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Pastor and author Martin Thielen has compiled a list of ten things Christians need to believe--and ten things they don't--to be Christians. This lively and engaging book will be a help to seekers as well as a comfort to believers who may find themselves questioning some of the assumptions they grew up with.Many people in the twenty-first century hunger for an expression of Pastor and author Martin Thielen has compiled a list of ten things Christians need to believe--and ten things they don't--to be Christians. This lively and engaging book will be a help to seekers as well as a comfort to believers who may find themselves questioning some of the assumptions they grew up with.Many people in the twenty-first century hunger for an expression of Christian faith that is different from the judgmental and narrow-minded caricatures they see on television or in the news. With an accessible style that's grounded in solid biblical scholarship, Thielen shows how Christians don't need to believe that sinners will be left behind to burn in hell or that it's heresy to believe in evolution. And while we must always take the Bible seriously, we don't always have to take it literally. At the same time, Christians do need to believe in Jesus--his life, his teachings, his death and resurrection, and his vision for the world. Thielen articulates centrist, mainline Christianity in a way that's fresh and easy to understand and offers authentic Christian insights that speak to our deepest needs. This is an ideal book for individual, group, or congregational study.


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Pastor and author Martin Thielen has compiled a list of ten things Christians need to believe--and ten things they don't--to be Christians. This lively and engaging book will be a help to seekers as well as a comfort to believers who may find themselves questioning some of the assumptions they grew up with.Many people in the twenty-first century hunger for an expression of Pastor and author Martin Thielen has compiled a list of ten things Christians need to believe--and ten things they don't--to be Christians. This lively and engaging book will be a help to seekers as well as a comfort to believers who may find themselves questioning some of the assumptions they grew up with.Many people in the twenty-first century hunger for an expression of Christian faith that is different from the judgmental and narrow-minded caricatures they see on television or in the news. With an accessible style that's grounded in solid biblical scholarship, Thielen shows how Christians don't need to believe that sinners will be left behind to burn in hell or that it's heresy to believe in evolution. And while we must always take the Bible seriously, we don't always have to take it literally. At the same time, Christians do need to believe in Jesus--his life, his teachings, his death and resurrection, and his vision for the world. Thielen articulates centrist, mainline Christianity in a way that's fresh and easy to understand and offers authentic Christian insights that speak to our deepest needs. This is an ideal book for individual, group, or congregational study.

30 review for What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?: A Guide to What Matters Most

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    I picked this up after being invited to attend small group that would be using this book as their study. While it is, of course, not a comprehensive guide to Christianity, it touches on some major (and controversial) topics Christians face today. The book is broken up into two sections; 10 things Christians don't need to believe, and 10 they do. Thielen has a straight forward, conversational writing style that makes for an easy read. He uses a substantial amount of scripture to demonstrate his b I picked this up after being invited to attend small group that would be using this book as their study. While it is, of course, not a comprehensive guide to Christianity, it touches on some major (and controversial) topics Christians face today. The book is broken up into two sections; 10 things Christians don't need to believe, and 10 they do. Thielen has a straight forward, conversational writing style that makes for an easy read. He uses a substantial amount of scripture to demonstrate his basis, while also intermingling anecdotes and secular movie references to bring it down to earth. Now for the content. I am positive this book has really pissed some Christians off. Royally. ("God doesn't hate gay people?" "That verse is metaphoric and not literal?!") I can't say that I 100% agree with everything Thielen wrote, but I found myself challenging some ideas I've always accepted. I considered the words and example given to us by Jesus, and how in stark contrast that frequently is with the current idea of what a Christian should be and believe. I don't believe this book is intended for those unfamiliar, but interested in Christianity. Instead, I think this book is best suited for: 1. Frustrated, disillusioned Christians 2. Christians who think they are the only ones with _____ (insert: doubt, sin, selfishness, etc) 3. Christians who think they have all the answers (*cough* you don't)

  2. 4 out of 5

    AngelaGay Kinkead

    Engaging, great for discussion, and well done discussion guide. People in our church study group found that family members and friends were reading it alongside them and loved discussing it. I'd use another book by Thielen.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anne Wingate

