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Review: Awakening Faith by Bell and Kelly


Imagine understanding how the ancient Christians lived and thought. Imagine spending time with them. Imagine learning about our faith from them, day after day.

With Awakening Faith, all these are possible.  The authors have collected 366 writings from people like Augustine, Polycarp, Ambrose, Boniface, Gregory the Great, and even Macrina just before her martyrdom.  Each person’s writing is presented on a single page with a relevant Bible text, making it easy to use this book as a devotional.  Occasionally an exceptional passage spans two days.

The end of the book presents brief notes on the church fathers, when and where they lived, and what they are known for.  Just reading about them is inspiring, but reading what they said is even more so.

Here are a few key sentences from some of the devotions, each discussed more fully in the complete passage.

  • In “The Benefits of Reading Scripture”, Isodore of Seville ends with, “In reading we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study.”
  • Peter Crysologus tells us, “Adopt this pattern when you practice mercy:  show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same willingness, as you want others to show mercy to you.”
  • In “Being Prepared to Suffer” Augustine reminds us that “God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time.  And you expect the Christian to be exempt from these troubles?  Precisely because of being a Christian, he or she is destined to suffer more in this world.”
  • Benedict of Nursia reminds us, “Whenever you start a good work you should first fervently ask Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection….”

Almost every one of the devotions is worth pondering, and from the above quotes you can see why.

How I read it:  Because I wanted to be able to give you an accurate picture of this book, I read more than one passage a day, but one a day would be ideal.  During my afternoon quiet time, after I read my Bible, I spend some time with Awakening Faith.

After some passages I scratch my head, trying to absorb what was said, knowing that the person who wrote it lived what he said and was willing to suffer for it.  After other passages I need to add something to my to-do list.  Sometimes I just fold over the corner of the page so I can easily find it again.

I have also noticed how undeveloped theology was at that time.  Although I deeply value the centuries of thought and study that modern Christianity can draw on, it is refreshing to read about Christians who were still exploring ideas while in the thick of real-life issues like persecution.  It is also fascinating, from a more intellectual viewpoint, to see the beginnings of different ideas that have since split Christendom.

But of course, that is not the real point of these devotionals.  The real goal of the authors is

…that your faith will be reawakened as you read writing from the early church’s own awakening faith.  May you discover new (or are they  old?) ways of thinking , praying, and obeying our Lord.  And may these readings spur you to delve into the rich treasury of the church’s history….

Spending time with these ancient Christians is eye-opening and gives me a fresh and deeper view of our faith, our life, and the world.

Recommended, but only if it will not replace your Bible reading.  Mind you, the church fathers will remind you quite regularly of the importance of Bible reading so there’s no danger of forgetting about it.

To read more reviews of this book, please visit Cross Focused Reviews.

This is yet another book in the in the 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews and Encourage One Another Wednesday.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews for the purposes of this review.  I have expressed my own opinion and am not compensated in any way.

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