Robert J. Morgan's devotional book, On This Day in Christian History, comprises 365 vignettes of people and events with some link to the given calendar date. As the subtitle suggests, Morgan writes engagingly of "saints, martyrs, and heroes," but moreover of anti-heroes, heretics, and the nearly invisible saints most history books would overlook.
These stories vividly capture the adventure, courage, violence, romance, and conflict of the two millennia of Christian history so far. I was surprised at how entertaining the stories proved. Anyone who feels a duty to learn something more of the history of the church but has been deterred by expectations of the dryness of such study would enjoy and benefit from this book. The author tells tightly woven stories with the skill of a seasoned sermon illustrator.
My favorite stories unveiled unknown heroes, like the college dean who put campus prankster William Graham in the pulpit for the first time, or Hudson Taylor's great-grandfather committing his family and future generations to the Lord's service. The most difficult reads told of corruption in the highest offices of the church or of horribly inventive torture and death perpetrated by Christians against other dissenting believers.
Two overall applications also struck me and inspired worship: first, the truly amazing diversity within the body of Christ, from the perspectives of culture, chronology, temperament, theological bias, and gifting; and second, God's consistent ability to "strike a straight lick with a crooked stick." The most heroic of heroes in the book are still flawed, and great good sometimes comes through the actions of great sinners.
A skeletal timeline or previous knowledge of key benchmarks in church history would be useful in placing each day's reading in context. Otherwise, I positively recommend this book to Christians seeking an enjoyable, accessible introduction to the lives and examples of those who have preceded us. It may also be beneficial in a family reading context, especially with older children and parental previews.
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