Book Review: Awakening Faith edited by James Stuart Bell

Awakening Faith:Daily Devotions from the Early Church is a collection of devotional thoughts from the first eight centuries of Christian writing and teaching. I have been developing a fascination with writing from the early church over the last few years. One of my dear friends is doing her doctoral dissertation on preaching in the Patristics era, and discussion with her has lead me to reading a little on my own. I wonder if, as the west moves away from centuries of secular Christian culture and begins to face, once more, the religious paganism that defined the Roman Empire, we will find writings from the Patristic age of our history to resonate with us again.

Because of this theory of mine, I was looking forward to reviewing Awakening Faith, but with a little trepidation. The fact is, the early church fathers are sort of a mixed bag, theologically, and I knew that my thin skate across the surface of the period did not give me enough knowledge to discern which authors of the time could be trusted and which were questionable. I did know, however, that I live with a seminarian, and know not one, but two, doctoral students in church history, so I felt confident that I could find the resources I would need to navigate any required discernment.

Turns out, I didn’t really need that much help. The book is a mixed bag from the outset. Devotional 6 is a beautiful devotional from Gregory of Naziansus regarding mercy. Devotional 7 is a not very protestant treatise by Pope Leo called “the Great.” It is this intermingling of doctrines and ideas that give me concern. Awakening Faith may be a resource for writers or teachers who are looking for brief thoughts from various church fathers, but it is not a devotional. There is neither consistency in theology, nor in intent of the original authors, for this to be used in a devotional manner.

I still think that the church fathers such as Augustine, Gregory of Naziansus, Ignatius and Polycarp have a great deal to say to the 21st Century western church, but we will need a little more discernment than is shown in the compilation of Awakening Faith.

I received no compensation for this post. I was provided a hard copy edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.


About Coralie

After 11 years of infertility, I am now a mother to three, a wife of a Presbyterian (ARP) preacher and a struggling homemaker. Welcome to my little corner of the net. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join the conversation. View all posts by Coralie

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