Friday, March 23, 2018

Review: 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith

I'm sure for many a book with the sub-title of "A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology" doesn't get many people excited but for me, anything that helps clearly and concisely communication core doctrine does. The Christian faith has this fascinating nature of being both immensely simple, so that a child can grasp the core of it, and yet also extremely deep and rich in that one can spend their whole life studying it and still be amazed by new insights. When it comes to books that delve into the depths or Christian doctrine, the trouble is many are either cover too little ground, usually by not exploring differing nuances on doctrines not universally agreed upon, or are simply too large and intimidating for the average reader. Alternately, larger volumes are simply broken up into multiple, more manageable volumes. 

In this volume by Gregg Allison, I found a very good middle of the road approach to covering the core doctrines in a clear and concise way. The 50 chapters are grouped into 8 parts and follow an order common in many systematic theology texts. Each chapter beings with a short one or two sentence summary of the doctrine, followed by a short list of the main themes of the doctrine and a list of key scripture references. The bulk of each chapter is made up of the Understanding the Doctrine section which divided into three parts: Major Affirmations, Biblical Support; and Major Errors. I really appreciated this breakdown as the first part explains what the particular doctrine affirms and why it matters, the second part shows how we get to this understanding from scripture and the third where the misunderstanding or misapplying leads to error. The final sections of each chapter provide guidance in how to apply the doctrine to one's life and how to teach (including a less outline) the doctrine to others.

One thing I must commend this Allison for in this book is that he takes the time to acknowledge and explain differing view on some of the doctrines on which there are differences in various traditions. For example, the first chapter I flipped to in order to evaluate how narrow a view would be presented was chapter on "The Gifts of the Holy Spirit." In this chapter both the cessationist and continualist views are discussed. Further, in the Major Errors section he points out the errors of both over-emphasizing as well as under-emphasizing the gifts of the spirit. Even in the guidance for teaching this doctrine, he points out that an individual church's position is what should be emphasized but not without acknowledging and explaining the other side.

Finally each chapter ends with a list of resources for further study. Nearly every chapter this list includes the appropriate chapter from popular evangelical systematic theologies (e.g. Erickson, Grudem & Horton) providing one ample opportunity to dig deeper into any of doctrines discussed.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone wishing to better understand the doctrines of the Christian faith without having to commit to the thousand plus pages most such works cover but still wanting to get out of the shallow end. This book could also be a good primer or refresher if you need to read or review one of the common systematic theology texts. Finally, it would make a good text for an adult class in a church context as it would provide people with an excellent foundation.

*I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Season for Everything Under the Sun

The following was published on Feb 17 in the PG Citizen in the Clergy Comment column. Two days after publication I fell and broke my knee, kicking off a season of rest and recovery. I definately need to take my own words to heart.

The changing of seasons is something that I often reflect on. Some changes of season are fairly evident, others are subtler and often missed until well after the fact. Our family recently began a new season when we packed up the house we’d called home for over 5 years in Metro Vancouver and drove here to Prince George. This season had a definite start as we arrived here one evening in September, after a day of driving and though we had woken in our “old house” we went to bed in our “new house” and a new adventure had begun.

As the days progressed and we began to find our way around our new home we noticed the change of summer giving way to fall and then fall giving way to winter. We enjoyed watching the subtle changes, the colour of the leaves, the earlier sunset and of course the green of the grass being blanketed in the white of snow. At times it seemed each day brought something new. Perhaps we took more notice of the changes this year because it was the first time our first year in the North, but I am glad we were able to take time to notice the changes.

Life is full of seasons, and every season will have its own joys and sorrows, excitements and challenges. As it says in the opening verse of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” The words that follow are known to many as the lyrics of that 1965 hit song by The Byrds “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and serve as a great reminder that there will be a season for everything and we must, at times, slow down and recognize the season we are in and that it will pass.

Just this week, as I was about to head out to run the snow-blower over the driveway once again, I saw my father had posted pictures of the first flower popping up in the family garden. I’ve also learned that many folks here leave their snow shovels behind and flee to Mexico or other warm places, to simply escape the chill of our northern winter. Now, it can be tempting to hasten the move from one season of life, or to try and avoid it completely. It can be hard to see others in a place we want to be whether you’re single and wish to be married, childless longing for a child, a parent longing for the empty nest, a student longing to graduate and get a job or shoveling a driveway and longing for Mexico, but we must always ask ourselves, what might God be trying to teach us in this season and what might I miss by avoiding it?.

There is a season for everything and no matter what season you’re in, take time to listen for what God may be telling you in this season before it passes.