I’m an unabashed fan of Wayne Grudem. Aside from the fact that he’s charismatic and Reformed,* he has a real gift for explaining complex ideas well and showing the importance of theology for all believers, not just “professionals.”
Grudem’s Systematic Theology, now in the second edition, is intentionally written to be accessible to laypeople (although it’s as good as any in terms of academic quality). It’s a great resource, but it’s about 1200 pages, and that’s intimidating to most people. For this reason, there’s a 500-page version, Bible Doctrine, that’s edited down from the original, and now a third: this 150-page, bare-bones introduction to essential Christian beliefs.
Now, I think Christians who are serious about their faith (which should be all of us) should be interested in having something more along the lines of a 500-pager on the shelf as far as theology is concerned, if only to use the index when we come across tough questions. But I’m excited about this short version. It’s a great resource for new believers, for anyone who wants to strengthen their doctrinal foundation, and I especially think it would be terrific for a study group.
The book is divided into 20 chapters on major topics like the Bible, God, the Trinity, creation, prayer, the atonement, the Resurrection, etc. Each chapter is about 5 pages long and hits the high points of the doctrine with ample Scripture references, and also shows the importance and relevance of the doctrine to the Christian life. There are also review and application questions at the end of each chapter. These are sometimes a little trite, but many could be good discussion starters.
I especially like the fact that Scriptures are not just referenced but actually quoted, so that you can see how the verse supports what Grudem is explaining. This is, as Grudem says in the introduction, consistent with our belief that the “Word of God is powerful and effective;” that it does not return to him void. The book does not answer every question believers will have, but it is a God-centered, Bible-saturated explanation of the basics of the faith. If you want to better understand and be able to explain what you believe as a Christian, this book is a great starting place.
*Grudem does not like the term “charismatic;” he probably prefers “continuationist.” And lots of people don’t like calling him Reformed because of his views on the supernatural gifts and on eschatology. I can certainly concede his charismatic leanings as an asterisk to calling him Reformed, but when it comes to eschatology his views are within the bounds of Reformed thought. He is premillennial, but not dispensational. And although he believes in a future large-scale conversion of the Jews, he also believes that the church (not ethnic Israel) is the “true Israel of God.” See his ST, chs. 44 and 55. Sorry, the urge to footnote doesn’t just disappear when you graduate.