Category: Religion & Philosophy / Religion & Beliefs
Publisher: BRF (The Bible Reading Fellowship)
Publication date: 1 October 2009
Number of pages: 112
This is an accessible introduction to the most widely used church creed. It examines the "Apostles' Creed" phrase by phrase. It considers both the historical significance of the creedal statements and also their implications for Christian faith today. It sits alongside "The Jesus Prayer" by Simon Barrington-Ward in exploring a historic 'building block' of faith and spirituality. It includes questions for group discussion. It is suitable for preachers, teachers & study group leaders, as well as for those training for ministry/studying theology at A Level and upwards, and those preparing adults for church membership. It is also suitable for an ordination gift.
What the papers say:
From The Church Times - January 2010 Marshall Johnson writes from a broad American Lutheran perspective, at a fairly simple level. He presents the Apostles' Creed as a unifying force in the confusing diversity of modern society, and the contemporary Church. Its aim is to maintain community, a typically Lutheran goal, and to keep today's Church in contact and continuity with Christians through the ages. Johnson struggles with the whole idea of the Kingdom of God, and why Jesus was first called Lord and Messiah. He wants to see Jesus as uniquely related to God, but not in such a way as to undermine the claims of other religions. At the end of the day, to confess Jesus as Lord is 'to put our priorities in proper order'. Yet there is a moderate conservatism underlying the book. Johnson feels the transatlantic pressure to replace 'I believe in God the Father' with the gender-neutral language of God as parent, but fears that any move away from speaking with the Bible and Christian tradition of God as Father will end up depersonalising the Creator and Redeemer of all. The book reads easily, and useful questions for discussion are provided for each chapter. Reviewed by Peter Forster From Expository Times - December 2012 Despite the best efforts of modern scholars to present the evidence of the early church's beliefs in an organized fashion, that topic remains for many a dizzying collection of unfamiliar names and theological concepts. Tracing the development of those theological concepts is an even more daunting task for the beginner. For many, the closest they consciously come to the early church is through the recitation of an early creed. This review addresses two books attempting to highlight the value of such early creedal material for modern readers. Johnson has contributed a slim introductory volume on the Apostles' Creed. Many may question the need for a piece with such definite limitations, as theological students and more inquisitive readers will invariably want much more information. However, within clearly defined purposes the work has merit. Busy ministers will benefit from having available a compact resource suitable for inquirers or new converts to read alone, or church members to work through in a small group. The introduction ticks off all the key details, including creedal statements in the New Testament and Hippolytus' use of the 'Old Roman Creed', though it would have benefited from further discussion of the short expositions of the 'Rule of Faith' by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen. While Johnson's exposition pertinent to twenty-first century readers is brief, he makes good use of the space allotted. The volume also includes a topical index as well as an appendix containing thoughtful questions for individual consideration or group discussion. Johnson's volume is focused on a contemporary understanding of the creed and well suited for giving to a parishioner to work through at home or on the train. Reviewed by David Greenwood, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh
Marshall D. Johnson is a biblical scholar, retired Lutheran pastor and former editorial director of Fortress Press, USA. He has written several books, including Psalms through the Year: spiritual exercises for every day (Augsburg, 2006) and The Evolution of Christianity: twelve crises that shaped the Church (Continuum, 2005).
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