Book Review: Church History Vol. II

Book Review: Church History Vol. II

Author: John D. Woodbridge & Frank A. James III

Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310257431

Church History Vol. II: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day

A book of this scope is an enormous undertaking. It is worth recognizing that the attempt to cover (accurately) the amount of history and many influences that have shaped the Christian Church will inevitably fall short in the minds and expectations of many people. I applaud the efforts of John Woodbridge and Frank James in putting this work on church history together. I am sure that it was a laborious endeavor and very difficult to pare down and distill their research to the published volume I hold in my hands today. I share this information for the purpose of highlighting the point that some seven hundred years of history has been compressed to just over eight-hundred fifty pages. This is no small task, and the reader should realize there will be omissions of certain facts and compression of facts; not every reader will be entirely satisfied. Disclaimer aside, with the challenges implied in my earlier words, this is a monumental work and I am thrilled to have it as a resource for my library. I have enjoyed reading it and browsing articles that have inspired deeper study and pointed me to additional authors and writings that can answer questions and provide deeper understanding on various subjects.

Church History Vol. II begins with the year 1300AD, European Christianity in an Age of Adversity, Renaissance, and Discovery, setting the stage for the Protestant Reformation. The work continues, hopping, skipping, and jumping through the various twists, turns, turmoil, and triumphs of the Christian Church all the way through to the present day. As I have mentioned, it is near impossible to record or explain every nuanced influence that has shaped the Church to her present iteration, but Woodbridge and James have done a commendable job. Also, to their credit, I have much appreciated the bibliography included at the end of each chapter titled “For Further Study.” Major contributing authors have been included in those references that can be helpful for the curious reader to dig deeper into the details of the particular era in question. Naturally, digging into these resources will lead the reader to even more references and resources. It is for this reason and these included additional resources that I believe this work in Church history is so valuable.

I have particularly enjoyed reading and study in chapter five, learning about the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement (16th Century) and the birth of the Jesuits under the leadership of Ignatius of Loyola (also in the 16th Century). Although the reading is very high-level, there is more than enough detail to provide me with a “launch point” for deeper study. Chapter seven was/is also fascinating to me as it provides insight into the Pietist and Puritan movements; considering that it was the Puritans who settled Plymouth Colony (some of the first colonists in North America), I am very interested in reading about their influence on the shaping of our nation. Chapters Ten and Eleven are still providing me interesting reading as they introduce the Age of Reason and Enlightenment and the beginning of Methodism under the Wesleys (John and Charles).

As I have mentioned, I have tempered expectations with a book of this magnitude, so I do not expect it to answer all my questions or cover every detail and dot in history. I do think, if I were have any fair critique, I would have liked to see a glossary of terms included in the appendix to the book. I believe this might have been a helpful inclusion. This one exception withstanding, I think this is an excellent resource and consider it a wonderful inclusion in any library.

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