C. Michael Patton (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the creative founder of Reclaiming the Mind ministries an organization dedicated to building informed disciples of Jesus Christ. Their mission is to train Christians so that they can love God with their whole mind as well as their heart and soul (Matt 22:37).
Through the blog Parchment and Pen, Credo House – a theological coffee house, and excellent theology and discipleship courses, C. Michael Patton (or CMP for short and how he is often referenced in comments on his blog) has worked hard to make theology accessible to everyone.
It was his blog and first theology courses (then offered through NET Bible) that helped me develop a passion for theology and blogging. Needless to say I am a major fan of Reclaiming the Mind and what C. Michael Patton is working to accomplish. I was very excited to be able to receive a copy of his latest book – Now That I’m a Christian – to read and review (available at Amazon).
What is this book aiming to do and why was it written?
Have you ever gotten a new computer, camera, or other complex consumer product. You open up the box and are staring at the new item. You are eager to begin using it but you are not sure where to start. As you reach into the box you find the instruction manual. It is a thick and complex book that covers everything you could ever want to know about this item. Staring at this book, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of material to learn.
Inside the box you also find the quick start guide, which is usually a two sided slick sheet that contains the basic steps that you need to know to begin using your new item. It does not contain everything you will ever need to know about the product, but it gives you the essential information in a simple format.
This book is the starter’s guide to being a follower of Christ.
CMP has provided a small and easy to read book (176 pages), that is organized into short 10 chapters. Each chapter is dedicated to a single topic. The first five chapters cover five essential Christian beliefs (orthodoxy). The second five chapters cover five essential Christian practices (orthopraxy).
|Orthodoxy (Beliefs)||Orthopraxy (Practices)|
Each chapter ends with a set of questions for the reader to wrestle through. Some questions help the reader assess their understanding of the topic, others require the reader to think deeper about what was presented. Readers are often challenged to come up with additional illustrations to describe a doctrinal truth or to pause and examine their life in relation to the area.
After the chapter on faith, for example, one of the questions probes:
In your life right now, what do you find lacking the most: content, conviction, or trust?
Each chapter also lists several suggested resources that could be used to for further study.
A Focus on the Essentials for All Christians
One of CMP’s defining characteristics is his irenic approach to theology. Reclaiming the Mind lives by the dictum: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
The book illustrates that principle, striking a good balance between doctrine and practice and focusing on the essentials of Christianity. CMP has written a lot on the topic of doctrine and essentials and includes a discussion about that in the back of the book. In this book he focuses on those things that are essential for salvation and orthodoxy.
That is one of the many strengths of this book. It does not get into the things that often divide us as it avoids areas like the finer points of soteriology and eschatology. These details are left for the reader to explore in the “instruction manual” after they have grasped the basics. The book focuses on the essentials that are believed always, everywhere, and by all (Vincentian Canon). There are a few times where Patton will point out the differences between Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants but these are kept to a minimum.
My aim is to point you in the right direction for a lifetime of following Christ – C.M. Patton
Since this book is written for new believers or those who are looking to get a firm grasp of what it means to follow Christ, it is written in an easy and conversational manner, limiting the use of theology and seminary terminology. When CMP does introduce a theological term it is with great care to define it in a clear and concise way.
CMP goes beyond core doctrine to discuss several important practical areas in this book. The chapter on faith does an excellent job of defining what faith is as well as deal with the reality of doubting. The areas of prayer and Bible study, two key disciplines for Christians, are each given a chapter designed to give the reader a head start in these areas touching on many faulty approaches.
The book also emphasizes the importance of being part of a local church community and using your gifts and talents to serve Christ and others and it finishes strong with the chapter on Mission. A great reminder that this book should only be the start to a life long process of growing and serving. As a disciple you are here for a reason. You are to make disciples.
CMP set a specific goal for this book – to get people started in the right direction as they follow Christ – and he has nailed it. This book is excellent for new believers and those might not have had done much reading on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It is not meant to answer all your questions. It is only the Quick Start Guide, meant to kick off a life time of learning and following Jesus.
There are two areas where I am recommending this book. I am part of the team teaching our high school seniors in our senior seminar what it means to “own your faith”. This book has been added to a list of resources that each student should consider reading. We even offered $5 and a free Starbucks if they read it and met with us to talk about it.
Having recently come back from teaching at a Pastor’s conference in Liberia I saw first hand the need for training for the men dedicated to pastoring churches in this country. If an opportunity arises for me to go back I would bring a copy of this book for each pastor attending, and if not I hope to make sure the next teacher knows about this resource.