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A WONDERFUL RESOURCE - Essential Truths for Christians - John Rodgers

Essentials Truths for Christians by John Rodgers

A Review by Ted Schroder
June 27, 2013

I have just completed reading through John Rodgers magnificent commentary on the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles and an introduction to Systematic Theology entitled Essential Truths for Christians. I read a chapter or two each morning and it was like feasting at a banquet of soul food. The menu was Anglican Reformation Theology, biblical orthodoxy served with contemporary concerns and a clear, conversational style.

For those who don't know, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are the Church of England's confession of faith written by Thomas Cranmer and his friends during the English Reformation of the sixteenth century. On my first Sunday at All Souls Church in London after I was ordained I had to declare that I assented to these articles, and believed that the doctrine of the Church of England to be agreeable to the Word of God. I have this assent framed in my office to this day.

John Rodgers has had a distinguished career as a theologian and professor at Virginia Theological Seminary and then as Dean/President of Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He earned his doctorate of theology summa cum laude at the University of Basel in Switzerland where he studied under Karl Barth and Oscar Cullmann.

The Table of Contents begins with a Foreword by J.I. Packer and then an introduction by the author as to his approach and method. In discussing each article he outlines its major teaching points with an Explanation. Then he points out its Biblical Foundations and discusses False Teachings Denied and Objections Answered. Finally, in Implications he considers some of the ways we might apply the teachings of the Article to congregational life and mission, and to our lives and ministries. A brief Conclusion brings the discussion to an end.

The Articles are divided into five sections:

1. The Apostolic Faith - the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This section is worth its weight in gold as it addresses all the major issues with respect to understanding the nature of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. In addition there is a short appendix on the arguments for the existence of God which is a masterly summary of what could be a complex subject.

2. The Rule of Faith - the Doctrine of Scripture and the Creeds. John Rodgers approach is thoroughly biblical, affirming the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures as the norm for Anglican doctrine. There is a wonderful review of the story of salvation in the Bible and the history of the Canon of Scripture - how the books we have got included and why some were left out.

3. Salvation - the Doctrine of Original Sin, Free Will, Justification, Predestination and Election, and Salvation only by Christ. Here complex and controversial subjects are presented clearly in the moderate Calvinist and Lutheran traditions followed by the English Reformers. The author puts his finger on the weakness of much liberal and progressive theology which has departed from the biblical truths about sinful humanity and salvation only through Christ.

4. The Church, Ministry and Sacraments - the Doctrine of the Church, her authority always subject to Holy Scripture, the Sacraments and Ordained Ministry and how they differ from the Roman Catholic understanding. While the Roman Catholic Church has changed for the better since the sixteenth century she still has a view of these subjects which is at variance from biblical teaching. Rodgers makes a good case why it is difficult for those of us who hold to the Scriptures to rejoin Rome despite the disarray and apostasy in many Protestant denominations.

5. Civic Rights and Duties - the relationship of church and state, stewardship, economics, pacifism and serving in the military. This section covers many of the issues we face in our time.

In Appendix B the author addresses the authority and interpretation of Holy Scripture giving some clear guidelines on how to apply Scripture to controversial issues. Appendix C presents the three contemporary Anglican views on the ordained ministry: the Catholic, Evangelical and the Charismatic traditions including a helpful comment on the issue of women's ordination. Finally, there is a General Index and a Scripture Index.

The author hopes that his book will serve as a resource for teaching in congregations, in families, as well as in seminaries. I could not commend it more for anyone who is looking for a clear, relevant and accessible understanding of their faith. This is not a dry, academic tome, but a presentation of personal spirituality from someone who has a heart for mission.

Hardback and paperback copies may be obtained from Trinity School for Ministry Bookstore, 311 Eleventh Street, Ambridge, PA 15003-2302, or email to Pamela Kuhns: pkuhns@tsm.edu

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