A Brief Review of
The Basics of Christian Belief: Bible, Theology, and Life’s Big Questions
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2020
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Reviewed by Ryan Johnson
In looking around the country, it is impossible to overlook the impact that worldviews have on our interactions with others and our surroundings. If we are inclined to be distrustful of others, then our worldview begins to seek conspiracy theories to explain the pandemic. If we believe that our experiences provide insight to the way systems affect those who look different from us, then we choose to ignore any argument to the contrary. Worldview may be talked about mainly in erudite circles and ivory towers, but there is no avoiding how much it impacts the way we operate in the world. It is for that reason that each of us should examine our preconceived ideas and begin to accept that we are not the experts and that many of our views contain inconsistencies.
In his new book The Basics of Christian Belief, Joshua Strahan seeks to lay out a Christian worldview and describes the merit behind it. It is an ambitious endeavor especially for such a short book. He seeks to cover the entire Bible in just three chapters, another three chapters on the Apostles’ Creed, and the remainder of the book to provide some brief apologetics for the worldview constructed.
In his introduction, Strahan begins by discussing an atheist worldview presented by Alex Rosenberg of Duke University. He gives an overview of its beliefs and values and then demonstrates how a person might act in alignment with such a view. As a Christian who has examined worldviews, I’ve never found the atheist perspective compelling or even able to reasonably explain the world. I say that to merely point out that while I agree with his illustration, I’m left wondering how an atheist would respond. The resulting worldview is so weak that one begins to question if it is not a straw man argument.
In the chapters that follow, Strahan gives highlights of the story of scripture. Despite his brevity, Strahan provides a consistent narrative and describes the unfolding of God’s kingdom in the world. He demonstrates how God advanced the kingdom concept in the Old Testament, brought it to fruition in the life of Jesus, and continues to reign in the New Testament church. These three chapters help to construct some of the foundation pieces for a Christian worldview. I appreciated this section tremendously as it clearly expresses the metanarrative of Christianity in a broader way than typically found. It emphasizes the hope of restoration that is desperately needed right now. Christianity and the kingdom of God is about restoring the entire world, a message that translates well at any time in history, but particularly right now.
Following his discussion on the Bible, he moves on to examine the Apostles’ Creed. This section provides a closer inspection on theology and the understanding of the three persons of the Trinity. Again, Strahan does a great job in expounding on a complex subject in a rather confined space. While brief, he is still able to give an adequate understanding of what Christians mean when we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The final section essentially provides the construction of the worldview and its subsequent testing. His goal in this is not to prove Christianity is true, but rather to show that the Christian worldview is more compelling and aligns more clearly with the observable world than other worldviews. In this I believe he generally succeeds. It does a good job defending against some of the more popular attacks on the Christian worldview, while also showing how others fail to satisfy difficult questions. Again, one is still left wondering how a proponent of other worldviews might respond.
Overall, Strahan succeeds in his thesis of constructing a robust Christian worldview and demonstrating its explanatory power in the world. While there are some things I would change for personal reasons, such as the textbook feel, it nonetheless is certainly worth the read. We live in a society that desperately needs to hear the message of hope offered by Christianity. We need a Christian worldview that at its core seeks for restoration and reconciliation. This is a worldview that seeks to provide justice where there is injustice, to deconstruct things that oppress others, and yet does so with firmness and humility.
Ryan Johnson lives and works in Nottingham, Maryland with his wife, son and new daughter. He is a former pastor who spends much of his free time reading and writing and of course playing with his son Judah and daughter Eliza. He can be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rjohn8hf/.
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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