Chapter 1: The Bible
I thought this was a good starting point for the book. After all, the Bible is where we get most of our information on who God is and thus what we believe about the Bible will affect what we believe about God and other theological issues.
Inerrancy and infallibility – two main issues regarding the Bible were just touched on under the heading of authority. This book is not meant to be an in-depth treatise on these doctrines – that’s what Systematic Theology is for! 🙂 But good that at least this was addressed, though I don’t think these actual terms were used. More had to do with the Bible being without error and being true as God cannot be untruthful and it is God’s Word.
Chapter 2: God
One of the things that I’ve been learning these last few years is that God did not create humans because he needed us. Somehow growing up I had this idea that God created us because he needed companionship. Yet in the Trinity He is complete and perfect and does not need anything. He created us because He wanted to not because He needed to. He had all the companionship He needed in the Trinity.
I also liked that in pointing out God is all-powerful there are still some things He cannot do – such as sin. He cannot go against His nature. So He cannot lie as it is His nature to be truthful.
Chapter 3: The Trinity
This is a doctrine that I don’t think I have ever understood. Even in the book he says this is a doctrine that is difficult for the human mind to grasp. Scripture teaches that God is one, yet three persons. Even though I don’t get it, I believe it.
chapter 4: Creation
Nothing too earth-shattering here. I’m thinking his reason for including this in the 20 beliefs needed for Christians has to do with the prevalent teaching and philosophy of evolution. Christians need to be aware of this and be able to combat it with the teaching of creation, that God created the universe rather than it evolving out of nothing.
chapter 5: Prayer
“God does not want us to pray so that he can find out what we need, for Jesus said, ‘Your Father knows what you need before you ask him’ (Matt. 6:8). Instead, God wants us to pray so that our dependence on him can increase.”
I thought that was a good summary of prayer. Ultimately it seems that prayer is about our relationship with God and connecting with Him, focusing on Him.
Chapter 6: Angels, Satan and Demons
Nothing really jumped out at me in this chapter as being something I didn’t already know. I think a lot of times we in America don’t think about the spiritual battles raging around us with angels and demons. We are more pragmatic with the what we see right in front of us. But the reality is that our fight is not just physical, but spiritual as well. Another aspect is the worship of angels or at least highly exalting them, instead of viewing them as they are – powerful creatures that God created, but still created beings.
Chapter 7: Man
No new surprises in this chapter – man being created in God’s image is what sets him apart from the rest of creation. However, it did seem like he was talking about us restoring creation as something that is achievable, when I believe that creation will be restored after Christ returns. He didn’t say it explicitly but it seemed to be implied that we can work toward restoring creation ourselves. As stewards of God, I think we are to take care of the earth, but I don’t think we can restore it without God’s intervention.
Chapter 8: Sin
I think we don’t take sin seriously enough. “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” Any time I am unloving or unkind – even in thought, I am sinning. Sin is serious stuff – God can’t have anything to do with it as “it directly contradicts everything he is.” Thank God that the story doesn’t end with sin. This chapter is rather depressing but thankfully it is not the whole story. The next chapter is Christ.
Chapter 9: Christ
It is an amazing mystery that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. Another truth that is hard for our finite minds to grasp. It does make it reassuring, knowing that He was man and so understands the frailty of being human. Yet was God, without sin, so He could be our substitute.
Chapter 10: The Atonement
Interestingly, in another book I’m reading (God in the Whirlwind by David Wells), the atonement was spelled out in great detail. I’m glad that he brought out that it’s not just Jesus paying the penalty for our sins; it’s also His righteousness is imputed to us. A double blessing of having our sins paid for and given Christ’s righteousness so we can stand before God.
Chapter 11: The Resurrection
This particular doctrine is important to the Christian faith because without it we would have none of it.
Chapter 12: Election
Ooh, boy, this one is a hot button topic for sure! “Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.” Honestly, I thought this chapter did a pretty good job defending the doctrine of election. Not sure I could really do justice to it. Scripture seems to be pretty clear in teaching election, yet at the same time we are still accountable for our choices. Another mystery that we will likely never understand this side of eternity. Part of me wants to just type up this chapter for reference but that would be plagiarism. 🙂
Chapter 13: What Does It Mean to Become a Christian
Clear gospel presentation given in this chapter. For those who are not saved, it gives the path to become saved. For those who are, a way to share with others how to be saved.
Chapter 14: Justification & Adoption
Nothing really new here but a good doctrine for Christians to understand for their standing with God. We are declared righteous in legal terms because Christ’s righteousness has been credited to us. Adoption gives us full rights as God’s child. Who we are in Christ is magnificent and very humbling!
Chapter 15: Sanctification & Perseverance
A good reminder that sanctification is not completed in this life and it is also not solely our responsibility. We do play a part but it is also of God that we are sanctified and is a process. Part of the doctrine of perseverance is also our assurance of salvation. “…true Christians can gain real assurance of salvation from other factors and especially from a present trust in Christ and his ongoing work in their lives. Our present trust in Christ for salvation is one assurance of true conversion…If you believe in him, you have eternal life. If you have confidence in Christ’s work on your behalf, confidence in Christ’s ability to take the penalty for your sins and confidence that Christ should let you into heaven based only on his work and not on yours, and if that confidence is currently present in your life, then that confidence is an assurance of your true faith.”
Chapter 16: Death
Interesting that this is included on 20 basic Christian beliefs. Yet it is something that we all must encounter. Not only our own death, but the deaths of others around us.
And the sadness that is death without Christ. Only in Christ can we have hope when dealing with death. For the Christian, death is not the end. And when Christ returns, we will be resurrected with new bodies that will never die.
Chapter 17: The Church
It was good that he brought out that the church is any who are true believers. I found it interesting that the church as an organization has certain traits – I think that may be more man-made though it isn’t anti-Scripture to have these traits. One trait being that of the 2 sacraments – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Interesting note that a “church” that doesn’t teach from the Word is not really a church. How many of our American churches now fit in that category? I agree with the assessment of the purposes for a church are worship, nurture and care of its members, evangelism and mercy. I think too many churches end up emphasizing one of these over the others but they are all vital roles.
Chapter 18: Christ’s Return
Though Christians differ on their views of Christ’s return and whether there is a thousand year reign of Christ, all agree that Christ will return. It was interesting to see the list of signs given in the Bible that presumably precede Christ’s return. More mysteries that are not completely understandable. Yet the promise remains that Christ will return, whenever that may be.
Chapter 19: Final Judgment
I’m glad he pointed out that as Christians we will not be judged to determine our final destiny. Christ has already taken care of that. Rather we will be judged to determine rewards. It’s not popular (or pleasant) to talk about hell but the reality is that there is a hell and those who do not put their faith in Christ will spend eternity there. Because there is a final judgment, this should motivate us to spread the gospel to everyone we can.
Chapter 20: Heaven
Ah, what we all long for as Christians! The end of pain, suffering and tears. When our bodies will be restored and the new heaven and new earth will no longer suffer the effects of sin.