Documents of the Christian Church

Documents of the Church

A review of Bettenson and Maunder’s Documents of the Christian Church.

This is a new and improved version of a popular and accessible old classic (last updated in 1999), which brings together some of the most significant documents and texts in church history. There are always things with which one could quibble in such anthologies. The editorial glosses are sometimes tendentious and not positive towards Reformed Protestantism. The sixth to the tenth centuries are under-represented (a shame not to have some of the “Carolingian Calvinism” of Gottschalk and Ratramnus for example). I would have liked to have seen the Thirty-nine Articles included somewhere, and at least some of the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, or Canons of Dort (though it is interesting that the Five Points of Arminianism are included, in the section on Counter-Reformation Catholicism!). There is a section claiming to represent seventeenth century “Anglicanism” which is basically full of Laudians, and sadly no hint of George Whitefield’s impact in the eighteenth century. The church’s everyday work of preaching or commenting on Scripture is almost entirely absent, but perhaps that is for a different compilation?

The new sections draw together modern material, including something from GAFCON, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Alister McGrath on Richard Dawkins, and a Roman Catholic statement about the internet. Socio-economic and “justice” issues predominate in the more up to date selections, and there could have been more on Eastern Orthodoxy. But the editor includes material which he strongly disagrees with (e.g. Patrick Sookhdeo on the challenge of Islam) for which he is to be commended, and it is of course an incredibly difficult job to anthologise twenty centuries! Overall, more period-specific collections (such as Gerald Bray’s excellent Documents of the English Reformation) will continue to be indispensible, but the updated Bettenson and Maunder remains a very useful repository of a broad range of standard texts from across the centuries.

This review was first published in Churchman 127/2 (2013).

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