The general subject of church history continues to generate considerable interest; important works were written during the last year in all aspects of the discipline. The Puritans attracted a good deal of attention, both the British and the American varieties, and advances were made in producing primary source materials. Writers such as Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, and John Bunyan received special attention. The medieval period was looked at with more than the usual interest, also with a view to making primary sources available. This interest is perhaps the logical extension backwards of Renaissance/Reformation studies. The problems faced during that period arose earlier, and resulted in necessary attention to their origin.

The social and political aspects of church life and history provide a focus that one finds in almost all the areas. With such a stress today upon sociopolitical considerations, it is only natural to take a careful look at earlier periods of church history to see what insight can be gained by discovering what the church did or did not do in dealing with its problems.

There was another focus upon the place individuals played in history: kings, queens, statesmen, theologians, and saints all came in for biographical treatment. In some instances the prayers or significant writings of these history makers were made available for the first time. There is apparently a growing appreciation for what one person can do to shape the course of a given age.

It would be extremely difficult to determine which books are the best of the year for evangelicals; nevertheless, an attempt will be made. These books do not necessarily reflect an evangelical point of view; they are, however, books from which evangelicals could learn a great deal.

In the area of general church history, I have selected six under the title, “book of the year.”

A History of Christian Doctrine (Fortress), edited by Hubert Cunliffe-Jones with Benjamin Drewery. This book, although long in coming, was worth waiting for. It is the best single-volume history of doctrine now available. Written by 11 eminent scholars, it admirably covers the salient points of historical theology. It also includes a study of Eastern theology from 600–1453, the first time, to my knowledge, in a survey of this sort. This work is bound to become a standard text.

Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (Louisiana State Univ.), by Terry Jones. This is history with a difference; in many ways it is the way it ought to be done. Jones takes Chaucer’s poem and carefully analyzes all that relates to the Knight and his tale. We go through history, plagues, chivalry, the military, feudal life, and then some. The Middle Ages come alive in this fine work.

Article continues below

The Age of Reform, 1250–1550 (Yale Univ. Press), by Steven Ozment. The eminent Yale historian has produced a book in the “new mold.” It seeks to evaluate the Reformation in the light of what led up to it, and as it interacted with the social and political developments of the time. Traditional in many ways, this work still moves out in new directions; evangelicals will benefit by its analysis of the late Middle Ages and the Reformation.

The Road to Khartoum (Norton), by Charles Chenevix Trench. This biography of Gen. Charles “Chinese” Gordon is an absolute masterpiece. Trench, whose name will be familiar to church historians as a descendent of the famous bishop of Dublin, has cut through the myths surrounding this popular folk hero and made a real person out of him. Gordon’s strange and mystic ways are sympathetically handled, and in the process some thorny issues—such as the sordid slave traffic in the Sudan—are touched upon.

The German Churches Under Hitler: Background, Struggle, and Epilogue (Wayne State Univ.), by Ernst Christian Helmreich. We have long needed a reflective yet definitive treatment of the difficult church struggle in the Nazi era, and it has now appeared. The study is patient, careful, authoritative, and leaves nothing to chance—the footnotes/bibliography take almost 150 pages. May we never forget the lessons we may learn from reading this volume, especially the price that must be paid for the sin of silence.

The Search for America’s Faith (Abingdon), by George Gallup, Jr., and David Poling. This is a crucial book that everyone who is interested in events of the next 20 years ought to read. Gallup and Poling analyze where American belief is at present, especially among America’s youth, and thus point us toward the future. Traditional values, beliefs, and attitudes are now being reestablished and evangelicals have never had a better opportunity to speak responsibly. Whether or not we will is another question; but this book will cry out to us to do so.

BASIC HISTORY. A significant number of general and interpretative books related to church history appeared during the last year. The search for roots continues, as does the search for understanding those roots.