    What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? By Martin Thielen Published by Westminster John Knox Press ISBN 9780664236830 This book was supplied to me by the publisher via NetGalley in return for the promise of a fair and honest review if I chose to review the book. What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? A Book Review This title offended me. I believe that a Christian should learn all he can learn about Christ and then believe it if it is true. This title sounds to me li What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? By Martin Thielen Published by Westminster John Knox Press ISBN 9780664236830 This book was supplied to me by the publisher via NetGalley in return for the promise of a fair and honest review if I chose to review the book. What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? A Book Review This title offended me. I believe that a Christian should learn all he can learn about Christ and then believe it if it is true. This title sounds to me like weaseling. So I was very relieved to get into the book and find out it wasn’t that way at all. The source for the title is a long-ago discussion between him and a self-described atheist. The atheist and the pastor continued to be friends, and finally the atheist, having gone through various phases of belief and non-belief, asked for a formal meeting with the pastor. This was the question he asked, and this is the answer the pastor gave him. First, it lists ten things a Christian need not and in most cases, should not believe. These include exclusivity to the extent that even fellow Christians who follow a different denomination, are undoubtedly damned. They also include the belief that God causes accidents, natural disasters, and illnesses; fretting over occasional (or even perennial) doubt (“I believe; help thou my unbelief); women as slaves of men; the belief that God doesn’t care about social justice; the belief that God will send sinners ( category which includes most of the person’s relations and acquaintances) to burn in hell forever, even if they are people who never heard of Christ or who otherwise had no chance of learning to believe in him; the idea of The Rapture; the belief that everything in the Bible should be taken literally; the belief that God hates sinners, especially if they are homosexuals; and the belief that it is okay for Christians to be judgmental and aggressive over their disbelief. Christians should believe in Jesus’ identity (if you don’t know that Jesus is a part of the Godhead how can you worship him?); Jesus’ identity with God; Jesus’ priorities if they don’t include us and our pet beliefs; and Jesus’ grace. I found that although there were things in the book that I didn’t belief; for example, in insisting that all Christians must believe in the Trinity—three in one, one in three—and that people who don’t believe in what the writer believes is a worse sinner than the ones the author condemns. He hasn’t the slightest idea that he is doing it; he is consciously welcoming all comers to the Church but then subliminally saying, ‘That doesn’t include you and your belief system.” Christians must believe in Jesus’ resurrection and in his later resurrecting all of humankind. Christians must believe that the church in general is still relevant; that Jesus was wise but not as much the God he was before the World and the God he is now; that the Holy Spirit was sent to call us; and in general most of the same things I believe. He also believes that Christians must believe in the dogma of the Trinity, although he admits that it isn’t present in scripture, and that it was later extrapolated, and the arguments he uses in its favor support the Mormon view of the Godhead more than they do the Catholic and Protestant Trinity. Finally, he states that Christians must believe in the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ Vision: God’s dream for the world. He gets a little vague in this chapter, but it works all the same. This, in my eyes, makes this well-written, short and readable, book well worth reading, especially for someone who has recently become, or is considering becoming, a Christian. Anne Wingate Author of Scene of the Crime and other works of fiction and nonfiction.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Martin Thielen, a Southern Baptist turned United Methodist offers a thoughtful and entertaining reflection on the essentials of the Christian faith. His book provides a list of ten things that it is not necessary for Christians to believe followed by ten things Christians should believe. Written for a lay audience, it is not intended as a comprehensive work of systematic theology; rather, it is a good conversation starter, especially for younger people who "like Jesus, but aren't sure about the Martin Thielen, a Southern Baptist turned United Methodist offers a thoughtful and entertaining reflection on the essentials of the Christian faith. His book provides a list of ten things that it is not necessary for Christians to believe followed by ten things Christians should believe. Written for a lay audience, it is not intended as a comprehensive work of systematic theology; rather, it is a good conversation starter, especially for younger people who "like Jesus, but aren't sure about the church."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    This book doesn't intend to go in depth on any theological subject. But it is really good to give to someone with whom you are in conversation who has preconceptions and questions about Christianity. Except for wandering into modalism when discussing the Trinity, the author's basic theological moves are a good introduction and hopefully invite a seeker to go further. I like this book because it is simple though not simplistic and fills the gap of a book to share with an adult seeker who has lots This book doesn't intend to go in depth on any theological subject. But it is really good to give to someone with whom you are in conversation who has preconceptions and questions about Christianity. Except for wandering into modalism when discussing the Trinity, the author's basic theological moves are a good introduction and hopefully invite a seeker to go further. I like this book because it is simple though not simplistic and fills the gap of a book to share with an adult seeker who has lots of questions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I am glad I read this book. As a Christian I have many questions and much to learn in this journey of faith. I found this book comforting as I learned I wasn't a bad Christian at all. I will read this book again at some stage. Because it's not a comprehensive look at the issues it made for interesting reading. No doubt at some stage I'll be ready to read something 'heavier'.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Reena Jacobs

