“Of making many books there is no end.” (Ecc. 12:12) With all of the writing that goes on there is one area of writing that will always be with us – the writing of history. People have a fascination with history. History books connect us to the past and its people, places, things, and ideas, some of which we were directly a part of but much of which we were never part of. Every discipline in the history of mankind has books written on its history.
While reading history connects us to the past it also awakens us to a startling reality, not everyone agrees on the what’s, why’s, who’s, and how’s of history. Most facts are indisputable, however, there are plenty of differences. As objective as historians may set out to be in their accounting of history, each person writes from a slightly different perspective and sees things a little differently. No one tells history the same way – and this can be a good thing. If wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors, then history is better told and understood through a multitude of historians.
Young author and historian Joseph Early Jr. , professor of religion in the School of Theology at Campbellsville University, has recently made his contribution to the telling of Christian history in his new book A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey (B&H, 2015). Joseph is the author of Readings in Baptist History (B&H, 2008) and The Life and Writings of Thomas Helwys (Mercer Univ. Press, 2009).
As a survey, Early touches on the highlights of Christian history since the time of Jesus by looking at the major people, events, and places that shaped it. Written in narrative style, this book is reader friendly, especially for those looking to get their feet wet in the history of Christianity.
Early writes from a desire to show people that God is at work in the history of the world. If history is truly “His-story” then when Christians tell their history they should be doing so with the influence of providence behind every event and person showing how God is working through the march of time. As early notes in the beginning of the book:
When one takes the long view of history, it is easier to see that, regardless of what was going on in the organized church, there are always those who seek to find God’s will for the church. As a Christian and a historian, I hope the readers of this book will be able to see the bright light of the gospel shining throughout the lives of heroic Christians no matter how dark the times may be. After all, we are promised that the light of the gospel will obliterate the darkness. (xviii)
While the book is necessarily short, considering the 2,000 years of history it covers, Early shows that he capable of handling the material in a more in depth manner. His writing is clear and you do not feel like you are bogged down in the minute details of names and dates that can so easily characterize history books. Early wants his readers to enjoy and be drawn into what they are reading and his writing accomplishes that.
A History of Christianity is a well written introductory survey of the history of Christianity. This could easily be a go to book for new Christians looking to learn more about the history of their new faith. It would also serve well as text book for high school history class and homeschoolers. And of course, it is a great book for any Christian looking to learn more about how the Christian faith and the unique life of Jesus shaped not only Christianity, but also the history of the world.
I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”