I see forces at work against each other: most people love to hear a good story and most people hate reading about history. Perhaps, then, what is needed is better story tellers. Which is exactly what Pastor Brian Crosby has done in his newest work, “God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History”.
If history in general struggles to excite the masses, then more specifically Church history is really going to be an uphill battle. Why is that? Probably because the only people really interested in Church history have anything better to do than dwell on the sins and shortcomings from the last 2,000 years. As is often the case, we love our Jesus, but His bride? Well, that is another thing altogether. And the skepticism is well-deserved.
But amidst the land-mines of the crusades, inquisitions, heretical teachers, and misguided ventures, every chapter in the history of the Church has that solid line of God’s redemptive plan. Pastor Crosby has taken the time to highlight the good that came from every era and thus contextualize the evil that each generation had to fight against, both internal and external. The reader will be introduced to the greats like Polycarp and Augustine, Jerome and Luther, Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards. He will also explain where Islam fits in up against the dark ages, how the printing press aided Luther, and why the Puritans are (wrongly) associated with Hester Prynne.
I find it curious that he chooses to focus almost exclusively on the Western Church. Even after mentioning the split from the East around 1000 AD, Pastor Crosby doesn’t really mention the Church history for the last 1000 years on that side of the divide. And with his focus on the West, it is strange to me that more contemporary movements like Calvary Chapel and Vineyard are not included, but an Australian worship band (Hillsong United) is. Perhaps that has to do with his intended audience?
The book explicitly states that it is a “Student’s Guide”, but I am not sure that is either accurate or helpful. Actually, I can’t really envision an adult NOT getting something out of it, and hey, if it is good enough for the kids, maybe the grown-ups should give it a try. They may even learn something. That being said, this is an easy recommendation for me. His prose is engaging, his research is meaningful, and the book reads like a good novel.