Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What Christians Ought to Believe by Michael F. Bird

Bird is concerned that many churches have abandoned the creeds. He argues here that we should make use of the creeds, incorporating them into statements of belief, worship, preaching, and teaching.

He focuses here on The Apostles' Creed as a good way to guarantee the integrity and orthodoxy of faith. It, he writes, “is probably the best syllabus ever devised for teaching basic Christian beliefs.” (13) It is easy to read yet profound and is a good summary of what Christians believe.

He shows how creeds are biblical and how most were written in response to heresy. He introduces us to the major creeds and argues that the church needs these summaries of the faith. The creeds belong to the greater church, beyond our place and time. The creeds connect us to Christians of all time and all places.

He takes us through The Apostles' Creed phrase by phrase. He does a great job of explaining the concept indicated, the various interpretations of it, and why it is important. He includes some historical background as to when the doctrine was identified and accepted by the church. He notes that this creed is not perfect as it says nothing about Jesus' ministry years and teachings.

I paid particular attention to the phrase about Jesus descending to hell. Bird uses “place of the dead” instead. Jesus could not have been in hell, Bird argues, because “hell did not yet exist.” (144) Apparently, it still does not exist. (148) Rather, Jesus was in the abode of the dead, a place where they wait for the final judgment. This is different from hell, the place of everlasting punishment. Bird references Rev. 20:14. Apparently, if I understand his argument correctly, hell will be created then, so death and hades can be thrown into it. I don't think Bird sufficiently proves his case that hell does not yet exist.

Heaven, on the other hand, apparently does exist now and is “the place where believers go upon death.” (214) It is not the believer's final home, however. It is an interlude where people wait for the new heaven and the new earth. (214)

Other than that one area where I question Bird's teaching, I found this book to be a good one on explaining the basic beliefs outlined by The Apostles' Creed. There are also free teaching resources available at http://zondervanacademic.com/ so this book could be used for an older teen or an adult study. Bird has included books for further reading at the end of each chapter.

You can find out more at http://www.apostlescreedbook.com/.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Michael F. Bird is lecturer in theology at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia and Visiting Research Professor at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of several books and writes about theological studies on his popular blog Euangelion. He is an Anglican Priest and is married with with four children.

Zondervan, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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