How much core knowledge about the Christian faith can be packed into 146 pages? The answer is astonishing in a densely packed small book by Paul E. Little entitled Know What You Believe, Connecting Faith and Truth. According to the front matter, this little gem has been around since 1970. I read the 5th edition, which was updated and expanded by the author’s widow, Marie Little, in 2003.
“Scholarly, articulate, simple,” reads a quote by Billy Graham about the book. A succinct and accurate description it is. It’s not easy to read the book straight through, even though it’s short. I did it in small bits. It was my nightstand book, and though I would plan to read for forty-five minutes or so, I could never make it that long. In hindsight, that was like planning to eat half a pan of rich fudge at one sitting. While the fudge might make you sick, the dense richness of this book put me to sleep after a few pages. I just didn’t have enough focus left at the end of the day to absorb more than that.
I am, however, keeping the volume handy as a reference. It contains, in condensed form, the essence of what Christianity teaches about the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, Jesus’ Death, Man and Sin, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, Angels, Satan and Demons, the Church, and Things to Come. That’s a list of the chapter names from the table of contents, and it’s easy to find the topic you’re looking for from there.
There is no index, but in such a short book, it’s not really necessary. Turn to page 79, and the next thirteen pages line out our basic beliefs about the Holy Spirit. Bold subheadings throughout the chapters make it easy to scan for “The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament” (page 82), or “Gives Spiritual Gifts” (page 87).
There are several charts sprinkled through the pages, but no illustrations. Bible verse references are on every page, just as you would expect. End notes cite the references Mr. Little used. And this edition includes a section of study questions at the end that would be suitable for a small group study or for personal study.
One thing I appreciate about this book is its evenhanded treatment of doctrinal differences that exist between groups of believers. Mr. Little is quick to point out common errors and misunderstandings, but where sincere scholars disagree on such things as baptism, communion, and end time events, the author describes each major interpretation and leaves it there for you to study out on your own.
I recommend you find a copy…it’s readily available all over online, and add it to your reference library. If you need help going to sleep, try to read it at night. Otherwise, read sections while your brain is bright and shiny, and gain fresh insights into what we followers of Christ believe.