One of the criticisms of the way history is taught in schools is that pupils come away knowing a bit about Henry VIII and his six wives, some details of the horrors of the slave trade and something about Hitler, but nothing to set it all in context. Some even struggle to put all these in chronological order.
To understand history you first need an overview. To get such a background, ideally you need an enthusiastic teacher who can inspire by telling a good story.
In the same way, a typical Christian’s understanding of church history is often patchy — snippets of information picked up over time, featuring outstanding individuals or events, but nothing bringing it all together. All too often we lack a big picture, a timeline showing a flow and sense of direction. We need the background before we can put historic characters, their teaching and other significant events in their proper place.
In Michael Reeves we do have an authoritative and inspiring teacher to relate the story of the Reformation and the era of the Puritans — a period of around 150 years.
This DVD presents a series of 12 lectures given in America to a small group of people. Don’t be put off by the word ‘lecture’. Each episode is engaging and around 25 minutes long; it is difficult to think that most church members will not be stimulated by them. This would hold true irrespective of the viewer’s familiarity with church history.
Reeves is a warm and lucid communicator. He leads things at a pace easy to understand and absorb. His approach here is to provide an overview, but also to zoom in on three particular Puritans, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin and John Owen. He delves into their background and character revealing interesting details, before turning to examine their writings.
The key question with DVDs of this kind is how well they bear repeat viewings. In this instance, it most certainly will. I would also commend it to churches for use at midweek meetings or in house groups. Highly recommended.