    Expect my full review November 11, 2011 at Ramblings of an Amateur Writer: http://wp.me/pPz8s-1T0 Let’s start this review off by providing a quote from the book: "I’ve had an epiphany. I realize that I don’t reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians package Christianity." I love that! Years ago, I refused the title of Christian for that very same reason. It’s odd though. On the inside and out, I was very much Christian orientated… a lot more so then than I am now. Ye Expect my full review November 11, 2011 at Ramblings of an Amateur Writer: http://wp.me/pPz8s-1T0 Let’s start this review off by providing a quote from the book: "I’ve had an epiphany. I realize that I don’t reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians package Christianity." I love that! Years ago, I refused the title of Christian for that very same reason. It’s odd though. On the inside and out, I was very much Christian orientated… a lot more so then than I am now. Yet instead, I would call myself a follower of the bible or a follower of Christ. I didn’t want to be known as a “Christian.” In my mind, taking on the title would mislead people into thinking I was one of the hypocritical mainstream Christians. And one thing for sure, I didn’t want to be associated with them. Martin Thielen had a very engaging style, which made this work an enjoyable read. I will admit, there were times he was long-winded though, writing the same theme in various ways. It gave me the impression he needed words to fill the page rather than getting his point across in an effective method. Still, he kept me entertained. Mr. Thielen broke the book into two parts: What folks don’t have to believe and What folks do have to believe. So I’m going to address each part separately. Part One: What you don’t have to believe One thing I didn’t like about part one, is the author tried to slant ideas to fit what he wanted to believe rather than what is actually in the bible. For example, explaining away all the unhappiness in the world, as if God had no hand in any of it. At some point, Mr. Thielen asked, “how can we serve a God like that?” referring to incidents people label as “acts of God,” like tornadoes, car wrecks, earthquakes, etc. I’m not saying God is up in the clouds wreaking havok. However, if we look at the history in the bible, God has been known to do just that. The Old Testament (OT) is full of “acts of God.” The New Testament (NT) has a few of its own also. To say my God wouldn’t… or I couldn’t serve a God like that, is rather naive, in my opinion. Now I’m not out to make God a bad guy, and I agree folks are quick to pass blame to God when things don’t go right. However, I think it’s important to face the reality of what’s in the bible when trying to teach the bible. Other times, Mr. Thielen takes modern ideas which are popular in society and applies them as biblical fact when they’re very much contradictory to the bible. For example, he says, “God doesn’t want people to be in the bondage of slavery. Nor does God want women to be submissive, second-class citizens. God intends for marriage to be a partnership, not a hierarchy.” Now I’m all for equality. I want it for myself. Yet hierarchies and submissiveness is very much a part of the bible. Submissiveness is not a bad thing; it keeps order. And being submissive doesn’t necessarily make one a second-class citizen nor does it deny partnership. Likewise, being at the top of the hierarchy doesn’t mean one must treat those in submission poorly. I would even go as far to say, if one had a master or husband who truly walked the Christian lifestyle, being the slave or wife wouldn’t be such a burden. That’s not to say I’m a proponent of slavery or want to take a step into the past and strip women of the rights they’ve gained. I am just saying, the bible says what it says even if we don’t want to believe it. If we throw out submissiveness to husbands and masters (employers for us present day people), where do we stop? Do we stop being submissive to Christ? Stop being submissive to God? Submissiveness has it’s place. We shouldn’t throw out a concept because some individuals abuse the power. Here’s the thing. Women do have important, valuable roles in society. The problem isn’t submission; it’s the undervaluing of the gifts women possess. I could go on with my objections about part one, but I’d rather not. Let’s just say, there was a lot in there which didn’t jive right. Still there were some inspiring pieces. My favorite chapter by far was 5: God cares about saving souls but not about saving trees. Remember, these are things we DON’T have to believe to be a Christian. The idea behind chapter 5 was folks get so caught up in the battle, they forget there’s an entire war out there. For example, the issues of homosexuality and abortion. Honestly, it seems like Satan is pulling a slight of hand with a lot of folks who call themselves Christian. “Lookie over here!” Get Christians to focus all (most of) their energy on abortion and homosexuality, and they’ll miss the big picture: bringing folks to Christ through love. As Mr. Thielen puts it “Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice.” God cares about saving souls. He also cares about other things, like trees, the hungry, world peace. There’s no need to make God one dimensional. Part one ends with what I think is the biggest turn off for non-Christians. Judgmental attitudes. Mr. Thielen tells a story about a friend struggling with his personal life who is later hounded by a judgmental Christian about returning to church. One day she asked my friend, “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” In weary exasperation he responded, “not if it’s full of people like you.” Haha. How many of you out there have had the same thoughts? Mr. Thielen’s bottom line is “True Christians leave judgment to God.” Overall, Mr. Thielan had some great points in Part One. Other times he turned the bible into a smorgasbord where one can pick and choose what works best for his/her lifestyle. Mostly, I think it’s important to understand that True Christianity is about what’s in the bible, not necessarily the way people who call themselves Christian present Christianity to the world. Part Two: What you do need to believe I’m not going to go deep in Part 2 because most of it I’ll say was irrelevant. Mr. Thielen seemed to go off on tangents, which did not focus on the the questions “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” Yes, he answered the question, but it could have been done in 1 chapter versus the 10 chapters he used to do it. Perhaps he was trying to make the two parts even: Ten don’t needs and ten do needs. Like I said, 1 chapter (chapter 1 specifically) answered the question. After that, we hit some nice to know information. Other information I’ll say was specific to the teachings of his church (mainstream Christians even), because they don’t support my understanding of the bible. Though not an item in part 1 or 2, Mr. Thielen concluded the book with a bit of evangelicalism in chapter 21. I found it to be an excellent addition. While Part 1 & 2 dealt with the nitty gritty assertions (even though I didn’t support all of the findings), the last chapter addressed the most important issue in a person’s life (according to Christians): Salvation. My bottom line for What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? — It’s an engaging read, has a lot of instructive information, but is also full of fallacies. As I tell my husband, commentaries and such are great, but people really need to get into the Word so they can decipher what is true and not true when information is presented to them. Would I recommend What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? Yes and no. If you’re unfamiliar with biblical teachings, I wouldn’t recommend reading this work solo or for using as a basis for Christianity. However, it would be a nice book to study with someone who is knowledgeable about the bible. I also think it’d make an excellent book for a study group. Why? Because either of the latter two scenarios would provide the opportunity for discussion. When readers hit the areas which are questionable, they can talk it over, compare notes, and look up scriptures to determine if the bible supports Mr. Thielan’s ideas or not. I received this work from the publisher in exchange for a review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    sexist, anti-Semite, literalistic, anti-evolution or judgmental, they do, however, need to embrace Jesus and his message. Libraries Alive says that the book is, "Appealing, up-to-date, and easy to read, this book may be most helpful to persons raised in churches strict in doctrine and hostile to questions. Thielan gives them permission and reasons to rethink, even disregard, particular beliefs." Martin Thielen is Senior Pastor of Brentwood Untied Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom Rothbauer

