Monday, October 1, 2018

Book Review: In the Year of Our Lord

In the Year of Our Lord: Reflections on Twenty Centuries of Church History. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2018. Reformation Trust. 229 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The letters AD form the abbreviation for the Latin phrase anon Domini, which means "in the year of our Lord." It goes hand in hand with another abbreviation, BC, "before Christ."

I enjoyed reading Sinclair Ferguson's In the Year of Our Lord. I'll get straight to the point and ask the questions I'd want answered: IS IT INTIMIDATING? and IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT?

Is it intimidating? Church history can be--though it doesn't have to be--intimidating. There's so much that could be included in any volume of church history. Do you include everybody and everything? Do you focus on people or ideas? Do you select the most influential theologians? What if the theologians were very influential but also wrong? Do you spend time correcting their theology?

This is how Ferguson approached the subject:
"In the Year of Our Lord is intended to be a very simple (but I hope) informative, encouraging, and enjoyable introduction to some members of "the Christian family"--the worldwide, history-deep, eternity-long church of Jesus Christ. It is a book of people, stories, words, and songs--a kind of family narrative accompanied by a songbook. It is not a history of the church, but simply fragments of her story. It is not the work of a professional historian but of a family member."
I found his approach to be a good one. I did not find the book intimidating. That's not to say I found it super-easy-going. I found it substantive and meaty. That's just how I like my theology. I don't want my theology to be so easy that it requires absolutely no effort on my part, so easy that nothing new is communicated. It is written for readers. It isn't necessarily written for scholars and academics.

Is it worth the effort? I'd say YES. Call me crazy, but, I found it almost devotional in nature. Perhaps the average person wouldn't come to that conclusion. (But I did). I loved, loved, loved how each entry ended in a hymn--a hymn written during that century, I believe. I also appreciated that each entry--or chapter--was an excerpt from a work from that century. These excerpts vary in difficulty or ease-of-reading. Some were accessible and well worth the effort. Others not quite as much. Ferguson's summary or introduction to a century was always worth reading. Ferguson makes church history applicable and relevant. Makes is definitely the wrong word. REVEALS does a better job of saying what I mean.

For example, in chapter two on the second century, Ferguson talks about persecution and false teaching. He writes,
"The early Christians knew that martyrdom could never ultimately kill either the believer or the church. But false teaching always does. We modern Christians tend to assume it is the other way around. We have little fear of false teaching but considerable fear of persecution. And yet, of all generations, perhaps ours is the one that should have learned to think most clearly and biblically."

I would recommend this one.

Semi-Pelagius is the ghost that hovers around every person who believes that “heaven helps those who help themselves” or that justification is achieved by outweighing sins with good deeds. In all its various guises, it is a theology that remains one of the major enemies of Christ’s gospel. By contrast, Augustine saw clearly that the gospel teaches that we are dead in sin, not merely sick or weak (Eph. 2:1).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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