Title: Christianity: A Short Introduction
Author: Keith Ward
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Excellent writing, very approachable for beginners and non-specialists
Unique presentation provides an important perspective on the diversity of Christian beliefs
Definite and noticeable bias shows through
Introductory text on the doctrines and beliefs of Christianity
Adopts a thematic rather than a historical approach, offering multiple views on individual issues
Addresses many central issues in Christianity
Is there room for another introduction to Christianity? Thats a reasonable question, considering how many already exist, but Keith Wards Christianity: A Short Introduction stands out from all the others in a number of interesting ways. Ward, a Regius Professor of Divinity at Christ Church College, Oxford, has written frequently about religion in general and Christianity in particular, so we are justified in having high expectations from this.
The average introduction to Christianity usually follows a historical template: readers start with the earliest days of the Christian Church and are taken through 2,000 years of conflicts, controversies, and changes as Christians have redefined their beliefs and split apart from each other when redefinition didnt meet with everyones approval. Such an approach is reasonable a person who wants to understand Christianity really needs to understand how it developed through history and so should be introduced to its historical record.
Wards book stands out from the crowd because he doesnt do this at all; instead, he delivers a thematic introduction to Christianity. Each chapter focuses on some particular topic that has been central to Christian beliefs (the soul, salvation, God, Jesus) by first describing the matter in general terms and then presenting three different viewpoints on it. This provides readers with an unusual but very important means for assessing the beliefs of Christianity and the ways in which Christians have debates the most fundamental aspects of their faith.
If there is a flaw in Wards book, it would have to be the influence of his own personal beliefs in his presentation. He admits to being a Christian and to having biases, but he also insists that he endeavors to be as objective as possible when describing what various Christians have believed. When it comes to describing what others believe, I think that he is probably successful in that he is fair and reasonable in his descriptions.