Monday, November 25, 2019

Book Review: To Be A Christian

To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism. J.I. Packer, editor. Joel Scandrett, editor. 2020 [January] Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Why an Anglican catechism? Anglicans are heirs of a rich tradition of Christian faith and life.

To Be A Christian is a new catechism written specifically for Anglicans. I am not an Anglican. (Though certainly I can affirm many of the questions and answers in this one.) I wanted to let you know at the start that I am not an Anglican and I am looking at this from more of an outsider perspective.

The question isn't so much do believers--in general--need catechisms and creeds. The question is do Anglicans need their own catechism, an updated catechism though the content is often drawn from a rich, traditional past? The editors' obvious answer is YES, yes they do.

Do I agree that Anglicans need their own catechism? I'm not sure that I'm convinced. But hey I am an outsider.

So the catechism covers the gospel and faith in general, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, prayer in general, the Ten Commandments, etc. All stuff you'd expect in ANY christian catechism. But it doesn't stick with the basics. It goes above and beyond to cover things that are specifically or exclusively Anglican.

For example,
244. What is liturgy? Liturgy is an established pattern or form for the worship of God by God’s people.The liturgy leads us in the remembrance of God’s mighty acts and unites us in grateful response. (Exodus 15:1–21; Psalm 118; Luke 22:14–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
245. Why do Anglicans worship with a structured liturgy? Anglicans worship with a structured liturgy because it embodies biblical patterns of worship, fosters reverence and love for God, deepens faith in Jesus Christ, and is in continuity with the practices of Israel and the Early Church. (Numbers 6:22–27; Deuteronomy 12:8–14; Psalm 96; Acts 2:42–47; Revelation 15; Didache 8–10)
246. Does structured liturgy inhibit sincere and vibrant worship? No. A structured liturgy provides sincere worshipers biblical language and forms that train our hearts for worship. Liturgy enables us to worship God joyfully and with one voice. (2 Samuel 6:1–4; 2 Chronicles 29; Psalm 68:24–33; 1 Corinthians 14:26–33, 39–40; Revelation 7:9–8:5)
247. What is the role of Scripture in the Prayer Book? The Book of Common Prayer is saturated with the Scriptures, organizing and orchestrating them for worship. It helps us to pray together in words God himself has given us, with order, beauty, joy, deep devotion, and great dignity. (Exodus 34:5–8; 1 Chronicles 29:10–13; Psalms 96:9; 118; Matthew 21:1–11; Revelation 7:9–12)
248. How does the Book of Common Prayer organize corporate worship? The Prayer Book orders our daily, weekly, and seasonal prayer and worship. It also provides liturgies for significant events of life. (Leviticus 23:1–24:9; Psalm 90; John 2:1–12; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11)
249. What is the Daily Office? The Daily Office includes the services of Morning and Evening Prayer. In them we confess our sins and receive absolution, hear God’s Word and praise him with psalms, and offer the Church’s thanksgivings and prayers. (Psalms 5; 63; Daniel 6:10; Mark 1:35)
250. How is the Daily Office observed? The Daily Office is primarily designed for corporate prayer. It may also be used by individuals or families, in public or in private, in whole or in part. (Psalm 22:22–27; Acts 10:9–16; Hebrews 10:24–25; Revelation 7:9–12)
251. Why do we pray the Daily Office? We pray the Daily Office because, by it, we learn the Scriptures, join with the Church in prayer, mark our days with praise to God, and sanctify our time. ( Joshua 1:6–9; Psalms 92; 119:97; Acts 10:1–8; 1 Timothy 2:1–7)
252. What is a rule of life? A rule of life is a discipline by which I order my worship, work, and leisure as a pleasing sacrifice to God. (Deuteronomy 6:1–9; Psalm 103; John 15:1–15; Romans 12:1–2; Colossians 3:12–17)
253. Why do you need a rule of life? I need a rule of life because my fallen nature is disordered, distracted, and self-centered. A rule of life helps me to resist sin and establish godly habits, through which the Holy Spirit will increasingly conform me to the image of Christ. (Psalms 73; 86:11–13; Proverbs 3; 1 Corinthians 9:23–27; Colossians 3:1–4; 1 Peter 1:13–19)
254. What is included in a rule of life? In addition to Scripture, prayer, and worship, a rule of life includes witness, service, self-denial, and faithful stewardship of my time, money, and possessions. (Deuteronomy 5:28–33; Psalm 141; Matthew 5:13–16; 6:19–24; Mark 8:27–38; 1 Peter 4:10–11)
255. Why is prayer an essential part of a rule of life? Through prayer, I rely upon God for strength, wisdom, and humility to sustain and guide me in my rule of life. Without the love of God and the power of his Spirit, I will not attain to the fullness of Christ. ( Job 28:12–28; Psalm 143; Romans 8:26–30) 
When it's covering more-basic, truly-essential Christian doctrine and creed, the catechism is good and beneficial. Here are some of the earlier questions,
1. What is the human condition? Though created good and made for fellowship with our Creator, humanity has been cut off from God by self-centered rebellion against him, leading to lawless living, guilt, shame, death, and the fear of judgment. This is the state of sin. (Genesis 3:1–13; Psalm 14:1–3; Matthew 15:10–20; Romans 1:18–23; 3:9–23)
2. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news that God loves the world and offers salvation from sin through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103:1–13; Isaiah 53:4–5; John 3:16–17; 1 Corinthians 15:1–5)
3. How does sin affect you? Sin alienates me from God, my neighbor, God’s good creation, and myself. Apart from Christ, I am hopeless, guilty, lost, helpless, and walking in the way of death. (Genesis 3:14–19; Psalm 38; Isaiah 53:6; 59:1–2; Romans 6:20–23)
4. What is the way of death? The way of death is a life without God’s love and Holy Spirit, a life controlled by things that cannot bring me eternal joy, leading only to darkness, misery, and eternal condemnation. (Genesis 2:16–17; Deuteronomy 28:15–19; Proverbs 14:12; John 8:34; Romans 1:24–25)
5. Can you save yourself from the way of sin and death? No. I have no power to save myself, for sin has corrupted my conscience, confused my mind, and captured my will. Only God can save me. (Psalm 33:13–19; Isaiah 43:8–13; John 3:1–8; Ephesians 2:1–9)
6. How does God save you? God forgives my sins and reconciles me to himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he has given to the world as an undeserved gift of love. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ( John 3:16; see also Psalm 34; Zechariah 12:10–13:2; Romans 3:23–26)
7. Why does God save you? Because he loves me, God saves me from sin and judgment, so that I may love and serve him for his glory. (Psalm 98; Isaiah 42:5–9; John 3:17; Romans 5:8–10; 2 Corinthians 5:18–21; Ephesians 1:3–14)
So at times I found myself LOVING it. And at other times it was more of a meh response. There are over 360 questions and answers that one would potentially have to memorize. That is A LOT. The answers are concise, but perhaps there are a few too many for the average reader...unless one is truly an Anglican.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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