Reference. Oxford University Press has made available in paperback The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by E. A. Livingstone. Basically British in orientation, it seeks to answer “who or what” questions about the church, and does it admirably. The Religious Dimension: New Directions in Quantitative Research (Academic Press), edited by Robert Wuthnow, provides valuable information on 17 topics such as the effects of Watergate upon confidence in social institutions, and ethnic variations in religious commitment. A lot of worthwhile material is here. A revised edition of The Franciscan Book of Saints (Franciscan Herald Press), by Marion Habig, provides briefly the lives of 366 sainted or blessed Franciscans in order to encourage us to imitate the example set by the followers of Saint Francis. This devotional use of history does just that. An in-depth study of scholarly books, presses, research libraries and journals is made available by the American Council of Learned Societies in Scholarly Communication: The Report of the National Enquiry (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press).

Article continues below

Historiography. Maurice Mandelbaum’s The Anatomy of Historical Knowledge (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press) is now in paperback, making this valuable work available for a wider audience. An excellent introduction to understanding history from an evangelical perspective is David Bebbington’s Patterns in History (InterVarsity). It is especially helpful on the philosophy of historiography. History and Human Nature (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), by Robert Solomon, is a controversial, penetrating look at European history and culture from 1750–1850. Liberalism takes a beating here, as it does in History of the Idea of Progress (Basic Books), by Robert Nisbet. These are important books that raise serious questions about the failure of the modern world. George Vernadsky has put together a valuable survey in Russian Historiography: A History (Nordland). One hundred thirty-five authors are discussed and valuable bibliographies on the Russian church conclude the book.

Interpretations of History. Liberty Press makes available three books that all stress, in different ways, the need to reestablish human dignity and freedom: The Politicization of Society, edited by K. S. Templeton; The Evolution of Civilizations, by Carroll Quigley; and Gustave LeBon: The Man and His Works, by Alice Widener. The Politicization of Society is a trenchant collection of essays that compels reading. Those by Jacques Ellul and Butler D. Shaffer alone make the book worth buying. R. G. Clouse and R. V. Pierard have written a Christian high school textbook as volume two of “Streams of Civilization” entitled The Modern World to the Nuclear Age (Mott Media/Creation Life). It is a thoroughly Christian, well-written, and nicely illustrated history of the Western world from 1400 to today. Wedge Publishing Foundation (229 College St., Toronto, Ont., Canada) offers a collection of 58 articles from 1945–48 by Hermann Dooyeweerd in Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular and Christian Options, in which he relentlessly exposes the weaknesses of non-Christian philosophies and argues for a total Christian perspective. A Reader in Sociology: Christian Perspective (Herald Press), edited by C. P. DeSanto, C. Redekop, and W. L. Smith-Hinds, is a well-done collection of 40 essays on life and society from a Christian point of view. It is a look at contemporary history in the making.

Article continues below

Church History Surveys.A History of Christianity (Nordland), by Donald Treadgold, is helpful, but spotty; only 17 pages are devoted to the twentieth century, for example. No Other Foundation: The Church Through Twenty Centuries (Cornerstone Books), by Jeremy Jackson, is well-done church history with a difference. Jackson attempts to draw out the meaning of the past for today, without sacrificing objectivity, and he has done a very good job. Built Upon the Cornerstone (Christian Publications, 25 S. 10th St., Box 3404, Harrisburg, Pa.), by Joseph Tewinkel, is a brief, simple survey of church history, suitable for high schoolers. Christian Churches in Recent Times (Concordia), by Roy Sueflow, is a well-written survey of Christianity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. William A. Clebsch in Christianity in European History (Oxford Univ. Press) interprets both religion and culture under the rubric of “humanity” in an attempt to show how Christianity and culture interact. It is highly informative and well written.

