By Connor Boyd
What comes to mind when you think of the church? A building that people who call themselves Christians visit each Sunday? A hodge podge of different denominations? Or what images does your mind project when you think about the end times? Hollywood blockbusters such as Armageddon? Y2K? The Mayan calendar? While the world continues to make a mockery of the church and posit future doom and gloom scenarios on the movie screen, Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel—two Dallas Theological Seminary professors in the systematic theology department—offer hope. In Exploring Christian Theology: The Church, Spiritual Growth, and the End Times, Holsteen and Svigel lay a firm foundation for a biblical understanding of ecclesiology (the study of the church) and eschatology (the study of the end times).
As a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, I have had the privilege to sit under both professors Holsteen and Svigel. I have come to appreciate the love that both have to help make Scripture clear and practical. Svigel, a convert to Christianity from Scientology, has a unique vantage point from which to discuss God’s glorious plan and purpose for bringing the church—the body of Christ—into existence. Holsteen continually jokes that, because he graduated from LSU, students must answer the questions he poses in class both clearly and concretely. Such an emphasis on clarity evidences itself in his eschatology section in this book, where Holsteen includes many charts to help explain difficult concepts.
Written as an introductory text for seminary level classes, this third and final volume in the Exploring Christian Theology series is easily accessible for any who have an interest in knowing their God and His purpose for humankind on a deeper level. The book’s opening chapter gives “The Christian Story in Four Acts” from a wide-angle view, helping to orient the reader in God’s grand narrative. Then, in Part One, the book zooms in to focus first on the formation and role of the Church. In Part Two, the camera shifts to capture the events surrounding the return of Christ. Both parts begin with “High-Altitude Survey” sections to view the ecclesiological and eschatological forests from above before moving to study key passages from the ground level. This method keeps the reader from getting lost in the trees.
With a helpful “Retrospect” section, Svigel and Holsteen also bring in the voice of the Church throughout all ages, showing the unity of the church on the major doctrines, while also briefly discussing the disunity in minor doctrines. (Among the “minor” doctrines discussed, the authors provide a helpful section that summarizes the different views on the timing of the rapture and the coming of the millennial kingdom.) The book also offers a “Key Facts to Take Away” section and a “Principles to Put Into Practice” section. For those who wish for a more in depth study of certain aspects of ecclesiology and eschatology, Holsteen and Svigel provide a helpful bibliography.
Far from presenting ecclesiology and eschatology in a way that leaves you feeling as though you have just hacked your way through an unfriendly, overgrown forest of half-truths and suppositions, Holsteen and Svigel blaze a trail through the center of these firm and beautiful theological forests, making the trip well worth traversing. And as for those who would rather not take this journey in studying these key doctrines? Svigel and Holsteen rightly observe: “We can’t know the true God without knowing God truly.”
Connor Boyd is a graduate student in his final year at Dallas Theological Seminary. His passion is to know the Triune God and make Him known.