Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monks and Mystics

Bringing history to life by presenting it like a novel, Monks and Mystics is one of the most entertaining history books you or your child will ever read. It is the second in the "History Lives" series by Mindy and Brandon Withrow and covers the "Chronicles of the Medieval Church."

The majority of chapters present part of the story behind an important figure in the early church, written with the action, dialogue, and description of a good novel. Interspersed between these chapters are a few short, strictly nonfiction chapters, explaining such things as how the pope came to be, how Islam affected Christian history, and the councils of the Medieval church.

The novelized chapters cover Gregory the Great, Boniface, Charlemagne, Constantine and Methodius, Vladmir, Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Sienna, John Wyclif, and John Haus.

Although a book covering Christianity during this time period must focus on the Catholic church (because there was no other church), the authors stress: "Modern Protestants disagree with quite a few medieval ideas, but that does not mean that the men and women of the Middle Ages were always wrong or that they did not love God's Word. In fact, despite their differences, later Protestants admired many medieval thinkers...Like Christians of all eras, they made both positive and negative contributions to the church."

Though Medieval Christians are perhaps best known for the Crusades, they also translated the Bible into several languages for the first time, including English. Constantine and Methodius even created a written Slavic language so they could give the Slavs a Bible. Like Christians of all eras, they also strove to help the needy, teach the gospel, keep the church pure, and deal with the politics surrounding them.

What I Like: The concept behind these books is excellent. Very few of us don't enjoy reading a novel more than a dry history book. Monks and Mystics gives us the best of both worlds by giving us historic fact combined with good story telling.

What I Dislike: My only gripe with this book is its treatment of the Crusades. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten the fact that Muslim armies invaded Europe, hoping to make them Islamic lands, and Monks and Mystics doesn't seek to remind anyone of this. It almost seems as though the Withrows wish to make the Crusades apolitical and non-religious. This is not to say Europeans were without fault during the many Crusades, or that some endorsed the Crusades for political reasons or personal gain. However, there were understandable reasons for Europeans to fight many of the Crusades, also. (For a few ideas about the real history of the Crusades, click here.)

Overall Rating: Despite this flaw, however, the book is Very Good, overall.

Age Appeal: 9 - 12.

Publishing Info: Christian Focus, 2005; ISBN: 978-1845500832; paperback, $8.99

Buy Now at ChristianBook.com for $6.99

OR buy at Amazon.com for $8.99

Special Info: Read our other reviews of Mindy and Brandon Withrow's books.

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1 comment:

Shirley Ann said...

I have seen a burst in the Christian book markets lately of historical text, presented as novels, that highlight great Christians from all time periods. I am encouraged by this considering the usual lack of Christian educational tools in areas like history in science. This series, (along with other books like it) seem like they would supplement the regular history courses we already teach children...