A monumental work is A History of Christian Doctrine (Fortress), edited by Hubert Cunliffe-Jones. It is more than a successor to G. P. Fisher’s earlier work; it is a definitive work in the history of doctrine to which all students of church history will turn often. A specialized kind of history is Salvation and the Perfect Society: The Eternal Quest (Univ. of Mass. Press), by Alfred Braunthal; here the major changes in the understanding of salvation are analyzed through history. Braunthal looks at the secular and religious quest in an informative, sympathetic way.

Article continues below

History of Liturgy/Spirituality. Patricia B. Buckland has written an easy-to-understand Advent to Pentecost: A History of the Church Year (Morehouse-Barlow). Of more substance are Word, Water, Wine and Bread (Judson Press), by William Willimon, and the second edition in paperback by Theodor Klauser of A Short History of the Western Liturgy (Oxford Univ. Press). Both are excellent surveys of a complex subject. Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes (Fides/Claretian), edited by Matthew Fox, is a fine collection of essays that cover the topic of spirituality from the New Testament to W. E. Hocking. Augsburg has made available an excellent and highly informative Manual of Liturgy: Lutheran Book of Worship by P. H. Pfatteicher and C. R. Messerli. It should become the standard guide for anyone interested in Lutheran liturgy. Howard Galley piled and edited The Prayer Book Office (Seabury), which is handsomely done and intended to enrich the church’s daily prayer. It contains psalms, biblical canticles, antiphons, and some beautiful readings (mostly sermons or homilies) for the church year.

THE EARLY CHURCH. The church until the time of Augustine continues to be a source of interest to historians. It is here that Christian doctrine and practice developed, ultimately giving Western civilization the shape that it has today. Much is still unknown, but continued study regularly reveals new information.

Greek Backgrounds. Collections of sources are always of value and Scholars Press is to be thanked for Sources for the Study of Greek Religion, edited by David Rice and John Stambaugh. This helpful collection is topically arranged and covers everything from the Olympian gods to ghosts. An absolutely marvelous book is the revised edition of The Earth, The Temple, and the Gods: Greek Sacred Architecture (Yale Univ. Press), by Vincent Scully. The text is clear and accurate, and the hundreds of photographs make this book a valuable study. Prometheus Books (1203 Kensington Ave., Buffalo, N.Y.) makes two source books available: The Worlds of the Early Greek Philosophers and The Worlds of Plato and Aristotle, both edited by J. B. Wilbur and H. J. Allen. I found the former to be the more helpful, perhaps because source material used there is harder to come by.

History. An absolutely massive study is Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian: 323 B.C.E. to 135 C.E. (Univ. of Notre Dame/Michael Glazier), by Sean Freyne. It is a detailed, documented study that will probably be definitive on the subject. Everything connected with Galilee during that time is carefully and accurately considered. F. F. Bruce’s The Spreading Flame (Eerdmans) has been reprinted in paperback. This lucid work begins with Paul and ends with the conversion of the English. If only one history of the period could be read, let it be this one. Carroll Newsom in The Roots of Christianity (Prentice-Hall) takes a far more liberal tack than Bruce. It is difficult to determine what it is that Newsom himself believes, but readers will discover that there is some good historical material to be found in this book.

Article continues below

Topical Studies.The Catacombs (Thames and Hudson), by J. Stevenson, is a nicely illustrated history that makes an obscure aspect of the church’s life come alive. The Canonization of the Synagogue Service (Notre Dame Press) by Lawrence Hoffman, argues compellingly for a three-stage process. This is a valuable background study for early Christian worship. Politics and Exegesis: Origen and the Two Swords (Univ. of Calif.), by G. E. Caspary, examines Origen’s exegetical methodology and his theology of politics, casting new light on a complex subject. Howard C. Kee’s Christian Origins in Sociological Perspective (Westminster) is an interesting and well-written account of the social dynamics of Christianity’s early days. The Development of St. Augustine from Neo-Platonism to Christianity, 386–391 A.D. (Univ. Press of America), by Alfred W. Matthews, ably surveys this crucial period in Augustine’s thought. The exhaustive footnotes it contains make it a valuable study.

