Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel, ed. Exploring Christian Theology, Volume Two: Creation, Fall, and Salvation. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2015. See here to buy the book.
In this second volume of Exploring Christian Theology,
Nathan Holsteen, Michael Svigel, Glenn R. Kreider, and others explore
the topics of creation, the Fall, and salvation in Christian theology.
They provide an exposition of the doctrines, chronicle views on the
topics throughout church history, list different perspectives on the
topics, and provide practical guidance on how Christians should interact
with the topics. The book also has a list of recommended books for
those who wanted to go deeper, as well as a helpful glossary in the
The book interacts with certain questions. What does it mean for
humanity to be created in God’s image? How do human beings receive
their soul—-do they inherit it from their parents, does God create it
for them at birth, or did it pre-exist their human existence? Did the
Fall only weaken the human capacity to choose good, or did it obliterate
it? This volume explores these questions, and more.
The greatest asset to this volume is that it surveys different
Christian views on these topics, past and present. It does not assume
that Christians throughout history have had the exact same views on
these topics, but rather it acknowledges development and diversity. The
lists of recommended books are also good because they include books that
have different perspectives. You will find atheist Richard Dawkins in
one of the lists, and Calvinists and Arminians, inclusivists and
exclusivists, in another. To be honest, I was bored with the parts of
the book that explained the doctrines, but the parts about the
interaction with the topics throughout church history made the book well
worth the read, and those who teach such material may find those parts
In terms of the book’s weaknesses, I did not always care for the
book’s organization. I realize and respect that these topics intersect
with each other. The view that God created each person’s soul, for
example, intersects with the question of whether humans are inherently
good or bad, and beliefs about the extent of human corruption affect how
Christian theologians conceptualize God’s role in salvation. Still, I
do think that the editors should have worked a little harder at
separating these topics into chapters. The first part of the book was
looking at so much—-the image of God, the soul, and original sin. When I
was reading a part of the book that quoted Christian thinkers
throughout history and was hoping to see clearly the various views on
human sinfulness, I was encountering views about what the image of God
was. The second part of the book, which was about salvation, was
repeating things about human sinfulness from the first half. The
editors may have thought that this was the best way to organize the
book, after considering various options. It was a bit distracting,
though, for me as a reader. They should have had a part of the book
about creation, a part about the Fall, and a part about salvation—-three
parts of the book, rather than two.
Also, there were a few cases in which the book had charts about
various Christian beliefs on certain topics (i.e., the nature of the
atonement, and the spectrum from exclusivism to pluralism), but (as far
as I could see or recall) it did not talk about these topics in the text
itself. I think that charts should serve as a visual aid for things
discussed in the text, not a substitute for them.
Overall, however, I did like this book and found it to be informative.
Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary review copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.