Introducing the KNOW Series: Hospitable Guides to the Historic Christian Faith
Recently I assembled a new stroller for our soon-to-be-delivered baby. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to put the darn thing together! Until I read the instructions.
Same thing for linking my iPhone to our new car: a hair pulling experience to be sure. Until I read the manual.
Sometimes Christianity can be like this.
While we can draw on our years of study, even then sometimes we’re left where our people are: Scratching our heads at not only the what of the Christian faith, but the how and why.
The Holy Trinity is one of those “what’s.” What exactly is the Trinity and how would you explain it? How did the Church come to describe God in this way? And why were other ways rejected?
Same for how God became Jesus, as a new book explores. How is it Jesus is both God and man? How did we recognize and ratify this other-worldly event?
Enter a new set of engaging, to-the-point guides to the historic Christian faith. In the new KNOW Series, pastor-theologian Justin Holcomb will assist you and your people in more deeply understanding the foundations of the faith, beginning with Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics.
Here are three reasons why the Church needs KNOW, who these guides are for, and how they will benefit us in the same way those instructions and that manual benefited me.
(1) Why the Church Needs KNOW
In Know the Creeds and Councils Holcomb writes, “The fact that Christianity developed…can sometimes lead us to wonder what the essential core of Christianity is. As a result some people decide to ignore history altogether and try to reconstruct ‘real Christianity’ with nothing more than a Bible. But this approach misses a great deal.” (10)
Yes it does, which is the main reason we need this series.
The result of such ignorance and ignoring is a buffet approach to the faith, where we pick and choose what to believe, and consequently what not to believe. Holcomb goes on to say, “To ignore [the insights from past Christians] is to attempt to reinvent the wheel, and to risk reinventing it badly.” (10)
It’s this “bad invention” that the KNOW Series seeks to guard against.
(2) Who Will Benefit from KNOW
Three groups will benefit from these handy guides:
First, interested Christians — alone or in small groups. One thing I love is that each chapter ends with questions. For example, of the Council of Chalcedon Holcomb asks, “Which do you think is more problematic: Nestorianism (two natures and two persons) or Eutychianism (one nature)? Why?” (Creeds and Councils, 61)
Good question, and there are plenty more like it making these books ideal for small group ministries, and for the just plain curious.
Second, undergraduate and graduate students. Take the sets of questions, combine them with engaging, get-to-the-point writing and you’ve got the perfect supplement for your historical or systematic theology class.
Or if you’re a student and need a CliffsNotes on the Pelagius, Heidelberg Catechism, or Vatican II look no further than the KNOW Series.
Finally, these guides are for pastors. Hitting the heavyweights with Tom Oden, Roger Olson, or Tim George is enlightening, but sometimes you want information in bite-sized chunks, quick sermon illustrations, and sharply drawn character profiles to help you preach or teach a class on church history.
As a pastor himself, Holcomb and his guides are well positioned to supplement the demands of your ministry life.
(3) How KNOW Will Benefit Them
Holcomb does several things well to help people grasp orthodox Christianity:
First, he carefully defines terms, sketches characters, and explains context. Such “road-mapping” will help our people navigate well the important teachings and detractors of the faith.
Second, Holcomb makes each teaching, movement, and council relevant to our modern life. This is no small feat. It’s also no small endeavor, because church history isn’t meant to be poked and prodded like a piglet. It’s meant to inform and supplement our faith and faithfulness as 21st century Christians.
Third, he brings clarity to our faith’s development and core beliefs. For example, in Heretics he writes, “Some believe that these [heretical] theories were rejected because the institutional church was unwilling to be openminded…I am taking the position that they were rejected because they simply did not measure up to the beliefs that were accepted in the end.” (10)
There’s a reason the Dummies and Idiot’s Guide series have sold so well. Sometimes we need instructions and manuals to help us navigate the complexities of life. Same for the Christian faith.
Reading these books will help you and your people answer the how and why discussed earlier so they can firmly grasp the what, as well.
Look for more in-depth columns in the coming weeks exploring the content of this important new series. Until then pre-order Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics today.
Jeremy Bouma (Th.M.) is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA, a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and writes about faith and life at www.jeremybouma.com.
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