. The call to unite around common biblical doctrines is to be commended but since Mark lacks discernment in who he associates with; that undermines his message.
A Call To Resurgence could have truly been a wakeup call to the Church but instead it fizzles. This book calls for doctrinal fidelity but then provides an example of what not to do—namely associate with a heretic. While Driscoll wants to be a leader and speak to the broader evangelical church; given his platform and the amount of people following him and Mars Hill- people will likely listen to what he has to say. Contemporary evangelicalism is obsessed with charismatic leaders who can speak well and write well. Yet, at the end of the day Mark Driscoll is no Charles Spurgeon a man who stood up for the Truth of the Word of God and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Spurgeon gave his life to the Word of God and the Gospel, but it appears that Driscoll has succumbed to the spirit of the age namely the fascination with attracting more and more people around him—all the while preaching the Word of God but denying its truth through who he chooses to associate and affirm as brother and fellow labor in the Gospel. At the end of the day, Driscoll wants to speak broadly to evangelicalism but is not the man for position of statesman of evangelicalism.
The Church needs Spurgeon’s men who are stalwarts in the Truth who not only fearlessly proclaim the Gospel, but who also model that Truth to the people of God. At the end of the day this book falls victim to its own advertising—a man who proclaims a message he is convinced is true but who sadly tears down the message he proclaims through who he associates with. It is for this reason that I cannot recommend this book, a book that I felt would be a blessing to the Church is instead a colossal flop.
Author: Mark Driscoll
Publisher: Tyndale (2013)
I received this for free from Tyndale book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”