By ROB HOFMEYR
A Call To Resurgence by Mark Driscoll
This book was first published in 2013 and more recently republished by TyndaleHouse in the USA. Subsequently the author has been mired in a controversy which has been widely reported in American and English evangelical circles.
A Call To Resurgence, however, must be reviewed as a book and not within the context of that debate.
Driscoll subtitles the work, Will Christianity Have A Funeral Or A Future? The initial chapters deal with the somewhat overdone distinction between Christendom and Christianity. I first read a tract on that theme some 60 years ago. Nothing new emerges, simply examples or illustrations from contemporary life.
When Driscoll embarks on a “history of evangelicalism” he is so superficial as to be positively misleading. I do not mind simplicity, but it must be on the other side of complexity. The writer or speaker must have worked through the issues before crystallising them for the lay reader.
There are nevertheless some good pastoral insights into the problem of “tolerance” and the author does have the grace to quote G K Chesterton, a stalwart of Roman Catholicism. The many currents that sweep through modern society need, however, greater understanding than anything Driscoll portrays. Paul, in his letters to churches in the Roman-Greek world, is far more sensitive to the situations in which those extraordinary groupings of slaves, freedmen, Roman citizens, Greeks and Jews struggled to establish what it meant to be Christians.
Driscoll’s definition of “evangelical” is standard stuff in fundamentalist circles (though he claims to “missional” rather than “fundamentalist”), and includes such helpful clauses as “The Bible as God’s perfect and authoritative word”. From other statements it is clear that he believes in the verbal inerrancy of Scripture.
The most useful chapter in the book is the one dealing with definitions within evangelical churches: are you Reformed or Arminian?; are you Complementarian or Egalitarian?, and so on, helping you identify your particular tribe and those of others. Leading evangelicals are each placed in an appropriate category. This is a handy primer for anyone believing, unbelieving or simply curious attempting to make sense of the terminology of evangelicalism.
Less helpful are the very shallow sections on theology. There are enough good books dealing with the great issues of the Christian faith without having these with at superficial level in a book of this nature. The reader is invited to read Driscoll’s more lengthy discourses in his other works. Tom Wright, pre-eminent New Testament scholar, writes many popular commentaries and books for laity. He never at any time descends to banality; there is a continuity between his great works of theology and his simpler expositions.
Driscoll’s potted histories of great theologians, preachers and evangelists are not worth reading. Far better material is available.
This book is in fact a call to other evangelicals to emulate the success story of Driscoll’s own Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington State. Of course, as is so often the case, Driscoll is unable to understand the dynamics of the church he leads. He ignores the sociology of successful fundamentalism in a post-modern age. He ignores also the role he has played as a charismatic preacher and hustler. Both are evident in this book. It is an interesting read for anyone studying the rise and fall of megachurches.