I am consistently amazed at the quality and speed of Accordance Bible Software as well as their offering to the Christian theological community. One of the latest additions is the Ancient Christian Doctrine 5 volume set, published by IVP-Academic. I have received this module for an unbiased review.
As a followup to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series, InterVarsity Press issued a series on what many consider the most important creed formulated by Church councils – the Niceno-Constantinopolitan. (Compared to the Nicene Creed of 325, it includes major additions developed after the serious Arian controversies in the 4th century.) For the editors, this Creed is a binding tool of ecumenicalism which is shared by Catholic, Orthodox and most Protestants alike, so it is only natural that any series on ancient Christian doctrine meant to educate about orthodox doctrines focus on this creed. Indeed, one cannot help but to read these pages and come to a complete understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
In the chapters, the reader finds a consistent voice supported by mainstream theologians of the period, from the close of canon to the 8th century. One of the benefits is that the Editor uses only those writers who can be interpreted in the orthodox light, and only their orthodox writings. While this is acceptable if the intent is to issue a commentary on the creed, the reader may want to obtain other books for a history of the development of the Creed of 381. As for me, I have found this style more than sufficient in understanding the importance of each precept of the Creed.
Each chapter opens with the the stanza in Greek, Latin, and English with the phrase to be supported in bold. The Editor then goes on to give a historical context of the particular phrase. This is followed by an overview which essentially is a summary, complete with references to the Fathers, of the commentary to follow. This overview is creedal in of itself in that it is short sentences from the various writers which you are about to read.
The chapters themselves are made up of short passages by various authors including those who ended their Christian life less orthodox than one would like to believe, such as Tatian and Tertullian. The translation of these texts range from old texts modified slightly to new texts, never before translated, but done so for this work with a dynamic equivalency. The fact that this series uses never before translated works makes it a valuable resource to have.
I have several reflections for the book material itself. This series has set on my bookshelf for several years, allowing me to it for doctrinal clarification on matters of the Creed — something that has become more useful and habitual as I became more Creedal.
I am running Accordance of my mid-2012 MacBook Pro with a 500Gb SSD and 8GB of RAM. What was once breakneck speed for Accordance (with the HD and 4GB of RAM) is now near light speed. I’m not sure Accordance could get any faster or smoother — unless, somehow, they designed a way to attach Accordance to my brain and let me control it merely by thought or muscle memory.
Having the Ancient Christian Doctrine complete set on Accordance not only clears up my shelf space, but allows me to have it everywhere I go. You know the drill, I imagine. At some point, you will be faced with a question about the Creed and what it meant. Because of IVP-Academic, you can easily discover how the Church Fathers used it. Because of Accordance, you can employ this tool even if you are far away from home, in a deep dark holler in Appalachia or some other mission field.
One of the best features of Accordance is that it has taken the Ancient Christian Doctrine 5 volume set and treated it like it is one volume. This, personally, saves me time because I don’t have to call up each volume when looking for something. They are all there. To be sure, Accordance hasn’t merged the volumes, as they each are able to be cited as individual works (as they are in print) with page numbers for the printed works. However, having them in one grouping allows me to quickly examine via one module what I am looking for.
This module includes all five print volumes:
- Volume 1 – We Believe in One God (Edited by Gerald L. Bray)
- Volume 2 – We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Edited by John Anthony Mcguckin)
- Volume 3 – We Believe in the Crucified and Risen Lord (Edited by Mark J. Edwards)
- Volume 4 – We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Edited by Joel C. Elowsky)
- Volume 5 – We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Edited by Angelo DiBerardino)
My one complaint is the copying feature. While the Creed segments are identical to the way they are placed in the book (you are essentially looking at a digitized copy of the book), copying parts of the Creed (such as I wanted to only copy the Greek part) is a bit cumbersome as it is like copying the entire table in a document rather than a single column.
I have read every line of these 5 volumes of the Ancient Christian Doctrine set. I have read them on Accordance and have learned more than I can share. I have used it on my iPhone, iPad, and of course, on my MacBook Pro. I am not only assured by the material therein, but I am fortunate enough to have access to it everywhere I can take at least my iPhone (with or without internet). Not only that, but it makes using them in electronic mediums (such as the blog or research) a lot smoother. The Ancient Christian Doctrine 5 Volume Set on Accordance Bible Software is a needed and essential resource to understanding the Creed and how it applies to our doctrinal life as Christians. Having it easily accessible insures that we have no excuse, now, to ever be without it.