Dwight Longenecker’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is wonderful. Julie told me it was a “joyful” read. I thought she was nuts to use that word in reference to a theological book. It turns out, though, that “joyful” is an understatement.
Who would have thought the Apostles Creed, of all things, could be joyful?
To be honest, I have never thought of the Apostles Creed beyond getting it said. I haven’t sat down and picked it apart, and if I had, I surely couldn’t have done it with the brevity, logic, and humor that Longenecker uses in this book. (Brevity AND humor? Yes, indeed. This book is less than 200 pages long!)
“So all of us have sacred spaces,” Longenecker writes in the introduction. “We all have beliefs, and we instinctively protect and defend those beliefs against every kind of revolutionary threat.”
He continues, “Now, what troubles me about these sacred spaces is that most often they’re comfortable. They’re furnished with recliner chairs, and the most famous recliner is called the La-Z-Boy. I’m suspicious of any belief system that makes the believer comfortable, because it’s probably the construction of a lazy boy. Of course, a comfortable belief may be true, but if you think for a moment, isn’t a belief that makes us uncomfortable more likely to be true? An uncomfortable belief is more likely to be true because we wish it weren’t true. And if we wish something weren’t true, it’s less likely that we’ve made it up.”
What follows is a dissection of the Apostles Creed. Chapter by chapter, Longenecker takes each phrase of the Creed, the basis of Christianity, and picks it apart and finds its meaning and what truth it reveals.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s DULL reading, because it’s anything BUT dull. Whether it’s his straight-in-your-face writing style or his charming self-deprecating humor or just the fact that I could relate with his examples and his approach.
I remember learning the Creed, back in my younger days. It was not exciting; it was not interesting; it was not engaging. Thanks to Dwight Longenecker, my understanding of the Creed has deepened and I’m excited by this pillar of our faith.
“All this theological fuss obscures the point of the Creed,” he writes in the last chapter. “The Creed isn’t the whole story. It was never meant to be. It is merely a precis or a summary. The Creed isn’t the final word; in fact, it’s the first word. It’s the first step on the journey, not the destination. The journey is conducted in a whole range of ways, of which theological reflection is only one part. Indeed, for most people, theological reflection scarcely comes into it. Instead, about the Creed they say, “Let it be,” and the Creed becomes a kind of foundation on which the rest of their religious life is built. When integrated into a regular religious life, the Creed becomes a kind of support system.”
Without Adventures in Orthodoxy, I would have just kept plowing along, reciting the Creed when needed and not appreciating it except in bits and pieces. Thanks to this book, I have a deeper appreciation for this, and I feel like the support system of my faith has been strengthened.