Church history is likely one of the most neglected topics in evangelical theology today. With the resurgence in conversation on the Gospel and other related topics what is missing in this is a resurgence of interest in church history. While the Puritans and Reformers in general have become popular among many evangelicals what would be neat to see in my opinion is a resurgence in the broader corpus of church history. Understanding church history is important for several reasons the main one being that understanding this topic leads to insight about what the Church has taught, how the Church has taught it and moreover how the Church has defended the Truth of biblical Christianity. The best church history books take all three of the factors I mentioned while remaining true to the story of church history. Such a volume has come out with Church History Volume Two From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context by Drs. John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James III.
As the title of the book suggest this book covers from Pre-Reformation (1300 AD) to the Present Day. Along the way the authors cover everything from Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen to the challenges of Islam and the new centers of global Christianity. This is not your typical academic church history book. This work is engaging and fascinating. As I read this volume, and volume one what impressed me is that the authors contribute great insight into church history while showing why church history matters to the health and growth of the Christian church.
The two chapters that I got the most out of were chapters twenty one and twenty two. The better of the two chapters was on Islam where the authors talk about the Christianity and Islam: The Challenge of the Future. Here the authors discuss whether Islam and Christianity can coexist if it is possible or if they will go to war with one another. This is important conversation that I think needs more coverage by those who know a great deal about the relationship between Christianity and Islam. In this chapter the authors talk about the conflicts Christianity has had with Islam and even within the Islamic community. The authors rightly note, “The ultimate value of history lies not in its predictive ability or even its capacity for elucidation but in its aptitude to teach humility. Church history, in particular, is an opportunity for self-reflection and, indeed, for self-correction. If the story of the Christian church can bestow on us a measure of this humility, then we will enter the uncertain future with a sure compass” (839).
Volume One and Volume Two of Church History published by Zondervan is an excellent and thought provoking study on the Pre-Reformation to the present day. This well-written and helpful volume will help lay people understand the story of Church history from the Pre-Reformation to the modern day. More serious students of church history will find help in this book by understanding trends and developments of church history. Regardless of where one is in their understanding of church history, this volume is a phenomenal achievement along with the first volume. The two volumes in the Church History series are church history as its best accessible to the lay person, engaging for the Bible college/seminary student and containing enough information that even the most serious church history student/scholar could benefit from the work in this volume. I highly recommend this volume and the first volume in the series and pray both volumes might lead to a revival of interest in studies on church history.
Authors: John D. Woodbridge and Frank a. James II
Publisher: Zondervan (2013)
I received this for free from Zondervan book review program 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.”