For those who have wondered how systematic theology can be communicated effectively to today’s millennial generation that inhabits comfortably the world of online blogs but often feels out of its element with scholarly books, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears demonstrate one way it can be done. Driscoll, pastor of more than six-thousand mostly under-thirty Seattleites at Mars Hill Church, is the main author of Vintage Jesus, but he is followed at the close of each chapter by his friend and mentor, Breshears, who is professor of theology at Western Seminary, Portland.
Vintage Jesus is remarkably accessible for young people and new converts. Driscoll’s informal style and ability to speak the language of young adults and teens are instantly engaging. His wide-ranging references to contemporary culture and earthy anecdotes keep things lively. Some of the anecdotes offer profound insight, both to believer and nonbeliever. For example, in the chapter titled, “Where Is Jesus Today?” Driscoll writes, “In a conversation I once had with a non-Christian friend, it became apparent to me that by not taking everyone to heaven, God is actually being very gracious. My friend said that God should take everyone to heaven. I then asked him if he wanted to spend eternity under God’s rule worshiping Jesus with other Christians. He replied, ‘That sounds like my hell and I would be furious if God stuck me in a place like that forever’” (p. 155).
Breshears’s “Answers to Common Questions” at the end of each chapter also help keep interest piqued as he addresses sometimes gnawing questions for contemporary readers. At the same time, he arms the reader for apologetics. For example, in the chapter “What Did Jesus Accomplish on the Cross?” the question is addresed, “How can I worship an unloving, cruel, primitive, and bloodthirsty God?”
Despite its unconventional approach, the book is suitable for anyone who wants to know more about Jesus. The authors do not skimp in presenting to their readers a sound orthodox Christology, devoting an average of close to twenty pages each to subjects such as the deity of Christ, His humanity, the Virgin Birth, the Atonement, the Resurrection, Christ’s session at the right hand of the Father, and the Second Coming. Additional chapters address topics such as the uniqueness of Christ and His impact on history. All the basics are covered so well that, as someone who teaches college-level classes on Christology for lay people, I would be comfortable using this book as an introductory text.
There are a few statements in the book with which I take issue. For example, Driscoll interprets 2 Corinthians 5:21 not as “some sort of covenantal bookkeeping,” but rather as likely meaning “that Jesus took on the weight of sin as he progressed through his life” (85). To hold that Christ “became sin” in any other way than through legal imputation is problematic and does not accord with Paul’s overarching teaching of forensic justification, with which Driscoll agrees. Breshears affirms that Christians should command demons “to get away from them in Jesus’ name” (115), but this is not a practice taught by Scripture. Such problematic statements are only made in passing and do not substantially detract from the overall soundness and usefulness of this book.
Elliot Miller is editor-in-chief of the Christian Research Journal