I had certainly been looking forward to Jimmy Akin’s newest book The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Delivers You to Eternal Life as it has been teased for awhile on Catholic Answers.
The doctrine of salvation (Soteriology) is of course of supreme importance and like many important things it can be both easy and hard to understand. The subtitle of the book is actually a pretty good simplification of this branch of theology. The question “So what can I do to be saved?” is really the starting point to delving into this question.
One of the seeming goals of this book was to clear up confusion regarding this topic between Catholic and Protestants. Often there is no common vocabulary even when we are using the same words. So easy to talk past each other when we don’t spend time to define terms ourselves and also coming to understand how different groups use those same words. Another difficulty is that Protestantism in not monolithic when it comes these terms and different groups will have different understandings or nuances. As Jimmy Akin mentions:
“This is precisely the kind of situation that St. Paul was addressing when he warned about quarreling over words. He instructed St. Timothy to charge his flock “before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14).”
Another points he makes is that often there can be different insights and that these insights do not necessarily conflict. Different emphasis can lead to a deeper understanding.
Jimmy Akin is really gifted when it comes to explaining things at a basic level. He grounds this book with a canvas of scripture showing how scripture uses words like justification, salvation, forgiveness, etc. This understanding, like most things in scripture, was revealed more fully over time until being made more manifest in the New Testament. His use of the Church Fathers and others show how the early Church also understood what was revealed by scripture.
I know I am describing this book badly as it is so filled with information and insights that it is hard for me to summarize. Still I will try. This book certainly deepened my understanding regarding salvation. Even in areas I was familiar with he was able make concepts more substantial. I especially liked the helpful terms he used to categorize areas, especially in places where there is not a common vocabulary.
One topic area I found especially helpful was the one on “Outside the Church, no Salvation” (“Extra Ecclesiam, nulla sallus”). While I already generally understand the nuances involved and where the rigorists go wrong, I really enjoyed the fuller historical context. Other areas of interest regarded the Council of Trent’s teaching on justification and also the discussion on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. There are extensive bonus materials included in the book with many of the documents addressed in the book.
You don’t have to be a theology nerd to be able to read this book. This is written for a general audience and Jimmy Akin’s clear writing makes it worthwhile for everyone.