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I want to share my thoughts on Adam Hamilton’s Creed: What Christians Believe and Why in hopes that Christians who are on the fringe (new to faith, distancing self from faith, or somewhere in between) or are struggling with doctrinal red tape will reconnect with the origins of Christian faith and establish a stronger relationship to it based on the very basics.
Story: The book seeks to define Christianity through analysis of the Apostles’ Creed. The book is broken into 7 chapters- an introduction followed by 6 chapters focusing on the key elements of the Creed which include God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, The Church and the Communion of Saints, The Forgiveness of Sins, The Resurrection of the Body. Hamilton also includes an appendix which features various historical editions of the Creed, including some other key Christian influenced creeds, namely the Nicene, Athanasian and Chalcedonian Creeds.
Perspective: While Hamilton and I belong to the same sect of Christianity, this book doesn’t come across through that lens, which I appreciate. Labels have the tendency to become convoluted and the essence of the Christian faith is not something that should be. Creed does a fine job of reminding us of this. Every chapter presents a balance of how each piece of the Creed relates to the Christian faith, both on the individual and corporate levels. Hamilton’s writing is accessible to those who have done some theological study and easily relatable to those who may still be trying to find their way as Christians. I must commend Hamilton for well placed usage of conversational tone, as it makes the text easier to connect with on the key points.
Style: Full disclosure: I was prepared not to jive with this one. I previously read Adam Hamilton’s Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say and had a difficult time connecting to his style, as it seemed very pedantic and mechanical. I was pleasantly surprised to find something different in Creed. Hamilton engages the reader by simplifying the themes and concepts of the Creed while weaving in historical perspective, language considerations and personal anecdotes that paint a clear picture of what Christianity is truly all about. Hamilton is also candid about many of the hang ups that people have with organized faith/religion. While I don’t use these terms interchangeably, people’s perspectives on one are often informed by the other which Creed illuminates in an objective manner that helps the reader to check bias in light of what is being presented in the text. Check out this except from the intro.
Our most important beliefs, whether expressed in the Apostles’ Creed or in other ways, affect our understanding of what it means to be human and our convictions about values, morality and relationships. Ultimately our most deeply held beliefs or convictions shape our goals, ambitions, hopes and dreams. These kinds of convictions are seldom scientifically verifiable; nevertheless we should carefully consider and question them and should be able to make a compelling case for them.
My recommendation: I feel especially called to recommend this book to those who have questions about their faith. While this isn’t an encyclopedia of Christianity, I believe this text tackles many of the issues that Christians often grapple with. As someone who doesn’t have too many questions about where I stand in my faith, I was encouraged to learn more about the roots of where that faith came from and pleased to walk away with language that I can share with others that reflects the essence of the Christian faith, doctrinal commentary aside. There is a small group study video that can be used as a great tool to open discussions among friends or in your faith communities. My church used this resource and I enjoyed the additional perspectives that were shared on the DVD. The chapter on the Forgiveness of Sins was calling to my soul with every page. I hope that you will find similar, life giving wisdom in Creed.
Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.