Saturday, May 28, 2016

McGrath on faith and creeds

We have been reading Alister McGrath's series called The Heart of Christian Faith, and today we read and review book four in his series. Published by, this one is named The Spirit of Grace, A Guide for Study and Devotion. In the first three books in this series, McGrath explained "basic themes of Christian faith," as he led readers through the "nature of faith," the Christian understanding of God," and the "identity and significance of Jesus of Nazareth." Now he looks at the "next major set of beliefs," as he examines the Apostles' Creed and what it means when it speaks of "the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins."

This title, The Spirit of Grace, reminds us that God is active in the world. If you doubt it, remember that the creeds "make it clear that the Holy Spirit brings life and renewal to believers and the church." The creeds "affirm that God is gracious, seen especially in the forgiveness of sins." And the creeds "remind us of the importance of the Church as the community of faith." These three themes are interconnected and McGrath asks readers to think and consider "what impact they may have on how we live and think as Christians."

McGrath says that "for many Christians, the Holy Spirit is one of the more puzzling aspects of both the creeds and the Christian faith." He writes: "we must think of God as a living presence in the world and in our lives." And, "Faith is not just about themes or ideas, it is about a growing relationship with God, enabled by the Spirit." McGrath asks "how can the role of the community of faith nurture individual believers' lives?" Here, McGrath begins to map out some basic positions and issues to help readers think this through. "But," he says, "you will have to make up your own mind about which way of thinking about the church seems best for you."

Hope you enjoy this study. Next month we will review the final book in this series, The Christian Life and Hope.

Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Helping those with addictions

"Addiction recovery is much more than a referral to the closest AA group. It is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for a whole community to be transformed by the grace of God." Jonathan Benz is a clinician, public speaker, ordained minister and a certified addictions professional, who serves and directs a treatment program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Benz's book, co-authored with Kristina Robb Dover, is called The Recovery-Minded Church, from IVP.  With a subtitle called Loving and Ministering to People with Addiction, this book may be one we have been looking for, wishing for, hoping for, as we look around and see friends, loved ones, visitors, most of whom do not talk about their addiction and what to do about it.

Benz says he designed this book as a "toolkit," and he is eager to help and encourage anyone who may be dealing with some type of addiction to listen, read, share ideas and opportunities to overcome their addiction, whatever it may be. He says that in America, 30% of the population struggle with some form of addiction. He estimates that 6% of Americans struggle with some form of sexual addiction; approximately 10% have drug or alcohol addictions; around 7.5% exhibit some form of an eating disorder; some 6% are compulsive shoppers; and at least 1% are pathological gamblers. He claims his "estimate is conservative, because many of those struggling with addiction will never report their struggles out of fear or shame, or they will become casualties of their addiction before they can get the help they need."

The book begins with the questions church members may be asking, and continues with answers from "the perspective of a Christian addiction recovery clinician." Referring throughout to the parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15, Benz calls his Section 1: Tools for Loving People with Addiction. Section 2 is Tools for Creating a Recovery-Friendly Church.

Benz writes: section 1 "will outfit you with practical tools for loving people with addictions in your midst," and section 2 "will equip you with tips and practices for building a recovery-friendly church." Don't skip the appendix, which offers info on Christian treatment programs, recovery groups, websites and readings, also detailed info on various addictions you may encounter. Our authors remind us that "the guiding principle for any intervention is to remember the goal of getting an addict into recovery. This must govern how we conduct ourselves." Benz and Robb-Dover remind us that "though addiction is an epidemic in America. the church can and must respond." And the church and those with addictions have much to learn and teach about the sanctifying grace of God.

---Lois Sibley,