John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.
Available at Amazon.com
I’ve read several Church History intro volumes. Chris Cairns is what I used as an undergrad and I’ve usually recommended Bruce Shelly to my undergrad students because of its readability. There are several good Church History Introductions around these days, one’s I’ve heard good things about are by Martin Marty and Robert Wilken.
I’m glad to say that Woodbridge & James have produced a great follow-up to Everett Ferguson’s prequel volume Church History: Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation.
In reading the volume I thought the survey of the Reformation was terrific, with wonderful insights into Luther and Calvin. Also helpful was the overview of Arminius, the Remonstrant churches, and Amyraldism. The chapter on the age of revolutions (1770-1848) was particularly good. In fact, the authors show that Russia has always had imperialistic ambitions in eastern Europe and Eurasia, constantly making incursion east, trying to fill vacuum left by the fading Ottoman empire, particularly relevant in light of events in the Crimea and Ukraine. The viscous de-christianization of the French Revolution under Robespierre is also portrayed. Huge numbers of clergy were arrested, deported, or even executed. I also enjoyed the chapter Catholics and Orthodox in the 20th and 21st centuries for situating recent ecumenical efforts in a wider historical context. The final chapter discusses a delicate topic on the challenges posed by Christianity and Islam in the twenty-first century.
It is a great volume and I do recommend it as a CH text book. The only misgiving I have about the book is that it is very Eurocentric and Americanized. While there are sections on global mission and global Christianity, these sections in my mind need to be enlarged. Robert Wilkens’ volume is superior in this regard. If one reads Woodbridge and James, I’d suggest complimenting it with Philip Jenkins book on The Lost History of Christianity.