Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Bible help that helps

J. Mark Bertrand, at his site "Bible Design and Binding," provides a unique service: he reviews editions of the Bible. Paper quality, typeface, layout, bleed-through, binding, and more, all receive his evaluation. Today he reviews a new entry in the many choices of ESV [English Standard Version] Bibles, "The Schuyler ESV in Black and Brown Goatskin". In a long review discussing many of that Bible's characteristics, he notes among the things he likes an uncommon inclusion in the back of the book:
.... For years, whenever Bible publishers have asked what features I'd like to see in an edition, the one suggestion I've repeated over and over is the inclusion of creeds and confessions in the back. To my mind, this is a "help" that actually helps, because it gives access the church's tradition of interpretation. Traditionally, this material would have been placed inside a hymnal, but singing from a hymnal is about as popular with today's evangelical as elevating the host was in Puritan New England. ....

...[T]he Schuyler omits the Three Forms of Unity, perhaps the most important of the Reformed standards, which consists of the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, and one of the few catechisms I'm aware of which is the subject of a rap song, the Heidelberg.

Having said that, what the Schuyler does include are the ecumenical creeds which all orthodox Christians have in common — Apostles', Nicene, Chalcedonian, and Athanasian — along with the Augsburg Confession, the 39 Articles, the Westminster Standards, and the London Baptist Confession of 1689. With the exception of the Dutch Reformed, this covers the major Reformation-era confessional Christian groups still in existence today.

Why include this stuff in the Bible? Good question. The short answer is for ready reference. The long answer goes something like this. Including these documents accomplishes a similar goal to that of a study Bible, with one significant difference: the views summarized are not those of an individual, or even a committee of scholars, but of a confessing church. They represent a collective endorsement and exposition of the faith contained in Scripture. While there is a great deal of consensus among the confessions, there are differences, too — and I think that's helpful, as well, to those of us who want to have an informed view of what our fellow believers actually confess (as opposed to what they're accused of believing, if you see what I mean). ....
I like this idea. Whenever I encounter a new hymnbook I almost always look for the statements of faith or the creeds that are included.

Bible Design and Binding: The Schuyler ESV in Black and Brown Goatskin