Well-known and equally well-loved evangelical authors Stephen Arterburn and John Shore have compiled an exhaustive list of the most commonly asked questions about being Christian and what that means in a person's day-to-day life experience. Arterburn and Shore talk with their readers, not down to them. And whether an individual is already on the faith journey or just seeking some information and answers to their life questions, this text is certain to supply needs on both ends of the spectrum. Written in a "one friend to another" casual conversation style, the authors (with some quick wit and humor) good-naturedly poke fun at themselves and at the church at large, endearing them further to their audience.
While this primer will serve to educate a newcomer to Christianity, do not doubt its ability to serve the well-seasoned longtime follower of Christ as well. The book is filled with both the "milk" and the "meat" of the Christian walk. Broken into five chapters, readers will find their answers under these general headings:
* God and You
* God, You, and Others
* Everyone: Sin, the Human Constant
* The Bible
* The Church
Jumping right into the thick of Christianity 101, the authors lead off with the dynamo of a question: "What's the single most important thing I would have to believe in order to officially qualify as a Christian?" Here the authors provide some excellent foundational information and cite The Nicene Creed as summing up the "basics" of what Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants hold to in faith doctrine. So saying, they explain that this creed is what 99.99999 percent of Christians have always believed and many have committed to memory. In a similar vein, Arterburn and Shore include other confessions such as The Apostles' Creed, The Heidelberg Catechism and The Westminster Confession of Faith as other summations of faith. Not to be confused with "replacing" scripture by any means.
Once this foundation of commonly held beliefs is laid, this writing team tackles questions regarding the Holy Spirit, the Trinity and what the phrases "saved by grace" and "born again" really mean. Not all the questions and answers supplied fall into the category of contemplation and introspection; rather, readers will get equal measures of practical life instruction from this body of work as well.
In chapter three, “Everyone: Sin, the Human Constant,” the authors open with the discussion of "sin" and "original sin" and how confession is one powerful tool and principle to the Christian believer. Buzz words such as resurrection, atonement, sanctification, forgiveness and grace also find their place for discussion. Readers will learn what the Bible has to say about forgiveness and how to ask for it step by step to find inner and relational healing.
Readers might question how comprehensive a single volume on the vast store of knowledge and history on Christianity can be. Rest assured, Arterburn and Shore have done their homework and created a powerhouse of resources so neatly packaged and practical that even skeptics will be surprised and delighted.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on September 2, 2008