Book Review: Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll

Leave a comment

I’m coming late to the party. Radical Reformission was published 6 years ago, and has been debated every which way since. Even Missouri Baptists have grown tired of arguing it, which should indicate that I am very late to the party. However, it is more recently that I have become more interested in what Mark Driscoll is saying than in what people are saying about Mark Driscoll. Those two things seem to be very different, so I decided to pick up this oft-quoted book and read for myself.

By now, you are probably tired of the Driscoll drama as well. If you are newer than I am at this party, don’t bother stirring it up now. I have no intention on listing surprising descriptions of biblical events, or presenting an argument for church brewed beer. Despite all I have heard of this book, those really weren’t main points. Evaluating a book by skipping the main thesis is a worthless project, that I won’t undertake.

So what is this book? For starters, it’s a harsh critique. It’s a harsh critique of the separated fundamentalist and of the culture-adapted liberal theologian. It’s a critique of modernism and post-modernism. Driscoll knows that sin effects any culture, any model, and any philosophy, so he doesn’t advocate one over the other. Thus, if mission is to be reformed, that reform would be radical.

Driscoll carefully shows the treatment of three components: Gospel, culture, and church. Where the challenge is for the church to take the Gospel to the culture, many fail. Some churches embrace the gospel, but reject culture. They do this out of the mistaken idea that the church is culture and that all that exists outside of it is something foreign that will soon pass. Others reject the Gospel and embrace culture. They do this out of a desire to be relevant, never realizing that without a message, there is no point. The challenge here is to view the church as a missionary and where we live as a mission field.

To cut through opposing views to find something else entirely takes a sharp knife. Dricsoll hacks away with the sharpest of swords: God’s word. His arguments throughout the book are well-founded in scripture. Say what you will, this book has more scripture in it then most best selling Christian books. What Driscoll argues for is not one approach or the other, but simply taking the Gospel to culture. Proclaiming it loud and clear while we still can. He reminds us that a day will come when the Kingdom of God will be complete. When sin-effected culture will be erased. Until then, we live in sin-effected culture, so its there we are to carry the Gospel.

When a successful pastor writes a book explaining his philosophy, it seems to be only natural than many will read it and attempt to copy the pastor. There are far too many attempts to clone Saddleback and Willow Creek that we don’t need a cloning of Mars Hill. I live and preach in South Central, rural Missouri. Most of what Driscoll describes as culture sounds like a travel log of some faraway land. To copy what works in Seattle in my church would be, at best, comedic, and at worse, tragic. Instead, the real lesson here is to look deep into culture and see how it is all tarnished by sin. With this understanding of my culture, I am better equipped to take to it the hope of the Gospel.

This book is controversial, so there is a temptation to suggest that although I found it beneficial, I don’t recommend it. However, I find that Driscoll’s ideas are challenging and well founded in scripture. I recommend this book, not to weigh in on arguments, or even to search for off-color descriptions of people in the Bible, but to be challenged toward the Great Commission.

Advertisements

True Freedom

Leave a comment

Sometimes when we celebrate Independence Day, we get the wrong idea. We often think that we are free and independent each to ourselves. We think that freedom means we can each do whatever we desire to do. That is an impossible concept of a free society. In a society, we can only be as free as we are similar. That is, as long as we share the same values, we may be free, but when our values are in conflict, we need regulation in order to have peace.

I think most agree on this, but differ on how we resolve this problem. Some say that we must embrace our diversity even at the expense of some freedom. Others say that we must strive for a society that is identical in values. To this end we need to limit others in order to have our own personal freedom. It seems that both approaches have the same result: One group limits the personal freedom of another group in the interest of peace.

Biblical Christians know that it is impossible to pursue freedom by trying to be similar. After all, without Christ, what I would value the most is me and what you value the most is you. Left to our own, we would always have values in conflict, thus any system that attempts to establish freedom will only be temporary.

This is why I am always cautioning Christians about politics. When we bring an understanding of true freedom to political discussion, there is much to be gained. If we bring the course of political discussion to bear on our gospel, there is much to lose. Certainly, those of both ends of our political spectrum call to Christians to join their fight. However, since Christians offer an understanding of true freedom, we must be calling to others to join our fight.

