Book Review: Know the Creeds and Councils
Author: Justin S. Holcomb
When it comes to the Christianity and the Bible, it can seem there are as many different “beliefs” and interpretations as there are people. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world. This can present considerable challenges when comes to trying to understand “What we believe…” with regard to the Christian faith.
It is precisely for this reason that a book like Know the Creeds and Councils is such a valuable resource for members of and people who are curious about the Christian Church. The creeds, confessions, catechisms, and councils are the declarations of faith and unifying statements of the people to make up the Christian Church. These defining words are the “things we believe.”
Justin Holcomb has done a commendable job articulating these belief statements in a way that most anyone with the ability to read at a sixth grade level can understand. While some of these creedal statements and confessions can be a bit cumbersome, Holcomb has summarized them in such a way that there has not been any compromise to the integrity of the original statement.
One of the things I liked most is the linear development of theology and doctrine observed through these creeds and confessions. Most, if not all, of the succeeding statements build on the preceding teaching lending to a more robust and deeper understanding of the things the Church believes. Personally, this is important to me with respect to Ecumenicism; where my choices and considerations may differ from another Christian brother or sister, I can reach back to a confession or creed where we have common ground and stand in that place to build unity.
Each chapter provides a brief summary of each creed, confession, catechism, or council. Holcomb provides the historical background, content, and some contemporary relevance. The book is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. It does not cover every creedal document in detail, but provides an overview of the major statements of faith. It is a perfect introduction and gives the pertinent points necessary for beginning conversations that might lead to deeper study. Each chapter includes discussion questions helpful for the individual reader or group reading. There are also recommended resources for further reading about each creed, council, catechism, and confession at the end of each chapter. Additionally, there is a thoroughly annotated notes section at the end of the book that can provide even richer studies, should the reader decided to venture there.
Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb is a great place to start with understanding the what and the why of our Christian beliefs.