Monday, November 19, 2012

The Christian Handbook - Introduction


This is Part 1 of 7 in a series about the Didache, a very early Christian book written to serve as a handbook introducing the faith to new Christians. It serves as a great overview or orientation manual on Christianity.

Click here to read the entire series.


Have you ever felt that Christianity was just too confusing?

Maybe you are a new Christian and you have been overwhelmed by the theological debates around you. Or maybe you are a long-time Christian who struggles with knowing whether you are doing “the right things.” Christian culture has all of these “must-do” commands that don’t seem to be in the Bible but are taught by your fellow Christians—who to vote for, how worship services must be conducted, what kind of music, what hour of the day to pray and how to do it, how to baptize, how much Bible study you must do at a minimum, how to dress on Sundays…it can become an exhausting process to try and figure out the right approach.

And then blogs like mine are out there, echoing Luther and others who show that our relationship to God is based not upon the good or bad things we do, but upon our relationship to Him, and the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

More than one Christian has said in the past, “I just wish there was a clear Christian handbook. A simple thing that said, ‘Here is how to do such-and-such.’” Of course I always remind them that what they do is not what makes them right before God, and that over time God will mold them into the Christian they are supposed to be. There is no set roadmap for all of us.

Nevertheless, they are right that it would be helpful to have a clear and straightforward picture of what Christian living looks like. A sort of handbook of what we should aspire to.

Good news…the Christian Handbook has been written.

About 1,900 years ago.

One of the earliest church documents we have today is called The Didache, which in Greek means “The Teaching.” (It is also sometimes called, “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.”) This book was written about the turn of the first century, about the time John was writing Revelation. It was immensely popular among Christians, and virtually every church had a copy. It was studied by Christians and so widely accepted that many Christian pastors considered in canonical and wanted it included in the New Testament. (Ultimately it was not included in the canon by the major branches of Christianity because it was not authored by an apostle, though the Ethiopian Orthodox Church does consider it part of the New Testament.)

This short and excellent book serves as a great handbook for the Christian faith. In fact, if I were a pastor I think I would give any newly-converted Christian or new church member two books: a Bible and The Didache—the Bible to read the word of God, and the Didache as a primer or “orientation manual” to the faith.

Over the next seven weeks, going into the end of the year, I will have a Monday post about “The Christian Handbook” summarizing key portions of the Didache. This is one of those things which, though not Scripture, is really, really helpful for Christians of any age.


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