What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian?: A Guide to What Matters Most
by Martin Thielen
Westminster John Knox Press, 2011
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. In fact, a leader’s guide for a seven-week study including publicity materials is available at http://www.wjkbooks.com. 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.