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50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith

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Gregg Allison offers 50 Core Truths in 50 chapters. In 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith, the reader encounters something of a mix between a systematic theology, a reference book, and a church/school teacher’s guide. For the well-read systematician this is not a must-read book.

Core Truths is not written for the purpose of providing the church with a full engagement in each category of theology. As a result, many topics do not receive the treatment one desires. He points out errors but does not articulate the counter argument in detail. A prospective reader should not pick up this book to study a topic in depth. Again, this is not the point of the book.

What role should Core Truths fill? The lay-reader who is interested in picking up a broad overview of systematic theology without worry about getting stuck in a particular section. It is for the Sunday school teacher wanting a guide to breaking down systematic theology in order to teach and organize lesson.

Allison should be commended for putting together this niche resource.
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Perhaps not since Packer's Knowing God has there been a book that I have been so grateful for in terms of taking multiple systematic theology textbooks and distilling them down into short, powerful, understandable chapters on the core doctrines of Christianity. This book should be read by every Christian, but it is also designed to be used as a launch-pad for studies (each of the 50 truths include a section on how to enact that doctrine, as well as how to teach it). This is a fantastic resource for any shelf, especially to quickly capture key truths in a few short pages for those who don't have a desire to dig deep into larger systematic theology texts. (Unless that's your jam...then go for it.). Allison's book is well written, well sized, well delivered. Five stars.
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Gregg T. Allison, 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2018, pp 448

With such a bold claim as ’50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith’ it certainly held this reader’s attention.  With helpful books such as Horton’s Core Christianity, and other such works like it recently published which seek to ground readers in the basics of theology, what is it that makes this work different?  To answer this, the subtitle clearly states that the intention of the author is not only to help readers understand these ’50 Core Truths’, but also to help them teach them too.

When the reader first looks at the Contents table, he will find that it is laid out and reads a little like a systematic theology.  In my own mind I was immediately comparing it to the two books I return to again and again:  Louis Berkhoff’s A Summary of Christian Doctrine, and Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology.  Allison’s 50 Core Truths is approximate in length to Horton’s Pilgrim Theology, but in terms of the content and depth of the topics covered it probably compares with Berkhoff’s Summary.  This is certainly not a critique!  In fact it could be one of its strengths, as it is intended to help readers understand and teach the subjects covered.  The Chapters are concise; yet loaded with content.

Each Chapter follows a similar outline.  It contains a Summary of the particular topic; Main Themes; and, Key Scripture verses.  In terms of understanding the doctrine, Allison provides ‘Major Affirmations’, ‘Biblical Support’, along with a general discussion of the doctrine/subject.  Allison also outlines for readers ‘Major Errors’ where applicable.

Having sought to provide the basis for understanding the doctrine, Allison provides a section of ‘Enacting the Doctrine’ and how this applies in the Christian life.  This provides a helpful bridge before moving on to the teaching section, comprised of a helpful treatment on aspects to consider when ‘Teaching the Doctrine’, a ‘Teaching Outline’, and closed with a bibliography of resources for further study and reflection.

Allison, writes for a broadly evangelical audience and has provided a fair and balanced summary and teaching tool.  Where there is difference of interpretation – for example baptism, Allison does not push one view and treats the subject by providing summaries on the various positions.  In this he is fair and charitable.  In this regard – at least to this reader – the format is very akin to Berkhoff’s Summary by providing a summary treatment of the topic.

For someone looking a helpful one volume resource that provides a summary of Theology and how to both apply and then teach it; this is a worthwhile volume.  The application sections on how to apply and teach will make this volume perhaps more preferable to some readers compared to other works of a similar vein.

An excerpt of the book can be accessed here at the Publisher’s web page.

 

I received a free copy of this book from the Publisher in return for an honest and fair review.  I was not obliged to post a positive review.  My thanks to the Publisher.
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50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith
A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology
by Gregg R. Allison
Baker Books

Christian
Pub Date 06 Feb 2018


I am reviewing a copy of 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith through Baker Books and Netgalley:


Gregg Allison's 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith collects clear teachings of the most important doctrines of Christianity.  This book covers the foundational doctrines of nature and works of God, The Bible, God crested beings, Jesus, Salvation the church and even the end times.  Each chapter features clear guidance for how to apply and teach the doctrine today.


This book is great for Pastors, Sunday School teachers as well as students of theology will find this study useful in helping to better understand Christian theology.


I give 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith four out of five stars!


Happy Reading!
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Could purchase and pass on to newer Christians or questioners, as good starting point for discussions
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This book may be the best teaching on the essential beliefs of the Christian faith I have seen. It is an excellent systematic theology for the lay person.

