Alister McGrath – The Landscape of Faith: An explorer’s guide to the Christian creeds
John Woods salutes another welcome tome from theologian Alister McGrath, able to communicate complex truths in a straightforward and engaging way.
SPCK 256 pages £16.99 ISBN 978 0 281 07635 3
On the face of it, £16.99 looks a bit pricey for a paperback. Is it worth the money, and the time taken to read it? My answer to the first is maybe, to the second definitely.
Alistair McGrath is a master of compression; he is able to take big complex ideas and shape them into easier to understand concepts. There can be a problem with this, like a CD that compresses sound so much that some of the rich texture of the music is lost.
Generally speaking McGrath avoids this tendency in what is a helpful exploration of the themes that form the ancient creeds. In the section on the atonement, however, some might be disappointed to see what looks like a deliberate avoidance of the language of substitution in talking about models for understanding the death of Jesus.
Using the four images of map, lens, light and tapestry, McGrath shows how the creeds help us to see in clear and concise terms the nature of our faith. The creeds are explored using the structure of the Trinity; the book hangs all the insights of the creeds on the three pegs of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
McGrath cannot disguise his delight in the truths he is expounding; there are some brilliant insights and illustrations scattered throughout this book that delight and inform. What might be missing is what we are to do in practice as a result of learning about the creeds.
Overall, this is a good basic introduction to the substructure of the creeds that have put a framework into our collective Christian beliefs. A great refresher for the mature Christian, and a good starting point for anyone wanting to get their teeth into some meaty truths.