Review: Ancient Christian Doctrines Vol 5

You can find more here. I was fortunate enough to have reviewed the first volume in this series, and now, the fifth volume. The other three, I hear, are on their way for Father’s Day, one from each child.

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The wealth of knowledge contained in this series, the devotional material, the introduction to early Christian writers, explanation of the creeds, insures that these books are a must for students of early Christian doctrine, and those who are tired of reading explanations of explanations and who desire to get to the heart of the matter.

Taking the ‘classic creed’ (p269) of 381 and splitting it into into individual phrases, this series shows how numerous writers from the early periods of Christian History developed in a line to those ideas, or later explained and expounded up those ideas. The writers are not selected to represent solely the Western viewpoint or commonly recognized authors, indeed, even Pelagius makes an appearance, but the writers contains in this volume represent a broad spectrum pulling in the East and the West, Augustine, Cassian and Ignatius of Antioch. The timeline of these writers extend from the close of the canon to the year 750.

However, the series is more than just a collection of sometimes short, sometimes extended, statements by early writers. The editors of the series have included a brief commentary-like historical setting for each phrase as well as an overview of the writers which is more along the lines of a summation. These sections prepare the reader to be dropped into the ongoing conversation between the writers, in which doctrines progress, develop and are fleshed out. The editors, which for this volume is Angelo Di Berardino (Series Editor, Thomas C. Oden), do not shy away from controversy. They include, as I noted before, Pelagius, as well as Origen whose view on the recapitulation still serves to raise the ire of many Christians.

This volume examines the last stanza of the Creed of 381,

We believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Of the volumes which I have reviewed, it is the most theologically comprehensive, aiming to bring about a better understanding of this creed, regardless of later doctrinal schisms which developed instead over doctrines not pertaining to the Creed. Footnotes are found throughout, including Scriptural references, which should alert the reader the further material. This text is more than a starting point, and shouldn’t be concluded as a finishing point, but it is a valuable reference for study of the ancient writers, the Creed, and the development of doctrines in the early Church.

At the end of this volume is a short Conclusion, in which the series editor states the goal and the use of these volumes. Further, there is a section on biographical sketches of the authors and descriptions on anonymous works used in the series, as well as a timeline of writers used. The volumes are handsome in of themselves, the outside quality bespeaking well the quality of what is found on the inside.

You may order the other books in the series from here and here.

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9 Replies to “Review: Ancient Christian Doctrines Vol 5”

  1. Of interest, the new translation of the Roman Missal, to be introduced into Catholic English language dioceses sometime in the future, changes this passage to read:

    And one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
    I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins
    and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
    and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    I have been water “baptized” twice. Once as a baby in a Catholic church when i did not believe in and confess God and Christ, because how could I, I was unable to converse or comprehend. And once 18 months ago in a Pentecostal church when I did say that I believe in and confess God and Christ, because I do.

    I have also seemingly been “baptized” in the Spirit twice. Once when I was Confirmed in a Catholic church, but all that happened was the Bishop gave me a soft slap on the cheek – I had no idea what it was all about. And once at home alone when I repented of my sins to God through Jesus and I asked God to anoint me with the Holy Spirit – and He did.

    So, if the Nicene Creed says “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins”, what happens if you have more than one?!?

    1. I would say that you can be baptized as many times as you want, NT, but if they are all wrong, then you are merely wet. I have been baptized many times myself – but it was when I received proper baptism that it became the One Baptism.

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