Suggestion for April reading:
B.A. Gerrish, Christian Faith:
Dogmatics in Outline (Louisville Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015)
Busy pastors are tempted to read in small chunks. Long books seem to be too time consuming. While challenging, long books are intimidating. Brian Gerrish’s 319 pages of Dogmatics in Outline (!) may combine length and intimidation in a way that guarantees few pastor-readers. So why bother to recommend it?
Gerrish’s Christian Faith is presented in three parts – Creation, Redemption, and Conclusion (which is where he locates Trinity!) – consisting of 22 theses on subjects such as “The World as Creation,” “Estrangement,” “Living by Faith,” and “The Covenant.” Gerrish is a historical theologian, and so each thesis is followed by an explication of the theme’s doctrinal development (with particular attention to Calvin and Schleiermacher). Gerrish then outlines his own position.
Some readers will appreciate Gerrish’s own positions, some will disagree with them, but all will be enriched by his careful analysis of doctrinal issues and developments. He raises questions and sets out options in such a way that readers are challenged to articulate their own understanding of Christian faith and life rather than accepting or rejecting Gerrish’s, or relying on customary views.
An indication of the character of Christian Faith may be gleaned from Gerrish’s Thesis 7 on “Estrangement” – Estrangement from the Creator may, as mistrust, be guiltless, but as defiance to the Creator is sin, which arises from inborn egocentrism and the collective pressures of society, infects a person’s entire existence with self-interest, and makes the self powerless to achieve the purposes of its creation without redemption. What follows in the ensuing 12 pages is an illuminating discussion of sin, from “Rebellion and Pride” through “Forgetfulness, Social Sin, and Anxiety” to “Estrangement and Faith.” Pastors, who are regularly confronted with objections to prayers of confession in worship, expectations that sins should be catalogued and ranked, or excessive guilt, will find their capacity to respond faithfully and pastorally enhanced by Gerrish’s careful discussion.
Each of the 22 theses is covered in 12-15 pages. Reading through one thesis a day, Monday through Friday, will complete Christian Faith in a month. The reward will far exceed a typical month of pastoral reading, and will have a direct impact on preaching, teaching, and pastoral care.