Takeaway: Theology has to be built on the basics. Everything else, by definition is non-essential.
I really like the idea of this book. Martin Theilen is a pastor. A man he knows was an outspoken atheist. They continued their relationship and eventually the man said he had upgraded to agnostic. A while later the man ask “What is the least I can believe and still be a Christian?” It was not because he was trying to minimize having faith, but instead was frustrated by variety of things that people add to their faith.
The first ten chapters are very quick looks at beliefs that are non-essential to the faith. None of these choices are surprising or dealt with in depth. Thielen in general looks at a view that holds the belief as essential, and a view that dismisses them and then either dismisses them or shows why we cannot really know the final answer. I wish he was a bit more inclusive in this area. In some cases, he is a bit harder on some of the more conservative views than I would like. It is not because I really disagree with him on most things, but because I want to respect my Brothers and Sisters in Christ that believe differently than I do and honor them as we disagree. He is not mean, just dismisses a bit too easily. The topics of this section are Problems of Evil, Doubt, Evolution/Creation, Women (in marriage, authority in church and society), Environmentalism, End Times, Salvation of other religions, Scripture, Homosexuality, Judgmental Christians.
Then the book shifts from what is not important to what is important to believe as a Christian. These topics are several ideas around the person of Jesus, Grace, Works, Service, Suffering of Christ, Resurrection, Holy Spirit, the Church, Calling, and Salvation.
I liked the second section better because it was more focused on the positive. It was simple without being simplistic.
All of the topics, in the first and second section could and do have whole books on them. But Thielen focuses on what he sees as important. This is really the root of theology. Many people complain about the lack of theological depth within the church. But if you do not have books like this, then there is no where to build on. There is nothing here I have not read somewhere else. But I am not the target audience. I am a pastor’s kid (and grandkid) seeped in faith, I attended a Christian college and have a Masters of Divinity. But still being reminded of what is important is useful.
This was a quick book. I literally read the first 60 percent on my iPad at the gym, the end of the book I read while my wife was watching a sitcom. So it is not hard. I think it would be a good book to discuss in a small group setting.
I picked the book up a couple weeks ago when it was free on Kindle. There really is a lot of good books that are being offered free if you pay attention.