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7.27.2016

"What Christians Ought to Believe", by Michael F. Bird (book review)

Right out of the gate, the title of this book is sure to offend in our Western, "don't-tell-me-what-to-do" society. But that is precisely the reason books like this one are necessary.  I suspect many who attend various churches around the world simply attend without having any grounding about what they should hold tightly.  As a result, the unsuspecting can be swayed by any wave of doctrine that comes their way.

But this phenomenon didn't begin in the 21st Century, or even in the West.  Disputes over Christian doctrine, over what Christians ought to believe -- and what its clergy ought to teach -- have raged for centuries.  Enter: the ancient creeds.  Creeds like the Nicene, Apostle's, Athanasian Creeds, etc., were written to firm up various disputes in clear, concise, and easy-to-memorize fashion.

"What Christians Ought to Believe" is an expository and historical handling of the Apostle's Creed:
Each chapter in this thought-provoking book is based on each phrase within the Creed, from beginning to end.  What do we believe about the Father, or about the Son, Jesus Christ, or about the Holy Spirit?  What do we believe about the crucifixion of our Lord?  What do we believe about the universal Church over which Jesus Christ is the head? And so-on.

This book dives deep into theological issues applicable for our day, and is the kind of book where it would be good for readers to have a Bible handy.  I didn't find the book to be a fast read since I carefully progressed through it by writing notes in the margins of my Bible, or writing and asking questions in the margins of this book for later reflection.  Needless to say, I didn't (couldn't, in fact) simply speed-read through it.

My favorite chapter was chapter 8: "Believing in the Offence of the Cross", where Bird explains, whereas we have grown accustomed to wearing a cross as jewelry, the real "cross tells us what God is like."  It offends. Period.  Bird writes on p. 117, "For critics of Christianity...the cross is the epitome of religion gone crazy...the cross is shameful, affronting, absurd, nonsensical, and plain unjust."  But in all reality, the cross is, indeed, all of those things.  It doesn't make sense to the human mind.  But "upon the cross we encounter the depth of God's mercy for those who were once children of disobedience and his love for those once enslaved to the present evil age".

Rating: I give What Christians Ought to Believe 5 stars out of 5.  I appreciate several facets about the book, namely Bird's deep-diving approach.  He is an excellent writer, and a sound Bible expositor.  Well done, Mr. Bird!

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from BookLookBloggers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not forced to give a positive review of this title.

2 comments:

  1. Mike,
    Thanks for a very, very generous review. And while I'm biased and even a tad self-indulgent, I think the chapter on the cross is one of the best things I've written!

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    Replies
    1. You are welcome, indeed, Michael. Thank you for writing a book this thoughtful!

      I must admit I had not recognized your before latching on to this book for review. The list of theologians and writers I trust are not found in the aisle with the modern feel-good writers of the day, so my list short. But I've added you to that list after reading this one.

      Now that I know the kind of work you do, I definitely want to get my hands on two of your books: The Story of God (Romans), and Four Views on the Apostle Paul.

      God bless you, brother, and thank you for stopping by to leave a comment. We bloggers truly appreciate it! :-)

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