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
1. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church by F.L. Cross
2. The Story of Christianity (2 volumes) by Justo Gonzales
3. Sketches from Church History by S.M. Houghton
4. The Church in History by B.K. Kuiper
5. A History of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette
6. 2000 Years of Christ’s Power (3 volumes) by N.R. Needham
7. History of the Christian Church (8 volumes) Philip Schaff
8. Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley
9. Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church by Ruth A. Tucker
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.
1. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Gregg R. Allison
2. The History of Christian Doctrines by Louis Berkhof
3. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church Harold O.J. Brown
4. Historical Theology by William Cunningham
5. Thinking with the Church: Essays in Historical Theology by B.A. Gerrish
6. History of Theology by Hägglund Bengt
7. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (5 volumes) by Jaroslav Pelikan
If I were to recommend only one of these titles, I would suggest either Berkhof or Hägglund as an introduction to the subject.
This article is part of the Recommended Reading collection.