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Through both volumes in this set, Mark Ellingsen presents church history not merely as a collection of facts but as an opportunity to enter into conversation with the church's richly diverse heritage. He sees the role of church history as: (1) community builder - teaching the faithful their heritage; (2) safety-patrol - sensitizing church leaders to the errors of the past that must still be confronted in the present; (3) liberating instrument - learning to look at reality from the perspective of the other, no longer chained to one's own suppositions and cultural biases; (4) source of theological creativity - providing access to the stimulating insights of the great theological minds of the past.
Here, then, is an extraordinarily balanced text, one that provides readers with sympathetic exposure to a variety of credible, scholarly interpretations of major figures and that encourages readers to make their own judgments based on the evidence and with the help of suggested primary-source readings. Leading questions about the material covered are included at the end of each section.
Mark Ellingsen is Associate Professor of Church History at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.