Churches, revolutions and empires: 1789 –1914
Ian J. Shaw
Christian Focus Publications, 561 pages, £19.99
Star Rating 4
This work is an important contribution to our overall understanding of nineteenth century church history. In addition, it helps to explain some of the issues that confront the church at the present time.
Working from the impact of the American War of Independence and then the French Revolution, Ian Shaw takes the story up to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
The first two of these major convulsions opened the floodgates of Enlightenment thinking onto societies that were being radically changed by the Industrial Revolution. The churches of the time were showing new zeal in discharging their God-given mandate to take the gospel to all nations.
Against the background of political and social unrest, new systems of political thought and scientific theory, the challenges of slavery and widespread poverty, the churches were trying to address the spiritual needs of their congregations.
Any historian who seeks to give an adequate analysis and explanation of the nineteenth century church has a major task on hand. Ian Shaw has mastered his sources well, and writes clearly and maintains interest throughout.
His work is adequately indexed and contains useful bibliographies. Footnotes are at the bottom of the pages, so that the reader does not have to flounder about at the back of the book if he wishes to pursue references.
This is a book which should be read by ministers and serious students. It will also be an important reference work for all Christians who are concerned to understand the present state of society.
It is important to note that Ian Shaw uses the term ‘Christian’ broadly. He includes Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox as well as Evangelical Protestants within this term. In the interests of historical impartiality this is of course important, but the reader should not overlook the fact that both liberalism and resurgent sacramentalism presented their own challenges to the gospel and the mission of the church of God.
Robert W. Oliver
Bradford on Avon