I just finished a couple of great books: Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem and Basic Christianity by John R.W. Stott.
If I had to choose one of these books over the other, I think it would be Christian Beliefs. It follows the same major topics as most full-blown theology texts, and, in fact, is a condensation of Grudem’s 528 page Bible Doctrine, which is itself a condensation of Grudem’s 1,296 page Systematic Theology. As such, there is a wealth of information packed into this svelte volume. I especially found the Westminster Catechism, the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, and the ancient Christian creeds in the back of the book to be a nice touch. Grudem also provides a list of roughly 45 books for additional study from a variety of perspectives. I can’t think of a better, more easily digestible introduction to Christian theology than this book, and have already recommended it to several friends and others who have inquired about what I believe.
Basic Christianity is considered a modern classic, and I think it’s deserving of that reputation. It was written in 1958, and Stott is from England, so I found his manner of writing at times quirky and difficult to understand (it reminded me of Talmage1, actually). That said, he offers a well-organized and cogent summary of Christian belief and duty. He divides his book into four major topics: (1) Christ’s person, (2) man’s need, (3) Christ’s work, and (4) man’s response. It was clear from the outset, and from several things he said throughout the volume, that Stott values concepts like the Sovereignty of God and Unconditional Election, but he spoke much and often about man’s duty, to the point that I wondered at times if he was not Arminian. In this respect, Stott reminded me a lot of Spurgeon, who was also clearly Calvinist but spoke at times like an Arminian. I think nowadays too many Christians shirk from anything resembling duty and I appreciated this new (or rather, old) perspective and insight from Stott.
Both these books are excellent introductions to the Christian faith, and I would commend them to anyone, especially if you are unfamiliar with the basic tenets of Evangelical Christianity and would like something you can read in one or two sittings.