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A Review of Historians of the Christian Tradition: Their Methodology and Influence on Western Thought

God has established and is building His church. His church continues to grow in time and space and in many cultures. It builds upon historic Christianity.

  • Byron Snapp,
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God has established and is building His church. His church continues to grow in time and space and in many cultures. It builds upon historic Christianity.

The many contributors to this volume examine the lives and works of various church historians. How did the historians’ theology and cultural trends impact their approach to history? What was the importance of their family’s theology in their personal development and outlook? How did their life experiences affect their thinking? Answers to these questions can be found as each article focuses on a different historian. Each contributor gives a brief biography, an overview of the historian’s works, and an assessment of the writings. The chapter concludes with a bibliography of the scholar’s works for further study.

The study begins with two chapters devoted to historic development in the Old Testament and Luke’s recording of Christ’s work before and after His ascension in the New Testament. The emphasis moves to a chronological study of historians beginning with Eusebius of Caesarea, who lived in the 3rd century. Historians through the ages are then highlighted, concluding with modern-day scholars such as Jaroslav Pelikan, Martin E. Marty, and Heiko Oberman. A broad range of individuals is included in this volume.

A chapter is devoted to F.C. Bauer, who was influenced by Hegelian thought. Roman Catholic historians John Henry Newman, Christopher Dawson, and Hubert Jedin are included. Jean Henri Merle d’Aubigné and William Cunningham and their research on the Reformation are examined. A chapter is devoted to Roland Bainton’s life and work. The research of the influential Schaff and Latourette are discussed. I have listed only a few of the entries in this volume. Each is important in his impact on church history. Many had extended influence by training students in the methodology of scholarly study of church history.

I am not aware of any other volume of this type. The book’s layout and broad scope is commendable. The evangelical contributors provide thoughtful and at times, critical, assessments of their subjects. Readers of church history will find much to interest them. With the well-established background material, readers will better understand presuppositions and motivating factors that formed boundaries within which each historian labored. Others readers may become interested in studying a particular era of history or the work of a particular historian. Readers will be exposed to a variety of theological thought and to methods of integrating that thought into life.

The final chapter provides a summary of the historical method in relation to church history. Sadly, the volume has neither a table of contents nor an index. The absence of these detracts from the usefulness of this quality work. However, the volume remains a recommended and worthwhile addition for those interested in church history.

  • Byron Snapp

Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia.  He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina.  He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren. 

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