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Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Depending on where you are in the world – or even where you are in Sydney – it’s either fashionable to criticise Driscoll or to unabashedly praise him. I thought Death By Love was a very helpful book (except for the chapter on “Unlimited Limited Atonement”) and I thought Vintage Jesus was okay. Vintage ChurchI was not a fan of at all.

I think partly because of what I expected. I think I expected something of an introductory explanation of the doctrine of the church. That’s not exactly what this book contains. The first few chapters are an attempt at this, but then the rest of the book spirals off into other territory, such as multi-campus church and video-preaching. And I suppose those topics are controversial and Driscoll needs to outline his philosophy somewhere and so why not here?

Let me say that I found the chapter on why preaching to be fairly good. Not unreservedly good or great, but fairly helpful.

Here were my three main struggles:

1) Driscoll’s style of theology is, in my opinion, barely theology. In a lot of ways the conclusions we come to are more alike than not. But Driscoll’s method is problematic. It amounts largely to simply a re-statement of a historical position – in this case the Reformed position. And it’s not as though there’s anything wrong with this per se; I would plant my flag in the broadly Reformed camp. The problem is that Driscoll’s style is often simply assertion followed by a string of Bible verses – or in Driscoll’s case a string of individual footnotes. This gives the impression of deep reflection and strong biblical support. When, however, these verses are chased up often they are strained or misunderstood.

I’m not against a re-statement of historical positions. But it’s not doing theology. And assertion followed by a string of tangential verses is even less so.

2) When he does discuss those innovative and controversial parts of Mars Hill, multi-campus video churches, he isn’t particularly careful to show how they come out of his broader theology of church, or preaching. They’re again just asserted as helpful or practical or useful. But most people’s concerns aren’t so much with their usefulness but with their justification theologically. Driscoll isn’t particularly sharp here.

3) When Driscoll attempts more sophisticated theology, like his “Unlimited Limited Atonement” he struggles a lot. For example, on page 24 of Vintage Church  he speaks of the work of the Spirit and the new heart and life of the Christian and says “This regeneration, or the imparted righteousness of Jesus …” I mean that’s not even a rookie mistake. Regeneration is not the same as the imparted righteousness of Christ.

Another example is when he speaks of authentic churches being Acts 2 churches. He never explains how that Acts 2, non-gentile, church could ever be seen as the final limus test for a true church seeing as how there are no Gentiles in it yet. But beyond that, as he does turn to explain and unpack this true church in Acts 2 he makes 8 points, including points like the importance of preaching which is fair enough I suppose. But to say that being “devoted to the apostles teaching” is the same as modern preaching probably needs to be argued for. It’s probably fair theologically, but you might want to argue for it and show the steps. Driscoll doesn’t. But that wouldn’t be a huge issue. The problem comes in some of the later points like 4) rightly administered sacraments. Is that really what “breaking of bread” refers to? Or 5) Unity in the Spirit? Or 6) Practicing church discipline?

Maybe those things are key but finding them in the Acts 2 church summary statement might tell you more about Driscoll than about what the Bible actually says.

But the book, as with all the Re:Lit books, does have a cool cover.

I’d give the whole thing 1 star. I wouldn’t think it’s worth your effort. Find something else to read.