Sunday, June 28, 2015

Exploring Christian Theology, vol. 2 by Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel

Why would we need to study theology? The authors remind us that spiritual truth is important. It makes a difference what we believe. The authors have compiled this book to help us understand what the Bible declares and the church has affirmed on the topics of creation, the fall, and salvation.

The book is written from the evangelical protestant viewpoint. The authors affirm what I would call the traditional evangelical view. They do provide information on a variety of interpretations of the doctrines from both history and contemporary writing but do affirm an evangelical position.

The first part of the book covers creation, the nature of man, and the fall. God is affirmed as the Creator of all things. “He is the sovereign Director of the course of history toward the fulfillment of His will.” What we believe about the origin of mankind makes a difference, the authors write. They emphasize the uniqueness of the biblical account and how it helps us comprehend who we are and why we exist.

Different views of original sin and the depravity of man are given. Although the doctrine of original sin “is under attack today, Scripture teaches it and believers throughout church history have affirmed it.” They give a good review of history so if someone mentions Pelagius or Calvinists and Arminians, we will know who they are talking about. Good comparative charts are included too.

The second part of the book is about salvation with the authors affirming the traditional evangelical doctrine. “Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; this is the testimony of the Scriptures and has been the confession of the orthodox protestant evangelical tradition from time immemorial.”

The format of each section contains an overview, then an exploration of the Scriptures important to the doctrine. That is followed by a review of how the church has understood the doctrine over time, key truths to remember, dangers to avoid, and principles to put into practice. They then give an extensive sample of writings from theologians throughout the history of the church. They follow this with an extensive list of books for further reading, identifying them as beginner, intermediate or advanced. Last are the footnotes. There is a Scripture index at the end of the book, a glossary, as well as verses to memorize and several charts of information.

This is a very readable introduction to the doctrines of creation, fall, and salvation. I was glad to see their affirmation of the traditional evangelical positions. I really do not see the value of the extensive quotes from theologians through history. This seems to be an introductory book to me and the long sections of quotes just did not seem to be something a beginner exploring theology would appreciate. I did appreciate their inclusion of principles to put into practice. This is not merely a book of theological theory but also includes an exploration of how that theology impacts life and is lived out.

I do recommend this very readable book to those interested in an introductory level exploration of the foundational doctrines of creation, humanity, the fall, and salvation, affirming the traditional orthodox protestant belief.

You can download an excerpt here.

Nathan D. Holsteen, ThM, PhD, is associate professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, where he teaches all areas of systematic theology. He and his wife and their two children live in Fort Worth, Texas.
Michael J. Svigel, ThM, PhD, is associate professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife and their three children live in Garland, Texas. Find out more at www.retrochristianity.com.

Bethany House, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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