Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian?

What's the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian: A Guide to What Matters Most, by Martin Thielen. Louisville, Kentucky: WJK, 2011. 157 pages. ISBN: 978-0-664-23683-0

Reviewed by John E. Shaffett

The title of the book can be misleading. It seems to be encouraging a compromising faith. I do not think that is what the author is trying to do. Martin Thelen in What's the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian is attempting to distinguish between what is essential to the Christian faith. He actually got the title from a friend who was an atheist. This atheist eventually came to faith in Jesus Christ. Thielen's friend, however, had many obstacles to overcome to hear the true message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part discusses"Ten things Christians Don't need to Believe." These are barriers are obstacles to non-believers becoming Christians. They might also be things that cause people to leave the faith. Some of the issues discussed in this part are suffering, evolution, status of women, social justics, last things, other religions, inerrancy of scripture, and homosexuality. These are issues that divide Christians. For example, the author gives three different responses to homosexuality: nonwelcoming and nonaffirming; welcoming and affirming; welcoming but nonaffirming. The author seeks to take a middle position between the right and left on the majority of issues discussed in the book.

The second part of the book is the weightiest. It seeks to describe what is essential to the Christian faith. The author describes the "Ten things Christians do need to believe." This part major theme is who is Jesus Christ and what is our relationship to him. Issues discussed are Jesus' identity, priority, grace, life, death, resurrection, and other topics. The last chapter is interesting: "Do mainline Christians believe in being saved"?
The author says they do. The author makes three points about salvation: it is a lifelong process; we are saved by God's grace; salvation requires a human response. Thielen believes that some believers are saved instantaneously; others are saved gradually.

Some Christians will disagree with Thielen's conclusions in part one, but it will be helpful to see different responses to controversial issues of our day. Most Christians will affirm what the author has to say in part two. The presentation is basic orthodox Christianity. Thielen believes in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He believes Christians have an eternal hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What's the Least I Can believe and Still be a Christian is recommended for all Christians. It would be also a good book to give to non-Christians.

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