Like a lot of other seminary/graduate school students, I have used Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volumes 1 & 2 as one of the main texts for my basic church history studies. Those volumes are tremendous resources indeed, but due to the many angles one can view history in general, and church history in particular, it is both insightful and enjoyable to read from other church historians. I was floored by the recent opportunity to read Everett Ferguson’s volume on church history, thus I shall like to provide a brief book review.
One of the greatest things about Ferguson’s volume is that it reads like a “church history” and “historical theology” text. By that, I mean that Ferguson follows the narrative of church history, but at the same time takes time to follow the progression of certain doctrines. It was quite interesting to gain insights into some of the practices and beliefs of those early years of Christianity, both of orthodoxy and even heresy.
The length of the book (over 500 pages) covers the beginning of the Church in the 1st century until the “Pre-Reformation” years. If you are interested in the second volume, author John Woodbridge handles the “Pre-Reformation” to the present, both published by Zondervan and from what I’ve read, both are quite good. Due to an unexpected time of transition in my life within the last several weeks, I unfortunately had to skim most of Ferguson’s volume, but in the moments of closest examination I can say with great assurance that this was both enjoyable and scholarly. The two can be hard to manage together, but I believe Ferguson accomplishes just that.
One criticism of the book I’ve read from a couple of other reviewers was that it was somewhat difficult to read, that it didn’t seem to flow well. Every reader is different and so I would not attempt to be the comprehensive voice of all those interested in this book, but I would say that at least personally, I found the book to be comprehendible in both content and form. For those who have not touched much of church history or historical theology, perhaps this volume as the first step would be a little too much, but that of course would be based on the person.
Overall, I believe “Church History, Volume 1” by Ferguson would be an excellent addition to one’s personal library, whether he/she be an historian, theologian, pastor, missionary, student, or simply a believer in Jesus Christ. There will probably be moments where he steps on your toes a little (depending on your doctrinal background), but the material is presented in a rather objective (this is what happened) fashion rather than a persuasive (this is what you need to believe) one. There is a lot to like from this volume by Everett Ferguson, I give it a sincere recommendation.