Attempting to express a theological consensus among evangelical Protestants is no small task. In this book, two outstanding evangelical scholars from different "wings" of Protestantism — J.I. Packer (Anglican) and Thomas C. Oden (Methodist) — nonetheless give voice to what consensus can be achieved. There are sixteen chapters, mostly covering doctrinal themes ranging from biblical authority to eschatology, although there is one chapter on social responsibility. All of the chapters are composed of small sections of short affirmations, almost all of which reference some previously published document. These sources include the three major evangelical statements included in the appendices (the Lausanne Covenant of 1974, The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration of 1999, and The Amsterdam Declaration of 2000), other international agreed statements (the Berlin Statement of 1966, the Manila Manifesto of 1989, and The Amsterdam Affirmations of 1983), assorted statements by evangelical organizations (e.g., the World Evangelical Alliance) and schools (e.g., Wheaton College), as well as numerous scriptural citations.
Because the book covers so much ground, the authors cannot be expected to go into much detail on any given topic. But it is disappointing to see little evidence of any thinking beyond traditional evangelical expressions of doctrine. This is especially frustrating given Oden's engagement with the Church Fathers during recent decades as seen in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series he edits, also published by InterVarsity. None of this is evidenced in, e.g., the un-nuanced and largely fundamentalist affirmations about biblical inerrancy, the Protestant Old Testament canon, the penal substitution view of the Atonement, condemnation of universalism, and affirmation of an eternal hell for all unbelievers.
While various creedal statements are quoted (such as one from London Bible College), and some others are referred to (such as the Apostles' Creed and the "Chalcedon Creed"), the great creed of historic Christianity composed by the councils of Nicea (325 CE) and Constantinople (381 CE) is conspicuously absent.
Sometimes one encounters contradictions. Under "Consequence of the Fall," for example, we read that although we inherit sinful nature from Adam and Eve, "not all are guilty of their original act of disobedience" (64). Yet on the next page we are told that Adam "incurred upon himself and all his posterity the guilt of sin, condemnation, and death." (65, emphasis added).
While the authors "decry the poverty of sacramental understanding among Evangelicals" (124), they appear complicit in this poverty with the little space (less than a page) they devote to baptism and eucharist. One might have expected more from an Anglican and a Methodist.
There are some good surprises in the book, however. The authors strongly criticize anti-Semitism and see concern for the poor and the environment as Christian responsibilities. Where the book surprises, however, one suspects there is a corresponding lack of consensus among evangelicals.
The book is worthwhile as a starting point for learning about traditional evangelical doctrine, but the reader looking for something new will be disappointed.