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A Survey of Church History (Part 6) DVD

By W. Robert Godfrey
September 2016 | Review by Jonathan Bayes
  • Publisher: Ligonier Ministries
  • ISBN: 978-1-56769-634-9
  • Price: 48.00
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Book Review

This is a series of twelve, approximately 25-minute lectures on DVD, surveying the history of the church in the twentieth century.

The first lecture is a general introduction to the century which saw both the best and the worst things in human history. Lecture 2 looks at the work of world mission in the twentieth century. Lectures 3-8 survey developments in the evangelical world, including the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, the growth of Pentecostalism and phenomenon of New Evangelicalism.

Lectures 9-10 look at how Bible-believing churches had to relate to developments within Roman Catholicism and Islam. The final two lectures home in on the Evangelical and Reformed movements, as the twentieth century gave way to the twenty-first.

This series is Part 6 of a larger course covering the whole of church history. Watching it certainly whetted my appetite to see earlier episodes. Robert Godfrey is an excellent speaker and the videos are well made. The lectures are presented to a live audience, which lends an authentic feel. There are no frills; the only props used by Dr Godfrey are a blackboard and chalk. This enhances its appeal in these days of flash and gimmick.

The biggest weakness of the course, from one perspective, is that, apart from the first two lectures, the series is America-centred. Regrettably, it may have limited appeal to a British and international audience.

That said, there are several strengths. At many points the approach is anecdotal and biographical. That prevents it from becoming dull. Indeed, it is as entertaining as it is instructive. Where Dr Godfrey deals with heterodox movements or false religion, he is entirely fair in his presentation and thoroughly perceptive in his analysis.

Throughout there is a welcome blend of scholarly examination and moving application. This really is church history being preached. The lectures constantly draw lessons from recent history, which have a bearing on what the churches ought to be doing today.

A unifying goal runs throughout the series, made explicit in the final lecture. Dr Godfrey makes the appeal that, in the light of twentieth-century church history, we should work hard at building twenty-first century churches that are clearly and unashamedly confessional and Reformed. This no matter what the cost might be in becoming more adrift from a culture sliding ever further into radical, secular individualism.

Dr Godfrey has doubts about the minimalist approach that attempts to bring all evangelicals together on the basis of the small number of doctrines held in common. What is needed is a maximalist approach that revels in the whole counsel of God. Only there can the church be stable in an increasingly hostile environment.

Jonathan Bayes


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