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The Breeze of the Centuries [Paperback]

Michael Reeves
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

15 Jan 2010
Is 'newer' really 'better'? We often assume so, but if we do treat the past as inferior we will ignore the legacy of history, and thus will find ourselves stranded on the tiny desert island of our own moment in time.

In particular, this applies to Christian theology, which should be thought, and lived, corporately by the church down through the ages.

The remedy to 'chronological snobbery' is, as C. S. Lewis put it, 'to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds'. Such is the motivation behind Michael Reeves' introduction to a selection of influential or significant Christian theologians.

This accessible and informative volume covers the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas.

Each chapter begins with a brief biography and some background, then surveys each theologian's major work or works, gives a timeline for historical context, and ends with guidance for further reading.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: ivp (15 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844744159
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844744152
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 359,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'High school history bored many students to tears. Their idea of visiting the past is like a trip to Chernobyl - grim, and possibly life-threatening! A big mistake when that past is full of insight, and the guide is Michael Reeves. This fascinating volume covers the massive influence of great thinkers, apologists and 'death wish' martyrs like 'food for wild beasts' Ignatius, the courageous alleged murderer and 'black dwarf' Athanasius, the fat friendly giant Aquinas, and the planet-sized mind of Augustine of Hippo, who all faced the challenges we face. Reeves breathes life into dead men, with historic writing that's about as good as it gets - full of interest, burningly relevant, and totally scinitillating. Modern Christians need to re-discover their roots, if only to prevent them poisoning the church's new shoots with ancient heresies. This is as good an introduction the reader could find. Ignorance is not bliss. Let Reeves tell you why.' --Greg Haslam, Westminster Chapel, London

'Today, evangelical Christians too often read the Bible as if it had just dropped out of heaven, with little or no appreciation of church history. Michael Reeves offers a good corrective to this with his very readable introduction to many of the key figures and works of the early Church.' --Tony Lane, London School of Theology

'Someone has suggested that history only repeats itself is because no-one bothered to listen the first time around. Mike Reeves invites us to listen to our Christian history and to learn from it. He tells the stories with energy and humour - the book is a delight to read - and he introduces us to great thinkers who faced questions and problems uncannily like our own, and who found answers in the Scriptures that we would do well to reflect on. This is an important book, wonderfully written, that every thoughtful Christian will enjoy, and will benefit greatly from.' --Steve Holmes, Senior Lecturer in Theology, University of St Andrews

About the Author

Michael Reeves is the Theological Advisor for UCCF. Previously he was an associate minister at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. He holds a doctorate in systematic theology from King's College, London.

He has also written 'The Unquenchable Flame' (IVP)


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing breeze 16 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback
A gem from Mike Reeves, following his thumbnail sketch of the Reformation in 'The Unquenchable Flame'. I say 'gem' because it's small and sparkly - fewer than 150 pages, lively, and sharply observed.

As the title says, the book is meant to be a 'breeze' through key early writers on Christian belief. Like a breeze, it manages to be both light and refreshing. The issues are brought alive through Reeves' own excitement at theology, his evident compassion for his subjects, and his lively sketches of their lives. Sceptics might cavil at someone who deals with such large subjects in so few pages, but Reeves knows his languages, his theology, his history, and the current literature on the subject. Others might be daunted by big books written in Latin, but the author gets straight to the heart of the issues, showing what made them so important at the time, and helping the reader understand what makes them relevant for us today. This book is the first in a series of two. I look forward to the second volume, and learning about more recent writers, and the situations in which they worked.

I'd like to see more, however brief, about writers from outside Europe. An outline of the key issues which weren't dealt with solely by a single author would also be welcome (such as the differences that emerged between eastern and western churches). So too would a bit more info about the long period between Augustine and Anselm. Little writing survives, but barbaric it was not. Leave the library and take us to the British Museum, Reeves!

