I love the study and practice and process of theology. I love doctrine for the ways in which it illuminates the word and the world, and how it helps me make sense of a myriad of disagreements and strangeness in the Church. Because of that I’m always on the lookout for books I can share with others that help illuminate and illustrate that love, the joy I feel in getting inside a truth and seeing more of the goodness and glory of God. Those books tend to fall into two categories – big books that people are unlikely to buy, or small books that only expand on a few things
Practicing Christian Doctrine by Beth Felker Jones, a theology professor at Wheaton, is a different kind of book. Neither a full blown systematic theology nor a doctrinal starter for one, this is a book I could give to someone of average reading ability, expect them to finish, hope they’d enjoy it, and know that they would be wonderfully exposed to the breadth and depth of the Christian tradition. This book walks through the major areas of Christian doctrine, blending reflection on scripture, other theologians, and church history. It is extraordinarily readable, and very clearly but not nauseatingly (in the sense that this inclusion serves the book, rather than being a box-ticking exercise) inclusive of a range of orthodox Christian voices.
This is a book I will also return to in my own work – not least for Felker-Jones’good writing, which sometimes results in some very helpful and often beautiful turns of phrase. Writing as an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition, I am simultaneously in agreement and disagreement with her framework – but find much to commend, and where I did find myself disagreeing, could understand where she was coming from.
Overall, then, I hope this book will be more widely read than I expect it is at the moment. There really isn’t much else like it that I’ve read – it is a ‘Goldilocks zone’ book, in my view: neither too academic or too summed down, neither too long or too short, and, as I say, well-written, attractively laid out and regularly foregrounding other voices. Practicing Christian Doctrine is published by Baker Academic.