Book Review: What Christians Ought To Believe

What Christians Ought To Believe:  An Introduction To Christian Doctrine Through The Apostles’ Creed, by Michael F. Bird

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]

Although the Apostles’ Creed is, perhaps not surprisingly, not apostolic, as the received text we have of it is from 700AD or so mostly through corrupt Roman sources, the creed itself is one that I could honestly agree to, even if what I meant by it would not be what the author means by it in the slightly more than 200 pages of this book.  The creed itself reads as follows, at least in the version used by the author:

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
He ascended into heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
And he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic Church,
The communion of the saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.
Amen [224-225].”

This version of the creed serves as a template of what the author argues that Christians should believe, but although the author makes the strongest case possible for the importance of creeds to Christians and Christian churches, the creeds suffer from the problem that they can be understood in many ways, as can be understood by the fact that I can affirm the Apostles’ Creed and mean by my affirmation something quite different than what the author means by it, just like the Bible itself can be interpreted a variety of ways.  The creeds and the rule of faith are not enough to ensure a commonality of belief, not least because there is no creedal focus on tota scriptura, only on finding proof texts for the author’s misguided beliefs on the nature of God and the resurrection that fill this book.  For the record, it should be noted that I belong to a creedal church myself, although admittedly most of the members of the church I attend would likely not be aware of that fact [1].

The contents of this book are designed around chapters based on the various clauses of the Apostles’ Creed.  The book divides the creed in statements that form fourteen chapters: Christian Creeds for beginners, why you need the creed, I believe, believing in the Father, believing in the Son—Divine and Human, believing in the Son—Messiah and Lord, believing in the virgin birth, believing in the cross—the offense of the cross, believing in the cross—the victory of the cross, believing that Jesus lives, believing that Jesus reigns, believing in the Spirit, belonging to the church, and believing in salvation, waiting for God’s new world.  As might be expected, the author makes a lot of unsupported statements, shows a total ignorance of the continuing validity of God’s law for genuine believers, has no understanding of the plan of God to create a family and makes a few unsupported statements about the “interim” state of believers while (vainly) trying to distinguish his position from the Hellenistic one of an immortal soul.

The best that can be said about this book is that it focuses on Jesus Christ, that the author tries hard, and that it represents a fair understanding of what Hellenistic Christians think other Hellenistic Christians believe.  The author writes in such a way as to demonstrate that his view of the importance of honoring the history of the corrupt churches influences the interpretations of the Bible he considers acceptable.  This book is written in such a fashion that it would likely be suitable for individual reading, for some pointed sermons, or for seminary students in mainline churches.  The author strikes an ecumenical tone that is likely to please many, except for the Unitarian Baptists he criticizes when defending the legitimacy and importance of creeds.  The book is long on human reasoning and short on biblical understanding, and the author appears a bit too convinced by his own weak logic and assumes that he is writing to a friendly audience of people who believe more or less as he does.  This is, unfortunately, not likely to be the case given the wide gulf between the author’s opinion as to what Christians ought to believe and what the Bible says about the subject.

[1] See, for example:

https://www.ucg.org/fundamental-beliefs-of-the-united-church-of-god

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/fundamental-belief-14-on-military-service-and-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/some-preliminary-notes-for-a-defense-of-origen-on-the-biblical-doctrine-of-subordinationism/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/book-review-know-the-creeds-and-councils/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/book-review-believe-student-edition/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/book-review-exploring-christian-theology-volume-two/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/why-have-a-trinity-anyway/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/on-the-trinity-and-logic/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: What Christians Ought To Believe

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