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Parade of Faith: Biographical History of Church

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  • Posted November 24, 2011

    The Best Single-Volume History of the Church?

    ¿As church history marches into the twenty-first century, we find Billy Graham on the final night of his final crusade, March 12, 2006, leading a parade of sixteen thousand followers from the vast New Orleans Arena to Bourbon Street to claim the infamous French Quarter for Christ. Riding a motor scooter, Graham serves as grand marshal, as Christians lift their voices singing, ¿When the Saints Go Marching In.¿ What a fitting climax to one man¿s career and to a two-thousand-year parade of history! Problem is, the story is an Internet hoax. It is a reminder that even sacred history includes lies and urban legends.¿

    So writes historian Ruth Tucker near the end of her nearly five hundred page biographical pilgrimage through Church history.

    In many ways, Parade of Faith is a remarkable book. First and foremost, because Tucker is willing to look at the good, the bad and the ugliness of Christian history as she portrays many of the greats from down through the ages.

    I was first introduced to Tucker¿s writing nearly two decades ago. While an undergraduate I was assigned to read ¿From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions¿. This book quickly became one of my all-time favorites. It retains a prized place on my bookshelves. As I look at my now aging copy I am struck by the comments of one of the reviews on the back cover:

    ¿This is history at its best ¿. It readable, informative, gripping, and above all honest. The author never covers up the weaknesses or criticisms of the subjects. We see these men and women as fallible and human in their failures as well as their successes. It is encouraging to see them not so much on a pedestal (as much missionary history and biography often presents them), but rather with mud on their feet and even ¿egg on the face¿ at times, yet still being used by a sovereign and loving God.¿

    This wonderful summation could be used to describe Parade of Faith as well.

    Tucker remains one of my favorite authors. A few years into my ministry as a pastor of an aging, declining, inner-city, Lutheran church, I learned of another book written by Tucker. ¿Left Behind in a Megachurch World: How God Works through Ordinary Churches¿ was a literal God-send to me at the time, and has remained so ever since.

    When I learned that Tucker had a written a new book, Parade of Faith, I eagerly awaited the arrival of my copy. It did not disappoint. Despite being a busy pastor, and it being a busy time of the year, I could hardly put it down.

    There are several features that stand out for me about Parade of Faith. Each chapter begins with a personal reflection by Tucker as she contemplates the era she is writing about. Each chapter ends with a short, ¿what if¿ section in which Tucker imagines what would have happened, if, for example, Martin Luther had recanted at the Diet of Worms.

    What stands out for me the most in the book are the sections entitled, ¿Everyday Life¿ found in each chapter. In these sections Tucker gives us a peek into a facet of church history that is highly informative, but rarely touched upon. Tucker describes such topics as ¿Same Sex Love¿ in the reconstituted Roman Empire, ¿Crime and Punishment¿ during the Renaissance period, and ¿Sixteen Century Divorce¿.

    Parade of History would be an excellent addition to all church libraries. Christians of all denominations would do well to consider our spiritual ancestors.

    Parade of F

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