Michael Horton’s new book Core Christianity is an excellent introduction of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. For the nonbeliever, this is a wonderfully concise introduction to Christianity fit for the task of presenting the basic beliefs of the faith and answering some (but certainly not all) oppositions to Christianity. For the new believer, it is perfect for enhancing their understanding of the core beliefs of the faith and why these truths are so vital. For the seasoned believer, it is a great opportunity to revisit those essential doctrines which may get pushed to the back burner for more pressing “practical” needs. For discipleship, this book is a useful tool that should be in arm’s reach for anyone dedicated to making disciples. Horton skillfully, concisely, and effectively tackles difficult doctrines such as: Jesus’ divinity, the trinity, and God’s goodness.
Horton’s writing style is very welcoming as he brings heavy doctrinal topics with a conversational tone that feels more like a helpful friend than a lecturing professor. This makes the use of terms such as sabellianism, arianism, and other highly theological verbiage more accessible to an audience that isn’t likely reading a systematic theology to further their understanding of biblical doctrines. This is the most practical and helpful aspect of the book. Readers aren’t left with answers they could find in a few moments of a google search, yet they also aren’t left feeling like the algebra 1 student who accidentally wound up in a calculus classroom. With the exception of a few sections, a person could know very little about the Christian faith and still glean much from a single reading of this book. The person looking to know more could read this book several times and gain great depth from this very same book.
Readers a presented with four D’s which help to see how “knowing, experiencing, and living are interconnected” in each main doctrine of the Christian faith. When describing the first of the four D’s — drama— Horton reminds readers that “God reveals what he is like, not in ivory tower speculation but down on the ground in real history.” This means that God revealed Himself in the context of the bible’s big story, not in a systematic theology or dictionary style book. In speaking on doctrine, Horton says, “from the throbbing verbs and adverbs of the drama we are given stable nouns. God himself teaches us that he has acted wise, justly, mercifully, and omnisciently” because he is those things. Men don’t make up doctrine or theology, they get them from the Bible as part of God’s unfolding drama. That drama and doctrine must then lead to doxology which means “praise”, because God revealed Himself so men would worship and glorify Him. Lastly, doxology should yield love and good works which are manifested in discipleship. These four D’s are helpful for readers as they consider the core aspects of true Christianity.
In Core Christianity, Horton presents readers with several doctrines followed by a big picture overview of the bible. After these, he reminds us that we must rely on the scriptures alone to define our story rather than letting our life experiences and opinions define God and his word. To finish the book, readers are called to stop waiting and respond to these truths in faith. Horton emphatically asks readers, “What are you waiting for?”and then follows this question with the reality and unpredictability of death. Finally, he reminds readers that all believers have callings to work for God’s kingdom whether they are ministers, stay-at-home-moms, or factory assembly line workers. This work happens outside the church doors and none of it happens without keeping the gospel at the heart of Christianity. He ends the book with these powerful sentences: “It is this history of Jesus and not that of this age that is the real rudder of destiny—both the story of the world and the story of our own lives. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.” This is the message and core of Christianity.
I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
Chrys Jones is a Christian, husband, father of three, pastor, and teacher. He is also a recording artist and producer for Christcentric Records and a book briefer for Accelerate Books. In his free time, Chrys loves to spend time with his family, roast coffee, read good books, and listen to beat tapes and jazz.