Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Book Review: 5 Minutes in Church History

5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God's Faithfulness in the History of the Church. Stephen J. Nichols. 2019. Reformation Trust. 154 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence of the preface: This book offers a series of postcards from church history. There are postcards of people, places, events, artifacts, dates, and ideas. I offer these postcards in the hopes that you will enjoy visiting the past--and that you will go back there often.

In 2013, 5 Minutes in Church History premiered as a podcast hosted by Stephen Nichols. The premise mission of both book and pocast is simple: to encourage believers to become more familiar--to "visit the past" often.

The first chapter (but not the first podcast) is titled "Is Spurgeon Right?" This chapter serves as a great WHY to the book. Why do believers need to be connected to the past? What benefits can believers hope to gain by exploring the past and becoming familiar with church history?

Nichols takes inspiration from Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon wrote on why it was important for preachers to use commentaries instead of relying (or relying solely) on themselves and their interpretation of a text. Spurgeon wrote, "It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others." Nichols writes, "Spurgeon reminds us that the Holy Spirit is not an individual gift. The Holy Spirit is a corporate gift to the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit has taught others, and the Spirit uses others to teach us. Spurgeon's argument reaches the conclusion that preachers should use commentaries. Don't be arrogant, and don't think you have a corner on the market of the Holy Spirit, because you don't."
Nichols then supposes what would Spurgeon say to the modern church, "Here's my paraphrase of Spurgeon's argument: 'I find it odd that the church of the 21st century thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit has taught it today that it thinks so little of what the Holy Spirit taught the church in the first century, the second, the third, the fourth, and son and and so on.' The Holy Spirit is not unique to our age. The Holy Spirit has been at work in the church for the past twenty centuries. We could put the matter this way--it is rather prideful to think that we have nothing to learn from the past...We need a little humility. Enough humility to say we may not have all the answers in the present. Enough humility to say we need the past, and enough humility to visit it from time to time."

The book is arranged chronologically and divided into sections: "The Early Church," "The Middle Ages," "The Reformation," and "The Modern Age." There are forty chapters in all.

I would definitely recommend this one. Dare I say I would even recommend it as a devotional?! I think it would make a great devotional for readers who don't want the typical short, fluffy, light, insubstantial, inspirational, sticky-sweet devotional typically marketed for Christians. It has substance. It is informational and insightful. I think it would even be great for family devotions. That being said, you don't have to approach it as a devotional.

I really enjoyed this one...and not just because it was short. I've always loved history. I haven't always loved church history. But I think that was in part because it can be presented in a way that is overwhelming and much too much. I like the balance between focusing on people, on ideas, on places, on events, on dates, etc.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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