Book Review: Awakening Faith
Author: James Stuart Bell
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310514879
Get this book. Read for revival in your personal devotions—and read this book with a group for discussion, as you stir the flames of your faith into roaring fires. This collection of writings from the early church fathers is The Stuff. Too often, our contemporary devotional resources lend themselves more to the realm of fluff, feel-good fiction, and fantasy, and that…often seasoned with denominational biases. It is my opinion that you will not find that sort of writing here in Awakening Faith. No doubt, you will be challenged, as you should be; meat, after all, is not as easily digested as milk or pabulum.
If you know me or if you are a reader of my blog, it will come as no surprise that I am a great admirer of the ancient wisdom of the Christian faith. I make no excuses for my bias, but I believe that we will find the purest teaching from and about the word of God in the times considered Pre Enlightenment (late 17th – early 18th Century). Additionally, while I am grateful for some of the corrective blessings that flowed from the Reformation (I am of the Protestant tradition), I believe the post Reformation writings are too often poised to discredit or argue against positions held by the early church fathers. My view may be unique, but having been raised in the Protestant Evangelical tradition, I was not aware of the writings of these ancient spiritual masters for many, many years. In fact, I rarely, if ever, heard any of the church fathers quoted in my church or in any church study classes…even while in Bible College. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the concept of spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines that I realized the treasure of deep theology that existed in the wisdom of these early church writings.
Awakening Faith is a wonderful opportunity for introduction to these ancient texts. The book is arranged in a daily devotional format. It features a year’s worth of writings (366 daily readings). Each individual devotion is excerpted from a longer writing and is centered on a specific theme (holiness, prayer, Jesus Christ, the Church, salvation, stewardship, and more). In addition to the themed approach, each devotional writing begins with a Scripture verse, which provides opportunity for further reflection as well as providing context for the writing itself. A couple more points worth highlighting about this devotional book are the length of the writings themselves, which are very concise, less than a page long and only a few paragraphs at most (probably none are longer than 300-400 words). Also, at the end of the book there is an index of these ancient authors, which provides a very brief biographical sketch and a listing of the writings of which they are featured in the book. Finally, a convenient Scripture index is included which follows the author bios.
I cannot recommend this devotional book enough. I think it can be used in a great many ways and all of them good. It would serve well as a device for personal devotions and equally well for group readings. It could also be useful in a classroom setting for an introduction to early church writings. Actually, I cannot think of an application that it would not be a useful supplement. Get this book. Even if you’re familiar with the writings of the early church, the devotional format can be helpful. I have many resources for these writings in my personal library and yet, I’m thankful for this newest collection from Zondervan. I will enjoy it immensely during this coming year as I make it a regular part of my devotional reading.
A sample from Zondervan can be viewed here
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews to read and post a review on my site. 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.”