Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review of; "Grounded in the Faith," by Todd Scacewater

"Grounded in the Faith: A Guide for New Disciples Based on the Apostles’ Creed" by Todd A. Scacewater, Fontes Press, 2017, 54 pp. ISBN: 069287562X, $6.99

Grounded in the Faith” is the first release in a planned series of discipleship booklets designed to foster learning and growth in new converts to the Christian faith. The author's preface reads; "This work is intended for pastors, elders, church leaders, and laymen to use to disciple new believers" (pg. v). The author, Todd Scacewater, holds a PhD from Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he also taught Greek courses, and is the editor of the website “Exegetical Tools”[1] which features teaching resources for studying the Biblical languages.

Grounded in the Faith” revolves around the author’s own English translation from the Greek text of the “Apostles’ Creed” found in most editions and commentaries. The booklet begins in the first chapter with a rudimentary orientation to the history of the creed and why it serves as an adequate summary of the basic tenets of Christian belief. Scacewater notes that the “final form of the Apostles’ Creed that churches around the world recite today was solidified by around AD 700” and that since it has been used “to teach new disciples for more than 1,600 years,” it can be accepted “as a true representation of the Bible’s teaching” (pg. 3). Those who desire a critical edition of the Greek text, or wish for an exhaustive historical treatment of the Creed should look elsewhere.

After the elementary introduction, the following chapters divide the creed into three main segments; “God the Father,” “Jesus Christ,” and “The Gifts of God.” Each of these chapters are further segmented into smaller portions that discuss each phrase of the Creed. For example, chapter one comments on the creedal phrase “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” (pg.5). The phrase “I believe,” is given its own treatment in a mini-chapter and the rest of the saying receives commentary in a separate mini-chapter. Each of these mini-chapters ends with a series of questions that prompt the reader and the teacher into further discussion. For example, chapter one, under the mini-chapter “I believe,” the following questions conclude the discussion;
“1. Read Ephesians 2:8–9. How are we saved? 2. Read Galatians 2:16. Can we be saved through our own good works? 3. Read Ezekiel 36:26–27, which describes what happens when we are saved through faith in Christ. How is a new believer’s life different than before salvation? 4. How has God changed your heart since you started following Christ? How does your life look different?” (pg. 8)
The questions aid in solidifying the material and form a single unit of instruction. In this way a mentor or teacher could organize a discipleship program in which a mini-chapter was discussed at each session.

The final chapter, “Next Steps,” offers a simple but practical guide to encourage further spiritual growth, Church attendance, and biblical knowledge. It also gives suggestions for further reading on a few entry level works that deal with spiritual growth, biblical interpretation, defense of the Christian faith, and evangelism.

The booklet is designed to be used in a broad array of faith traditions and backgrounds and avoids points of interdenominational theological controversy. For example, when discussing a believer’s baptism into Christ a footnote states;
“The meaning and significance of baptism is understood differently by various theological traditions. Some traditions hold that only those who profess faith in Christ should be baptized, while other traditions baptize the babies of Christian families in order to include the entire family in the covenant community. Consult with your pastor to discuss the meaning and significance of baptism in your tradition and to answer any questions you may have.” (pg. 27-28)
With that said, the Reformed tradition of the author bleeds through at one point. In the first chapter, the essential aspect of faith in salvation is discussed and after quoting Ephesians 2:8-9, the author writes simply, “Faith, then, is a gift from God” (pg. 7). Christians from non-reformed traditions would contest this interpretation and argue that “salvation” and not “faith” is the gift in view here. Despite this, it is clear that the author emphasizes the necessity of personal faith in Christ; “But at the same time, faith is a personal decision that is made because of the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in our heart” (pg. 7). Therefore, even those who hold to “prevenient grace,” for example, would still benefit from this booklet.

Though this study guide is meant for a novice, one of the Greek and Hebrew names of God are introduced on one occasion. The significance of these two languages are introduced in a helpful way; “The Old Testament, written in ancient Hebrew, was translated into Greek by Jewish believers about 200 years before Jesus’ day” (pg. 15). Unfortunately, it is never explained that the New Testament and the “Apostles’ Creed” were also composed in Greek and the significance of the Greek words may be lost on a new convert. This information, however, can easily be supplemented by the instructor.

Overall, "Grounded in the Faith: A Guide for New Disciples Based on the Apostles’ Creed," is an excellent resource that is affordable and easily portable.

[1] www.

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