Book Review

The Mosaic of Christian Belief – By Roger Olson

The history of Christian belief has often been characterized by unfortunate conflicts of position which have produced adamant divisions and polarized camps, all to the effect that the watching world sometimes rejects out of hand any serious consideration of the gospel. ‘Mosaic…’ skillfully articulates a mediating theology, one which bridges and buffers the unnecessary hostility between different perspectives within the Church. Olson insists that there exists a broad middle ground within Protestantism which believers throughout history have always embraced, a thoroughly biblical “great tradition” of doctrine. Equally committed Christians must sometimes agree to disagree about secondary issues in order to come together on these most critical and ultimately unifying fundamentals.

The book’s fifteen chapters address some of the most perplexing questions in the history of theology – Must the Bible be the ONLY source of norms or dogma, or can we also appeal to the great traditions which have developed over two millennia of church history and experience? How can we fathom a God whose vastness and power are beyond our understanding, but who also relates to humans in a nurturing and personal salvation? How can we reconcile the fact that salvation is a gift of God’s grace with the exhortation that we are to strive to work out our salvation? The book’s methodology is straightforward: the two apparently opposing views are defined, generally in terms of the most extreme poles, then Olson tries to cast the most balanced middle ground, one which would be acceptable to most believers. He suggests that, in the face of seeming opposing sides, a “both and” rather than an “either or” posture is unavoidable.

Whereas most books on theology may appeal only to theologians, Olson’s clear writing style makes this one accessible to a much wider audience. I’ve always felt that the good theologian is not so much adept at arguing for his or her position, but is more adept at characterizing clearly and concisely a variety of positions on the same topic. Olson does an admirable job of doing just that, seldom betraying any biases or prejudices he may have brought to the discussion.

Imago Dei Books is open before and after all services on Sunday, we are located in the lobby area of the sanctuary building.

Steve Shogren
Imago Dei Books

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  • Joe says:

    I just realized that the author is my old Prof. from Bethel College. He was a great teacher. Now I have NO choice but to get this book.

  • In this grand scheme of things you actually get a B- with regard to hard work. Where you misplaced me was first in your particulars. You know, people say, the devil is in the details… And that couldn’t be more correct in this article. Having said that, let me tell you precisely what did do the job. Your writing is certainly quite persuasive and that is probably why I am making an effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. 2nd, even though I can easily see a jumps in reasoning you come up with, I am not necessarily confident of just how you appear to unite the ideas which in turn make the conclusion. For the moment I will, no doubt subscribe to your issue however wish in the future you actually link your dots much better.

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