Collections of Sources. Jack N. Sparks has paraphrased and written introductions to a selection of Athanasius’ letters from A.D. 328 to 373 in The Resurrection Letters (Nelson). These powerful letters are primarily reflections on Easter. Baker has made available selected source material for the study of the early church, the New Testament books, and the New Testament canon in Evidence of Tradition, by Daniel Theron. The original text plus a translation are both found in this “Twin Brooks” paperback. Servant Books (237 N. Michigan, South Bend, Ind.) has published Anne Field’s paraphrases and introductions to fourth-and fifth-century texts relating to baptism in From Darkness to Light. All of the above material is of value to the early church historian.

THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD. Interest in the Middle Ages continues to grow. Historians have long known what others are now beginning to see: that the Reformation—and the modern world, too, for that matter—was built on what preceded this era. The problems of the Middle Ages were passed on to our time, sometimes unanswered. To go back, in many instances, is to go forward, for at least we know where we came from.

Article continues below

Surveys.Renewal in Christ: As the Celtic Church Led “the Way” (Vantage), by Edward Stimson, is a very interesting history that goes beyond the Middle Ages, but it nicely describes church life among the Celts. Religion and the People, 800–1700 (Univ. of N.C.), edited by James Obedkevich, surveys some basic problems, again going beyond the Middle Ages. Patrick Geary’s “The Ninth-Century Relic Trade” is an excellent essay, as is “Cheese and Worms: The Cosmos of a 16th Century Miller” by Carlo Binzburg. As one would expect of Steven Ozment, he has produced a masterful study in The Age of Reform 1250–1550 (Yale Univ. Press), which is an intellectual and religious history of late medieval and Reformation Europe. The Mind of the Middle Ages, third revised edition (Univ. of Chicago), by Frederick Artz, covers A.D. 200–1500 in exemplary fashion. Vision of the End (Columbia Univ. Press), by Bernard McGinn, surveys the apocalyptic traditions of the Middle Ages.

Studies.Vox Populi (Ohio State Univ.), by Timothy Gregory, looks at violence and popular involvement in the religious controversies of the fifth century A.D. John B. Morrall examines Political Thought in the Middle Ages (Univ. of Toronto. Scholars Press makes available The Nature, Structure and Function of the Church in William of Ockham, by John Ryan. Popes, Lawyers, and Infidels (Univ. of Pa.), by James Muldoon, is a scholarly look at how the church related to the non-Christian world from 1250 to 1550.

Three new books deal with the medieval English church: The English Church in the Fourteenth Century (Univ. of Toronto), by W.A. Pantin, which is a full-blown study; English Medieval Monasteries, 1066–1540 (Univ. of Ga.), by Roy Midmer, which is a summary and guide; and Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (Louisiana State Univ.), by Terry Jones, which is a strikingly well-done commentary of sorts on Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale.”

C. S. Lewis’s classic Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge Univ.) is now available in paperback for a whole new generation of scholars to relish.

Texts. Sister Benedicta Ward has translated and nicely introduced The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm (Penguin Books). Marsilius of Padua’s (c. 1275–1342) Defensor Pacis (Univ. of Toronto) is now available in English for the first time, translated and introduced by Alan Gewirth. God As First Principle in Ulrich of Strasbourg (Alba House), by Francis J. Lescoe, is the critical text and introduction of this hitherto unavailable work. Jasper Hopkins nicely translates and evaluates Nicolas of Cusa: On God As Not-Other (Univ. of Minn.).

Article continues below

Volume one of a five-volume set of The Philokalia (Faber & Faber) is now available. A collection of spiritual texts from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries in the Orthodox tradition, this first English translation is by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware.

