Thursday, November 15, 2007

Initial Thoughts - Church History - An Essential Guide, by Justo Gonzalez

Justo Gonzalez is church history kind of guy, having written a number of texts used in universities and seminaries around the world.

Abingodon Press has a series of Essential Guides – with this one of them.

The intent of the book is to provide students “gain a quick and basic grasp of the main periods and issues in the history of Christianity”. As such, it is no way designed to be a complete or in-depth study. This is both a strength, and a weakness.

It is certainly a broad brush, which fits the intent of the book. Each chapter is short, concise and straightforward. It is written at a college level, so a smart high school student could likely handle it, but he uses lots of big words and concepts, with few (no) definitions. In fact, there is intentionally no glossary. He does have suggested readings at the end of each chapter. Chapters are typically about 10 pages, so you can get through each in one short sitting.

I also kept wishing for either a timeline or some basic maps. While his descriptions are good, a simple map showing just how far the moors got into Europe would add depth without complexity. Sometimes more detail makes the work simpler for the reader to understand.

To me, this book cries out for a companion web site, or perhaps for this book to be completely web driven. He expects much of the reader, and explains little, so that if you would like more information, you are out of luck. For example, he discusses the Apostles Creed – but does not include the creed. A hot link to the creed, and perhaps additional discussion at that link would be great. This is repeated consistently through the text. Yes, intentionally so, but nonetheless, frustrating. If this were web based, like the NEXT Bible, you could have the brevity, but also have the detail to follow up on some or all of the information.

I like this book. For being constrained to book format, it is worth having. But if it were on the net, or computer based, it could of both met his goal of a providing a broad overview while yet providing resources for those who wish to dig deeper. And certainly a few graphics would also greatly enhance the work.

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