Friday, April 01, 2005

Review: Really Believe

What Christians Really Believe and Why by Stanley J. Grenz (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998, 159pp, pb)

Some writers are what I call “quotable.” They have a knack for saying things in a memorable way. When I read their books I find myself putting a “Q” in the margin quite often to bookmark quality quotes. Grenz is not a quotable writer – there is hardly a “Q” to be found in my margins.

But that isn’t to say it a dull read or is easily set aside. Quite the opposite, for Grenz has an enviable knack for taking complex concepts and not only explaining them simply, but making them “doable.” His work is relentlessly well-reasoned and unerringly relevant. In short, it is a fine model of meaningful Christian witness at the intersection of serious Christian theology and contemporary questions.

As the times change, people change. What were questions for a previous generation are of no interest to the current generation – and vice-versa. It can be difficult for Christians to stay current and be found answering the questions people are asking today, rather than ones no one is really asking anymore. This book will bring you up to speed, painlessly.

Grenz orders his thoughts (in seven chapters) around seven questions he believes we all must come to grips with sooner or later: (1) Why believe at all?, (2) Who am I and why am I here?, (3) Are we alone in the universe?, (4) Which God?, (5) Who is Jesus (and what did he do)?, (6) What am I searching for and how do I find it? and (7) Where is the universe - where am I - going? And he tackles all of these questions without any obvious bias or leaning toward his own particular heritage within Christendom, no small feat in itself in that he deals with matters at times that have been matters of ongoing discussion in Christendom for centuries (conversion, baptism, church membership, the Lord’s supper, etc.). Each of these chapters has more than enough to keep a Bible class active for a week or to serve as good resource material for a sermon.

All of this makes this book a rare find in that it speaks to believers and those yet to believe equally well. To the sincere seeker asking the right questions, this is a book I can give them to ruminate on. To the Christian whose zeal for sharing their faith outstrips their adequacy of knowledge, this is a book I can encourage them to devour.