My father used to read to me from The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. He read it in answer to some question about my homework, some question that probably did not involve the Romans, and he read it at length. I know now that that was an awesome thing to do—take my homework question and place it in context by linking it to the historical moment that preceded it—but as a sophomore eager to finish that assignment so I could get back to living life (i.e. watching MTV while I waited for my hair color to set), I did not appreciate my father’s approach.
I appreciate it now. Just as we can’t pull Leviticus out of context and expect to understand its laws and commands, we can’t pull our point in history out of context and expect to understand how we got here, where we are headed, or what we must do to change.
History is our broader context: from the decisions our parents made that shape our lives now, to the decisions some emperor made hundreds of years ago that shape the structure of our cities, we need to have at least a passing familiarity with them in order to understand our own roles and responsibilities now. When we isolate our particular moment in time, it seems absurd, because we do not see the series of events large and small that shaped it.
I only began to appreciate this fact a few years ago, when I dipped my toes into the vast and lovely sea of historical narratives. I discovered many interesting things about our world and about the God who made it, and my way in to each new subject came, in most cases, in the form of a children’s book.
Church history quickly became one of my favorite genres of history, so I have compiled a list of some of my favorite books about church history here. While they’re technically recommendations for the children you love, I hope you will enjoy them too. And if you find that after reading them you’re hungry for further study, I have included, wherever possible, recommendations for you.
Jeanne D’Albret, Queen of Navarre, gets a passing tip of the hat in a few books on the Reformation, but Rebekah Dan’s book tells the whole story of her life, from her childhood as a mischievous, strong-willed princess, to her reign as a protestant queen at odds with her husband, many of her own people, and the Catholic church. Jeanne D’Albret was instrumental in bringing reformed theology to her kingdom, and Dan tells her story beautifully.
See also: “Reformation Women: Jeanne D’Albret,” in Tabletalk magazine
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