(Say the Jesus Creed morning and evening during Lent.)
We need a new book on the basics of the orthodox faith; a readable study that anyone can read. I’ve read a few such books in my life, but the challenge of doing so is a little more difficult than most know. Beside having so much to master, the ability to put it all into readable and compelling prose is even more difficult. What books do this for you? I’d like to know your choices. If you want someone to understand the Christian faith, which book would you give them? The most recent attempt to accomplish this task is Charles Colson, The Faith.
We could begin with “what is orthodoxy?” and Colson does: “those essentials that all true Christians have always believed” (9). I can live with that definition. What does he cover?
God is, He has spoken (Word), Truth, fall, incarnation, and Trinity.
Then he delves into exchanging identities (not quite imputation, but more Christ taking on our death and sins and our taking on Christ’s life in this world), reconciliation, the church (classic four marks), the need for holiness, the sanctity of life, last things, the joy of orthodoxy, and then — rather surprisingly — the great proposal. That great proposal is that only orthodoxy can sustain a vision that can preserve the world. Christianity, he says, is a worldview.
I have to admit that I’ve seen Colson as a hard-headed and hard-hitting polemicist at times, and at times saying more than I think he understands about topics. (Found in this book in his chp on truth: “truth [Bible] not bound by any time or place” .) This book, though, is not a polemical treatise even if it dabbles in such a few times.
The book’s central characteristics: it is solid conservative evangelical but wide-ranging and refreshingly ecumenical when he can find agreements with Catholics and others across the spectrum. (He doesn’t apparently read much in the Orthodox.) The book is rich in stories — lots of them, most of them very good. His story of Bonhoeffer was very good and the section on John Wayne Gacy haunting.
For all his statement of how important the Trinity is, it made very little appearance anywhere else other than in the chp that defended it and explained it. I’d like to know who Scripture and Truth and Cross, etc, are impacted by the importance of Trinity. In fact, one reason Trinity is so rarely mentioned is that so few see its significance. But, and here Colson’s right, everyone says it is important — now we need some stuff that shows just how important it is!
He makes a really odd comment for me: that the 4th Century was the purest church. Wow, I thought — with all that blood and guts. On top of that, that means Real Presence, which is not addressed, and all sorts of things about Mary (who is not discussed), and the need for ecclesial structures (also not really dealt with).
At times he says things that come out of nowhere for me. Here’s one: “Ultimately, the deepest source we have for understanding or verifying the Trinitarian nature of God is encounter. God meets us in the Trinity in the way that every human heart demands” (103). This could be taken in any number of ways; I think he means it like Augustine’s famous 1.1 statement.