Nov 9, 2021

Church History: Recommended Reading

4 Min Read

Recently, I completed a series of posts listing what I believe to be the most helpful books on each locus of systematic theology. Prior to that I completed a series of posts listing what I found to be the most helpful commentaries on each book of the Bible.

What I would like to do now is something similar with church history. The first series of posts will cover general works on church history as well as some general works on historical theology. I do not plan to follow the “Top 5” format of my series on biblical commentaries. There are simply too many books on each of these topics for that format to work well. Also unless I’ve read a substantial number of the available books on a particular topic, I cannot say: “Here are the top 5.” In addition, I do not necessarily want to limit myself to five books on a topic. There may be more than five. There may be less.
 So, what are some of the more helpful books for students of church history?

General Church History

Cross, F.L. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Gonzales, Justo. The Story of Christianity (2 volumes).

Houghton, S.M. Sketches from Church History.

Kuiper, B.K. The Church in History.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianity.

Needham, N.R. 2000 Years of Christ’s Power (3 volumes).

Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (8 volumes).

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language.

Tucker, Ruth A. Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church.

If I were to recommend only one of these titles, I would suggest Needham’s set. It only covers the period up to and including the Reformation so far, but more volumes are forthcoming. If you need something covering the entirety of church history, the two volumes by Gonzales are very helpful.

Historical Theology

Allison, Gregg R. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine.

Berkhof, Louis. The History of Christian Doctrines.

Brown, Harold O. J. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church.

Cunningham, William. Historical Theology.

Gerrish, B.A. Thinking with the Church: Essays in Historical Theology.

Hägglund, Bengt. History of Theology.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (5 volumes).

If I were to recommend only one of these titles, I would suggest either Berkhof or Hägglund as an introduction to the subject.