The Zondervan Essential Companion to Christian History gives you what it the essentials. Following a brief introduction that outlines the key events of the New Testament era, there is a chapter devoted to each century of Christian history beginning with the year 100 and ending roughly at the year 2000. Each chapter flows chronologically The final chapter, devoted to the present century concludes the companion identifying key themes that the Christian Church is presently dealing with and suggesting future issues. A select Glossary of terms is provided at the end of the book, as well as a bibliographic list of suggested reading. This highly informative, broad-ranging book provides vital facts on the growth and impact of Christianity from the apostles to the present day not only in the Western world but also globally, including the development of Eastern Orthodox and Armenian Christianity, as well as considering Christianity in Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Baltic and Slavic states, and India. The companion is organized by century, going through the major events, ideas, and personalities that have shaped Christian history around the world. Whether you are a student or a lay person, a church-goer or unacquainted with Christianity, this book will help you grasp the global, multifaceted story of Christians.
Stephen Backhouse is the Lecturer in Social and Political Theology at St. Mellitus College, London. He has published a number of critically well-received books and articles on religion, history, and Kierkegaard, from the popular Compact Guide to Christian History (Lion Publishers) to the academic Kierkegaard’s Critique of Christian Nationalism (Oxford University Press).
This is a good reference on the progression of how Christianity looked through the years. I learned a lot and enjoyed all the photos and timelines. This reads more like an encyclopedia. Like the title says, it is a companion, so it’s not in-depth and more like a survey. That’s exactly what I was wanting though. Now I can see which areas of church history to read more about such as Russian Christianity. Very interesting…had no idea they were overtaken by Mongols for a while.
This is billed as an essential companion to church history, which would be partly accurate as a companion to a real church history textbook. On the one hand, it's pretty global, which is good, but with way too much detail that is clearly not "essential". I teach church history and he includes numerous names that I've never heard of, and too many dates to pay attention to. These are the things that put students off of history to start with. In addition, there are several fairly blatant mistakes, a number of the photos and illustrations don't have anything to do with the text (one picture, supposedly of Ivan III of Russia (1440-1505) is clearly of a 19th, or possibly even a 20th c. person), and the sidebars are so random it's hard to know where to fit them into the chronology.
In addition, although it's a pretty, very colorful, book, the format is actually hard to follow. The different levels of subheads are barely distinguishable, and there are subheads for just about every paragraph. For example, ch. 6, "Centres and Margins: 500-600", has 16 paragraphs and 12 subheads. Also, the difference between the "ideas" sidebars and the "events" ones aren't at all clear. There is no introduction explaining the layout or approach of the book, other than the back cover, and the conclusion is inane. The titles all (with one exception. why?) follow the "*** and ***" format, but it's not clear from the text what the two items are and why they're given to that century. Many could apply just about anywhere, and if they're supposed to help you remember what went on during that century, they're useless.
There is a video series that goes with the book, but it's worthless if you actually read the book, as it's simply the author lecturing/reading the book to you. It adds nothing except a live voice. A lot could have been done to make it useful, but wasn't.
Altogether, I came away wondering why Zondervan bothered. There are a number of much better church history texts out there right now. This one was mostly just frustrating.
Beautifully presented with clear type and lots of extra boxes and pictures! But somehow I found parts of this slightly disappointing as it assumed a certain level of knowledge (which sadly I don’t have so I had no idea what they were talking about. But its probably brilliant if you’re cleverer!). It was hard going at times but I’m glad I persevered.