Only one harrumph: where's the index? Written partly for students, the book will find itself excluded from most university libraries (if not reading lists) because quick reference isn't possible. This needs to be remedied. It would take a week and could be done on two sides of a single page. See to it, IVP.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing indeed! 10 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback
Nick is right on two counts, first, this is a gem, and he's also right on his "harrumph" point: This would be better served with an index at the back. Having said that, it is short, accessible and clear enough to find what you want pretty quickly. But still.

As an introduction it works brilliantly, even if it is, as Mike writes in the introduction, a highly selective "picking and choosing" of major theologians. But the point is to introduce these titans of church history and point the novice to works of ever increasing volume should they choose to pursue it. Reeves even encourages readers to put his book down and pick up others, such is his passion for these titans to be read on their own terms - BUT READ BREEZE OF THE CENTURIES FIRST, then and only then should one follow the advice of C.S. Lewis in ditching the weedy, tired and cliched "devotional" books and start "working [your] way through a bit of tough theology with a pipe in [your] teeth and a pencil in [your] hand." Genius. I'm off to get a pipe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent little book 17 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In just 150 pages Reeves gives an overview of the life and thought of the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas; and does so with wit and panache.

As well as outlining the big theological issues of the ages, Reeves is good at slipping in those aspects of human interest that make history interesting - such as the Letter to Diognetus only being discovered in 1436, being used to wrap fish in Constantinople, and Aquinas' family trying to tempt him away from his spiritual calling with a scantily clad seductress. But the big theological issues are big - and still very relevant today. Questions of the deity and humanity of Christ, the nature of eternal life, and the rationality of faith are hardly novel to our age, and the battles of the past prove fertile ground in which to work out how to respond and what to believe.

Viewing theology through the lens of history is also helpful to us in working out where the battle lines should be drawn in defence of the truth. We live in a time when there is both an incredible level of rancour amongst people who all claim to be followers of Jesus, but also a general cultural assumption of `tolerance' that means many Christians find it difficult to ever say, "that is wrong." Where the likes of Polycarp and Athanasius draw these lines is deeply instructive.

As Reeves points out, the theologians discussed here offer a broad range of personalities and beliefs, and some are more attractive than others. For example, I find Athanasius and Augustine far more convincing than Anselm and Aquinas, yet each repays study - if only for the shaping influence they have had on later cultures and theology.

This is an excellent little book - get hold of it if you can!
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent little book 17 April 2012
By Matthew Hosier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In just 150 pages Reeves gives an overview of the life and thought of the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas; and does so with wit and panache.

As well as outlining the big theological issues of the ages, Reeves is good at slipping in those aspects of human interest that make history interesting - such as the Letter to Diognetus only being discovered in 1436, being used to wrap fish in Constantinople, and Aquinas' family trying to tempt him away from his spiritual calling with a scantily clad seductress. But the big theological issues are big - and still very relevant today. Questions of the deity and humanity of Christ, the nature of eternal life, and the rationality of faith are hardly novel to our age, and the battles of the past prove fertile ground in which to work out how to respond and what to believe.

Viewing theology through the lens of history is also helpful to us in working out where the battle lines should be drawn in defence of the truth. We live in a time when there is both an incredible level of rancour amongst people who all claim to be followers of Jesus, but also a general cultural assumption of `tolerance' that means many Christians find it difficult to ever say, "that is wrong." Where the likes of Polycarp and Athanasius draw these lines is deeply instructive.

As Reeves points out, the theologians discussed here offer a broad range of personalities and beliefs, and some are more attractive than others. For example, I find Athanasius and Augustine far more convincing than Anselm and Aquinas, yet each repays study - if only for the shaping influence they have had on later cultures and theology.

This is an excellent little book - get hold of it if you can!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book 17 July 2013
By whirlingmerc - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first book of Mike Reeves I read and since reading this one, I read Delighting in the Trinity and The Unquenchable Flame (about he reformation) Great summaries and great introductions in a great style.

No wonder he's the theological adviser to the Brit wing of Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship. Very gifted teacher/writer
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