Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What I'm reading on my sabbatical...

Vintage Church, by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears (Crossway Books, 2008). I've become interested in Mark's ministry as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle since hearing him speak at the recent Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago. He's bold, blunt, evangelistic, and solidly rooted in the historic Reformed Christian faith. He combines loyalty to the Word of God and the creeds of Christendom with a strong passion to see the church win the lost and redeem culture for God's glory.

I chose this book as one of my reading projects for my sabbatical. I wanted to see how Driscoll's perspective might speak into my conservative, PCA, baby-boomer ways. I'm about halfway through the book.

Of course I differ with him on baptism. Mark is a credobaptist. I'm a paedobaptist. I believe that baptism should be administered to believers and their children, as a sign and seal of the covenant of grace and membership in the community of faith. Driscoll, like most contemporary Christians, holds that baptism is for believers only. One of his arguments is that in every instance when the New Testament records a household baptism, it says "that each member of these households believed in Jesus and was saved" (pg. 116). That is not true. In Acts 16, for instance, Paul and Silas go to the house of the Philippian jailer, where they share God's Word with him and his family. Then verse 34 (in the English Standard Version that Driscoll prefers!) says, "Then he [the jailer] brought them [Paul and Silas] up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God." The text does not say that anyone else in his family believed; it only says that HE (the Philippian jailer) believed. It's a singular verb, as the ESV rightly notes. Nevertheless the entire household was baptized. So Driscoll argues too much when he says without qualification that "each member of the households that were baptized also believed in Jesus, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and served God" (pg. 117).

Apart from that, I'm learning a lot from this book. Driscoll makes a solid argument for male eldership in Chapter 3, and says some great things about the importance of preaching in Chapter 4. The book is a good critique of much that passes for church these days. I particularly liked this paragraph on page 52:

"Building on the modern devotion to the individual, modern Christianity in practice defined the entire purpose of the church in terms of the individual over and above the glory of God and benefit of the community of people. As a result, the modern church in its various forms defined the church as a place where individual spiritual needs are met. What developed was a view of individual Christians as consumers with felt needs and the church as the dispenser of religious goods and services."

In our day, when there is such a low view of the local church, Vintage Church deserves a reading.

2 comments:

Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

Mike,

You say, "Driscoll, like most contemporary Christians, holds that baptism is for believers only."

I would say that most Christians (by a huge majority) baptize infants if we define Christianity broadly to include Catholics (1 billion), Orthodox (240 million), most Anglicans (77 million), Methodism, the Reformed and Lutheran churches, etc.

Even if we limit it to Protestantism and non-denoms -- about 36% of all self-identified Christians -- it seems like it would be close enough that "most" is a bit misleading (cf. these stats). Perhaps if we limit it to "Evangelicals", but that term is a little hazy and admits several definitions (e.g., does it include Fundamentalists?).

Mike said...

Good point, Matt. Guess I conceded too much!