RENAISSANCE/REFORMATION.Renaissance Rome, 1500–1559: A Portrait of a Society (Univ. of Calif.), by Peter Partner, is a brilliantly done work that helps to explain why Luther felt so strongly that reform was needed. Renaissance Drama and The English Church Year (Univ. of Nebraska), by R. Chris Hassel, argues convincingly that apposite dramatic entertainment was held in court on selected festival days of the English church year. Art and the Reformation in Germany (Ohio Univ. Press and Wayne State Univ.), by Carl C. Christensen, discusses both the positive place of art, as well as iconoclasm, in Luther’s Germany. Fortress Press offers The Role of the Augsburg Confession: Catholic and Lutheran Views, edited by Joseph A. Burgess, as an ecumenical discussion on that important document. J. A. O. Preus is to be thanked for translating The Lord’s Supper, by Martin Chemnitz (1552–86), into English for the first time. Concordia publishes this vigorous defense of the Lutheran doctrine of the “real presence” of Christ.

Four Reformers (Augsburg), by Kurt Aland, is a thoughtful introduction to Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Zwingli. Baker has reprinted two excellent studies relating to Calvin; The Gospel as Taught by Calvin by R. C. Reed, and Calvin and the Reformation, edited by W. P. Armstrong. Duncan Norton-Taylor has written a novel on the life and times of Calvin in God’s Man (Baker). Historical novels usually leave me cold, but this well-written work gripped me from beginning to end. The Reformation in the Cities (Yale Univ. Press), by Steven Ozment (now available in paperback), is a highly original and provocative study that compels reading.

A stirring account is the well-written The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition (Yale Univ. Press), by N. M. Sutherland, which deals with sixteenth-century France. Artisans of Glory (Univ. of N.C.), by Orest Ranum, deals with writers and historical thought in seventeenth-century France. Church-state relations in seventeenth-century Tuscany are probed by way of a social tragedy in Faith, Reason and the Plague (Cornell Univ. Press/Harvester Press), by Carlo M. Cippola. Finally, seventeenth-century Russia is treated in Fire and Water: A Life of Peter the Great (Coward, McCann and Geoghegan). It is a strange and shocking tale.

Article continues below

BRITISH HISTORY/CHURCH HISTORY. Let’s begin by dipping into the byways of early British religious history with Francis A. Yates’s The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (Routledge and Kegan Paul) where Christian attitudes toward the Jewish esoteric tradition are ably analyzed. We get everything from Shakespearean fairies, witches, and melancholy to messianic prophecy. The Banner of Truth Trust is to be thanked for reprinting The Writings of John Bradford (c. 1510–1555) in two volumes. Making this sought-after source material available again is a genuine service to the church. The same applies to Klock and Klock who have reprinted Daniel Neal’s The History of the Puritans in three volumes. Maurice Ashley has produced a beautifully written and illustrated The English Civil War: A Concise History (Thames and Hudson, 30 Bloomsbury St., London). A detailed and masterful study is Richard Baxter and the Millennium (Rowman and Littlefield), by William M. Lamont. Oxford continues its 13-volume series of John Bunyan’s complete works, with two volumes of his miscellaneous works. Vol. 1 is nicely edited by T. L. Underwood and Roger Sharrock and contains some rarely seen material. Vol. 6 is Bunyan’s Poems, edited by Graham Midgley. They read nicely alongside George Herbert. Moody Press is making some notable material from this period available again in their “Wycliffe Classic Series”: The Holy War, by John Bunyan; The Glory of Christ, by John Owen; and The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, edited by Frank Gaebelein.

Three recent books deal with British social life during the early modern period: The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England 1500–1800 (Harper/Colophon), by Lawrence Stone; English Provincial Society from the Reformation to the Revolution (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press), by Peter Clark; and Lost Country Life (Pantheon), by Dorothy Hartley. All three are very well written and extremely interesting. The Church in the Age of Orthodoxy and the Enlightenment (Concordia), by Robert G. Clouse, traverses the entire religious situation from 1600 to 1700 in Britain, and also the rest of the Western world. Two excellent books concern the eighteenth century: The Transformation of England (Columbia Univ. Press), by Peter Mathias, dealing with society and economics; and Joseph Priestly: Scientist, Theologian, and Metaphysician (Bucknell Univ. Press), edited by Lester Krift and B. R. Willeford, which contains an exceptionally fine article by Edwin Hiebert on revealed religion and scientific materialism in Priestly’s thought. A fascinating history of a Millenarian group in eighteenth-century England is The French Prophets (Univ. of Calif.), by Hillel Schwartz. The problems this group faced, both social and theological, are not unlike those faced by the doomsdayers of our own time. This book offers excellent insights into this mindset.

