In order to get where you want to go, you need to know where you are. It’s true in the mall, it’s true on a family road trip, and it is earth-shatteringly true in theology. Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel, both professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, have opened the map of Scripture, drawn some diagrams, and planted many a helpful road sign in Exploring Christian Theology, Volume II. Their goal — to help their readers “to better understand our own place in God’s unfolding story.”
Part One examines and clarifies the doctrines around creation, humanity, and the fall. Part Two unpacks the theology of the gospel, the atonement, and saving grace. Following an orderly format and utilizing accessible illustrations and relevant examples, the authors peel back the layers of intimidation that keep believers from tackling a serious study of theology on their own. The truth we gain from this volume is that serious study need not be painful or even difficult!
Since theology provides a road map for understanding the truth of Scripture, Holsteen and Svigel team up with a string of writers to provide an assortment of Scripture passages to master in gaining an understanding of creation, the fall, and redemption. Given that our understanding of the Word of God has been subject to a long history of “clarification, changes, and challenges,” the authors trace the major themes of human depravity and salvation through the early church era, the medieval period, the Reformation, and into Modern times. In this section, charts and sidebars provide a convenient aerial view. Then, because the Christian faith is firmly rooted in fact, they list a few of the reassuringly straightforward truths that are foundational to Christianity. Of course, there are dangers to avoid in theological thinking and several are examined; however, the common pitfall of keeping theology shut up in the ivory tower can be avoided with some of the practical principles offered in both sections of Exploring Christian Theology.
Even with their concise style and tight logic, Holsteen and Svigel make no claims that their 264 pages will serve as the last word on any topic. Quite the contrary. Exploring Christian Theology should be viewed as a springboard to further study, and just to make sure the pool is good and full, the book provides a list of names and quotations from major figures in historical theology (think Clement of Rome and Irenaeus up through J.I. Packer and Henry Thiessen). An annotated bibliography follows with recommended resources on the theology of salvation, redemption, the atonement and other topics as well as some controversial issues from a variety of vantage points. These resources are even rated: beginner, intermediate, advanced.
A valuable addition to a church library or a family’s book shelf, a supplement to a homeschooling curriculum, or simply a resource for personal study, Exploring Christian Theology will serve to confirm the truth of Romans 11:33:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
What a motivation for a lifetime of learning!
This book was provided by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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