The One Year Christian History (Book Review & Topical Index)

Are you bored with the prospect of listening or reading about Church history?  Does the very subject conjure up dreadful memories of classroom lectures and dry textbooks?  Do you wonder why paying attention to Church history is important?  Do you subsume the topic of Church history under the umbrella of Christian doctrine?

Church History is not the same as the History of Christian Doctrine.  Many teachers and schools seem to forget this simple distinction.  Both are important, but only one is first and foremost a story.  While the history of doctrine can be told in the context of church history, it is primarily a discipline for understanding the development of true and false doctrine so we may better understand what the Bible teaches about particular topics.  Conversely, church history is an account of the happenings in the history of God’s people.  It tells individual stories of heroes, villians, victories, tragedies, glories, sufferings, saints and sinners, and tells these stories in such a way to inspire, instruct, warn, convict, and wake us up to the great and sobering heritage of our ancestors in the faith.  When church history is told well, the individual stories are set in the framework of God’s grand story of redeeming a people (and all of his creation) to himself as he providentially governs the affairs of men.

E. Michael and Sharon Rustin have written a delightful book that explores some of the famous (and obscure) stories from Christian history that are worth remembering and retelling.  The One Year Christian History (preview at Google Books) is written as a devotional with a reading for each day of the year.  Although the timeframe of events is stretched from what is traditionally held as the Church history era (post-apostolic times up to the present) back into the New and Old Testaments, most of the stories are not from the Bible, so readers familiar with Scripture but wanting stories after Bible times will not think they have been shortchanged.

The book is clearly from a Protestant evangelical perspective, with a little dispensational interpretation thrown in at a few points.  Roman Catholics will occasionally find their perspective dismissed, and they may be offended at times for being portrayed as the bad guys.  And the Eastern Orthodox barely make an appearance.  Also, half of the stories are from the 19th and 20th centuries, and missionary stories are the most common type of account.  But overall, these are small complaints about a book of this format and can be excused based on its intended audience (evangelicals).

The one major problem with the book is that it contains so many useful stories that could be used by preachers for sermon illustrations, but no topical index to facilitate locating them (it has a Subject index, but it is not arranged into topical categories useful for the preacher-teacher).  Because I believe this book is such a valuable resource for the preacher who uses historical examples in his teaching and preaching ministry, I’ve compiled such a topical index.

So if you are a person of evangelical persuasion who loves stories about Church history, then get this book and use it for a year to journey through the stories of Christian history.

And if you are a pastor of evangelical persuation who loves to illustrate your teaching with stories from Church history, then get this book and download the topical index to guide you to that perfect sermon illustration.

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