    This is a page turner. The author makes it easy to see what is important and what is not. To be a Christian, it is critical to believe in Jesus - his life, his death and his resurrection, his work, his teaching and his promise. Many other things our churches insist that we believe are superfluous. I especially liked his personal stories that helped make his points.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Conrad Driggers

    Read this book in one sitting last night. Good book on what Christians should and should not believe.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Advincula

    Great read if you are compelled by the works and life of Jesus and would like to consider becoming a disciple of Christ, but feel uncomfortable about specific beliefs associated with Christianity.

  12. 4 out of 5

    ~~LAS~~

    Mostly skimmed this. I’m not much into religion these days, though I grew up Christian. I found this book refreshing and a compassionate view of Christianity.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David

    This may be a helpful little book to give to people who are uncertain about the Christian faith. The first ten chapters focus on things you do not have to believe. Many of these chapters are disappointing for their shallowness. It is almost as if the author, rather than giving an answer, simply gives an affirmation of "no, you don't have to believe that." For the more questioning person, his answers are not sufficient. For the record, I agree with pretty much all the things he says you do not ha This may be a helpful little book to give to people who are uncertain about the Christian faith. The first ten chapters focus on things you do not have to believe. Many of these chapters are disappointing for their shallowness. It is almost as if the author, rather than giving an answer, simply gives an affirmation of "no, you don't have to believe that." For the more questioning person, his answers are not sufficient. For the record, I agree with pretty much all the things he says you do not have to believe. But his reasons fall short. For example, he says that you do not have to believe evolution is a lie. He writes about young-earth creationism and the Biblical problems with such a view. Fair enough, but it will not take a person long to have serious questions about the implications of Darwinian evolution on scripture interpretation. He writes as if there are no problems with that view. This is not to say such problems are unsolvable. But he owes it to the reader to at least address them. The same thing happens with his chapter on women in ministry. He speaks of problems with the view that women cannot be pastors. But he does not even mention texts like 1 Timothy 2:14-15 which are a problem for those of us who believe women can be pastors. Ignoring such issues causes the first part of the book to come across as more an affirmation from someone in authority that you don't need to believe such things. Detailed explanation is lacking. The second part of the book, on things you do need to believe, is much better. Here the author focuses on Jesus and hits various vital topics like the incarnation, cross and resurrection. At the end, the author encourages the reader to find a good "mainline" church to get involved in, and then lists such churches (United Church of Christ, Episcopal, etc.). I wonder how the author explains much evidence that such churches are in decline. Further, while this author's writing on Jesus appears orthodox, affirming the literal resurrection and uniqueness of Christ, many mainline churches teach a watered down religion (moral therapeutic deism, see the National Study of Youth and Religion or books like Almost Christian and Souls in Transition). Studies show that churches growing in America are evangelical ones that hold fast to historic Christian beliefs, while mainlines which shed them are shrinking. Again, knowing this makes the author come across somewhat disingenuous. It is not as easy as simply finding a mainline church for many mainline churches may not agree with the second section's teaching on Jesus. Of course, many evangelical churches will not agree with the first section's list of things you do not need to believe. This is a conundrum which I do not think the author takes seriously enough.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lacey Louwagie

