Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Exploring Christian Theology by Nathan Holsteen & Michael Svigel

This is the first release of what will be three volumes. This volume covers the church, spiritual growth, and the end times.

This is probably the most unusual book on theology I have ever read. As the authors themselves say, “This book provides central themes, essential passages, and a basic orientation to major Christian doctrines from a broadly orthodox protestant evangelical perspective.” (119) And they do exactly that. A variety of viewpoints are given as are the essential truths. One comes away with a good understanding of why there are so many different beliefs on the subject but also with an understanding of the underlying truth that ties them all together.

There are a few factors that make this such an unusual book on theology. One is the odd inclusion of pages and pages of quotations from people and confessions through the centuries. The authors have written on these subjects, I think, at the level of new Christians. The information is basic, well laid out, and not technical. Then to have the pages of quotes just seems so out of place.

Another factor is the difference between the two authors in their writing style. Holsteen writes on the church and spiritual growth. He uses lots of stories from modern films (from Star Wars to Mrs. Doubtfire) and books (from Robert Ludlum to Dr. Seuss). He draws an analogy between the Dallas Cowboys under the Jerry Jones administration and developments in the patristic era of church history. (57) It seemed like Holsteen was trying desperately to be relevant to current culture. I just did not appreciate that style of writing about theology.

Contrasting to Holsteen's work is Svigel's on the end times. It was well presented and written without any references to modern culture. While I was put off by Holsteen's section, I really liked Svigel's. He did a great job of showing how various beliefs about the end times rose and fell over the centuries.

Another factor that makes this book unusual is that it includes principles to put into action. The authors don't just give you relevant information about the church, spiritual growth and the end times, they tell you how these truths affect your Christian walk – how you are to live your life in light of them.

The authors have included an extensive reading list for further study. They've added annotations to book references so this would be a good jumping off point for further study. There is also a great glossary included so new Christians won't be confused by the terms used.

So I have mixed feelings about this book. It would be good for new Christians as it provides a great overview of the topics included. There are just some odd aspects to it that make it less than perfect.

You can download an excerpt here, at the publisher's page.

Nathan D. Holsteen, ThM, PhD, is associate professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have two children and live in Fort Worth, Texas.
Michael J. Svigel, ThM, PhD, is associate professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have three children and live in Garland, Texas. See more at www.retrochristianity.com.

Bethany House Publishers, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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