Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review: Theological Fitness

Theological Fitness: Why We Need a Fighting Faith. Aimee Byrd. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Hebrews 10:23 says, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." (ESV)
I definitely appreciated the premise behind Theological Fitness. In the book, Byrd argues that Christians need to know WHAT they believe and WHY they believe. That "holding fast" to a confession of faith will help them to persevere--remain steadfast--in the Christian life, in good times and bad. It's not an option to not be a theologian if you're a believer.  In other words, every believer should strive to be a good theologian. You should be a theologically fit believer. Being (or becoming) theologically fit requires effort, but, it's worth it.

Here's how Byrd defines theological fitness:
Theological fitness, then, refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God's Word. It isn't just a remembering of some Bible verses about God, but a trust in his promises that motivates us in holy living. God's Word cannot be ignored. We must wrestle with it. 
Why is theology so important? Is it really, truly necessary? Byrd writes,
Our theology shapes the way we live. What we believe about who God is, who we are, and what he has done will affect our everyday thinking and behavior. 
We are all theologians and we all have a creed. The question is, are we good theologians or bad ones? Theology is simply the study of who God is, and that is something everyone wrestles with, even the atheist (as proven by the term atheism). As soon as you begin to answer the question of who he is, you are giving a creed. 
Why is it important to persevere? Because heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. We are called to grow in faith, to persevere, to grow in holiness, to live holy lives. Perseverance takes action: striving, struggling, fighting, holding on, clinging, believing, hoping, praying, trusting, loving.  

Byrd asks her readers, Are you theologically healthy? Are you theologically fit? How well do you know God? Do you know what you believe? Do you know why you believe? How dusty is your Bible? What place does the Word of God have in your life? Are you willing to make the effort to get fit--theologically fit?

I love that this book is both a great exposition of Hebrews 10:23, and, a great book about what it means to be a Christian, what the Christian life looks like. I love that so much focuses on the content of the Christian faith, and that this discussion brings in yet another exposition, this time of Psalm 110:1-7, which she refers to as "David's Creed." What do I mean by "content of the Christian faith"? Simply the doctrines of the faith that are necessary for saving faith or fighting faith. These doctrines are clearly presented in chapters five and six. She writes, that these two chapters may serve as a "first workout" and in fact be a "gauge of your spiritual fitness level." She argues that in these seven verses, believers can find fourteen doctrines for their confession of faith!

I loved many things about this one. I think it's relevant and practical. I do believe that Christians need to be exhorted to know what they believe and why they believe; they need to be encouraged to be engaged with the Word of God.

When we say, "I am a Christian," what do we mean by this profession? This is a very important question. In fact, I would like to propose that our answer to this question, and our ability to proactively cling to a proper confession of what we believe, is directly connected to our perseverance in the Christian life. All Christians need to know what they're persevering for, whether it is through a fiery trial or the mundanity of everyday living. This entails a tenacity to grasp what is true about the person and work of Jesus Christ. I call it theological fitness. 
The words that God has carefully preserved about his plan of redemption, his sovereign holiness, goodness, love, justice, amazing mercy, and grace, are taken for granted. The average American owns more than three copies of the Bible, many of which are collecting enough dust to write the word damnation across the cover, as Charles Spurgeon so eloquently put it. Think about it: the authoritative Word of God, collecting dust. To persevere, we need to know the confession of our hope, and we can't do that with a dusty Bible. 
The trivial issues that we deal with on a daily basis give us training and conditioning for turning again and again to the gospel. 
Who is willing to suffer for a Savior they won't even trouble themselves to learn about? 
There is no plateau in the Christian life. We are either growing closer to Christ's likeness or we are falling away. 
The thing is, Jesus is already the center of everyone's life. For some of us it is a blessed center, and for some it is their greatest destruction. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: