June 6, 2020

Recommendation and Review: For Us And Our Salvation by Stephen Nichols.

christsalvation.jpgStephen Nichols has a proven track record as a teacher of church history who can write on the level of the interested layman and keep the important matters important, the obscure in a safe place and the relevant on the front burner. His introduction to the life and work of Martin Luther is the best introduction you could give to any church member needing a helpful first book on the beginnings of the reformation. His work on Jonathan Edwards makes one of the most difficult of theologians accessible.

Now Nichols has undertaken the important work of introducing the Christological debates of the first Christian centuries to contemporary audiences, and he has once again succeeded in an efficient, to the point, no-words-wasted presentation of a vital area of church history. For Us and Our Salvation is an excellent first book on the issues that defined Christianity in its first five centuries.

Nichols frames the specific debates in the context of Biblical controversies, then shows how controversy over the nature of Christ became some of the most defining moments in Church history.

He majors on the Nicaean and Chalcedonean controversies, with alternating chapters giving primary sources for those discussions. In a time when more evangelicals are open to understanding and learning from the early church fathers than ever before, Nichols makes the personalities, issues and dramatic contentions come to life.

Nichols also presents helpful appendices on the Biblical sources for a doctrine of Christ and an introduction to reading the Church Fathers. All counted, the support material in this book is exceptional.

Some will find the book a bit brief- under 200 pages- and not aware enough of serious contemporary scholarly discussions or alternative readings of history. Nichols isn’t your writer if you want to leave the main road and go sight seeing in the whimsies of contemporary skepticism. He is a loyal reformed believer and his writing reflects that commitment.

Uses for this kind of book are almost endless. Certainly it is appropriate for college level readers and students. It is the kind of book that could easily make a 13 week church history elective in a school or church. It is a good supplemental text in a general church history class that may have to move too quickly through some of these controversies.

No single aspect of the Christian faith is more contentious and controversial today than the identity of Jesus. Claims that a politically backed majority invented and forced a divine Christ upon history are still common. Nichols’ book calmly and competently tells the truth, shows the arguments of every side and demonstrates why the truths of the Bible won out in the orthodox faith of the church.

A fine book for anyone interested in early church history or the question “Who do you say that I am?”

A preview of the introduction and first chapter are available at the publisher’s web site
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Comments

  1. Sounds like a great book for an over all view of early church history and all the councils which ensued. I think we all too often skirt the study of church history to our detriment.We can actually learn a great deal about ourselves from past examples.
    As for the question of the identity of Jesus, that question has always been asked—what are you going to do with Jesus? what kind of tag are you going to put on Him? We all face these questions in our walk. Best answer was and still is: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”