    I didn't read this book because I wanted to know what was the "least" I could believe and still be a Christian, as I'm pretty sure I won't be giving up Jesus or Christianity any time soon. But as a Christian often at odds with official Church teaching or the portrayal of Christianity in our culture, I was curious about what one man's opinion was of what is truly "essential" to Christianity. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Theilen lays out 10 beliefs you DON'T have to buy in I didn't read this book because I wanted to know what was the "least" I could believe and still be a Christian, as I'm pretty sure I won't be giving up Jesus or Christianity any time soon. But as a Christian often at odds with official Church teaching or the portrayal of Christianity in our culture, I was curious about what one man's opinion was of what is truly "essential" to Christianity. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Theilen lays out 10 beliefs you DON'T have to buy into to be a Christian (a few examples: women shouldn't occupy places of leadership, gay people are going to hell, the Rapture is coming, God makes bad things happen, etc.) In a few cases, Thielen implies that some of these beliefs, and especially the way they are practiced, are actually contrary to the heart of Christianity. But in most cases, he simply lays out the various schools of Christian thought on the issues, and acknowledges that many "good Christians" believe a variety of things about these particular issues. He pussy-footed around the issue in the GLBTQ chapter a bit too much, which I think has to do with him coming from a denomination that is "open but not affirming," meaning that they welcome gay people but do not "endorse" homosexual acts/relationships (which, I'm sorry, is NOT actually a welcoming stance.) The second part of the book goes through ten things you "do" have to believe to consider yourself a Christian. This part of the book was less interesting to me, and I actually wasn't on board with everything he considered "central" to Christianity (that you must believe in the Trinity, that you must belong to a Church community.) I did appreciate the emphasis he placed on the "most important commandments" to love God and neighbor as yourself; I think if all the other beliefs of Christianity fell away but this one remained, we'd still have a Church that is central to Jesus' teaching. And speaking of Church, Thielen's insistence that you MUST belong to a church community to be a Christian was probably the central belief I found most offensive (and it seemed a bit biased, considering that the book was written by a pastor -- he'd be out of a job without people going to church!) There are examples of Christians throughout history who practiced their faith in solitude and embraced a contemplative, hermit lifestyle. While a part of me thinks that's a bit of a cop-out, as I think your interactions with other people are an important part of any faith journey, I'm not about to say that those who live out their spirituality in that way are not "really" Christian. These parting words, though, redeemed a lot of the book's shortcomings for me: "Christian faith is far more than a set of beliefs. At heart, Christianity is a way of life. What we do is more important than what we believe." Amen to that.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura Dallas

