I am very impressed with this book. I grew up in a church with a narrow view of faith. Questioning any part of it was discouraged. But times have changed. New discoveries in science and the awareness of other faith traditions suggest we need to revisit what it means to be a Christian. Kristian has done an excellent job of identifying essential Christian beliefs and then those in which there has always been diversity.
Kristian explores seventeen theological issues and explains the various major beliefs Christians have historically held on them. She is wonderfully objective in her presentations and clearly identifies a view when she feels strongly about it. She ends each chapter on an issue with good questions for personal thought or group discussion and a list of resources for further study. She has several interviews with contemporary people, introducing us to a variety of faith experiences. There are also articles about several historically important people, such as Anselm.
I have to admit that, though I have studied theology a great deal, I really understood postmortem evangelism for the first time by reading Kristian's section on it. And I was introduced to the Eastern Orthodox view of hell, something I had not considered before. Her explanation of amillennialism, the tradition in which I was raised, may be the best concise one I've ever read.
I like the humility with which Kristian addresses these topics. Her writing style does not have an overly authoritative voice but is rather more like I was having a conversation with her. I felt comfortable and non-threatened, even when reading viewpoints with which I disagree. I felt I was being informed, not trying to be convinced. I especially liked her section on church denominations, introducing them as they developed, historically.
I highly recommend this book to readers who have been troubled by the very narrow path of Christian belief some demand. This book explores the rich and broad historical road of Christian belief within orthodoxy. The essentials of the faith are preserved while those areas open to interpretation are explained well. This book would be a great choice for a small group study.
Food for thought: “In a time of divisive and downright nasty public debate, Christians, of all people, ought to be able to disagree without hostility.” (Loc 3076/3184)
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Bonnie Kristian is a theological and political writer with a national following. She has written for a number of national publications. She is on the teaching team at her church, a Mennonite community where she leads a Bible study group and preaches regularly at Sunday services. She has an MA in Christian thought from Bethel Seminary. Her thesis on atonement theology won the 2016 Zondervan Excellence in Theology Award. She and her husband live in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can find out more at http://bonniekristian.com/.
FaithWords, 272 pages.Unlike many of my reviews, I read this book through my local public library.