Friday, May 25, 2012

"Introduction to Early Christianity" Review

I will admit upfront my frustration with many books on early Christianity. I find it rare that any book on early Christianity contains everything I am looking for. I want a book that quotes extensively from the original sources. I want a book that outlines clearly and systematically what the early church believed (although I recognize it was far from monolithic). I want it to be easy to read and to not go into unnecessary depth. I want it to be exciting and capture the drama.

Maybe I am asking for too much. But I get really tired of reading books that promise me a systematic look at the early church beliefs and then only take a few church fathers and systematize their views. Crossway's Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Chuch is a classic example in my opinion of how not to write a book on early Christianity. It was absolutely abysmal. Yet it feels that almost every book I have read on early Christianity does this. So, I will admit that approaching Laurie Guy's Introducing Early Christianity: A Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs & Practices, I had both high hopes and yet fully expected to be disappointed.

But here is what is awesome: I wasn't. Laurie Guy has written a truly accessible and engaging work on the early church. What I absolutely love about this book is that the author tries really hard to give you the panoramic view of what the early church believed. He deals with church government, baptism, women in ministry and more. Each chapter feels like the perfect length too. While at times, I confess, the writing is a tiny bit dry, I still really enjoyed the work as a whole.

He quotes a good bit from the original sources too. I really appreciate that. I want to hear from the church fathers themselves--not just a summary of their thought.

As far as the most enlightening chapter, that has got to be the chapter of women in ministry. Not only is the chapter incredibly challenging, but it also gives a great deal of perspective to the current debate that ranges in the church.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about the book is that it puts evangelicals in touch with their heritage. So often we forget that tradition is so vitally important and we forget that our beliefs were born through much blood sweat and tears. The men who passed down our beliefs were truly brilliant thinkers. In a day and age where we have a sort of intellectual snobbery because we have more information, Guy's Introduction to Early Christianity is a stout reminder that we stand on the shoulders of God-loving, theological giants. I was humbled and excited.

So get this book. You won't be disappointed!

*Thanks to IVP Academic for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review*

1 comment:

  1. Have not read this, don't have a copy of it, but remember what I have,, said about Luther? Get a copy of The Ante-Nicene Fathers and read THAT!