REVIEW SUMMARY: Decent overview in very easy language.
MY RATING: [rating:4]
OVERVIEW: A basic overview of church history in readable English, good to read and helpful but only a primer on a very complicated subject. Definitely pick it up if you’re looking to do research or plan to teach and need some refreshers.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Perfect introduction to church history, easily accessible with plenty of references to introduce the reader to further study.
THE GOOD: The strength of the book is summed up in the cover: it’s written in plain, easy to read English. That is not to say that other books on this very complicated subject don’t approach it in “plain English”, but it is to say that whereas more involved volumes get into many aspects of church history and embroiled in several of the controversies and terminology, this book either glosses over them explaining the fundamental issues or mentions them in passing. Much to be applauded this book then is geared at the person who wants to start looking into Church history but is overwhelmed by the breadth of information available. What’s also good is that there’s plenty of footnotes to have a reader go off and do some (necessarily) deeper studying and where to look. These two things make the book a definite must read (and must buy) for anyone starting to look into Church History or anyone who wants to find a way to paint in the broad strokes of the church’s history without being embroiled in a morass of sometimes overburdening details. One of the best details in the book is by closing with the church in developing countries after wading through years of church conflict and so forth. Really great.
THE BAD: I read the first edition so my comment has to be limited to that and I also must say that this is a very minor, nitpicky comment. Some of the later sections of the book got a little clunky for my taste and I can attribute that to the fact that so much of the current era is documented. The author then finds himself spending several pages on political developments (necessarily so since history can’t be separated from the political upheavals of the era). But whereas political problems are painted in very broad strokes in earlier chapters (even during the Reformation era) when the author gets to our own time he winds up getting stuck in some places and perhaps spending more times than he needs there.
THE UGLY: The book jacket for the first edition was unremarkably plain with a cheesy enhancement on the PLAIN type. Thankfully, they redesigned the jacket with a very good looking piece in the 2nd Edition.