By Tanwin Tanoto
Book reviewed: J.D. Greear. Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words. (Good Book Company: Guildford, NSW Australia) February 2023.
“Basic Christianity” I never liked that term. It sounds oxymoron to me.
Because there is nothing “basic” about Christianity. Also, that term miscommunicates what Christianity is. It treats Christianity like a personal development course where you finish “Christianity 101” only to do “Christianity 201”.
If we believe Christianity is about our relationship with God, then doing “basic” things is fundamental. If Martin Luther is correct in saying that progress is always to begin again, then it is beneficial for us to go back to our “Basic Christianity”. (Yeah, I still don’t like the term).
One of the topics that I often revisit is introductions to Christianity. Books like Knowing God (J. I. Packer), Need to Know (Gary Millar), and This Thing Called Christianity (Jefferson Bethke). Because on one hand, the gospel is so rich that it can be told and explained in a number of ways. Now, I’m not saying the gospel is many things. But I am saying the gospel is one thing that can be expressed in different ways.
The other reason is the dynamic movement of our culture. We live in a very diverse and dynamic culture that we need a fresh look at how we explain Christianity in today’s language to today’s world. Essential Christianity is a good book that explains what Christianity is in today’s language.
Greear summarises the gospel in 10 words that critique, probe, and challenge our post-post-modern thinking today. Those words are:
Announcement (instead of ‘advice’)
Undeniable (instead of ‘personal opinion’)
Refusal (instead of ‘following your heart’)
(Not) Religion (instead of, well, ‘religion’)
Rescue (instead of ‘being a better you’)
Faith (instead of ‘striving’)
Inclusion (instead of ‘exclusiveness’)
Struggle (instead of ‘the good life’)
Spirit (instead of ‘religious’)
Therefore (now what?)
One of the strengths of this book is its simplicity. The 10 words are easy to remember. They are challenging today’s world view and they are biblically faithful.
The other strength is that the book is easy to read. Greear is one of those gifted writers that can easily connect and relate to his audience.
This is a great book to be read together in a small group. It adds your vocabulary in sharing the gospel using contemporary language and examples. The book is also a great tool to be read with unbelievers. It does not use much Christian jargon. And when it does, it does a good job of explaining it.
I would recommend this to all church leaders and pastors as a tool in their back pockets. Essential Christianity is a good resource in our everyday evangelism in many contexts today.
Read more of Tanwin’s Book Reviews HERE