Book Review: What Christians ought to Believe

What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed – Micheal F. Bird

27840609

My RatingMust Read

Level Medium length, fairly easy and does not require more than a basic knowledge of the Bible or Theology.

Summary
The book is essentially an exposition of The Apostles’ Creed. That is, he goes line by line and explains why we believe it and where the proofs are in Scripture. The first chapter is spent on explaining what exactly a ‘creed’ is – which is incredibly important, especially for us Americans and non-liturgical Protestants, who don’t use them. The second chapter is an argument as to why we need creeds. Among the brief history of the cannon and the early church, I also learned that the ‘Peanut Butter & Jelly’ of Australia is ‘Vegemite & Avocado’. So, there’s that.

The remainder of the book breaks down as follows, with a chapter of exposition on each:

  • I believe – a chapter about faith
  • …in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth
  • I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord – split into two chapters, one on the dual nature (fully human and fully God) and the second on the meaning of Messiah and Lord.
  • He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
  • He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried – this line is also split into two chapters, one on the offense and the other on the victory of the cross.
  • He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
  • He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
  • I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  • …the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
  • the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

My Thoughts
I remember the first time I went to a ‘liturgical church’ – call and response, where the congregation also recites things – which was a word I didn’t even know. It was my freshmen year in college and this was also the first time I’d ever heard the Apostles’ Creed. This is part of the problem with American Protestantism and the ‘no creed but the Bible’ mentality. So few people know what they believe or why – mostly, I think, because we never articulate exactly what it is we believe, giving us the opportunity to teach specifically, and dive into the reason/scriptural proofs for these beliefs. I was likely in my mid-20’s before I even knew what catechisms or confessions were. It was a loss to me, although they are documents that have been used by educated believers for hundreds of years. Even more dramatically, the Apostles’ Creed has been recited by believers for nearly two thousand years.

This book is a depth of riches. It is a must-read for every Christian, whether new or lifelong believer, pastor or laity. It should be given, by the church, to every new church member or professing believer, as well as the basis of a Bible study, Sunday School class, or even sermon series (or at least a reference). Additionally, you should buy a copy for any questioning/curious unbeliever that you may know. It will become more and more important that believers are grounded in the historic faith of the church, and this is an important first step.

Professional Reader
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Amos 9

This is the final post in my series, Reader’s Guide to Amos. It works(or at least, I’d like it to) as something between a commentary and a Bible Study. Go read the text. Keep that window open. Read through it once to get a broad view of what is happening. Then come back and read through my notes. I’d suggest going back to the text one more time, read through it and when you get to a word or idea you are unsure of, come back and see if there is something in my Reader’s Guide that helps. You can read my original series introduction and the original posts that cover the text up to this point.

Chapter 9

1-4 This is the fifth and final vision of judgement. This vision is different in that there is no symbolism, just destruction, and no spoken words from Amos. These verses show the extent of the Wrath of Yahweh and the inability to escape destruction. There will be no hiding place, not at heaven or in hell, not at the top of the world (Carmel) or the bottom of the sea.

5-6 The third hymn of divine sovereignty. The ‘inescable judgment were reinforced with the celebration of Yahweh’s cosmic power” – Tyndale

7-10 The final woe oracle. Israel is no different than the other nations and will not escape judgment. Yahweh then declares judgment on the ‘sinful kingdom’, which is Israel. However, the destruction will not be total. As He sakes the house of Israel, so shall it be like shaking a sieve, the pebbles will not fall with the grain. The sinners are the pebbles and will die by the sword. Continue reading

Book Review: The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen

The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen -Sinclair B. Ferguson

My Rating –If You are Looking for Something

Level – Short, east

Summary
Like other books in the series, you get a short two for one kind of deal here. The first chapter is a brief biography of John Owen. I don’t he is very well known in the Christian community here in America. He was a British puritan living in the 17th century and quite a prolific author. The second major part of the book focuses on the Trinity, with chapters on each, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Much of the book is drawn from the works of Owen.

My Thoughts
I’ve heard of a number of his books, especially Mortification of Sin, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything from him. It is a timely reminder now, as the controversy of the eternal subordination of the Son so going on, of the importance of the study of the Trinity. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon and participated in a study of the Trinity. This likely has much to do with how difficult the concept is for us to understand. It becomes confusing to discuss and can easily lead to error. I know growing up, I never really understood the three persons to be three independent beings. As in, there was God, whom became flesh as a guy called Jesus, and now speaks through the Holy Spirit. That is, the three persons are just the way that God reveals himself, almost something like taking different forms.

Obviously, misunderstanding the doctrine of the Trinity isn’t as severe as deny the resurrection, but it is an important part of theology. Anyone who takes theology seriously, especially those that are pretend theologians, should really make an effort to gain a better understanding. So, if you are looking for something, this is a good intro to the Trinity as well as good info about John Owen.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review (see more in my about page).

Amos 8

This is another post in my series, Reader’s Guide to Amos. It works(or at least, I’d like it to) as something between a commentary and a Bible Study. Go read the text. Keep that window open. Read through it once to get a broad view of what is happening. Then come back and read through my notes. I’d suggest going back to the text one more time, read through it and when you get to a word or idea you are unsure of, come back and see if there is something in my Reader’s Guide that helps. You can read my original series introduction and the original posts that cover the text up to this point.

Chapter 8

1-3 – The fourth judgement vision. The for summer fruit sounds like the word for end. We have a play on words that can either mean that Israel is ripe for judgement (summer fruit being fruit that would ripen in the summer) or that it was during the end of the season for the fruit, as is the coming end of Israel. The joyful singing will turn to wailing and mourning. There will be so many dead bodies, the scene so disturbing that the only response is to yell for silence.

4-14 – An oracle of woe for those whom oppress the poor. They are so obsessed with money that they cry out “when will this religious day or feast be over, so that we can get back to work” The observed the law, not engaging in business, but their man focus was still greed. They longed for the worship days to be over, that they can go back to their dishonest gain.

Ephah was the contained used to measure the grain (by volume)

Shekel was the standard weight – 2/5s an ounce

So they want to make the grain smaller than it appears and the weighing mechanism to appear heavier than it is.

Likely not referring to an earthquake, but instead the trembling is in fear. Fear that Yahweh will not forget their deeds and will bring punishment.

Yahweh will bring floods and darkness.

Everyone will be involved in lamentation. All happiness and goodness will be turned into wailing.

Sackcloth and shaving of the head were signs of mourning.

The coming day will be like that of mourning over the death of an only son.

The lord will then send hunger and thirst throughout the land.

Guilt of Samaria is in contrast to the ‘pride of Jacob’ from v.7. Israel swore to false gods, this is their shame and guilt. The word for guilt here refers to their idolatry. References to Dan and Beersheba may represent how wide spread the idolatry was, as they stand at opposite ends of the land from each other. The formula used in verse 14 sounds like those of swearing allegiance to those gods.

Commentary Sources:
Amos, Obadiah, Jonah: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)
Joel and Amos (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
Hosea-Jonah, Volume 31 (Word Biblical Commentary)