Knowing God’s Truth, an Introduction to Systematic Theology

Touted by Christianity Today as one of the best books for 2023, and marketed as an excellent tool for teaching systematic theology to young people, Knowing God’s Truth drew my attention. There is much to commend in this volume. First, it is a relatively short work compared with most systematic theologies, which will appeal to younger Christians. Actually, it is much shorter than its 300 pages implies, as there is a great deal of repetition and redundancy throughout. Nielson uses the, “Here is what I am going to tell you, here is what I will tell you, and here is what I just told you” method. Leaving out the first and third categories would have eliminated up to one-third of the book. God’s Truth is also accessible. At times it seems to be addressing young teens, even though essential theological terms are used and explained. Most importantly it is orthodox—teaching the recognized essentials of the faith.

God’s Truth has a unique format, with each chapter addressing one of the eleven major doctrines and divided into ten sections including a Bible reading, a verse to memorize, opportunities to pray, theological content, and application. If students would take the time to follow this format, both their doctrinal knowledge and their spiritual maturity would greatly benefit.

The first chapter addresses the subject of what theology is and separates it into three types: biblical, historical, and systematic (p. 6). This book focuses on systematic theology, which the author warns can sometimes become more philosophical than biblical if Scripture is not the ultimate reference point (p. 43). In a smaller work such as this one, it is inevitable that some issues be ignored; but I was disappointed that he left out discussion of young/old universe creation, and the knosis. He limits sanctification to progressive only, with no mention of positional or ultimate sanctification (pp. 155-157, 272-273).

The author explains, but does not see as important, the difference between paedobaptism and credobaptism (pp. 204, 208). He confirms what all Christians believe about the end times, but Nielson does not take a stand on which of the major views he espouses (pp. 257-258), although historic premillennialism stands out as his favorite (pp. 249-251). Strangely, the author believes that the pleasure of sin disappears at salvation (pp. 112-114). Don’t we wish? And he is weak on the gift of tongues and does not explain their purpose (pp. 279-280).

While never playing his hand directly, Nielson is obviously covenantal in his theological leanings: he often states that regeneration proceeds faith/conversion (pp. 151-153, 271-272), does not distinguish ethnic Israel from the church, believing Israel was the church in the OT (p. 196), sees the bride of Christ in Revelation 21:1-2 as the people of God (p.197), takes a Reformed view of the sacraments (p. 201), believes most of the book of Revelation is historical (p. 230), and thinks the church is spiritual Israel (p. 249). Overall, Knowing God’s Truth is a helpful volume but would have to be filtered by those who are not covenantal and supplemented in places where he ignores vital issues, as mentioned above.

by Jon Nielson (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2023), 300 pp. + xiii, hard $18.99

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel

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