Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Notes: "Rooted: the Apostles' Creed", by Raymond F. Cannata & Joshua D. Reitano

Rooted: the Apostles CreedRooted: the Apostles Creed by Raymond F. Cannata
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Rooted”, by Raymond F. Cannata and Joshua D. Reitano is, to begin with, a great idea for a book. Going through the Apostle’s Creed, line by line, with a hope of reminding Christians of the basics of their faith, the great and glorious truths we all hold to, the beliefs we have in common, the grace and love of God that has saved us all? A great idea for a book. I was excited just hearing about it.

And as for execution? With a very few exceptions, I think they nailed it.

Let me share with you a passage I loved – a passage that’s really the heart of the book, in my opinion. And it’s why I liked the book so much: there is something heartening, strengthening, worldview-correcting about being taken back through the basics of your own faith by such clear, compassionate teachers. I read so much every day about the world, on news sites, on blogs, on Facebook. I need my vision corrected; I need to be reminded of what is really real, really solid, really foundational. And this book does so, winsomely and intelligently. Here’s the passage that sums it up:
That is how you get into the world to come — by being thirsty, by asking God for something you cannot pay for. This is the gospel. If you get nothing else from this book, you must learn this. Salvation comes not by being moral, or right, or pure. In fact, the Bible says none of these things are true of any of us anyway. Rather, we get in on the life everlasting by recognizing we’re not moral, we’re not right, we’re not pure. We get in to the Kingdom of heaven because we are thirsty: for forgiveness, for mercy, for God’s grace. We get in by recognizing that we are in need of a Savior. And by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, we drink the "spring of water of life without payment."
Isn’t that beautiful? I could stand to be reminded of that every day, every hour.

There are other real bright points, too. I loved the chapter on judgment. I loved their description of how Americans might suffer for Christ; it’s one of the more realistic depictions I’ve ever seen, which was refreshing. I loved the spots of humor, like this one:
But there are dangers on the other side, too. Many Christians (and churches) rarely mention the Holy Spirit. There’s an old joke about the Trinity deciding on vacation plans for Spring Break. The Father decides he’d like to go the mountains, since they reflect his majesty and power. The Son desires to go back to his old stomping grounds in Palestine. The Spirit decides to go to a Presbyterian church, because he wanted to go someplace he’d never been before. We tease (as Presbyterian pastors ourselves), but the point is, there are Christians of all denominations who simply don’t know what to do with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. We know he is in the Bible, and we say we believe in him, but we have no real framework for how he works in our life. And so our functional trinity — the trinity in which we actually believe — is the Father, Son, and the Holy Bible.
In keeping with that funny bit of self-deprecation, the authors seem to have a good handle on how to regard Christians who differ from them (a necessity for writing this particular book):
This is one reason why the Apostles’ Creed is so important. It outlines for us the core doctrines of Christianity. Those who fall inside it can still have differences and even fight from time to time, but they can fight like brothers.
My three brothers and I(Josh) fought a lot growing up. But the way I fought with my brothers is completely different than the way I’d fight with someone breaking into my house. We all need to understand the difference.
I think that’s right on. And in that spirit (I hope!), I come to the (few) parts of the book where I had disagreements.

Particularly, I took issue with the way they skipped a bit over “the communion of the saints”. Even though I’m Protestant enough that I don’t believe in prayer to the saints, and even though I loved their chapter on the forgiveness of sins, which includes a great treatment of how to approach the communion table, I don’t think that’s exactly what “the communion of the saints” means in the Creed. A more traditional understanding, I think, includes how we are bound together, in Christ, with those who have gone before us. I don’t expect a Roman Catholic or Orthodox or even Anglican view of this from the authors, but I wish they had at least addressed the difference between their interpretation of “the communion of the saints” and the interpretation of other churches.

I also took issue (along similar lines) with their interpretation of “descended to the dead” – what about “preaching to the spirits in prison”? Anyway, theirs was a fair argument, I just disagreed. Finally, their mention of depression in the chapter “crucified, died, buried” seemed a bit off to me – I’m not sure mental illness should be lightly brought up, as if correct theology can cure it.

But these are the sort of disagreements that I have the feeling these authors would welcome – disagreements within the family, as they say. As a whole, I found this book so encouraging. These men clearly have a gift for putting the hope and splendor of the gospel into words, and I’m grateful they put those words into a book, so that I could read them. Recommended.

This book was a review copy sent by the publisher — common practice in the industry. No payment was accepted in exchange for a review or mention, and the reviewer was in no way obligated to review the book favorably.

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Anonymous said...

This sounds like one I want to look for. Thanks!

hopeinbrazil said...

Nice review. Yes, there is something so fortifying about getting back to the basics.