Gregg R. Allison’s 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith is a helpful survey of basic Christian theological teachings. Though Allison is a professor at a Southern Baptist seminary, he writes for a broad evangelical audience.
The first thing I like about the book is it’s structure. Each chapter deals with a single doctrine and is divided up into multiple sections:
- Main Themes
- Key Scripture
- Understanding the Doctrine (further subdivided into Major Affirmations, Biblical Support, and Major Errors)
- Enacting the Doctrine
- Teaching the Doctrine
- Perennial Questions and Problematic Issues
- Teaching Outline
- Resources (a bibliography)
This structure makes it very easy for non-experts to grasp the material and use it in teaching sessions.
A second thing I like is Allison’s labor to speak to an audience broader than his own baptist tradition. This has the dual blessing of making the book useful in multiple churches and of including multiple viewpoints. As a Wesleyan, it’s been common in my experience for evangelical writers to present adherence to Calvinism as necessary to being an evangelical, therefore leaving all Wesleyans on the sidelines. Allison is clearly more Reformed than Arminian, but he is fairly generous.
If you’re not a conservative evangelical, this book is probably not for you. Though Allison allows for some breadth of teaching, the limits are not really very broad. One way to see this is the assumption of a foundationalist epistemology, exemplified by the building of doctrine an inerrant scripture.
I also appreciate Allison’s inclusion of a section on “Enacting the Doctrine.” For too long Christians have acted like doctrine is only something to be believed – a sort of “mental furniture.” Allison is correct that doctrine has consequences for the way we live as Christians and as the people of God.
One of the limitations of this book comes from covering 50 doctrines in a single volume. Not only would one wish some doctrines received greater coverage, but important dimensions of theological teaching are left unconsidered altogether. There is little or no attention, for example, given to scientific and philosophical consideration. Allison might argue that these disciplines have no place in a truly scriptural theology, but by not considering them (except as contributing to theological errors), the theologian becomes blind to ways culture and other schools of thought have crept into our ways of thinking.
[Note: I received a copy of this book from Baker Book Bloggers on condition of writing a review.]