Creeds have functioned as educational instruments in the life of the Christian Church since its inception. One of the most formative of such Creeds, especially within early Christianity was the Apostles’ Creed. It is here that orthodoxy concerning the basic beliefs of the Christian faith has been both preserved and passed to subsequent generations. In What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostles’ Creed, respected New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird uses the framework of the Apostles’ Creed and establishes a working and palpable summary of core Christianity.
What Christians Ought to Believe is a brief book that would be ideal as an entry level college or adult Sunday school textbook. Bird covers the entirety of the Apostles’ Creed and provides clear and witty (both characteristic of Bird) explanation along the way. For example, the section titled “Believing in the Father” includes numerous subsections, such as the one true God, the triune God, a father of us all, God Almighty, creator and creation, and more. These subsections are functional explanations of the theological implications to be understood (according to Bird) from within the specific line or phrase from the Apostles’ Creed—in this case, “…God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
The book opens with a helpful introduction that allows the reader to better grasp the usefulness of Creeds within our increasingly Creed-less Christian culture. This introduction both justifies Bird’s work and sets the stage for the exploration that follows. Each chapter concludes with a summary of the “Story” to bring the pieces of the study together and a recommended reading for further study—many of which will point the reader to Bird’s larger work Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2013). After walking the reader through the various aspects of the Apostles’ Creed, Bird closes the volume with an appendix on the early text and tradition of the Creed and a number of indexes.
Overall, I was very impressed with the brevity and clarity of this volume. Bird is generally an engaging author, and this volume exemplifies that characteristic well. As with any work related to Christian theology, the opportunity for disagreement with the author will arise at numerous points. However, as one who sometimes disagrees with Bird, I found his treatment here both evenhanded and well-informed. Consequently, after some consideration, I will likely be using this book in the near future as the basis for an adult education curriculum. It’s an easy to read, thought-provoking, and engaging introduction to the Christian faith that is firmly grounded in the history of the Christian church. It comes highly recommended!
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.