Book Review: Classical Christian Doctrine
Author: Ronald E. Heine
Publisher: Baker Academic ISBN: 9780801048739
I really liked this book and for more than just a couple reasons. Written by Ronald E. Heine, Classical Christian Doctrine, solidly succeeds in living up to the goal of its subtitle: Introducing the Essentials of the Ancient Faith. In this work, Heine consolidates several very important core components of the Christian doctrine to form his introduction. First, he assumes the basis of all Christian doctrine is Scripture; next, he chooses to utilize a common statement of faith that bridges the divide of most of the contemporary Christian traditions. For this statement, he selected the Nicene Creed (first drafted in 325AD and refined through 381AD). In working with Scripture and the development of this creed, Heine introduces the reader to many of the great thinkers and the classic Christian writings behind the working out of these early church doctrines.
While this might not be some of the most exciting reading for some people, I consider that it should be required reading for anyone new to the Christian faith. I realize that might sound like it is asking a bit much for new believers, but in the circles of Christian believers that I have most often traveled, many people have very little knowledge about what they believe or why they believe it. Subsequently, a hodge-podge approach to their personal theology tends to be how they add to their “doctrinal beliefs” and quite a few integrate beliefs that were rejected as heresies by the church hundreds of years ago. I have witnessed integrations of Marcionism, Arianism, and Gnosticism amongst a host of other errant teachings incorporated into the confessions of my church family. This, I believe, is due to a lack of foundational doctrines being taught to them…although there remains individual responsibility as well. Nonetheless, this is why I believe this book is a wonderful addition to any believer’s library. It will introduce the reader to classic Christian writings (early church fathers), some of the greatest Christian thinkers of the early church, and the foundational doctrines common to almost every Christian tradition in existence today.
The book would serve very well for individual studies, but I think it really shines as a core teaching tool for group studies and/or primary discipleship training. Ronald Heine patiently walks the reader step-by-step through the major statements of the Nicene Creed that form the core foundations of the Christian doctrine. He devotes a chapter to each of these statements of faith including and identifying the major “voices” and personalities that contributed to the working out of these statements and accompanying beliefs. He does not shy away from discussing the formation of these ideas and the heresies that were competing for voice in the minds of believers. Heine also includes discussions points and questions at the end of every chapter as well as resources for further reading and bibliography of sources he has noted.
This book could have been a lot longer, but I believe it is a testament to the scholarship of Ronald Heine that he was able to be as thorough and inclusive with this book in the succinct form that has been delivered. I do not think this book is beyond the scope of understanding for anyone high school age or older. I also believe that this might be a great refresher for those who consider themselves “seasoned theologians.” I applaud the efforts of both author and publisher and I’m grateful for another wonderful tool for personal development and for helping others come to a better understanding of their faith.