Book Review | Invitation to Church History

Invitation to Church History is a two-volume introductory survey of church history from its origins to the present day. Written by Dr. John D. Hannah, a distinguished professor of historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, these visually stunning textbooks are carefully written for first-time learners in the subject areas.

The volume on world church history is divided into five parts. Part one covers the early church fathers, the persecution of the first Christians, to their defense against heresies that led to the assembly of different councils (AD 33-600). Parts two and three tackle the Medieval Church or the age of crusades and monasticism to the Reformation and Early Modern era or the times of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (600-1650). Parts four and five cover the age of enlightenment up to the postmodern period (1650-present).

The volume on American church history is divided into four parts. Part one covers the earliest colonialists to the beginnings of Methodism (1600-1770). Part two tackles the national era or the role of Christianity in the birth of America as a nation to the Civil War and its reconstruction (1770-1880). Parts three and four cover the era of liberalism and conservatism up to the postmodern era (1960-present).

I absolutely like the classroom textbook format of these volumes. This not only makes the organization of information more orderly but also easy to follow and retain. Each chapter opens with an outline and list of objectives to properly set the expectations and ends with a glossary to further elaborate on important terms. It is also notable the plethora of graphs, diagrams, illustrations, and pictures that are found herein which makes the study more fun, exciting, and interactive.

Since these volumes are written by the same author and tackle the same subject, there are some topics that are discussed in both volumes. The only difference is the scope of presentation and degree of elaboration. Overall, the accounts complement well. On the other hand, since these volumes are written as an introductory survey with the first-time learners in mind, most of the records are brief. There are subjects I wish were elaborated on more (e.g. Puritanism, Reformation) but I find rather lacking. For further or more in-depth study, I recommend bigger works like the four-volume 2000 Years of Christ’s Power by Nick Needham or the two-volume Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzales.

Final thoughts

John D. Hannah’s Invitation to Church History offers an excellent overview of the world and American church history. Though designed for academic and seminary settings, the accounts are pretty straightforward and accessible. If you are looking for good introductory works or surveys on church history, these are good starters.


Disclosure: A review copy of Invitation to Church History was provided for review by Kregel Academic, from whom you may purchase a copy.

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