In this exemplary treatment of historical Christian theology and the development of belief, Olson (theology, Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor Univ.) succeeds in presenting what he posits as a "very basic, relatively comprehensive, nontechnical, nonspeculative one-volume introduction" to the subject. Olson works best at "affirming a strong central core of identifiable Christian belief," concluding that "beliefs matter, but not all beliefs matter equally." An evangelical Christian who is well versed in the variety of Christian beliefs-from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism to Protestantism and others that fall under the heading of "esoteric Christianity"-he compares and contrasts various traditions in brief and simple language, illuminating complex doctrinal debates such as the Trinity, the nature of God, salvation, and humanity. He employs an informed rhetoric, showcasing a Christianity "that allows for great diversity and variety about every detail." While not heavily into scholarly apparatus, he footnotes and cites where necessary. Teachers who want to cover a broad spectrum of Christian beliefs should seriously consider this as a textbook for their courses. Its reasonable price and thoughtful, comprehensive perspective make it a compelling purchase. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Sandra Collins, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In this ambitious book, Olson delineates from an evangelical perspective what is and is not authentic Christian belief. Chapters feature such topics as the Bible, God, Jesus and the Church, beginning with an overview of orthodox belief about the topic, citing Scripture, the Church Fathers and noted Christian writers throughout history. Olson then devotes a section to heretical beliefs, and follows this with an examination of diverse non-heretical beliefs among orthodox Christians (including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers, and most Protestants). He ends each chapter envisioning greater unity among Christians, despite honest disagreements. While marred by some redundancy and excess verbiage, Olson's writing renders many complex theological concepts surprisingly accessible. And in his attempts to separate heresy from right belief, he acknowledges that those who adhere to beliefs he labels erroneous are usually sincere Christians (he cites wrong belief among fundamentalists, charismatics, liberal Christians and various sects). Attempting to mediate among the myriad dogmas, doctrines and opinions of orthodox Christians is no easy task, and Olson's descriptions of certain right beliefs and heresies (such as the psychological analogy for the Trinity and modalism) are sometimes barely distinguishable. Despite these and other small logical problems, Olson's book contributes greatly to contemporary evangelicalism not only in its impressive survey of many theologies, but also in its use of "The Great Tradition" of Christian belief as an essential guide to orthodoxy. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.