Allison has good explanations of difficult issues. His explanation of how the Apocrypha came to be and why it is in the Catholic Bible and not the Protestant Bible was very clear. He also does a good job of presenting theological options, such as explaining both meticulous providence and general providence with respect to God's governing of the world. Likewise, he does a good job of objectively explaining the Reformed and Arminian views on salvation. He  explained the different views on the Lord's Supper, even identifying the differences between Zwingli and Calvin within the Reformed tradition. He carefully presents the biblical evidence for each view but lets the reader make up his own mind. 

I found new insights in this book too. For example, God says of His creation that it was very good. Allison writes, “This affirmation was not one of moral goodness, for evil had not yet entered the world. Rather, it was one of fittedness: the creation, as coming from the hand of God, corresponded perfectly to the divine design.” (Loc 1762/7550) That brought some needed clarity to me.

The structure of the book is such that it can be read by a layperson and also used by laypeople and pastors as a guide for teaching. Allison includes suggested strategies for teaching each topic as well as an outline. I really like that he suggests that each view be clearly presented when teaching the topic. He also adds resources on each topic so those who want to investigate more deeply have a place to start. I also like that he identifies the errors associated with each belief. His concise summary, list of Scriptures, and explanation of each doctrine is very readable and informative.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to investigate the basic beliefs of Christianity in a format where variations in the doctrines are presented objectively.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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I’m a big fan of R.C. Sproul’s Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, but 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith is not the same thing.

First off, the number 50 is highly subjective, because it could’ve easily been 40 or 55 with the same exact content. For example, the chapters Final Judgment and Eternal Punishment could’ve been the same Core Truth, whereas the chapter on the Church: Nature and Marks could’ve been two separate chapters. But let’s just go with it.

Let me preface by saying that my theology falls very close in alignment with Horton, Erickson, and Grudem, who are 3 of the 7 resources for this book. This is not a Systematic for a seminary student. This book is for the general audience and is very easy to read. It’s also handy as a reference book.

Each chapter (Core Truth) has 10 sections: It starts with a one-sentence Summary. The Main Themes has its main points, followed by Key Scripture. Major Affirmations describe the doctrine in less than 2 pages, followed by Biblical Support, which is the Biblical proof of the doctrine. Major Errors describe the several heresies that come from denying or modifying the doctrine. Enacting the Doctrine section seems new when dealing with a book like this. This means: How does this doctrine help you practice godly living? Then there’s the Teaching the Doctrine section which is like a teachers guide on how to approach this topic with students. The Teaching Outline is really just an outline of this chapter, not how you would teach it to your class. Then in every Resource section, the same 7 theology books are used. This section shows what chapter or pages pertain to the same topic in each of those 7 books.

This book is much more thorough than some internet list or even Sproul’s Essential Truths. This is more like a very short-hand, notes version of a thick Systematics book. That’s great for most purposes, but sometimes deeper terms are not explained, like the “Creator-creature distinction” (chapter 8), which would require another 2 paragraphs to explain. I don’t think the book assumes some theological training in the reader. Rather, these chapters were probably created from cutting down much larger source material. This is more evident in the next two chapters, where God’s many Attributes are covered so quickly it doesn’t do them justice. But this book isn’t meant to be an exhaustive theology book. 

This book is meant to be clear and concise, the keyword being the latter. This is most evident in its treatment of the Trinity, a difficult topic to cram into one chapter. Yet, it does so very logically with simplicity (no spoilers!). 

Chapter 16, with its discussion on human dichotomy vs trichotomy, doesn’t seem like a core of Christian faith. Prophet-Priest-King is great theology (Ch 19), but is it really core to our faith? Church government (ch 39) is a core truth? And chapter 18’s discussion of the hypostatic conditions of Christ seemed superfluous.

I can confirm that every page presents conservative theology. However, a few things to note: In its treatment of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” it presents both the cessationist and continuationist views fairly but doesn’t take a side. Yet, in addition to the traditional view, it also describes the Pentecostal belief of the “second blessing” (aka “baptism of the Holy Spirit”) as a legit belief, unfortunately (ch 32). In regards to predestination, it presents both Reformed and Arminian theology but doesn’t take a side. It’s the same treatment for Regeneration (ch 28), Conversion (ch 29), Perseverance (ch 34), and Baptism (ch 40, infant or believers’). At least it makes a firm stand against the Catholic idea of Justification (ch 30). It also stands against the heresy that hell is not eternal (ch 49). 

This is a good book to have in any Christian’s library. It’s easy to use as a reference book, and if you read all of it, you’ll have a solid view of the core truths of the Christian faith.
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