In the interview below Joe Early discusses his new volume, A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey.
Discuss your general academic background and, more specifically, your work in church history and historical theology. What might a reader want to know about you, your research interests and expertise?
I have a Master of Divinity degree from Midwestern Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Southwestern Theological Seminary where I studied under scholars like James Leo Garrett. I have published eight other books with the majority covering Baptist History. I have also had at least 20 peer-reviewed journal articles. My expertise is Church History and Historical Theology. My main interests are in Patristics and Baptist History and Theology. I have taught these subjects for 12 years.
How does A History of Christianity relate to other monographs or textbooks in the discipline of church history? What gap does it seek to fill?
It is more up to date. It is not out of balance, but it does promote a Protestant perspective. Most of the other church histories are written either by Catholic scholars or by scholars who are not believers. While this book is historically and theologically accurate, it comes from a Protestant scholar. There was also a need for a member of the largest Protestant denomination to contribute to the wider field of Church History.
Discuss what you mean by “historical amnesia.” What is at stake if one fails to consider the exegetical past?
Most people believe that all the things we teach in church today (Baptists in particular) existed from day one. Of course, they are present in the Bible, but they required a systematic development so believers could understand the rudiments of the faith. If people can see how theology and history developed, it will provide them with more reverence for what we hold today as orthodox. Often times Christians try to be so innovative that it is easy to get away from the basics of the faith. Seeing how our faith and theology has grown, especially after the Reformation, will help Christians stay more true to scripture.
How do you envision your book being used in various contexts such as the academic institution, the church, the marketplace?
Primarily, I envisioned the book as a textbook for colleges and universities. I can also see church groups using the book for a better understanding of our beliefs and how they developed. Essentially, anyone who desires to know more about the history of Christianity can read and understand it.
Were there any topics not included in this volume that you wished you could have included?
Nothing was omitted, but I wish I could have added more to certain sections. I would have liked to expand more on American Christianity. Perhaps that should be my next book.
Why do we need this resource? What is the “take away” for the reader?
Christians need to know how their faith developed, who its champions are, and how God has moved throughout history.
Download a sample chapter here.
About the Author
Joe Early, Jr. is Associate Professor of Religion in the School of Theology at Campbellsville University. He holds a degree from Cumberland College (B.S.), Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M. Div.), and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ph.D.).