Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: God's Story

In God's Story:  A Student's Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby the author's goal is to give a "brief overview of the history of the Christian church" by addressing the "poignant people, councils, events, revival, and movements throughout the history of the church."

Mr. Cosby starts his review of the Christian church with a quick synopsis of the Old Testament, followed by a brief summary of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.  Using the book of Acts as a springboard, he explains the beginning of the early Christian church and highlights the Apostolic Fathers.  The author also includes a look at the Creeds and Councils, as well as the Roman Catholic Church and the rise of Islam.  The heroes of the Reformation are highlighted with just a passing mention of the Puritans.  Starting at the 18th century, Mr. Cosby rounds out his whirlwind tour by examining some of the different worldviews, denominations, and revivals.

Based upon the author's intended goal, he did a decent job of highlighting the main topics of the Christian church in the last 2,000 years.  However, because of the vast span of history the author covers, there are areas where Mr. Cosby does more damage than good by his brevity.

The first area of concern is his very limited remarks on mysticism.  Mysticism is making a comeback into Christianity today via the Emergent Church.  This practice is not biblically based and should not be a part of the worship of God.  The author touches on this subject by describing different types of mysticism and concludes:  "Both of these types of mysticism  tended to discredit the hierarchy of the church.  Moreover, church leaders seemed too worldly, too man-centered," (Kindle location 599).  Mr. Cosby gives no indication that mysticism was not good for the Christian church then or now.

The second area of concern is Mr. Cosby's comment on the cults of Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses.  The author states that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses both "have their own 'translation' of the Bible, which obviously doesn't come from the original Greek and Hebrew languages," (Kindle location 1094).  I point this out as an area of concern because no Bible is translated from the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.  All current translations are based on copies.  According to the official Jehovah Witnesses website (JW.org), the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (2013 revision) uses the same underlying texts as other modern Bible translations.  This information is readily available on the Internet:
From JW.org:  "Both Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta were consulted when preparing the present revision of the New World Translation...In addition, master texts such as those by Nestle and Aland and by the United Bible Societies reflect recent scholarly studies.  Some of the findings of this research were incorporated into this present revision."

From ESV.org:  "The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983), and on the Greek text in the 1993 edition of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected ed.), published by the United Bible Societies (UBS), and Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.), edited by Nestle and Aland."
A third area that I found concerning was the author's statement about evangelicalism:  "Today evangelicalism -- despite its manifold stripes and diversity -- generally holds to conservative, historic, orthodox, and biblical doctrines," (Kindle location 1143).  Again, due to the brevity of the book, he positively cites denominations (PC USA & Pentecostal) and people (Billy Graham & Rick Warren) in this chapter that do not hold to conservative, orthodox, and biblical doctrines.  The Evangelicals and Catholics Together document of 1994, which called for a need to deliver a common witness to the modern world, is clear evidence that evangelicalism is not aligned with historic Christianity.
 
In addition, I am disappointed with the number of editing mistakes in this book.  Mr. Cosby overuses the exclamation point to the point of distraction.  He also overuses parentheses and dashes as he tries to relay too much information into a short amount of space.  The abbreviations A.D. (anno Domini) and B.C. (Before Christ) are not capitalized throughout the book.  Apostrophes are not used to denote plural numbers.   Surprisingly, hyphens are inappropriately used; with the advent of word processors, the hyphen used to divide words between syllables at the end of a line are no longer needed; even though, these hyphens (within words) appear sporadically throughout this book.  I also think that the chapter numbers should be included with the chapter headings at the beginning of each chapter and not just in the table of contents.  Here's an example which includes some of the mistakes I've cited:
"In 597, Pope Gregory the Great sent August-ine [sic] of Canterbury (not St. Augustine of Hippo!) to Christianize the Kingdom of Kent and convert the people from Anglo-Saxon paganism (the Anglo-Saxons were a group of Germanic tribes who had migrated there in the 5th century)," (Kindle location 794).
Overall, God's Story provides a brief, but adequate, time-line of the Christian church.  It gives the reader a framework to build on with additional study of the time periods highlighted by Mr. Cosby.  I recommend this book to the Christian who is just beginning to delve into church history with the caveat that the accuracy has been compromised due to its brevity and the poor editing can be distracting at times.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.