Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On This Day in Christian History

By Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Much of On This Day tells the story of American history, and of how Christians played an enormous role in building the country. Their efforts sometimes seemed to exceed human capacity, as with Samuel Berry, who "worked tirelessly," making brooms in the day and working the fields until 2 a.m.

Readers can begin to appreciate, in other words, how much poorer their country would be without Christian sacrifice.

Other stories familiar to fans of Christian history are told, such as German Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow in repentance outside the castle of Canossa, begging the pope, Gregory VII, for forgiveness and reconciliation, something that Gregory, as a priest, was obliged to give.

Thus Robert Morgan offers readers American Christian history, Protestantism's beginnings, and the ancient persecutions of the Christians. He shows both sides of things. Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli had to fight many obstacles to achieve his reforming work in Geneva, yet Anabaptists were persecuted, even to death, by the Genevans under Zwingli's nose. He was both a victim and an agent of persecution.

The success of people such as Eric Liddell, who would become a prisoner of war in China from 1943-5, when he died, started each day in prayer and Bible reading. This was the source of his great strength and ministry to the other POWs.

This faith contrasts, the author notes, with the faith in reason for which the French Revolution is famous: "Liberty, equality, and fraternity deteriorated into fear, bloodshed, and the guillotine," he writes. Readers get a sense of the importance of faith to the building of people's lives.

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