Wednesday, January 10

Enter the Lists: Doctrine for Dummies

Over the past couple of years, I've been on the lookout for books on doctrine or theology that are suitable for the reader who is interested in gaining a deeper understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine, but whose background includes, perhaps, only Sunday School and sermons and group and personal Bible study, not seminary. My cutsie title for this post is not really accurate, since it's not quite doctrine for dummies, but more accurately introductory level theology books. Not that a person who is more advanced won't find them valuable, but their strength is that they are not too dense for the average believer who is willing to do a little work as he reads. If you really want to learn about theology, these books should help.

  • In Understanding Be Men by T. C. Hammond. I was introduced to this little book when it was used as the textbook for a Sunday School class on basic doctrine at the Evangelical Free Church of Bemidji, MN. It's subtitle is A Handbook of Christian Doctrine, and that's just what it it. It's a small volume, only 192 pages, and laid out in a manner that makes it easy to use for quick reference. I agree completely with the review at the Amazon link above, so let me point you to that rather than writing more here.
  • Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John Frame. I reviewed this one last week. This book is more thorough than the Hammond's little handbook, but then you probably wouldn't want to carry it around in your purse, either.
  • Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. This one's longer than the two books listed above, more like you might expect from a systematic theology text, and that extra length means it's both more in-depth and comprehensive, but it also makes it more intimidating, length-wise. It is very readable, however, so you shouldn't find it intimidating language-wise. I particularly like the practical application section in each chapter, since I think many people stay away from theology on the mistaken idea that it has no practical value. It does, and this is a systematic theology that shows that it does.
  • Knowing God by J. I. Packer. This is the first book on the list that has a narrow theological focus, if we can call knowing God a narrow focus. Everyone says this book is a classic, and they'd be right. If you stay away from things theological because you think it's all too dry for you, this book will prove you wrong by making your heart sing. If you've read none of the books on my list, let me suggest you start here. For those keeping track, it's another one you could slip into your purse.
  • Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles and Relevance by Bruce Ware. I've reviewed this one here, and I won't add any remarks to that except to say that this book also fits in the purse-sized category.
  • The Atonement: It's Meaning and Significance by Leon Morris. I've done a sort-of review of this one here. There is nothing more crucial to the Christian than the cross of Christ, and Morris takes the terms associated with this wonderful gift from God and explains them, and the concepts behind them, in a way that is easy to read and understand. And in just over 200 pages, to boot. This book is another of the heart singers.
  • Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray. This book is the perfect companion to the one by Morris listed above. The subject matter is slightly different: The Atonement deals mostly with the objective reality of the cross; and Redemption Accomplished and Applied includes more on the subjective reality of it. I found this book to be just a bit more difficult to read than Morris's. At the time I read it, which was several years ago, I sometimes had to stop and read a portion over in order to understand it. You might want to try reading The Atonement first, and then move on to this one. Another shorty at 192 pages.
That's it for my list. Do you have suggestions for books I might want to read to see if they are suitable additions to this list?

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