Mark's #34 - Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem (2005)

I have long been a fan of Dr. Grudem's theological insights and explanation of Christian doctrine through his much lengthier Systematic Theology book (published in 1995, 1264 large pages with tiny font).  Since the publication of Systematic Theology, a condensed version of that weighty tome entitled Bible Doctrine has been published (1999, 528 pages). However, for my current purposes, I was looking for a much briefer and broader overview of Christian doctrine as a personal refresher. Christian Beliefs was exactly what I was looking and hoping for (160 pages). Each of the twenty chapters summarize the key points and verses relating to the core doctrines of the Christian faith.  Grudem writes from a broad evangelical perspective,  with an emphasis on God's sovereignty (i.e., Reformed perspective).  Though a short book, there were countless Scripture quotations and references, demonstrating Grudem's high view of the Bible and its authority in the life of the Christian.

Not only was I personally edified by this broad sweep through doctrine, as a pastor, I look forward to  distributing this resource to as many people as I can for their equipping and encouragement.

Mark's #37 - Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle

Earlier this year, Rob Bell wrote a book, Love Wins,  where he challenged the historic and orthodox view of God's eternal judgment of unrepentant rebels in hell.  While this sparked a firestorm of controversy (and sold a lot of books), one of the great benefits to the church is that it has gotten people to talk about a topic Jesus spent more time talking about than He did about heaven.

In one sense, Erasing Hell is a response to Love Wins, but the strength of this book is that it's aim and tone will most likely serve the church for a much longer time than a mere rebuttal would have.  There is no attacking of Bell in this book, though they do occasionally use Bell's points as opportunities to engage some of the mythology surrounding the doctrine of hell that has grown up through the centuries - For example, the idea that the word ghenna (hell) derived from the burning trash heap outside the city of Jerusalem... The problem is that this idea does not first surface until about 1200 years after Christ!

In short, this book is both an honest look at what God has revealed about eternal judgment throughout the Bible and a passionate plea to feel the weight and reality of such truths in a way that they change the way we live and engage our world.

Or as the authors put it:

This is not just about doctrine; it's about destinies... you cannot let this be a mere academic exercise.  You must let Jesus' very real teaching on hell sober you up.  You must let Jesus' words reconfigure the way you live, the way you talk, and the way you see the world and the people around you (pg. 72).

While this book is not a rigorous academic and expositional study on the doctrine of hell, I do believe it deals with the doctrine adequately and honestly in a way that will serve as a resources for the masses.  I recommend you buy two copies. One for yourself and one to give away.