A beginners guide to Church History

Philip ParsonsSKU: BGCH6424 ISBN: 9781846256424



‘A Beginner’s Guide to Church History’ aims to provide an overview of the history of the Christian Church from its beginnings in New Testament times right up to the present day. 
It is a broad-brush view of the whole Christian era, and highlights major events, movements and trends. 
It also includes brief biographical sketches of some of the leading characters used by God to bring the kingdom of Christ to where it is today. 
The main focus is on ‘Evangelicals’, who have the primary claim on the name Christian. 
As well as being a narrative of historical facts, brief assessment is often included of the importance and relevance of those facts. 
This book could provide a basic resource for College and Seminary students, be helpful for older children in Christian families, as well as those with some interest in the subject who would struggle with larger reference works.


Philip Parsons has a degree in  Electronics Engineering and worked in Defence Electronics for 29 years. 
He has held office in Evangelical Churches over several decades, mainly in the south of England. 
Church history has been a hobby of his for more than 50 years. He has assisted in the preparation of radio programmes in GBM’s Serving   Today series for more than 15 years. 
The subjects he has recorded are, Old Testament Survey, Systematic Theology studies, & Church History. 
In retirement he lives with his wife in Mirfield and is a member of Mirfield Evangelical Church.  


'Church history is vast, and many volumes have been written about it, which can be rather daunting for those unfamiliar with the subject. What we have in this book is a panoramic view of the history of the Church up to the present day. Philip has covered its main subjects in a most helpful manner. This should give an appetite to all who read it to consider other writers referenced in the ample footnotes.’ 

Derek French. GBM Radio Ministries

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Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
Peter Murcott

Two thousand years of Christian history in 171 pages would be a tall order, were it not for the fact that this is a ‘beginner’s guide, where each topic is brought to the reader’s attention in broad general terms, so as to encourage further study. This is achieved in 27 chapters, generally of four to eight pages each. It is probably well-known that Augustine came to ‘convert’ Britain in AD 597. It is, therefore, instructive to appreciate that Christianity came to these shores much earlier, even during the Roman occupation. Men such as Patrick (AD 373-463) laboured to great effect, as did Columba at Iona, where the theological position of those early Christians (p.37) is illuminating. Both Patrick and Columba are described as acting independently of Rome’s teaching (p.46).
This book is not confined to British Christianity. A particularly poignant account is given of Jan Hus of Bohemia (which is now now largely in the Czech Republic), whose work, like that of the Lollards, pre-dated the Reformation. Hus’s effective preaching led to his persecution; and the promise of his safe conduct when summoned to the Council of Constance of 1414 turned out to be a sham. He was arrested, imprisoned and was put to death. His last words before being burnt at the stake proved to be prophetic: “It is thus that you silence the goose, but a hundred years hence there will arise a swan whose singing you will not be able to silence.” (p. 58). The ‘swan’ was Luther.

Peter Murcott

One feature that shines out in this book is the yearning that people used to have for reading the Bible. The invention of the printing press did much to satisfy this desire; though again there was persecution for Bible translators and distributors. Surely one cannot be reminded too often of the sacrifices made by many so that we can study the Scriptures in safety!
Coming closer to the present age, there were two areas that particularly interested this reviewer, because they both have had contemporary consequences. The first relates to Charles Finney’s view of revivals (p.122). The other is the so-called ‘higher criticism’ movement (p.138), which accounts for much of the contemporary confusion.
Thus this wide-ranging book, by informing readers of the past, encourages them to address the needs of the present. Given its range, an index would have been helpful; nevertheless, it is much commended, since it well fulfils the purpose for which it was written.

Dr Matthew Bingham, Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill College

The study of church history is sometimes regarded with suspicion. Even some Christians with a keen interest in biblical and theological studies perceive church history as confusing, dull, and disconnected from ‘real’ life and ministry. Parsons rebuts these misconceptions and demonstrates the accessibility and interest that the subject holds out for every believer. The book provides a fast-moving introduction to the story of Christianity. Parsons introduces a diverse range of figures, events and themes, including the persecution of the early church, proto Reformers like John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, and the explosive 18th-century preaching of Whitefield, Edwards, and Wesley. To cover this wide swathe of history in such a small space is a considerable achievement, and Parsons ably blends broad-brush descriptions with brief biographical sketches, colourful details, and points of application for contemporary evangelicals. Parsons writes for those who are seeking a point of entry into the Christian story, especially those who have found past attempts to broach the subject of church history intimidating and unrewarding. To that end, A Beginner’s Guide to Church History provides a great service for Christians who are curious about church history but do not know where to begin. The book will surely spark interest and help readers to construct a basic framework which they can then build upon as time and inclination allow.

Stephen Holland, Westhoughton
A Beginner’s Guide to Church History

This book is a must-read for every Christian, which covers a wide period from the apostolic age to the church under Communism. There are numerous excellent works on church history, like Philip Schaff’s eight volumes, or Andrew Miller’s three volumes, or Nick Needham’s four. Yet these may be too daunting for a first time reader in church history. This little work will bridge the gap and hopefully lead on to the much larger works. But why study the history of the church? As the foreword reminds us: it is his story – that is, God’s story. The Bible itself is the unfolding of God’s purposes in our world. Hebrews 11 reminds us that no Christian is an island: we stand on the shoulders of others gone before us, and we can learn much from them. Another reason for studying the history of God’s working is that it thrills the heart. It takes us from our present circumstances into another world, and few things can be more exciting than that. It is also necessary to know church history to combat attacks on the Gospel message itself. If the attack comes: ‘that’s not what the early Christians believed’, and you are not sure, you are then silenced. While the Bible is our ultimate and final authority, we neglect church history to our peril. The author has succeeded in providing a wonderful summary of the Western history of the church and this title comes highly recommended.

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