Article continues below

A Social History of England 1851–1975 (Methuen), by François Bédarida, covers the nineteenth century rather broadly, and is well worth reading. A fine bit of social history about Victorian times is The Darwinian Revolution (Univ. of Chicago), by Michael Ruse, and an equally fine bit of personal history is A Cornish Childhood (Potter), by A. L. Rowse. Society and Religion During the Age of Industrialization (Univ. Press of America), by Lee Grugel, thoughtfully traces why the Victorian church, like the queen, grew old and feeble, and searched for renewal. Moral Revolution and Economic Science (Greenwood), by Ellen Frankel Paul, traces the demise of laissez-faire in nineteenth-century British political economy, showing that utilitarianism paved the way for state intervention.

John Henry Newman continues to attract interest. Kindly Light: The Spiritual Vision of John Henry Newman (Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Ind.), by J. Murray Elwood, is a very positive assessment of the man, and Peter Toon’s more balanced Evangelical Theology 1833–1856: A Response to Tractarianism (John Knox) shows convincingly that evangelicals made an even greater impact on the church of that time. The Newman Movement (Univ. of Notre Dame Press), by John Whitney Evans, traces the impact of Newman’s vision by looking at Roman Catholics in American higher education from 1883 to 1971. It is an excellent history.

A few fine, regional books appeared during the last year, three of them dealing with Scotland. Scotland Forever Home (Dodd, Mead), by Geddes MacGregor, wistfully deals with life and religion there. The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire (Christian Focus, Henderson Road, Inverness LV2 1SP, Scotland), by John Kennedy, and The Happy Man: The Abiding Witness of Lachlan MacKenzie (Banner of Truth) tell of the vigorous Christianity of the Scots. Eifion Evans writes of the 1859 revival in Revival Comes to Wales (Evangelical Press of Wales, Bryntirion, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan CF 31 4DX, U.K.). There is much to learn by reading of God’s work in the past.

Article continues below

A series of works has come off the presses dealing with royalty and associated persons and the times in which they lived. The Myth of the Conqueror (AMS Press, 56 E. 13th St., N.Y.) is a full-scale biography of Prince Henry Stuart, James I’s son. The Image of the King: Charles I and II (Atheneum), by Richard Ollard, and the larger Royal Charles (Knopf), by Antonia Fraser, covers the Civil War and restoration. Queen Anne (Routledge and Kegan Paul), by Edward Gregg, is an exhaustive and exceedingly well-done bit of historical writing. The First Churchill (Morrow), by George M. Thomson, is the life of John, First Duke of Marlborough, and Caroline (Atheneum), by Thea Holme, is a biography of Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George IV. Two interesting overviews are the beautifully illustrated Kings and Queens of England and Scotland (Faber and Faber), by David Piper, and the very readable The Court of St. James: The Monarch at Work from Victoria to Elizabeth II (Morrow), by Christopher Hibbert.

