A while back I reviewed the greatest church history book I’ve ever read: The Unquenchable flame by Michael Reeves. It was truly brilliant. It was funny, punchy, encouraging, and brought the Reformation alive. It was a miraculous piece of writing. So, when I heard that Reeves had released another book, I had to buy it. The breeze of the centuries: introducing great theologians from the Apostolic Fathers to Aquinas is an interesting read. But it ain’t the same as ‘the unquenchable flame’ book.
What I liked about the book:
This book is very informative about what happened after the Apostles died and before the Reformation happened. I guess some us never really know how to handle that period of church history. You get some weird beliefs, rank heresies, the church climbing into bed with Rome, the Vandal hordes vandalising all academic thought, etc. I sometimes wonder what good there was. Well, Reeves informs us and wades through some huge volumes.
Reeves book is simple and clear. The format basically looks at the life of the thinker and then gives a summary of his main works and a tiny bibliography at the end. In that sense it is easy to follow and use as a reference book of sorts.
Ultimately I think this book would have helped me in college. When I was wading through the Penguin church history books (Chadwick et al) it would have been nice to have this simple and clear introduction.
What I didn’t like about the book
As you can tell already, I was expecting something different. I was expecting an ‘unquenchable flame: the prequel’. And that is unfair. By chapter 2 I felt like I was reading the ‘difficult second album’. It was a bit too much like a ‘text book’ to me. But, if I were to take my expectations away and read it is a theology degree primer…I think it is a really good book.
What I think about the book:
I’m confused. I want to pan it because of my own preconceptions of what it should have been. But I can’t. Reeves never claimed to be writing a similar book, and hasn’t tried. What he has done is made over a 1000 years of church history and thought accessible and quite interesting. For that I commend him.
I think as a theology degree primer it is excellent.
Who should read this book?
If you want an exciting read, don’t go here. The book analysis of each theologian will bore you.
If you are keen to get to grips with church history and the development of Christian thought (either in an academic setting or just for fun…yes, for fun!) this is a great book to start with.
Thanks Mr Reeves!