Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ancient Christian Doctrine – book review

Ancient Christian Doctrine, volumes 1-5
IVP Academic Press
Thomas C. Oden, series Editor

The Church throughout the ages has faced the threat of false teachers and their false doctrines. To combat this threat the Church has, on numerous occasions, gathered together in “councils” to clarify what exactly the Bible teaches. The first such gathering is actually recorded in the book of Acts when some questioned the ministry of St. Paul and whether or not we are truly saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. These gatherings have led to the great confessions and creeds of the Church.

One of the greatest of these creeds is called the Nicene Creed. It was hammered together at two separate “councils” and, between those two councils, representatives from everywhere the Christian Faith had spread were in attendance, except England. This creed has stood the test of time and is “owned” by every faithful Christian, past and present.

In the Ancient Christian Doctrine series, the teaching of the historic Church is organized according to the Nicene Creed.  Now here is one of the great things about the series, it puts the actual words of the Church Fathers in your hands. Most of the material you might pick-up is more “this or that” scholar telling you what the Church Fathers taught. However, you don’t actually have the ability to check the original sources to determine if the scholar is correct. In this series, what you get are quotes from the Church Fathers organized under the various lines in the Nicene Creed.

So, for example, in volume one the first phrase to be considered is “We believe,” the very first two words in English and the first word in the Greek and Latin. First the book gives you some historical context, then a general overview of the upcoming quotes, and then quotes from the Church Fathers. In the case of “we believe,” quotes are provided from Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Tertulian, Aphrahat, Athanasius, Phoebadius of Agen, Epiphanius of Salamis, Basil the Great, Rufinus of Aquileia, Augustine, Fulgentius of Ruspe, Origen, Arnobius of Sicca, Lactantius, Eusebius of Caesarea, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and more.

The average Christian certainly will not have the resources to gather all these Church Fathers’ writings and research them. But, with these volumes, any Christian can literally read for themselves, the words of the theologians that passed on the Christian Faith so that we might have the great treasure of eternal life.

The title of each volume reflects what is treated, using the Nicene Creed as guide.
Volume 1: We Believe in One God
Volume 2: We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ
Volume 3: We Believe in the Crucified and Risen Lord
Volume 4: We Believe in the Holy Spirit
Volume 5: We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
(The word “catholic,” here, has its original meaning of “universal” or even “Christian.” It is not a reference to any specific modern denomination that may have the word “catholic” in its name.)

It is common for Christians to think that they hold to the Faith that was delivered by Jesus and his Apostles and held to by the Church from the very beginning. Few, however, have the resources to check out just what the people in the second, third, and so on, centuries actually believed. With this series the reader gets a real and significant look at these early believers. What did these believers hold to concerning baptism, or the Holy Spirit, or the incarnation?

For those who are serious about knowing what has been handed down throughout the ages, but can’t spend half a million dollars on their library, let alone read all the material, this is THE series to own. If, after reading these books, you desire to read more, then you can purchase the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures, also by IVP Academic Press, but that is a different review.

Two thumbs up

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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