Review: Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell with Patrick Kelly @Zondervan

Synopsis from Zondervan.com:

In simple, updated language, Awakening Faith by James Stuart Bell provides a year of inspiring readings drawn from the earliest teachers and writers of the church—the Church Fathers. In every reflection you will be refreshed by deep wells of wisdom and spiritual insight.

‘In the age of Twitter and Facebook, where glib sayings abound, one yearns to read some deeper wisdom about life and faith on a regular basis. Well, here you have it, a compendium of wisdom, devotion, and biblical insight from some of the most thoughtful and faithful Christians from the early eras of the church’s history. And in Facebook sized posts. That’s a nice change of pace!’ -Mark Galli, editor, Christianity Today

Learn more or pick up a copy here or at Zondervan.com.

Official Description (from inside of front half of sleeve):

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the Church Fathers among everyday Christians. Drawn by the purity and passion of the text, new readers are finding the words of the earliest Christians to be a treasure trove of resolute, unapologetic insights into the Christian life. Yet many believers don’t know where to begin with these ancient writings.

In Awakening Faith, author James Stuart Bell presents a collection of warmhearted exhortations to a joyful, faithful Christian life written by some of the most significant teachers of the church’s first eight centuries. Avoiding dry theology in favor of spiritual insight and practical relevance, Bell’s compilation features gently updated language and an eye for modern application.

A Scripture reading accompanies each of the 366 entries in this collection, along with brief biographical sketches at the back of the book, making Awakening Faith a wonderful yearlong introduction both to the Church Fathers and to the kind of Christian life to which they continue to call God’s people.

My Feedback

To be honest, before going to seminary, the Church Fathers were not anywhere on my radar. I did not consider them when I would seek out the meaning of a passage and I certainly did not refer to them in my daily quiet time. As I surveyed the many facets to interpreting God’s Word, I was introduced what the Church Fathers had to share on particular passages. These greats poured their lives and souls into God’s Word and earnestly desired to be mastered by Scripture. Tertullian, Origen, Clement, Polycarp, Augustine, and Irenaeus, these are just a few names among others who helped shape the theology that we have today so many centuries ago. Their writings have been lost in the transitions of time but they have not been forgotten. Thanks to recent works like Awakening Faith and the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, present day students and scholars (whether young or old in their faith) have got access to the minds of Christians of old.

As far as the text at hand, Awakening Faith, there are 366 daily readings from a variety of the Church Fathers. I have only spent nearly a month’s time with this text so I am far from completing the entire yearly plan. That said, I was able to spend a few consistant days alongside some scattered sittings reading Bell’s work. It is a wonderful text! Alongside many present day devotionals that seek to give you a nugget of Biblical wisdom hidden deep within plenty of “real life application,” Awakening Faith is a breath of theological fresh air.

What I mean by that is, Church Fathers had a way of boldly proclaiming the truth of Scripture. Biblical wisdom marinated their writings and anyone who has spent plenty of time in God’s Word will, as one reads through the Church Fathers, easily pick up strong allusions to Scripture. They do no appear to topically search the Bible and isogetically insert a passage in order to support their proposals. Awakening Faith reminded me that the Church Fathers are great examples of writers who allow well-spent personal time in the Word to permeate their writings (Christian Bloggers, take note!).

As far as the devotional itself, the Bell and Kelly allow the Church Fathers to pretty much speak for themselves. Portions of writings were selected and headlined by a passage or verse of Scripture. All of the devotionals are separated into “categories” (i.e., Prayer and Devotion, Holiness or The Bible) and the selection from the particular Church Father coincides with that category.

I actually APPRECIATE that Bell and Kelly kept their own dialogue on the Church Fathers out of the picture; they didn’t attempt to explain what the Church Fathers meant in each entry. Like I said, they just let the Church Father speak for themselves. I’d recommend this for any believer at any part of their faith journey. It’s an encouraging and enlightening way to change up your daily devotional time.

Learn more or pick up a copy here or at Zondervan.com.