Pastors, elders, church leaders and, in fact, anyone wanting to grow in their faith should want to have a good grasp of church history.
Reading history, especially church history causes us to rejoice as we look back at God’s providential care for his people and the advance of the Gospel.
Reading history will also help you to engage with ideas and arguments. You will benefit from discovering the work that people before you have put into thinking through serious issues. You’ll be warned as you see the mistakes they made. You will also be alerted to issues and concepts that don’t get the same emphasis now because people in the past didn’t share the same obsessons.
Whilst I am focusing on church history and a historical theology here, I also want to encourage a wider reading of history because church history happens in the context of other world events and because world events are under God’s sovereign rule.
This list includes a mixture of introductory overviews and more in depth works.
One final comment before the list, when someone writes history, they don’t write as a neutral observer but bring their own ideas into play. So for example, John Frame wrote A History of Western Theology and Philosophy in order to argue for a Reformed, Presuppositionalist worldview. Similarly, Bertrand Russell uses his history of Philosophy to argue for a secular approach aligned with his own particular presuppositions. So it is worth reading different people from different perspectives.
So here’s the list:
Mark Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity
John Frame, a History of Western Philosophy and Theology
Rudolph W Heinze, Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to th Wars of Religion
John McManners (Ed), The Oxford History of Christianity
Bradley G Green (Ed), Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy
I would also recommend
- Picking up biographies of key Christian leaders
- Reading historical writings including the works of people like Athanasius, Augustine, Martin Luther John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley. The Banner of Truth Trust’s Puritan Paperbacks are also helpful resources.