This book may be the best teaching on the essential beliefs of the Christian faith I have seen. It is an excellent systematic theology for the lay person.
Allison has good explanations of difficult issues. His explanation of how the Apocrypha came to be and why it is in the Catholic Bible and not the Protestant Bible was very clear. He also does a good job of presenting theological options, such as explaining both meticulous providence and general providence with respect to God's governing of the world. Likewise, he does a good job of objectively explaining the Reformed and Arminian views on salvation. He explained the different views on the Lord's Supper, even identifying the differences between Zwingli and Calvin within the Reformed tradition. He carefully presents the biblical evidence for each view but lets the reader make up his own mind.
I found new insights in this book too. For example, God says of His creation that it was very good. Allison writes, “This affirmation was not one of moral goodness, for evil had not yet entered the world. Rather, it was one of fittedness: the creation, as coming from the hand of God, corresponded perfectly to the divine design.” (Loc 1762/7550) That brought some needed clarity to me.
The structure of the book is such that it can be read by a layperson and also used by laypeople and pastors as a guide for teaching. Allison includes suggested strategies for teaching each topic as well as an outline. I really like that he suggests that each view be clearly presented when teaching the topic. He also adds resources on each topic so those who want to investigate more deeply have a place to start. I also like that he identifies the errors associated with each belief. His concise summary, list of Scriptures, and explanation of each doctrine is very readable and informative.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to investigate the basic beliefs of Christianity in a format where variations in the doctrines are presented objectively.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Gregg R. Allison is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of many books. He serves as secretary of the Evangelical Theological Society and is a book review editor for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. He is also a pastor of Sojourn Community Church.
Baker Books, 448 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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