I'm reading this again as we are studying Hebrews in our Sunday School class. I'm really enjoying Wright's insights into the text, especially his know...moreI'm reading this again as we are studying Hebrews in our Sunday School class. I'm really enjoying Wright's insights into the text, especially his knowledge of the first century context, as well as his constant reminder that the focus is on Christ and that He is exalted above all else.(less)
If you have ever struggled with this issue of unity in the visible church (or perhaps you have tried to avoid it!) then I would suggest Armstrong's bo...moreIf you have ever struggled with this issue of unity in the visible church (or perhaps you have tried to avoid it!) then I would suggest Armstrong's book as a good starting place for discussion. The "smallness" to which Armstrong refers in his title is not about the size of the local congregation, but the narrow view of what the word "church" means. Mostly aimed at Protestants but encompassing the two other main streams of Christianity (Catholic and Orthodox), the book acts as a guide for how to think historically and Biblically about church unity.
One of the first things that struck me about this book is the personal investment of the author in this quest for unity in Christ's mission. This is not just a book of abstract theological ideas, but is grounded in Scriptural principles he lives out among Christians from various backgrounds. I found his own story mirrors my own in some ways, and appreciate that he comes from a tradition that has a high view of Scripture. Refreshingly, he seeks to restore balance between truth and unity, not favor one at the expense of the other. This is not some feel-good ecumenism of the last century, but one rooted and grounded in the historical creedal confessions of the early church.
The book is divided into three sections, covering the past (Armstrong's own personal journey and the church's historical unity), the present (where we are now and some of the reasons behind why we are so divided), and the future (some ideas on where the church is headed and a new paradigm of how we might get there). Each chapter ends with helpful questions that expand on and personalize his points rather than just rehashing them.
He begins by reminding the reader of the catholicity of the church --the quality of universality in which the church spans thousands of years and exists in all parts of the world. Sadly, this has been forgotten or ignored in many evangelical circles who believe their local, contemporary expression is the one "true" church.
According to Armstrong, the starting point for unity should be a return to classical definitions of Christianity (what has been called paleo-orthodoxy), especially as defined by the early confessions of the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds. By confessing "one holy and apostolic church," believers align themselves with the historic faith. In addition, reading the early church fathers reminds us that we face many of the same issues today, while their writings continually point us back to Scripture as the basis for unity. Another strength of the book is that it introduces the reader to theologians and thinkers from all three major Christuan traditions.
Overall, I think there is much to praise in this book and would recommend it to anyone who seeks to work harmoniously with other Christians. What I appreciate most about Armstrong's book is that it is not intended to be a 5 step "this is how to achieve unity" type of work; instead, this book is a platform on how to begin thinking about ways we can reach out to other Christ-followers in our community. (less)
Update 7/6/11: I read this again as a sort of "spiritual discipline" refresher, and also because we are studying Hebrews in my church circle, which re...moreUpdate 7/6/11: I read this again as a sort of "spiritual discipline" refresher, and also because we are studying Hebrews in my church circle, which reminded me of this little guide to enriching our spiritual lives through various practices.
9/21/10: Refreshing take on what it means to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers. Lauren Winner (author of Girl Meets God), who converted from Judaism to Christianity, discusses the practices of her faith as a Jew and how they offer examples of discipline to the Christian believer. Not that they save us, of course, but, as she writes in her introduction, "the practicing [of spiritual disciplines] teaches us what it means to live as Christians. The ancient disciplines form us to respond to God, over and over always, in gratitude, in obedience, and in faith." And I think that's one of the things I have been learning as I'm reading James -- that it is the repetition of something, whether it is self-control or serving others, that helps conform us to the image of Christ. Which is why we pray and recite Scripture, but also should be practicing hospitality and thoughtfully arranging our days around the Sabbath.(less)
*the depth of theology -- the commentaries, particularly in the OT section, point toward Christ and the...morehings I appreciate about this Bible story book:
*the depth of theology -- the commentaries, particularly in the OT section, point toward Christ and the stories remain faithful to the truths found in Scripture *the breadth of stories -- her selections include highlighting lesser known passages, yet they are almost always connected to some aspect of faith in Christ without simply moralizing *the brevity of each selection -- no story is more than a few paragraphs long and each fits on a page, yet the content is sound and requires close listening *the option of reading the stories thematically -- you can trace stories about Jesus, wars and battles, the Holy Spirit, journeys and travels *the illustrations are also thematic (dove for Holy Spirit, road for journeys, etc.) which allow even pre-readers to recognize the larger threads of the Bible
Overall, I found this an excellent format for families. These brief yet powerful stories will provide ample discussion and lead us to search the appropriate Scripture passages further. Though the illustrations were not in a style I particularly favored, I was glad that they refrained from attempting to illustrate Jesus, since that almost always turns out badly. And the repetition of iconic illustrations to assist in identifying the common themes of the stories turned out to be quite helpful to our children. The target age seems to be younger elementary students, but I think our almost-5-year-old will easily be able to understand the main points and the "Think" comments. We are looking forward to reading through these daily selections over the course of the next year as we grow together in our study of God's Word. MacKenzie's 365 Great Bible Stories is a good jumping-off point to guide your reading and discussions of Scripture as a family. (less)
Read this again during Lent 2012. Might have been 12 years since I last read it, back in college when it was first recommended to me on a spring break...moreRead this again during Lent 2012. Might have been 12 years since I last read it, back in college when it was first recommended to me on a spring break service trip. Good, probably better than I remember. I think I appreciated more of her prose and her stories this time around, but also understood better where we disagree. Still, I think this collection of essays is an entire testament to grace and the God who loves lavishly, despite our choices or our circumstances. The story about the lady at church who gives them dimes was just wonderful. Well worth the read, especially for the difference in perspective for me, a sheltered Southern girl. Curious now to read the book about when Lamott becomes a grandmother.(less)
The author does an excellent job of celebrating the graces repeatedly bestowed upon Newton, and he shares numerous examples of God orchestrating event...moreThe author does an excellent job of celebrating the graces repeatedly bestowed upon Newton, and he shares numerous examples of God orchestrating events and people to spare Newton's life and bring him into a relationship with Christ.
Overall, it was a quick introduction to the compelling life story of John Newton, but was sometimes difficult to read because of the writer's distracting style. The short bursts of information might be better served as teachable sections instead of one continuous, flowing narrative.