Church History in Plain Language

I just finished reading Bruce L. Shelley's Church History in Plain Language. This is a great book for anyone considering introducing himself to the fascinating and controversial field of Christianity's history. Church history is an incredibly important subject, because it explores the relationship between the Church and the world over time. Needless to say, how the Church should interact with the world is one of the most pressing issues facing any congregation. Studying church history more in-depth will allow us to understand the differences between denominations and their theologies and the (vast) cultural influences acting upon Christianity.
Anyway, Dr. Shelley divides Christianity into eight eras:
  1. The Age of Jesus and the Apostles (6 BC-70 AD)
  2. The Age of Catholic Christianity (70-312)
  3. The Age of the Christian Roman Empire (312-590)
  4. The Christian Middle Ages (590-1517)
  5. The Age of the Reformation (1517-1648)
  6. The Age of Reason and Revival (1648-1789)
  7. The Age of Progress (1789-1914)
  8. The Age of Ideologies (1914-1996)
(Yes, I know the historical divisions are different in Wikipedia. Get over it.)

Dr. Shelley does a great job of writing how the title says he will - in plain language. History flows very organically from his pen (or maybe it's a quill). Now, Dr. Shelley seems to be a conservative Protestant (He never says so explicitly, but his opinion of the Roman Catholic church isn't very Roman Catholic. This is the doctrinal statement he is apparently required to sign.), and so the book does focus on Western Protestant Christianity more so than Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but he does a great job of finding balance. There are also hundreds of suggestions for further reading, so you can find even more excuses for not getting off your butt. I want to read a history book by a Roman Catholic historian next, though.
By the way, church history is especially important to those of us who are members of non-traditional, non-denominational, or young churches. And yes, that includes me and my church family. It is vital that we understand our place in time instead of assuming we are the Restorers of True Apostolic Christianity or whatever.

And no, Bruce didn't recruit me to write this spot for his book....but Bruce, if you're reading this, you know what to do.


debi said...

I have this book and liked it so much I bought one for my daughter. I also taught through it to my ABF, Adult Bible Fellowship. Very few women in my class, and we had a large class, knew anything about church history and to be honest I myself knew little. But this is an excellent book esp. for someone like myself who hasn't had a Bible College education.