    Don't let the title mislead you. If you are a Christian, it is easy to think that a book like this would be cheapening your faith, but you couldn't be farther from the truth. If you are not a Christian, but you are curious about faith or think you believe in God or know you believe in Jesus but don't really live it, this book is for you. United Methodist pastor Martin Thielen writes this book to the seeker, but there is much of value in here to remind us all of the foundations of our faith and w Don't let the title mislead you. If you are a Christian, it is easy to think that a book like this would be cheapening your faith, but you couldn't be farther from the truth. If you are not a Christian, but you are curious about faith or think you believe in God or know you believe in Jesus but don't really live it, this book is for you. United Methodist pastor Martin Thielen writes this book to the seeker, but there is much of value in here to remind us all of the foundations of our faith and what really matters in the life of a Christian. The book is divided into two sections. The first section tackles some sensitive subjects that non-Christians often list as their reasons for not being a Christian. Things like the role of science and women, care for the environment, homosexuality, and the overall judgment people feel from Christians. Thielen reassures readers that you do not need to tow the line of self-righteous conservative Christians in order to be a Christian. He gives fair assessments of the range of ideas that Christians hold on these issues with biblical support for moderate, mainline positions. The second half of the book is the most important, uplifting, and undeniable part of the book, and it cuts right to the heart of the glory of Jesus Christ. Thielen lists ten things that all Christians do need to believe - that Jesus is the Son of God, that relationships are His priority, that we are accepted as His children, that He uses people for His work, that true fulfillment comes from service, that He is with us in our suffering, that there is hope, that we need church, that the Holy Spirit is with us, that we strive to bring His kingdom to the world, and just what it means to be saved. These chapters are touching, encouraging, reassuring, and convicting. At the end, Thielen tells readers what it means to be saved and how to profess one's faith. Thielen writes like a preacher. The short chapters are full of heartwarming stories, illustrative parables, pop culture references, and funny jokes, but they are all very pertinent to the main point of the chapter that is quoted in scripture at the beginning and summed up in a "bottom line" sentence at the end. This book would make an excellent study for new believers and groups interested in evangelism. It lays out the foundations of Christianity using a Methodist worldview in a friendly tone with biblical support. However, this book is not for your apologetics class or your conservative Christian neighbors. It is not out to prove anyone wrong or argue biblical exegesis. It is out to reveal the basics of Jesus's message and open the door to faith for all.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    I've been looking for a book I could use with folks in my church that might also attract some interest from the community, and the challenging title of this book caught my eye. A Willow Creek satellite nearby has drawn people of all ages in part because of worship style but also because of children's programs. If people don't know our theology is different, namely more accepting, why would they come here instead of going there? I turned to this book hoping it might attract some attention if we p I've been looking for a book I could use with folks in my church that might also attract some interest from the community, and the challenging title of this book caught my eye. A Willow Creek satellite nearby has drawn people of all ages in part because of worship style but also because of children's programs. If people don't know our theology is different, namely more accepting, why would they come here instead of going there? I turned to this book hoping it might attract some attention if we publicized a book study. Martin Thielen is a United Methodist pastor who framed this book in response to the question in the title. He presents ten things you don't have to believe followed by ten you do, but he lost me after Thing Nine in the former section: "God loves straight people but not gay people." Clearly, he wasn't saying this was true. He was making a different case. He describes conservative churches as "Now Welcoming and Not Affirming" and liberal churches as "Welcoming and Affirming," then makes the case that the broad swath of the mainline is "Welcoming but not Affirming." He's defending people who like individual gay people but don't want to have to think about the broader issues of rights, and saying since that's where most of the mainline is, you don't have to be afraid of them. It's a very strange little chapter. He's being super-careful to assure the reader that God doesn't hate gay people, but hedges on acceptance and also seems to be joining in the careful chorus that wishes liberals would shut up already about the gay rights, because it's upsetting to people and dividing denominations. To me it's a revolting point of view. I wouldn't in good conscience be able to use the book in my church and wouldn't want community members to think I might be lukewarm about them because of their sexual orientation. Pah! Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I spit you out of my mouth! I'll admit that I did not go on to read in detail the ten things you must believe, but I did note that the book ends with a question about salvation and invites people to pray a version of the Sinner's Prayer, which would also be a little Evangelical in my context. So this book is a great idea in theory that disappointed in actuality. I requested a review copy of this book on behalf of RevGalBlogPals, which was supplied by Westminster John Knox Press, and I did not receive any other considerations from them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul Froehlich

    Some Christians are quick to label believers who disagree with them about one doctrine or another as not “really” Christ-followers. This book addresses the question about what basic beliefs Christians need to share, and which ones they don’t. The author is Martin Thielen, the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, who has written several books and recommends this book for group study. The most informative part of this thought-provoking book is the ten things Christ Some Christians are quick to label believers who disagree with them about one doctrine or another as not “really” Christ-followers. This book addresses the question about what basic beliefs Christians need to share, and which ones they don’t. The author is Martin Thielen, the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, who has written several books and recommends this book for group study. The most informative part of this thought-provoking book is the ten things Christians DON’T need to believe. “Some of that old-time religion is unhealthy and needs to be discarded.” This discard list overlaps with another book I’ve read, When Christians Get It Wrong by Pastor Adam Hamilton. Thielen would, for example, discard the belief that “Women can’t be preachers and must submit to men.” He writes that “one of the saddest realities of religious fundamentalism is how it treats women.” It’s not just in Saudi Arabia that religion is used to justify sex discrimination. Most American churches do not allow women to serve as clergy, and it’s not just Catholic and fundamentalist churches. The Southern Baptist Convention forbids women to serve as clergy; member churches who violate that rule are kicked out of the association. That issue is why Thielen left the Baptist Convention. Most evangelicals are fond of Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands.” They don’t cite Ephesians 6:5, however, that says “Slaves, obey your earthly masters.” If one admonition still obtains, Thielen asks, then why not the other?

