Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Christians Ought to Believe - A Review

What Christians
Ought to Believe
What Christians Ought to Believe.jpg
Michael F. Bird

A Review

Sometimes a book arrives bit too late. Such is the case for Michael F. Bird’s newest book - a discussion of the Apostles Creed - both its roots and its meaning.  Being late, does not mean that it will not be useful, only that it arrives six months after I finished a series of sermons based on the Apostles Creed during the weeks between Advent and Lent during the winter of 2016. I wish this book had been available six months ago.

Michael Bird brings an interesting perspective to his writing, in that he attempts not to merely represent his own views, or that of the Anglican church to which he belongs, or the Australian church within which he ministers; rather he speaks, as per his statement, for the worldwide evangelical  church. This is useful given the almost universal acceptance of the Apostles Creed as a theological foundation for the church worldwide.

Beginning with a history of the creeds in the early church, including those simple credal statements found in the scriptures (e.g. Philippians 2:5-11). He also discusses the role that creeds played in the early church in passing on the truth to the later generations of believers and its role in the church today.

The biggest portion (75%-80%) of the book is a complete exegesis (is that the right term?) of The Apostles Creed. I would suggest that the reader keep a copy of The Apostles Creed open and in front of him or her as he reads the book, especially if reading an e-book version. Bird occasionally moves from discussing one phrase to the next without alerting the reader, having a copy of the Creed available makes it easy to follow these transitions, its absence adds an increased level of difficulty.  Scripture references are used throughout the text to assist the reader in understanding the Biblical underpinnings of The Apostles Creed.

I appreciated the use of a wide range of sources in the text - representing the church’s existence across the centuries. The author has also included, with each chapter, “Recommended Reading” for each chapter. Most of these (I did not do a complete check) appear to be from more modern sources (post 1960). The book could be improved by having, as the author himself has done, the reader follow-up using material from different eras of church history.

The book could easily find its place in the church library. It should be available (as I hinted earlier) available to the pastor doing a study The Apostles Creed, whether from the pulpit or within a small group setting. This book would also not be a bad resource for the lay person choosing to read and understand The Apostles Creed for their own use. I am concerned that the price for a 200+ page book may be excessive for the lay person. The e-book is significantly cheaper, but still high for a 200+ page book. It is probably too costly for use as a Sunday School text, though its contents may be suited for that environment. Perhaps a paper copy may become available at some point at a reduced cost.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

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