Professor Roger Olson's book may be considered by some appropriate only for collegiate and seminary study; however, his narrative format and lucid style has made this book a very successful study text for a men's bible study group at our church. We had grown tired of simplistic guides for bible studies. The men have been meeting for several years and wanted a more challenging experience but one that was, in its conceptual load, manageable for all participants as some do not have any college experience. We particularly appreciated, as this is a Lutheran bible study group, the author's objective, fair assessments of theological traditions that depart from his own doctrinal commitments (Classical Arminian; Baptist). We also were able to use a web site, not affiliated with the author, called the Good Egg Bible Study that has correlated questions for every chapter in his book. Based on our experience, we would encourage adult educators in a church setting to offer short courses based on consecutive segments of the text in conjunction with the class discussion questions available at the Good Egg site. We went through the entire book, but we spent several months accomplishing this.
This book is readable and relevant, inspiring and insightful - a worthwhile journey. It flows through history, introducing intriguing individuals who God used to shape and shield His revelations into the theology that we often take for granted today. It is a testimony to God's presence throughout history, revealing Himself in profound ways at strategic junctures and in historically significant events in church history. I found comfort and confirmation that while God involves people in the implementation of His plans - He doesn't rely on them. In the annals of our Church history, we discover his truth endures and is promulgated not because of our success, piety or skill - but despite it. God truly gets the glory as we see His truth prevail despite human failings and frailties amidst the onslaught of a determined and merciless demonic attack. I savored each chapter, appreciating the efforts of those who boldly wrestled with weighty issues and sought clarification of difficult theological concepts - with a true understanding of what is at stake. The enemy has not slackened his efforts to deceive and destroy and we are not unaware of his snares, as revealed in this book we see the heretical imposters that continue to reinvent themselves even as God utilizes men and events to defend His plan for salvation and declare the truth that unifies the Body of Christ.
Olson provides an extensive and engaging treatment of the subject by connecting the significant developments of the past with the modern consequences that they engendered or with qualitatively similar movements today. He omits tedious particulars but retains just enough anecdotes to make the numerous characters in this story both real and accessible. At times, he appears to contradict (or modify) his own explanations when revisiting a topic, and occasionally, I disagreed with his conclusions (e.g., female apostles in the early church!?), but overall, he provides a unique perspective that is much appreciated and worth considering.
As one who has studied Church History and theology for years, this book is right on. I love how the book moves through the different time periods in order. This way, one can get a real understanding as how we got to where we are today. A must for all personal liberies.