Review: The 40 Most Influential Christians Who Shaped What We Believe Today
Bethany House Publishers
Read the title of this book again. The niche that this author has found isn’t the top 40 Christians, but the 40 he believes have had the most impact on current Christian belief---from a conservative position. As he states early on those included in this book are not a definitive list but the ones he chose, some of which do not reflect his particular views (13). This is a selling point for this book, I think, in that he is willing to engage a more diverse range of opinion than I originally expected to find.
This book covers an immense timeline from first century AD to the mid-20th century, from Clement of Rome to Carl F.H. Henry. Each of his choices receives a treatment that covers Context, Contribution, and Conclusion. The chapters are short but contain enough information to serve as a good starting point for further investigation. And the best part as far as I am concerned is that they are interesting to read. This could have been an arid walk through the halls of theological thought, but it isn’t and for that I am grateful to this author. And the publishers for their part in this.
What didn’t I like? Not much, since going in I knew his perspective would be conservative and evangelical. His conclusion or last chapter is decidedly so, but not unaware of the contributions made by those with whom he does not agree fully. “…Just because these theologians are not perfect is no reason to dismiss their ideas.”(294). He believes that the consistency of thought present throughout history illustrates that “we should have great confidence that divinely revealed truth has not and will not be lost in the shuffle.”(295). And so, he looks forward to what theology will discover in the future citing Isaiah 55:8-9.
I do recommend this book as an excellent starting point in following the evolution of Christian thought.
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.