MODERN CONTINENTAL EUROPE/ASIA.Napoleon: Master of Europe 1805–1807 (Morrow), by Alistair Horne, is a magnificent work, both in text and illustration. The First World War in German Narrative Prose (Univ. of Toronto), edited by Charles N. Genno and Heinz Wetzel, honors the work of scholar George Wallis Field with a series of essays, a notable one being “Christianity and Revolution in Alfred Dobbin’s November 1918,” by A. W. Riley. Three books deal with the Nazi period: Life With Christ in the Third Reich (Parousia Pub., 4 Bramcote, Camberley, Surrey, GU15, 1SJ, U.K.), by Käthe Pfirrmann, and Blood and Honor (David C. Cook), by Reinhold Kerstan, are moving autobiographies, and The German Churches Under Hitler (Wayne State Univ.), by Ernst Christian Helmreich, is destined to become the definitive work on the subject. It is careful, scholarly, and profound.

A crushing criticism of Marxist utopianism is Frenchman Raymond Aron’s In Defense of Decadent Europe (Regnery/Gateway, South Bend, Ind.). Henry Kissinger called it one of our most important intellectual statements.

Turning to the East, Muhammad (Pantheon), by Maxime Rodinson, is one of the finest biographies of the prophet available. It makes him understandable to Westerners. Ottoman Empire and Islamic Tradition (Univ. of Chicago), by Norman Itzkowitz, skillfully outlines Ottoman history from 1300 to its demise. A significant collection of essays is The Mutual Effects of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian Worlds: The East European Pattern (Brooklyn College Press/Columbia Univ. Press), edited by Abraham Ascher, Tibor Halasi-Kun, and Béla Király. Militant Islam (Harper & Row), by G. H. Jansen, argues (wrongly, I hope) that the hard liners will probably win in the current power struggle, while We Believe in One God (Seabury), edited by Annemarie Schimmel and Abdoldjavad Falaturi, in a series of essays attempts a dialogue between Christianity and Islam. Prophets of Rebellion: Millenarian Protest Movements Against the European Colonial Order (Univ. of N.C.), by Michael Adas, has five case studies in Asia displaying patterns of protest, repression, and rebellion.

Article continues below

The lives of three interesting persons closely related to religion in the East were written up last year. William Carey (Zondervan), by Mary Drewery, tells of India’s pioneer missionary; Ghandi: A Memoir (Simon and Schuster) is a well-done interpretation of that important man, by William Shirer; and The Road to Khartoum (Norton), by C. C. Trench, is a life of the enigmatic, fascinating Gen. Charles Gordon. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time.


Early Period. There has been a good deal of interest in Puritanism in the last year. Banner of Truth saw fit to reprint Cotton Mather’s monumental The Great Works of Christ in America (two volumes, formerly titled Magnalia Christi Americana). It is primary source material of the first magnitude. Richard Lovelace takes a careful look at the origins of American evangelicalism in The American Pietism of Cotton Mather (Eerdmans). Jonathan Edwards’s Scientific and Philosophical Writings (Yale Univ.), edited by Wallace Anderson, is volume six of a series of his complete works, with an excellent introduction by editor Anderson. Coherence in a Fragmented World (Univ. Press of America), by Patricia Wilson-Kastner, discusses Edwards’s theology of the Holy Spirit. Edwards’s The Life and Diary of David Brainerd has been reprinted by Moody Press in their Wycliffe Classic Series. Two valuable studies are Law and Society in Puritan Massachusetts, Essex County, 1629–1692, (Univ. of N.C.), by David King, and The Millenarian Piety of Roger Williams (Univ. of Chicago), by W. Clark Gilpin. Four new books deal with the literary creative side of Puritanism: From Wilderness to Wasteland: The Trial of the Puritan God in the American Imagination (Kennikat), by Charles Berryman; Nature and Religious Imagination from Edwards to Bushnell (Fortress), by Conrad Cherry; Puritan Influences in American Literature (Univ. of Ill.), edited by Emory Elliott; and The Language of Puritan Feeling (Rutgers Univ.), by David Leverenz. American Prose to 1820 (Gale Research), by Donald Yannella and John Roch, should be mentioned here. It is an invaluable guide to information sources covering over 80 major writers from John Adams to John Woolman.

