Reviewed by: Thomas Sorknes
Date posted: 08/05/2018
God’s Timeline: The Big Book of Church History, by Linda Finlayson. Christian Focus, 2018. Hardback, 80 pages, $12.91 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP elder Thomas Sorkness.
Linda Finlayson has written a wonderful overview of the history of the church. Even as I write this, it is my understanding that the book has gone into second printing. I can understand why. What she has produced is something quite unique and tremendously helpful.
Whether one is a school-age child or an adult who knows very little about the history of the church, but wants to learn, this is the perfect book. The amount of information packed into the pages is impressive. Data has been carefully selected to present a meaningful, understandable timeline. Information is succinctly worded, providing a basic yet helpful introduction to whatever is being presented including events, personalities, creeds, and councils. The thematic approach which parallels this is helpful for putting the material into comprehensible frames. She does the work of the historian well. It is scholarly.
As a longtime history teacher, I appreciate a resource like this. When I teach US history to my eleventh-grade students at a Christian school, I always begin the year with an overview of the breadth of the country’s past, covering all the major eras, themes, events, concepts, and people. This approach provides a contextual road map for the student. As we move through the year, studying various time periods, a foundation like this provides familiar signposts, enabling the student to dig deeper. Linda Finlayson’s book does just that. It’s the perfect introduction. Although some historians may take exception to the occasional personal perspectives on truth and error as well as heroes and villains interspersed in the material, it is helpful for young people, especially, to be given perspective in regard to truth.
In addition to the basic information, the visual presentation of the book is stunning. It keeps one turning the page to see what’s next. From timelines to charts to images to maps, the material is reinforced in a variety of ways. This is especially helpful for people who learn differently. People who are visual learners are not overwhelmed by verbiage. All can comprehend and master the basic timeline of church history.
In reviewing a book, I would feel remiss if I didn’t take exception to a couple of things. In going through the work initially, I found myself sometimes losing sight of the forest for the trees. The reader has to get used to the format and stick with it. As a matter of personal taste, there are some things that I would like to see a little more emphasized, such as the creeds, since they placed the church along particular paths. The outlay of the general timeline that runs through the book takes a little getting used to.
These are all minor criticisms—ones of personal preference that are far outweighed by the overall presentation of the work. This is a great resource. Get a copy for yourself and a lot more for gifts. No one will be disappointed. Linda has done a great service for the church.