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John Young and Greg Hoyland - Teach Yourselves Christianity: A Complete Introduction

Hodder and Stoughton ISBN 978 1 473 61578 6 348 pages Price £14.99

I remember the old Teach Yourself books with their distinctive black and yellow covers; they were a great interactive way to learn anything from Chinese to Calligraphy.

Here we have a carefully updated version of the Teach Yourself guide on Christianity. In four main sections the book deals with:

  • The Central Figure: Jesus (and the Bible)
  • Christian Belief and Practice
  • The Christian Church (and its history)
  • The Modern World (and its challenges)

The authors make the bold claim: “Get all the answers FAST in this ultimate, ONE STOP GUIDE.”  

Does the book deliver on its promise? The book does manage to pack in more into a small space than the most experienced traveller can cram into a cabin-approved suitcase. It has an impressive sweep that gathers in an astonishing amount of detail but in a very readable style. It is impressively up-to-date including serious engagement with contemporary issues like Christianity in the public square, secularism, postmodernity, the new atheists, and the opportunities and threats posed by the internet.

Inevitably there are some generalisations and omissions. Are all reformed churches austere? Why no meaningful reflection on what it means to be united to Christ or on the doctrine of justification? That being said, this is a brilliant book for giving a readable overview of what Christianity is all about.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle

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