Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review of CHURCH HISTORY, VOLUME ONE by Everett Ferguson

Title: Church History, Volume One: Second Edition

Author: Everett Ferguson

Publisher: Zondervan Academic

What It’s About: Church History, Volume One covers the history of Christianity from the days that Christ walked the earth through the years before the Reformation.

Why I Read It: I’ve always loved history, and with a movement as strong and enduring as Christianity, it’s fascinating to dive deeper into the history of the church. This book looks at the expansion of Christianity within its cultural, intellectual, and political contexts.

What I Liked About It: The book begins by giving us an understanding of the culture in which Christianity was born. This means looking at the Roman world, Greek thought, and the theological understandings of the first-century Jews. Then the author launches quickly into the ministry of Jesus and how it was carried on by his disciples in the years following his ascension. The book is big and covers only up to the Pre-Reformation, but the book reads in such a way that the story of Christianity feels like a fast-paced force that spreads quickly and widely. The book moves through the different periods of church history and goes in depth into some of the major players in these periods.

Like many people, I look to Augustine as a major voice of what Christianity looks like in the world. He was a major thinker, and I spent a lot of time in just the part of this book about him. It outlines the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius and its impact on Augustine’s theology. It was interesting to see not only the positive impacts that Augustine has had on the development of Christianianity, but the negative impacts as well. For example, Augustine’s views on sexuality and tying it to the fall have been a major contributor to unhealthy views of sexuality up until the present day. Augustine also emphasized individual election to such an extreme that it has influenced some very negative views of God and predestination.

Other interesting figures to read about in this book are Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, and especially Thomas Aquinas, another of the most influential thinkers in the history of Christianity. The section on Aquinas comes after a lengthy section on the rise of Scholasticism in the church, and Aquinas shows up as a thinker in the midst of Scholasticism. The book describes Aquinas’s accomplishment in placing the teachings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle in the service of the church.
There’s so much you’ll learn about the history of Christianity in this book, from the development of Catholicism and the papacy, to the many heresies that arose and were extinguished in the early days of the church, and much more. This book is thorough and will be greatly beneficial to believers to learn the context in which their faith was born and has developed. This is a great work of history and a testament to the vision that Jesus had for his church.

Review copy provided by Zondervan Academic, courtesy of AcademicPS

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