  18. 5 out of 5

    IrenesBookReviews

    I was so looking forward to reading this book. I thought it would have all this helpful easy to understand information. I put the book down discouraged and actually even more confused on certain subjects. I think the idea of the book is great but the author just does not deliver. The author lists 10 things that he says we don’t need to believe. You will agree with some and disagree with others. I found no real support for what he was saying. He did not really back up his opinions and therefore l I was so looking forward to reading this book. I thought it would have all this helpful easy to understand information. I put the book down discouraged and actually even more confused on certain subjects. I think the idea of the book is great but the author just does not deliver. The author lists 10 things that he says we don’t need to believe. You will agree with some and disagree with others. I found no real support for what he was saying. He did not really back up his opinions and therefore left me feeling like they were just his opinions and not necessarily the truth. I will not read this book again and do not really recommend it to anyone. If you do decide to read it be sure to have your Bible handy so you can look up the subjects for yourself and see if you agree with what the author says! I only gave this book 3/5 stars because there really was nothing I liked about the book but gave the author credit for taking the time to write it. I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the copy of this book I enjoyed reading. I gave an honest review based on my opinion of what I read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    Short review: The idea of the book is good, boil Christianity down to the essentials. First half of the book are the beliefs that you do not have to have to be a Christian. This section was ok. It is a brief book, so the explanations may not be detailed enough for many, but it gives a brief range of opinions before moving on. I wish it was more gracious with the opinions that he does not agree with, but he was not mean, just a bit dismissive. The second section, what you do need to believe was be Short review: The idea of the book is good, boil Christianity down to the essentials. First half of the book are the beliefs that you do not have to have to be a Christian. This section was ok. It is a brief book, so the explanations may not be detailed enough for many, but it gives a brief range of opinions before moving on. I wish it was more gracious with the opinions that he does not agree with, but he was not mean, just a bit dismissive. The second section, what you do need to believe was better. It was more focused and positive. Some will not like that there is not a ton of scripture in the book (some, just not a lot). But I think it is designed as an introduction so it is level is appropriate. I think it would be a good book for a group discussion. It is not deep theology, it is surface level, but that is by design to introduce someone to basic theology. We need basic theology so that people will be ready for deeper theology. My full review on my blog at http://bookwi.se/believe-christian-th...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike Davis

    While the title may raise eyebrows among conservative Christians as an attempt to slip through the cracks, the text should be read before making such judgements. Thielen's focus is to provide an open door or safety net to catch those who might abandon Christianity altogether due to "illogical" conservative fundamentalist requirements to believe in the literal text of scripture. Taking a more liberal and forgiving approach, the author works through the major tenants of Christian faith, separating While the title may raise eyebrows among conservative Christians as an attempt to slip through the cracks, the text should be read before making such judgements. Thielen's focus is to provide an open door or safety net to catch those who might abandon Christianity altogether due to "illogical" conservative fundamentalist requirements to believe in the literal text of scripture. Taking a more liberal and forgiving approach, the author works through the major tenants of Christian faith, separating them into "required" and "not required" categories, and examines why you don't need to be a literalist in order to accept Christianity and be blessed in its folds. The style is easy reading with sermon-like examples used to make points. It would be a good study guide, Sunday School text or source for a series on what Christians really do need to believe, and why.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alan Zabel

    Martin Thielen, a former Southern Baptist and now a United Methodist, has written an eminently readable book. But perhaps the title is a bit negative. It really is more about the essentials of Christian faith for for living a full and meaningful life. As a United Methodist myself, I find much to agree with in this book. But it is useful in organizing the concepts to help me continue in my faith journey. This book would be even more useful to someone that yearns for faith, but is put off by misconc Martin Thielen, a former Southern Baptist and now a United Methodist, has written an eminently readable book. But perhaps the title is a bit negative. It really is more about the essentials of Christian faith for for living a full and meaningful life. As a United Methodist myself, I find much to agree with in this book. But it is useful in organizing the concepts to help me continue in my faith journey. This book would be even more useful to someone that yearns for faith, but is put off by misconceptions of Christianity. The conclusion is most helpful - (paraphrasing): Narrow minded belief is not what a Christian life should be about; Jesus is supremely important; Jesus and the Christian faith offer answers, to the extent possible, to life's most difficult questions.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steve H

