Fortress Press

Exploring Church History

Exploring Church History

Derek Cooper (Author)


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Fortress Press’s Foundations for Learning series prepares students for academic success through compelling resources that kick-start their educational journey into professional Christian ministry.
In Exploring Church History, Derek Cooper invites readers to consider the purpose and significance of church history in the lives of individuals and communities today. Rather than offering an exploration of bygone eras and outdated events, Cooper brings history to life by emphasizing how past events, individuals, and movements shape how we understand the world around us.
Exploring Church History is divided into three convenient sections. While the first and second sections explain why and what we study in church history, the last section teaches readers how to study church history. The combined effect of the book is to present a clear and accessible introduction to the field of church history.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451488906
  • eBook ISBN 9781451489606
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 120
  • Publication Date December 1, 2014

Behind the Book

From the author:

"Many church history books I have studied begin their stories with the assumption that their readers know why they are reading the book. This one does not.  Although I consider the topic of church history to be a useful and necessary antidote to many of the intellectual and spiritual ills of the age, others do not recognize the immediate and inherent value of this academic discipline. This is understandable, especially given that a portion of the public regards history as boring and the church as irrelevant. 
"So, why should you study church history? In this section, I root my response to this daunting question in the history of the church—a rather cheeky if not circular approach, to be sure. We study the history of Christianity, in part, so that we may embody the four characteristics of the church as suggested in the New Testament and codified at the Council of Constantinople in 381. The Nicene Creed, which the council reformulated at this council and circulated to the global church, has been in constant use in churches in all pockets of the globe since that time. In the creed, after the prior sections on God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it delineates the so-called “four marks” of the church: its oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity."
Derek Cooper



Part I: Why We Study Church History—Purpose
1. The Church Strives to Be One Family
2. The Church Strives to Be a Holy People
3. The Church Strives to Be a Catholic Body
4. The Church Strives to Be an Apostolic Church
Part II: What We Study in Church History—Content
5. A Grave in Italy Illumines the History of Christianity in Europe
6. An Icon in Egypt Illumines the History of Christianity in the East
7. A Stele in China Illumines the History of Christianity in Asia
8. A Crucifix in the DRC Illumines the History of Christianity in Africa
9. A Cloak in Mexico Illumines the History of Christianity in Latin America
10. A Warehouse in California Illumines the History of Christianity in North America
11. A Boot in Fiji Illumines the History of Christianity in Oceania
Part III: How We Study Church History—Method
12. A Medieval Forgery Illumines How to Write a Paper on Church History


"The convoluted, complicated, multilayered, and omnifaceted subject of church history finds a refreshingly accessible and reliably honest invitation to explore this subject in and through this nuanced and candid book. Drawing upon the 'marks' of the church and using them as a frame to ask stimulating questions, the writer goes on to offer a range of evocative and wide-ranging illustrations and wraps this up with significant methodological observations, all of which open the field to students and scholars alike to engage in creative exploration of the legacy and living reality that is the church in the world."
—J. Jayakiran Sebastian
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia 

"For anyone thinking church history has to be boring, this book is the perfect antidote. In a rapid-fire romp through the last two thousand years and around the world, Derek Cooper shows how engaging and relevant the study of the Christian past can be."
Douglas Jacobsen
Messiah College
"Derek Cooper’s book, Exploring Church History, proves the point that the writing of 'Church history is always in need of reform.' Cooper's ecumenical approach and fresh rendering of the Christian story opens the door for the reader to encounter the breadth and depth of the church’s rich storehouse of saints and sinners. Exploring the theological themes of 'progression' and 'alteration,' this book challenges the reader to rethink their historical and theological conclusions on various church movements across the ages. Designed as a study guide on Christian history for historians and nonexperts alike, Exploring Church History will help everyone to discover the great and exciting treasure trove that is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."
Joseph L. Thomas
Urbana Theological Seminary

"In Exploring Church History, Derek Cooper takes the road less traveled and weaves together history, theological practicality, and life experience. All faiths have their essential points and Exploring Church History sets out to establish four core 'marks' of Christianity—its oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. Cooper calls those who profess to be followers of Jesus to live more consistently Christian by making them more aware of their shared history as a family and urging them to live together peacefully."
Brandon G. Withrow
The University of Findlay

"Exploring Church History is engaging and thought provoking and enlightens the reader both historically and theologically. By rooting the discussions in the creeds, Cooper squarely makes this work historical theology. By weaving in historical and personal stories, he helps the student see the integral importance of studying church history for both for the individual and the church. Exploring Church History is suitable for early and prospective seminarians, Bible study groups, and those seeking to have a better understanding of the importance of historical theology in their lives and in the ongoing life of the church. I highly recommend it for study and for spiritual formation, and I plan to use it myself!"
Jonathan S. Riches
Reformed Episcopal Seminary