Ancient Christian Doctrine

Book Review - We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Ancient Christian Doctrine)

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We have previously reviewed the first four volumes of IVP’s Ancient Christian Doctrine series (see the reviews here). This series is a commentary on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed drawn from the writings of the patristic period of church history (AD 95-750).

Volume 5 concludes the series by commenting on the final portion of the creed: “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church…and the life of the world to come. Amen.” The series editors perhaps took a risk by assigning this volume to Roman Catholic Angelo Di Berardino, but Di Berardino is a responsible contributor who does nothing to slant things toward a view of Roman exclusivity. Focusing on the doctrinal pillars of the church and end times, this is probably the volume that fundamentalists will have the most difficulties with, but also the one that they most need to consider.

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Book Review - Volumes 3 and 4 of the Ancient Christian Doctrine Series

[amazon 0830825339 thumbnail]Previously, we have reviewed volumes 1 and 2 of the Ancient Christian Doctrine series from IVP. This series of five volumes is a commentary on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The commentary in each volume is drawn from writings from the patristic period of church history: AD 95-750. Among the purposes of the Ancient Christian Doctrine series is “showing how the new ecumenism is today being nourished and renewed by the ancient ecumenical consensus” (p. vii). For those who bristle at the mention of “ecumenism” (a word sprinkled liberally throughout the book’s editorial matter), Oden takes care to contrast “the true meaning of ecumenism” as found in the Fathers versus “a century of often dubious modern ecumenical experimentation” (p. xiv). Oden, at the forefront of the paleo-orthodoxy movement, unsurprisingly states that the “ancient faith is the rightful patrimony of all global Christians today, whether Protestants, Orthodox, Catholic or charismatic,” adding that “there is a dawning awareness among Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox laity that vital ecumenical orthodox teaching stands in urgent need of deep grounding in its most consensual classic Christian sources” (p. xv).

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Review - We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Ancient Christian Doctrine)

[amazon 0830825320 thumbnail]We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ is the second volume in the Intervarsity Press series Ancient Christian Doctrine. The series of five volumes is a commentary on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The commentary in each volume is drawn from writings from the patristic period of church history: AD 95-750. In series volume 1, general editor Thomas Oden identifies nine purposes for the series. Most relevant of those for SI readers would be “demonstrating the authority of the Nicene Creed; furthering the new ecumenical movement; encouraging and expanding the readership of the fathers among ’ordinary believers’” (vii).


In keeping with the purpose of furthering the new ecumenism, consulting editors for the series and editors of individual volumes represent Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant branches of the church. We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ is edited by John Anthony McGuckin. McGuckin is a priest in the Orthodox Church and teaches at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. He has written extensively on the Orthodox Church and patristic theology. In his introduction he echoes the aims of exposing readers to the fathers, expanding firsthand knowledge of the fathers, and furthering ecumenism (xix, xvii).

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Book Review - Ancient Christian Doctrine 1: We Believe in One God

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Mention the “Church Fathers” and “Roman Catholicism” will likely spring to the minds of many pew-warming (and some pulpit-filling) evangelicals and fundamentalists. Let’s face it, for many Protestants, Christian history begins in 1517 with Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. The fourteen hundred years of Christian history spanning Revelation to the Reformation is often foggy and remote. So large a lacuna in Christians’ understanding of the development of foundational doctrines makes them easy prey for Dan Brown, Bart Ehrman and their insidious ilk, who are eager to fill the vacuum with lies and innuendo about suppressed gospels and altered manuscripts. Series editor Thomas Oden notes, “To the extent Christians today ignore the ancient rule of faith, they remain all the more vulnerable to these distortions” (p. xiv). Diagnosing the problem is half the battle: what can be done to remedy it?

A helpful corrective (even if not a silver bullet) has come in the five-volume Ancient Christian Doctrine series published by IVP Academic in 2009. The series is self-described as “a collection of doctrinal definitions organized around the key phrases of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (commonly called simply The Nicene Creed) as viewed by the foremost ancient Christian writers” (p. vii). Those ancient Christian writers include the disciples of the original disciples and those disciples who pressed on the work in the years spanning AD 95 through 750.

Despite the fact that eminent Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin were steeped in the Church Fathers, that fertile ground was, over the intervening centuries, ceded to Catholicism (at least by the rank and file churchgoers outside the academy). Catholic writers, most notably Mike Aquilina, have in recent years produced dozens of accessible works that have successfully popularized patristics for a predominantly Catholic audience. These treasured writings predating the Schism and the Reformation nonetheless remain a blind spot for many non-Catholics. Oden acknowledges this unfortunate fact when noting “the evangelical tradition is far more famished for their sources, having been longer denied sustenance from them” (p. xvi).

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