Know The Creeds And Councils, by Justin S. Holcomb
[Note: This book has been provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan Press in exchange for an honest review.]
In many ways, this book has a lot of overlap with the author’s previous book, Know The Heretics , in that as the author defines heresies based largely on the Nicean (and to a lesser extent Athenasian and Chalcedonian) Creeds, it only seems natural for the author to then tackle the problem from the other side, in looking at the content and value of those creeds and the very painfully human councils that formed them. At least with regards to the first half of the book or so (aside from the excellent and short Apostle’s Creed), there is a substantial overlap as this part of the book recapitulates his previous arguments.
Where this book is unique and distinctive (and, like its predecessor, a worthy read), is in its discussion about the Apostles’ Creed (which shows some evidence of some early Hellenizing tendencies but is, in the main, an entirely acceptable and very brief creed, although the author does not believe that holding to the Apostles’ Creed is enough to make one a Christian, as it does not have a strong enough insistence on the Trinity to suit the author, and this author talks a lot about the Trinity as well as predestination, where the author appears to take a somewhat strong Calvinist position, to the point of considering Arminians to be heterodox or even semi-Pelagian ). As before, the author attempts to be fair-minded in pointing out the political nature of creeds, shows a strong ecumenical tendency (even to the point of giving high praise to the Trent and Vatican II Councils, both of which are included in this work, as are the Heidelberg Confession and the Westminister Confession of Faith, which the author praises greatly for their importance to Reformed believers).
With some notable exceptions (namely the author’s support of the statement of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), it would appear as if the author of this book mainly subscribes to the idea that within certain clear boundaries (Sunday observance, belief in the Trinity), that a progressive revelation approach building on traditions and staying within certain lines and emphasizing complexity (even to the point of seeming contradiction) as opposed to seeing straightforward and simple answers as the best way to ensure orthodoxy for believers. The author shows himself, as before, mostly broad-minded, even willing to concede cases where people (like the so-called Semi-Pelagians who did not believe in original sin but did not believe that salvation could be earned, or the so-called semi-Arians who did not believe that Jesus Christ was a created being but also did not believe in the Trinity but rather believed that the Holy Spirit was a power or a force, as is written in the scriptures) were given loaded and inappropriate names, even if the author still views them as at best heterodox, if not outright heretical, considering the view of “orthodox” Christians to these believers as being one of compassionate orthodoxy, seeking a broad-minded consensus but still drawing lines where the author believes it is necessary.
Again, there is much that I disagree with concerning this book, whether one looks at the pro-Catholic ecumenical movement this book appears to promote, or whether one looks at beliefs on the relative value of tradition as opposed to scripture, or the alleged (but unproven) use of the apocrypha by early Christians whose use of the Septuagint does not appear to have included any of the books added to the Catholic Bible at the Council of Trent. That said, this is the sort of book that provides a great deal of insight into the way that mainstream Christianity defines itself, and how it seeks to legitimize its history and make use of its traditions. Even if one can see a clear falloff from the rule of faith transmitted by the Apostles to the growing authoritarianism that led to a decline in the understanding of the doctrine of resurrections and the Family of God and the import of heathen ideas like the immortality of the soul and the use of Greek philosophy to explain the truths of scripture, all of which must be counted as a falling away from the truth once delivered, it is notable that the author struggles honestly with the history and seeks to bolster what he sees as contemporary upswing in interest in the so-called Apostolic Fathers, many of whom were active in the Hellenization of Christianity that this particular author views as the only legitimate Christianity.
Before I close, I would like to make one particularly notable praise of the author in his clear description of the course of Christian thought from the apparently unwritten “Rule of Faith,” which opened the door to heathen innovations in Christianity to very formal creeds during the early Middle Ages, to confessions and catechisms later on, each of them getting further and further away from the well-spring of biblical truth and ever more shrouded in human interpretation. This tendency is described honestly by the author, and it helps us to figure out why it is that so little is known today about genuine and original Christianity by so many, because of the drift away from the Bible over the centuries. For honestly detailing that drift from the point of view of those who drifted with the flow, this is an interesting work with a lot of thought-provoking statements.
 See, for example: