Cover Image: At the Heart of the Universe

At the Heart of the Universe:
What Christians Believe

Peter Jensen (IVP, 2003)

Blurb Review by Dave Bish

Review by Dave Bish

What would it take to silence Christian conversation? What would it take to drain the life out of the face of most Christians? Tragically it is the word "doctrine". Doctrine is a bad word today. It has the odour of deadness and dogmatism. How far removed from the truth this is. This book opens with the words "doctrine means teaching". That's not a great start! If we can get past these words we will find doctrine opened up to us. This book gives a fresh view on doctrine for the benefit of faith, evangelism, praise and prayer.

Peter Jensen writes to give every one of us a love of Christian teaching. His aim is to open up the Bible to us. He does this by considering the story of the Bible and the key questions of that story. The task is ambitious as Jensen seeks to teach both the believer, the student who will one day preach Christ, and unbelievers. The book is very well structured and therefore accessible. Each of the five parts begins with a helpful introductory illustration before tackling the subject. Discussion questions and a helpful conclusion close each section allowing further reflection, alone or with others.

Jensen succeeds in laying out core doctrines of Christian belief with brevity and clarity. The subtitle is "What Christians believe" and the reader will come away with an general grasp of Christian convictions. Christian belief is set in the context of an eternal plan of salvation with particular focus on sin and God's rule, divine revelation and the work of Christ.

It is observed that most doctrine is delivered in textbooks. The introduction expresses regret at this reality. This short book makes doctrine accessible to all. It is evident that Jensen has a particular focus on God's Word and the centrality of revelation to our knowledge of God.

There are oddities and weaknesses in a book this ambitious. Jensen begins with history's conclusion. When considering the story of the Bible this is a strange approach. The Bible begins at the beginning. Jensen justifies his approach in his introduction by suggesting this shines greater light on the rest of the story. I'm not convinced. From the end of history, Jensen moves to the Fall, rather than creation, which is something of an omission.

This book will be most useful to Christians to set their bearings afresh, drawing our attention to our God who is indeed at the heart of the Universe, the one to whom all glory belongs. I've not come across much that is similiar. Wayne Grudem's recent Christian Beliefs is comparable for length and accessibility but is an example of Systematic Theology rather than Biblical Theology.

Review by Dave Bish

UCCF South West Team Leader.

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