Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words – J.D. Greear

Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words (What is Christianity - an introduction to Christian beliefs and meaning) by J.D. Greear
Also by this author: Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words
Published by Good Book Company on February 1, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Apologetics, Christian Life, Theology

A clear gospel explanation that helps you understand the heart of the Christian faith.

If Paul wrote the book of Romans to 21st-century men and women today, what would he say?

This book follows the key points of Paul’s explanation to the Romans and puts them into the terms of 21st century men and women, showing both ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ people what the gospel is and how it addresses our deepest questions. The gospel, as he explains, is not just about life after death; it’s about reclaiming the life we’ve always yearned to live.

Whether you are exploring the core concepts of Christianity or are a weary Christian wanting to rediscover the excitement and joy of knowing God, this warm and compelling explanation of the goodness, truth, and power at the heart of the Christian faith is for you.

As J.D. says in his introduction: 

“The gospel is not just the diving board off which you jump into Christianity―it’s the swimming pool in which you swim. See this book as your invitation to rediscover the goodness, the excitement, the liberation, and the power of the gospel.” 

Pastor and author J.D. Greear explains the basic story of Christianity in this book, summarizing the gospel in ten words, exploring biblical teachings from Romans, and focusing on different foundational elements of faith in each chapter. He also includes “intermissions” between chapters where he addresses common questions or hang-ups, such as the identity of Jesus. Greear’s writing style is conversational, honest, and frequently humorous, and he writes about complex philosophical and theological ideas in ways that people can connect to regardless of their existing background with faith or level of interest in theology or philosophy. His down-to-earth style and vivid analogies will appeal to teens and adults.

Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words will help and encourage Christians who want to better understand and articulate their beliefs, and it is accessible to skeptics and doubters who are curious about the Christian faith or at least want to better understand what some of their loved ones believe. However, I don’t think that this book will be useful to many people who are deconstructing their childhood faith. Greear writes in an understanding way near the beginning about why many young adults are leaving the institutional church and questioning their faith, but the book doesn’t say anything that lapsed or questioning evangelicals haven’t heard before. It’s best for people who already agree with Greear or have never heard or considered what he’s saying.

On a related note, I didn’t think that the intermission regarding same-sex sexuality was helpful. Greear needed to include it because he was using the first chapter of Romans as part of his source material, and skipping over and ignoring controversial verses in it wouldn’t be appropriate. However, he didn’t add anything new or helpful to a contentious conversation that is a hang-up for many people considering faith, and this section felt fairly dated, with no major differences from what I would have read ten years ago. This part of the book doesn’t address current shifts in the debate and won’t change anyone’s mind, and Greear doesn’t engage with any alternate interpretations of those verses in Romans, not even to argue against them.

Overall, I would recommend Essential Christianity to Christians who would find Greear’s summary of the gospel encouraging, and who would benefit from his clear explanations of things they believe but might not know how to verbalize. I would also recommend this as an accessible entry-point for skeptics who are curious about the Christian faith and want to read a book that covers a wide variety of information in a highly readable way, instead of taking scholarly deep dives. This is a good introduction to foundational Christian beliefs, even though I think it could have been better.