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Excellent overview of the Christian faith
on 16 July 2011
In my parent's church - the church I grew up in - one of two church services on Sunday is devoted to a sermon based on a section from the Heidelberg Catechism (this is not unusual in the Netherlands). When I was a teenager, I attended catechism classes for seven years. I went for six years to a Reformed high school and each of these six years I attended classes on Christian theology, both practical and systematic.
Taking all of this in account, I think it's safe to state that I have quite a bit of knowledge about the Christian faith. What could a book called 'Doctrine' add? Much!
For starters, 'Doctrine' is a complete and comprehensive overview of the main topics in the Christian faith. The book has 13 chapters on subjects ranging from who God is, how He creates, what the Fall entails, how God sent Jesus to save, what worship is, and how it all will end. It's a complete overview of God's work as presented in the Holy Scriptures and it's a practical elaboration on what might be expected from a believing Christian. I read in a period of a few weeks, which is much better if you want to get a general view of the Christian faith and its theology than attending for example catechism classes for a period of six years.
Secondly, during my teen years I was interested in discovering what my church believed and, thus, what I ought to believe. When I grew a few years older, I started to get an interest in different views on what Christians ought to believe and what they believe. The traditional confessions and faith overviews of my parent's church (which had become my church as well) were not very open to differing views. 'Doctrine' however is: when differing views exist about a certain subject, Driscoll and Breshears present a short overview, explain what each of the views stands for and make a grounded choice for one of the presented options. What strikes me in this approach is that they use convincing and complete arguments, not only for their own position, but also for the positions of the others.
Some general remarks:
- Driscoll and Breshears make extensive use of the Holy Scriptures in 'Doctrine'. I think that's good, very good, but it's not the only resource a theologian ought to use, I believe. This brings me to one of the downsides of this book: it's not grounded very well in the larger theologic tradition. Of course, once in a while other theologians and writers are mentioned and quoted, but that happens not too many times. Moreover, when it happens, they usually quote modern theologians (ones that are still living) and not so many of the older ones.
- The subtitle of the book is 'What Christians should believe' and although I agree with this subtitle - since I generally agree with the contents of the book - I nevertheless think it's a bit too presumptuous. It leaves no opening for differing Christian views, a thing the book itself in its 13 chapters surely does.
- The book contains resources for small group discussions. These are short (no longer than one page), but more than extensive enough for a good evening-long discussion.