Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Church History (Volumes I and II) - A Review

Church History
Volume One
From Christ to

Everett Ferguson (Vol I)
Church History
Volume Two
From Pre-Reformation to
the Present Day

John Woodbridge (Vol II)
Frank A. James III (Vol II)

A Review

The two volumes represent nearly 1400 pages of history written primarily as a textbook. Not though they may certainly have some devotional use, they have their primary role in the college or graduate school classroom. These books do not present a gentle introduction to church history, but are designed for the academic environment of a upper division college classroom or seminary. Given that the books are 550 and 850 pages each, it is expected that such a course would be offered over a two semester sequence.

A couple of things stood out as I perused the book. The book is a well-documented description of church history – quoting primary sources when needed to help the reader understand the historical events being described. I appreciated the details included – many of which I had not heard before. The other standout feature of these texts is the wide margins they present – perfect for making notes or outlining as they are being read. Some of this space is taken up with quotations and images (all black and white), but there is plenty of space for personal comments as well. Electronic copies each have their own way of saving notes.

Forty years ago I was privileged to sit under the teaching of John Woodbridge at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School – it was fun to again, virtually, sit under his tutelage as I made my way through Volume II of these texts. Actually, it was fun to sit under the tutelage of all three authors as I read through these texts.

I had two concerns as I prepared this review.

  1. As I noted earlier, all images in both volumes were black and white (except for the book covers). Without hard copies, it is difficult to determine whether the PDFs that were provided for review represented the final copy (without color images?) or not. Color images would make the books more inviting to students and other readers.
  2. The indexes had not been completed prior to the preparation of the PDFs provided for review. Given the number of pages allocated for the index, this reviewer would expect that they might be thorough; but this cannot be verified with the material provided to me.

Though not designed for the general reader, these two volumes would be a welcome addition to the collection of any student of church history – whether in or out of a classroom. It would be a privilege to have these works sitting on the shelf next to those of the church fathers, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. With a completed index and color images, there would great value in having these two reference books available.

This review is based on free electronic copies provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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