    Short, simple chapters outline first what isn't necessary to believe (women are not the equal of men, God causes good things but not bad, God loves straight people and hates gays), then what is necessary to believe (Jesus died to save humanity, God works through people, it is up to people to create the Kingdom of God). You might not agree with Thielen's contentions, but they are decent points to start discussions. I saw a church that ran through the different topics as a series of sermons. Could Short, simple chapters outline first what isn't necessary to believe (women are not the equal of men, God causes good things but not bad, God loves straight people and hates gays), then what is necessary to believe (Jesus died to save humanity, God works through people, it is up to people to create the Kingdom of God). You might not agree with Thielen's contentions, but they are decent points to start discussions. I saw a church that ran through the different topics as a series of sermons. Could have been interesting.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    If you have ever found yourself struggling with issues of faith because you are afraid that becoming a Christian means you have to give up your rational, thinking mind, this book may give you a great deal of relief. This question of reconciling intellect with faith has been a stumbling block for me to embrace any religious doctrine. Martin Thielen has written a clear, intelligent, thoughtful book that helps to address these issues. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about op If you have ever found yourself struggling with issues of faith because you are afraid that becoming a Christian means you have to give up your rational, thinking mind, this book may give you a great deal of relief. This question of reconciling intellect with faith has been a stumbling block for me to embrace any religious doctrine. Martin Thielen has written a clear, intelligent, thoughtful book that helps to address these issues. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about open-minded, intelligent, and Christ-focused Christianity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Basic, brief, and easy to read, directed at those who are turned off by Christianity because of the stereotype of Christians as one-right-way thinkers. The author gives ten things Christians don't have to believe (such as taking the bible literally and that God causes cancer) and then gives his opinion on the ten most basic Christian beliefs. Nothing new here; they're all pretty basic (the Trinity, Jesus as son of God, etc.) In the end he does say what we do is far more important than what we be Basic, brief, and easy to read, directed at those who are turned off by Christianity because of the stereotype of Christians as one-right-way thinkers. The author gives ten things Christians don't have to believe (such as taking the bible literally and that God causes cancer) and then gives his opinion on the ten most basic Christian beliefs. Nothing new here; they're all pretty basic (the Trinity, Jesus as son of God, etc.) In the end he does say what we do is far more important than what we believe.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kellie Ewilson

    I found Thielen's writing easy to understand. What made this book come to life were the discussions I was able to have with others in small group worship about mainline Christian theology and the implications and applications to our every day lives. Getting familiar with your beliefs is only meaningful when you are connecting them to your actions and intentions. Also, the Ricky Bobby baby Jesus reference was highly appreciated as well as the story about procuring a birthday cake for a prostitute I found Thielen's writing easy to understand. What made this book come to life were the discussions I was able to have with others in small group worship about mainline Christian theology and the implications and applications to our every day lives. Getting familiar with your beliefs is only meaningful when you are connecting them to your actions and intentions. Also, the Ricky Bobby baby Jesus reference was highly appreciated as well as the story about procuring a birthday cake for a prostitute in Hawaii.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    While this isn’t a perfect book, and really doesn’t break new ground, I sense that it will prove to be useful to the church. This is true in large part because Thielen reminds us that we should focus on those things that matter most, rather than focusing on the tangentials that tend to divide and rarely edify. See remainder of review at http://www.bobcornwall.com/2011/04/wh... While this isn’t a perfect book, and really doesn’t break new ground, I sense that it will prove to be useful to the church. This is true in large part because Thielen reminds us that we should focus on those things that matter most, rather than focusing on the tangentials that tend to divide and rarely edify. See remainder of review at http://www.bobcornwall.com/2011/04/wh...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    I liked it but I was expecting to read essentially what I read. The conservative church continues to turn people away from God with a narrow viewpoint based on biblical inerrancy. The other view is that Jesus came to save and not to judge. I don't want to get into an argument about who is right. I am comfortable with God being God and we won't know the absolute truth until He comes again. Even if we are right with either view and I doubt we are, we need God's grace to make it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Padgy

    Don't let the title of the book turn you off. This book was a comfort for me to read, as my intellect was questioning some ideas/beliefs in Christianity. It answered so many questions I had and now know that I am not alone. This book gave me back some faith I had lost. Thank you Martin Thielen!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alline

    This book is a current sermon series and discussion group at our church. The points that the author made were easy to understand and followed a good formula, scripture, stories from other people and personal stories from the author. I think there were many good points made in the book. Interesting material to read and discuss.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    Read this book with our Sunday school class...I read it pretty sporadically and broken up so I may not have gotten the full gist of the book overall. Seems to be pretty basic theology written for questioning folks by a Methodist minister. Quite the opposite extreme of some of the other "faith" books I have been reading.

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