This idea of freedom is nothing new. In the Declaration of Independence, freedom is phrased as being free from the tyranny that would encroach upon our God-given rights. In order for us to fight for freedom, then, it is critical that we understand true freedom.

I bring this question, “What is true freedom” to Romans 6:15-19.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. (Romans 6:15-19, NKJV).

Paul offers us a clue to understand this passage in verse 16 and 19. When he says “Do you not know” and “I speak in human terms” he implies that what he is saying is easily understood by his readers. Since he mentions slavery 6 times in 5 verses, a helpful place to start is in understanding slavery in a first century context.

The two most common ways one became a slave was 1) being taken in war or 2) becoming indebted to someone beyond what could be paid. Once someone was a slave, it was near impossible to be freed because a slave’s wages could be set to insure against it. However, a concerned family member might come to a slaves rescue. If this redeemer had the means, he could take the amount of the slave’s debt plus a little extra to the community’s temple cult. There, he would pay the oracle or priest. That person would then keep the extra and use the rest to buy the slave. At the point the slave was technically a slave to the temple cult, but this was always less demanding than the typical slave master. Though the slave was never free to himself, he was free from the demands of the slave master and free to live within the guidelines of the temple cult.

Consider that context for Romans 6:15-19.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! (Romans 6:15, NKJV).

The question is, if Jesus makes us free, are we free to sin? The answer is no. As we will see, we are free from sin, but not free to ourselves.

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16, NKJV).

If we are slaves, then no matter what, we obey a master. That master may be sin which leads to death or it may be obedience which leads to righteousness. There is not an option of being free unto ourselves.

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (Romans 6:17, NKJV).

Though we were slaves to sin, God worked, and we accepted the truth that leads to righteousness.

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:18, NKJV).

Just as slaves are set free from one master in order to live for another, we were set free from sin and became slaves to righteousness.

I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. (Romans 6:19, NKJV).

When we were slaves to sin, this only lead to more and more sin, which would ultimately lead to an eternal death. However, as slaves to righteousness, we can be holy. I know that I will be holy even despite my daily failures because I did not set myself free nor am I free to myself. Christ purchased me from my master of sin. He is my master and as such I will be what He desires me to be.

There is no freedom that means “I do whatever I want.” Everyone is in bondage to sin, but true freedom is found in Christ. For that reason, I urge everyone to first be set free of sin and death through Christ. Further, live in freedom, not by chasing our own desires, but by seeking to glorify they Lord. Finally, pursue freedom throughout the world by proclaiming the good news of Christ.

Book Review: John Piper’s Finally Alive

Leave a comment

I have been reading a lot lately. Though I have read books on many subjects, I have been reading most about the gospel. I am trying to study basic, foundational doctrine. I do this like someone examining the foundation of his home. I’m looking for cracks. I’m looking for areas in which my own doctrinal weakness may hinder my teaching and my ministry. This is why one of the first books I read in this journey was Greg Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel” In that book, Gilbert makes the assertion that faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Each is a turning. On one side faith turns toward God. On the other, Repentance turns from sin. I was fascinated by this simple idea and desired to understand this turning. When I realized that John Piper, had written a book to explain the concept of being born again, I decided that many answers may be there.

To most Christians, the concept of being born again may not sound like anything that needs explaining. It is a term that is so frequently used that we often take for granted the notion that we understand it. Do we understand it? Do we understand this work by which our hearts are turned to faith in God and in repentance of sin? Do we know how that work is accomplished and by whom? Many evangelicals have distilled the gospel into simple steps or ABC’s but do those explain the inner workings that change a dead heart to a heart that is “finally alive?”

In his book, Piper sets out to explain the concept of the new birth in fine detail. He begins with an explanation of what the new birth is, then he shows why the new birth is necessary, how it occurs, its effects, and finally, how to help others be born again. With his familiar style, Piper uses careful exegesis of the scriptures to explain his points. He builds chapter by chapter to explain the powerful work behind the new birth. Along the way, he includes very helpful teachings such as the “test of life” in 1 John (evidence of the new birth) as well as ten “encouragements” toward sharing the gospel.

I strongly recommend this book. If you are curious about Christianity, or if you are a long-time Christian trying to get back to basics, this book will help. The term “born again” will be deeper than you’ve imagined. With such a sturdy foundation, I pray that God will build a mighty work.