Earl Blackburn has written a helpful and unusual book. It is well researched and written with the average Christian in mind. In just over 300 pages he covers church history from the end of the New Testament to the present day. He does this by moving from one critical date and event to another in bite-sized chunks. Each event had a major impact on the wider Christian world.
The format accommodates readers who have little spare time or a low concentration span. However, the rapid topic shifts make for a slightly bumpy ride for more ‘long distance’ readers. Blackburn’s conciseness is admirable, but inevitably this is at the expense of interlocking themes and continuity.
Even for someone well read in church history, this well written book is likely to fill gaps in their knowledge. Many of the events recorded were positive, such as the various councils that clarified Christian teaching on the Trinity, the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Others were less so, such as the Crusades, Charles Finney’s publication of Lectures on revival in 1835, and Julius Wellhausen’s liberal theology. Other events had an ambivalent effect, such as Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and the emergence of liberation theology.
The author is a safe pair of hands and this book should appeal to a wide range of Christians wanting to understand better their Christian heritage. The 50 events chosen are largely uncontroversial, though naturally biased towards Europe and North America.
One could argue that the extraordinary work of God in times of revival is under-represented, but this is only a minor criticism.