Friday, July 11, 2014

God's Story by Dr. Brian Cosby: A Conservative Protestant View of Church History for Youth Ministry

In God's Story, Dr. Brian Cosby pens an interesting look at the history of the Christian church from its genesis in the early church fathers to the current struggles of global Christianity. The history he surveys, however, is brief and lacks the depth that might make this book more engaging.  The author mostly emphasizes John Calvin, John Knox, conservative Evangelicals, and the Reformation, which is expected knowing his denominational anchor in the Presbyterian church.  But gauging this book in a specific theological direction limits its audience.
Although I enjoyed the quick and easy overview of church history, Dr, Cosby’s arguments are one-sided at times, clearly Calvinist, and subtly anti-Catholic.  For instance, Dr. Cosby paints St. Augustine in a Calvinistic light and emphasizes the "false" Scriptural claim of the papacy based on Matthew 16:18, which, again, for a conservative Presbyterian point of view is expected. This makes his argument hard to take at times, especially if you are of a different theological bent such as Arminian or Roman Catholic. A more ecumenical approach would widen his audience.
Overall, I enjoyed the breakdown of key Patristic, Dark Age, Reformation, and American players in religious history.  The descriptions are brief but effective in sparking the desire for further inquiry into such areas of church history.
At the beginning of most chapters, Dr. Cosby weaves personal young adult adventure themes into the narrative.  Rightfully, this rhetorical risk works in some chapters but limps in others.  The chapter anecdotes, however, cleverly make the reading more engaging when they succeed. Also, the discussion questions at the end of each chapter lay out study structure and can foster fellowship discussion for youth groups or Bible study.
I normally do not pine about writing style, but Dr. Cosby overuses the exclamation point throughout, which can be distracting.  Maybe he was trying to harness the excited exuberance of his youth audience.  The editor should have been more critical, however.
Although the text is an easy, quick read at 144 pages, and its Lexile score is most likely around 6-8 grade, I am unsure about the text’s intended and reached audience.  The audience could be anywhere from sixth grade through lower-level college. Overall the text is a solid production for conservative Protestant youth groups, but had Dr. Cosby taken a more Rogerian, ecumenical tone throughout, he could have widened his audience and readership.
God’s Story is a brief overview of 2000 years of Church history with plenty of survey-level information. Dr. Cosby’s work is enjoyably written for its intended audience.

*The publisher provided a free copy of this text in exchange for a fair review.