Posted by: chuckbumgardner | May 20, 2008

Justo Gonzalez, Church History: An Essential Guide

If you are looking for a very brief overview of church history written by an expert in the field, you could do much worse than Justo Gonzalez’s 95-page paperback, Church History: An Essential Guide

Gonzalez is familiar to many, especially via his very readable two-volume The Story of Christianity (1984-85) as well as his three-volume A History of Christian Thought (revised in 1987).  I should mention also a helpful reference tool, Essential Theological Terms (2005).

Church History: An Essential Guide is helpful for its concise yet complete overview.  After having taken various church history courses, the last being about 8-10 years ago, I found this volume beneficial as a refresher to remind me of the big picture.  As if 95 pages wasn’t a short enough span in which to compress 2000 years of history, Gonzalez actually opens with a 10-page high-level overview of church history, then uses that overview to structure the rest of the volume. Helpful lists of suggested readings follow each chapter.  A deficiency of the volume is the absence of any maps or charts.

I am not recommending this volume as a quick fix for ignorance of church history.  It would be helpful, though, as a refresher volume for a busy pastor (or college / seminary professor whose field is not church history) to help cement the big picture of church history in one’s mind.  I also suspect it would be valuable for a novice — it’s the sort of thing that might be good to assign as preliminary reading for, say, a one- or two- semester course in church history or history of Christian thought. 

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