Accessible Study of Christian Theology for All – Even Those Who Don’t Think They Need It!
This work has so much to commend. In a sentence, this is popular-level theology at its best! What the authors hope to accomplish, they deliver. In their introduction, the authors Drs. Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel, who are Dallas Theological Seminary professors, promise the following:
“Exploring Christian Theology will offer introductions, overviews, and reviews of key orthodox, protestant, evangelical tenents without belaboring details or broiling up debates. The three ECT volumes [this one is volume 1], compact but substantial, provide accessible and convenient summaries of major themes; they’re intended as guidebooks for a church that, overall, is starving for the very doctrine it has too long avoided” (page 9).
Along with these, this book features important biblical texts, helpful charts and diagrams, boxes of Bible verses to memorize written out, recommended books for further study along with their accessibility (beginner, intermediate, advanced), history of the main teachings, summaries of key ideas, a glossary of unusual and significant terms, practical implications, and more.
Think that doctrine and theology are irrelevant? Or that all you want is Jesus, not religion? Consider these words from the book:
“Have you ever talked with people, maybe even other Christians, who think theology doesn’t matter? ‘I want Christ, not Christianity!’ they might say. ‘Don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus.’ Yet no matter how right such sentiments might feel, they ultimately ring hollow, for the question arises, which Jesus do these people want? … The Jesus of Mormonism? Of Islam? Of Buddhism? Of rugged American individualism? … What distinguishes the actual Jesus from all counterfeits is that … He is ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matt. 16:16). This truth is undeniably doctrinal, unmistakably theological. Not all supposed ‘Jesuses’ are equal…. To have a fruitful Christian life, we need an accurate Christian faith” (page 31).
These authors do a great service to the Church by providing solid meals that are aimed to feed God’s people and help them have fruitful Christian lives, motivated by right doctrine that leads to practical Christian living.
An example of a helpful summary box is below. These are dangers to avoid when studying the doctrines of Revelation and Scripture:
“Seven Dangers to Avoid
1. Unnecessary Elective Surgery
2. Watered-Down Wine
3. Hearing Without Hearing
4. Cold, Dead Orthodoxy
5. Arrogant Reading
6. Doctrine-less Discipleship
7. Christian Pole-Sitting” (page 85).
The authors do a good job of explaining what each of these seven dangers are (with real-life examples) and how to practically avoid them. Clear, everyday language pervades this book, making it accessible to any Christian and many nonbelievers.
One additional feature that is worth mentioning is the chapter towards the beginning entitled “The Christian Story in Four Acts.” Picturing the Bible ‘s overall story as like a theatrical production, this is a helpful 10 page summary of the four main acts (think of a play) in Scripture: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.
If you or your small group are looking for an enjoyable, faithful, and practical guide to the doctrines of Revelation, Scripture, and Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), then Exploring Christian Theology, Volume One is for you!
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.