That’s one of two typical responses to the word “theology” in the modern American Church. The other response is “I don’t need any theology, I just want to love Jesus and let Him love me.” Both of these responses are effectively nonsensical. Every person develops a theology. Even an atheist, who simply examines the concept of “God” (Theos) and decides “ain’t one.” You may not articulate theology, you may not use big words, but you have made mental decisions about what “God” means to you.
The question becomes what type of theology you have developed. Exploring Christian Theology, by Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel (primarily, with contributors,) aims to provide you the reader with a clear, practical view of Christian Theology. They base their work on a view of the Bible as inerrant, and this is simply an assumption throughout this text. This is likely because another volume in the Exploring Christian Theology series will be out later addressing revelation and Scripture.
This volume is focused on “The Church, Spiritual Growth, and the End Times.” If you want to get fancy, that’s ecclesiology, sanctification/discipleship, and eschatology. Those big words, though, are often the scare-points in theology for people, so while they may creep through at times, Exploring Christian Theology studiously avoids them too much. Overall, this book is aimed at the Christian who wants to develop a better theology but is afraid of the big, hardcover books.
Holsteen and Svigel tackle two major concepts here in answering “What is a church?” and “What about the end of the world?” These are not really the two things I would have started with, but I’m not a PhD-holder and professor, so they didn’t ask me. It does feel like Exploring Christian Theology jumps to constructing a second-floor on the house without covering how to build a foundation.
However, taken just on its face, Exploring Christian Theology is an excellent guidebook. The authors strive not only to present their ideas, but also to give some examples of how theology intersects with life. I like this, as well as the extended ‘for the bookshelf’ sections detailing further study points.
I see no problems with using this as a jump-starter for discussions and classes. Certainly for deeper academic work, you’ll need a text that deals with all the major arguments instead of a few, but this is not aimed at that audience. It’s not quite the only theology book you’ll ever need, but it is a good start in the process of formulating a clear theology.
(I did receive a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for the review.)