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Christianity: A Short Introduction

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Christianity Introduction

Christianity: A Short Introduction, by Keith Ward

Christianity is the largest and, perhaps, the most diverse religion on the planet. You can study it your whole life and still not know everything there is to know about it, which is probably why there are so many books every year on the subject. You could go broke buying them all and still not learn anything.

Summary

Title: Christianity: A Short Introduction
Author: Keith Ward
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
ISBN: 1851682295

Pro:
•  Excellent writing, very approachable for beginners and non-specialists
•  Unique presentation provides an important perspective on the diversity of Christian beliefs

Con:
•  Definite and noticeable bias shows through

Description:
•  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

 

Book Review

Is there room for another “introduction” to Christianity? That’s a reasonable question, considering how many already exist, but Keith Ward‘s 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 didn’t meet with everyone’s 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.

Ward’s book stands out from the crowd because he doesn’t 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.

Christianity Introduction

Christianity: A Short Introduction, by Keith Ward

If there is a flaw in Ward’s 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.

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