A Book You'll Actually Read

Darin Stone Articles
A Book You'll Actually Read Series Includes:
On Who Is God?
On the New Testament
On the Old Testament
On Church Leadership

by Mark Driscoll
Crossway (June 2008)
88 p.

Ministers both within and outside of the Reformed world commonly face two challenges: a biblically-illiterate congregation and a missional context that is almost completely ignorant of even the most basic tenets of the Christian faith.  In his "Man on the Street" interview, The Tonight Show host, Jay Leno, asked a college student if he could name just one of the Ten Commandments.  The response was, "Oh yes.  Freedom of speech!"

It is for such a time as this that Mark Driscoll has written a series of books entitled, A Book You'll Actually Read.  The series contains four books (On Who Is God?, On the Old Testament, On the New Testament, and On Church Leadership), each about 80 pages in length.  The average reader should be able to complete each book in about one hour.  

Functioning as a type of modern-day complement to Louis Berkhof's Summary of Christian Doctrine, Driscoll's series is intended to spell out essential Christian doctrines in a concise and palatable fashion.  He is aware that most people with little or no acquaintance with Christian theology are not likely to read works that are too wordy, do not get to the point quickly enough, or require a substantial theological background.  So his accessible, down-to-earth style, companied with theological rigor make these short books a perfect read for someone looking for an introduction to these topics.

Driscoll's first book, On Who Is God? focuses on theology proper.  He begins with a chapter that distills the various philosophical arguments for the existence of God.  Then he provides an overview of nine different perspectives on God, explores God's attributes, spells out an apologetic for the deity of Christ and for his resurrection, and concludes with a chapter on worship.  Remarkably, Driscoll is able to satisfactorily unfold many complex issues pertaining to theology proper in only 72 pages.  Readers are still likely to have further questions on the topic, so Driscoll provides an 11 page appendix with a thorough list of websites and books for further reading.
His next two books, On the Old Testament and On the New Testament have the same structures.  The first chapter in each of these books seeks to answer nine reoccurring questions on each testament that Driscoll has commonly faced as a pastor and student of the Bible.  Issues pertaining to authorship, canonization, inspiration, translation, and hermeneutics are among the questions that Driscoll addresses.  He then concludes both books by providing an overview of each genre of Scripture, and short paragraph or two unpacking the major issues, characteristics, and themes of each Old and New Testament book.  Readers are likely to benefit from the appendices, where Driscoll provides abundant and discerning resources for building a theological library.  He also includes a Bible-reading checklist. 

The final book is On Church Leadership.  Here, Driscoll unpacks the biblical rationale and practical benefits of a two office (elder and deacon) church.  He also provides a helpful and thorough (by the standards of this series) chapter on "Women and Ministry" providing a solid apologetic for complementarianism in the church.  Driscoll then discusses the privileges and responsibilities of church membership and concludes with a chapter suggesting a model for ministry leadership and organization.  There are three helpful appendices in this book.  The first answers several questions pertaining to ordination, church discipline, and additional objections to complementarianism.  The second provides further resources on church leadership.  The third appendix lays out the membership covenant from the church Driscoll pastors, Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

One questionable aspect of this book is that Driscoll's understanding of the office of deacon appears somewhat underdeveloped.  The bulk of this chapter (which is only six pages in length) is spent arguing for female deacons.  While the merits of female deacons can be debated, his argument for them is relatively weak, especially compared to his much more thoughtful assertion of qualified, male-only elders.  Furthermore, when we consider that Driscoll makes reference to a woman who serves as his "research and editing deacon" (p.56) it appears as if he has an uncomfortably broad understanding of the diaconal office. 

Nevertheless, these four books are an important and valuable contribution to the church.  Readers are likely to find Driscoll's straightforward, colloquial, and often humorous language refreshing.  He avoids the theological technicalities that are likely to cause someone without a seminary degree (and even some with it!) to doze off.  At the same time, he provides the reader with strong doctrinal categories and apologetically challenges the inconsistencies of the unbelieving worldview.  Driscoll's intelligent, yet winsome approach to arguments against Christianity should make ministers and other Christians comfortable placing this series in the hands of their unbelieving neighbors.

Darin Stone is the site pastor at Harbor Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Carlsbad, CA.