What’s the Least I Can Believe? – A Review
It’s rare to come across a book on Christianity that resonates closely with me. I’ve always felt like I was a little too far outside the mainstream. Not so far that I’d identify with authors that were “heretics”, but far enough that I don’t get gut punched by authors like David Jeremiah or D. James Kennedy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read books by NT Wright and C.S. Lewis that really inspired me. I also enjoyed Blue Like Jazz and am looking forward to reading Love Wins. This book by Dr. Martin Thielen could have been written by me though (provided I possessed a doctorate in theology and decades of experience as a pastor/teacher).
Don’t let the title fool you. It’s not a book that allows you to squeak by. What it is, is an attempt to take the current “hot button” issues in Western Christianity and reveal them for what they are, points that are debated and debatable within our faith. He tackles things like doubt, evolution, the role of women in the Church, social justice, a literal reading of the scripture, how we as Christians view other religions, and homosexuality. It will come as little surprise to any of you that I agree with his take on most, if not all, of these issues. The point is, agree or not though, you can sit wherever you like on these matters and still count yourself a believer. If I have any problem with this book, it’s that he seems to be making the case that on these ten or so topics, you should actually agree with him if you want to be right. I suppose that’s hard to avoid.
One thing he does make clear is that this is not a book on systematic theology. It’s hardly a book at all, weighing in at 144 pages. That’s not much when you not only want to cover the ten things you don’t have to believe, but the ten things you do. There he talks about things like who Jesus is, how God works in people’s lives, suffering, the resurrection, and the Holy Spirit. I’m satisfied with the answers to those questions as well, as I think most mainstream Christians would be. He also makes it clear that if you believe in these doctrines, that a few things need to happen. You need to be a member/regular attender at a mainstream church. Spiritual growth is vital and will only happen in community. Central to that growth is the ongoing process of sanctification through prayer, Bible study, congregational worship, service to others, and the like.
What this book won’t do. – If you’re a conservative Christian, it’s not going to convince you to change or that you’re wrong. That’s not his point. If you’re a hard core atheist it’s not going to convince you that Jesus is the only way.
What I hope (and I suspect the author hopes) it will do. – It can show some of you that Christianity isn’t a monolithic belief system. If you’re soured on the faith because you somehow came to the conclusion that we all belong to the He Man Woman Hater’s Club or that we’re all a bunch of evolution deniers, then maybe this can set the record straight.
Dr. Thielen isn’t going to set the world on fire with this. It’s well written and well thought out. The title is going to intrigue some people and turn others off. If it turns you off, likely you’re not the target audience. You might go ahead and read it anyway. You’d be a step ahead of some of the one star reviewers on Amazon. You risk nothing by giving it a shot. It’s free and if you can read this blog without tearing out your hair then you can read this book.