Article continues below

The Eighteenth Century.From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut 1690–1765 (Harvard), by Richard L. Bushman, is a first-rate piece of historical writing. Conscience in Crisis (Herald Press), edited by Richard K. MacMaster with S. L. Horst and R. F. Ulle, is a valuable collection of documents from the Mennonites and other peace churches in America from 1739 to 1789, showing the determination of these groups to affirm freedom of conscience in worship and life. Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women 1750–1800 (Little, Brown), by Mary Beth Norton, is a challenging reassessment of the place of women in colonial America.

The Nineteenth Century.The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition (Oxford Univ. Press), by W. J. Rorabaugh, argues that, for many reasons, between 1790 and 1840 Americans drank more alcohol than at any other time in our history. Among these reasons was the quaint belief that alcohol was nutritious because it was made from grain. Three excellent works in the wake of Roots are The Liberty Line (Univ. of Ky.) by Larry Gara, which is a study of the underground railroad and its legends; Aunt Sally (Tyndale), a narrative of the slave life and purchase of Detroit’s Rev. Isaac Williams’s mother; and Wrestlin’ Jacob (John Knox Press), by Erskine Clarke, a portrait of religion in the Old South. All of these books are well worth reading. You might want to balance these three by reading Sherman’s March (Random House), by Burke Davis, which is a graphic account of the pillaging of the Old South. Valiant Friend (Walker), by Margaret Bacon, is a life of the gentle but vigorous Quaker leader Lucretia Mott, who fought for an end to slavery and for feminine rights.

Article continues below

Two very interesting books deal with camp meetings, revivals, and the social religion of those days: Glory Hallelujah! The Story of the Camp Meeting Spiritual (Abingdon), by Ellen Jane Lorenz, and Gospel Hymns and Social Religion: The Rhetoric of Nineteenth Century Revivalism (Temple Univ.), by Sandra Sizer. Two other books deal with the American Indians: The Religions of the American Indians (Univ. of Calif.) by Åke Hultkrantz, which is an excellent introduction to the subject, and The Churches and the Indian Schools 1888–1912 (Univ. of Neb.), by Francis Paul Prucha.

Transylvania: Tutor to the West (Univ. of Ky.), by John Wright, is not only an absorbing history of Transylvania University, but also a valuable history of the nineteenth century (over 300 pages deal with that period of time). Seven American Utopias: The Architecture of Communitarian Socialism 1790–1975 (M.I.T.), by Dolores Hayden, is an engrossing account, with rare, early photographs of these experimental communities. A carefully documented look at the communitarian experiment from a legal point of view is The Boundaries of Utopia (Pantheon), by Carol Wiesbrod.

Mission for Life (Free Press/Macmillan), by Joan Brumberg, is the story of Adoniram Judson, including a broad general look at evangelical religion during the nineteenth century. It is a model of scholarly writing.

The Twentieth Century. Two excellent biographies appeared: John R. Mott: 1865–1955 (Eerdmans), by C. Howard Hopkins, a detailed, careful, definitive work; and Helen and Teacher (Delacorte), by Joseph P. Lash, the moving story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. Both of these biographies are carefully done and provide absorbing reading. 1929: America Before the Crash (Macmillan), by Warren Sloat, admirably covers the twenties, and Fire in the Streets (Simon and Schuster), by Milton Viorst, does the same for the sixties. Public Religion in American Culture (Temple Univ.), by John Wilson, is an excellent study of American “civil religion” and The Berrigans: A Bibliography of Published Works (Garland), by Anne Klejment, provides basic resource information for these significant people of our own time. The Search for America’s Faith (Abingdon), by George Gallup, Jr., and David Poling, is required reading for anyone interested in where the church is today and where it is going tomorrow. Two significant trends stand out: confidence in the church remains high, and Americans still place a great deal of importance on their religious beliefs. Apparently God didn’t die after all during the 1960s.

Carl F. H. Henry, first editor of Christianity Today, is lecturer at large for World Vision International. An author of many books, he lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.