What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed by Michael F. Bird
The Apostles’ Creed in its early reception was designed to teach people the essential truths of the Christian faith so that they might worship and live out the faith fully. Michael F. Bird, lecturer and author has written a splendid exposition of the creed here in his new book entitled What Christians Ought to Believe. With an insistence on including the historical development of Christianity and the way the creed represents a firm tradition set forth in the Bible, this book is a good aid in discovering the rich truths of the creed.
In the opening chapter Michael counters the concept of “no creed but the Bible” by looking at how the pages of Scripture are filled with creedal affirmations. The shema in Deuteronomy 6, the Christ hymn in Philippians 2 and the various passages in the NT regarding the resurrection all point to a creedal foundation in the biblical texts. These creedal statements were for the purpose, at least in the NT, of outlining “Jesus’ career from incarnation to exaltation (20).” These concise descriptions of the elements of Jesus’ career carried with them great encouragement for the follower of Christ, who could easily remember and hold onto these statements in suffering and in joy.
The nuances and distinctions that Michael makes in this book are extremely important. In the chapter on God the Father Almighty, Michael mentions that many have a hard time with this teaching, deeming it patriarchal and against women. Yet, he elaborates that “all theological language is analogical,” and that “a sizeable number of places where God is described in maternal language (63).” One, God isn’t a Father in his essence but God as Father is an approximate way that likens him to a role. And yet, fatherhood “can be associated with notions of love, closeness, and protection (64).” The lack of a good father or the absence or death of a father doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t understand God as our Heavenly Father. In fact, the creed points to God as our Father Almighty, who cares deeply for his children.
Later in the book Michael discusses the various theories of the atonement with a view toward incorporating the truths of each one of them. Yet, he looks to the victory theme as the most transparent theme in the NT as both evidencing God’s rescue plan against the evil powers and including motifs such as recapitulation, representation, ransom, sacrifice and triumph (133).
With wisdom, a robust biblical and theological vision, and including practical elements, What Christians Ought to Believe is not to be missed.
Thanks to BookLookBloggers and Zondervan for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.