Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Review of Grounded in the Faith: A Guide for New Disciples Based on the Apostles' Creed

I have appreciated the Exegetical Tools Blog so when Todd Scacewater, one of the team members, wrote Grounded in the Faith: A Guide for New Disciples Based on the Apostle’s Creed, I wanted a copy.  This short book, fifty-four pages, is a great resource for helping new believers understand their faith.  The author describes it as a tool for leaders in discipling new believers (V).  He was gracious enough to send me a copy for review.
Starting with a short history of the Apostle’s Creed, the next three chapters are a simple exposition of the creed, and the final chapter gives suggestions for further spiritual growth.  Each chapter ends with discussion questions to help the reader understand and apply the truths. 
The second chapter starts the expositional chapters with the phrase “God the Father,” including what it means to believe in God as Father.  The author argues that we are unable to save ourselves or believe the gospel on our own.  Thus, faith is both a gift and a personal decision because of the work of the Holy Spirit (7) and this faith commitment results in a new heart (7-8).
Chapter three explores who is Jesus Christ.  By far the longest chapter, it is a delightful summary of who Jesus Christ is, and what he has accomplished for us.  Scacewater explains the imputation of Adam’s sin (17) and total depravity (18) without being encumbered by theological jargon.  When discussing the sufferings of Christ, the author makes the point that God becoming man and the historicity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection distinguishes it from other religions (20-21).  Then he reviews a couple of reasons why Jesus came to die (23-26).  I wish he had mentioned the ultimate reason, to glorify God the Father (Jn 12:27-30, 17:1-5).  It was in this section that I came to appreciate the author's ability to communicate theological truth in a clear and simple manner.  In explaining the implications of Christ’s death and resurrection, he mentions baptism, doing an admirable job of honoring different theological traditions concerning the modes of baptism, recommending the reader consult their pastor on the meaning and significance of baptism (27, footnote 10).
Chapter four looks at the Gifts of God, starting with a brief summary of the person and work of the Holy Spirit (37-39).  When discussing the universal church, he highlights the importance of the local church (42) and taking personal responsibility to build up the church (43).  The author closes the chapter by discussing the forgiveness of sin, the future resurrection, and everlasting life (44-46) in the New Creation.  It is refreshing to find a book that points to our ultimate hope of eternal life being the New Creation rather than heaven!
The last chapter, Next Steps, guides the reader to continue growing in their faith by recommending church membership, the use of spiritual disciplines, and the necessity of Bible knowledge, then offers an array of great resources for further reading. 
I enjoyed the book, which I believe is a good resource for new believers.  The book has several strengths but I will mention only three.  First, it covers the basics of the faith well.  Second, it does so in a way that is clear and simple.  As stated previously, the author has an ability to communicate theological truth in a clear and simple manner.  Lastly, it has a strong Christological focus.
Three weaknesses deserve mentioning.  First, compared to the exposition of Jesus Christ, God the Father and God the Spirit are slighted.  God the Son has sixteen pages of exposition while the other two members of the trinity receive about two pages each.  Next, the author seems to argue for the necessary prior work of God in the new birth for faith (7) yet goes on to say that faith results in a new heart (7-8).  He makes this latter claim based upon Ezekiel 36:26 but I think Ezekiel 36:26-27 clearly points in the other direction, faith is the result of God giving us a new heart (See also John 3:3-8).  Lastly, the great commission commands us to teach disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded (Mat 28:20) so I see the need for more emphasis on teaching the faith for obedience. 

In summary, Grounded in the Faith is a succinct, manageable, and practical resource for new believers and those who have never before grounded themselves in the faith.

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