Monday, September 26, 2011

Book of Note: The History of Christian Thought

Over the last few weeks I've been lecturing on key thinkers throughout the history of Christianity in my Introduction to Theology course. It is a real whirlwind tour from the earliest days of the Church to the Second World War. My course is primarily on Contemporary (post-WWII) theologies so this quick survey allows the students to see how we get so many approaches to Christian theology. It is the ground out of which all contemporary theology has grown - both in appreciation of and reaction to what has already been done. To my delight a colleague at the school mentioned a book that had been used in a previous iteration of this course (this is my first time teaching it): Jonathan Hill's The History of Christian Thought. Jonathan covers quite a bit more ground than I am able to in a few lectures - but his focus is the same. He briefly, but substantially, documents key thinkers and events throughout the history of the Christian Church. Beginning with the influence of Greek philosophy and the work of Justin Martyr (where I started as well) he weaves a historical trail all the way to Postmodernity and important theological voices like Moltmann, Pannenberg and Rahner. While he is a bit light on the North American context there is a small section on Pentecostalism. He even includes a small glossary at the end of this 340 page book!

I heard about the book a few days before my own class was about to leave the Scholastic period and run headfirst into the Reformation. I sat down that night with the book starting from Luther (a bit less than half way) and just ate it up. I was done early the next morning (and yes I did sleep a full 7 hours!). Hill's style is not to get tied down in the technical and to balance the thought he is tracking with details about the lives of the individuals he highlights. I wish I had known of this book before, it would have made for an excellent textbook choice for my students! I think this book is a must for any church library or anyone just wanting to understand the twists and turns that Christian theology has taken as it tries to understand faith in an ever changing culture.

Do yourself a favour and let Hill guide you through the History of Christian Thought.

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard

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