Erik Thoennes, Life’s Biggest Questions: What the Bible Says about the Things that Matter Most (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 176 pages. Thanks to Crossway for a review copy.
Erik Thoennes was a professor of mine during my undergrad years at Biola. A pastor and professor, he is a fantastic preacher/teacher and so I was excited to see that he wrote an introductory book to “life’s biggest questions.” The book is written from an evangelical standpoint and for Christians who want a solid grounding in their faith and/or for those interested in what Christian believe. Overall, this is an excellent resource for small groups, introductory courses in the church, or personal use (many would find the book too short for college level course requirements). Thoennes writes with clarity and avoids academic terminology that might be confusing or intimidating. The unique contribution of this book is not its depth (there are plenty of resources for that), but it’s clarity and accessibility. Then again, its brevity should alleviate any intimidation without claiming to be the final word.
After an introductory chapter on ‘Life’s Biggest Questions’, there are 15 chapters, beginning with the existence of God and closing with the end times. Whether a person is asking them or not, these are life’s biggest questions. Each chapter is around 8-20 pages long and includes a passage of Scripture to memorize, questions for discussion and application, and a concise list of resources for further study. Most of the chapters also include illustrations that present the main points in summary fashion.
Its brevity means that some things will not be discussed. For example, Thoennes discussion of the church is limited to the invisible/visible church and images of the church, leaving no discussion of the sacraments, church leadership, preaching, worship, or other topics one might expect. There is also no discussion of creation except in relation to chapter 11 on Humanity. Some chapters are much shorter (“What is Sin?” – 6 pgs) while others are much longer (“Who is Jesus Christ” – 20 pgs). For me, none of these factors seriously detract from the book’s overall purpose and accomplishments. Some question deserve or need more attention than others and Thoennes is not trying to be comprehensive. This is not the last word. But is a good word, and one that I highly recommend to those in the church looking for an entryway into Christian beliefs that will challenge, clarify, and edify.