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Church History in Plain Language: Fourth Edition Paperback – December 10, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. Bruce Shelley was Senior Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Denver Theological Seminary. He held the M.Div. degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Among his previous publications are The Church: God's People; Evangelicalism in America; and The Cross and the Flame.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 4 Rev Upd edition (December 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401676316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401676315
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Beej on March 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
I bought the "Updated 2nd Edition" of this book several years ago, as I was really curious to learn more about church history. Despite growing up in the evangelical church environment, there was a huge gap in my knowledge between what happened after the early church in Acts and the modern church today. I knew vaguely of something called the "Reformation" and that somewhere along the way the Crusades happened. I had no idea why the Crusades occurred, why the Reformation was so important, how the books of the Bible were chosen, why there are so many denominations today, and why there's a giant mosque sitting over the site of the temple in Jerusalem.

This book was a fantastic introduction into church history, covering a huge span of time yet maintaining enough detail in each chapter that keeps you wanting to find out more. I'm not normally a reader (averaging maybe 1-3 books per year), but this book had me hooked all the way through it. The author tries to maintain a neutral non-judgemental tone throughout his text, providing a variety of views of how church historians have interpreted events over the years. Of course, recounting history can never truly be an "objective" exercise, but the author does (in my opinion) present his material very thoughtfully without adding too much of his own subjective views.

I've since started studying at Bible College and looking into church history more formally. This book was a huge help in giving me a basic framework to structure my learning around now.

I highly recommend this book, and personally cannot wait to see what's been updated two editions later.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Doug Erlandson TOP 50 REVIEWER on May 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I first became familiar with "Church History in Plain Language" in its second edition. By the time I began teaching church history on the college level the third edition was available, and I used it as a background text for the course. It served its purposes well, since it gives a nice overview of the history of Christianity, and works well with a one-semester class in the subject (which, because of time constraints, will also necessarily be an overview). This fourth edition is an updating of the late Bruce Shelley's work by R.L. Hatchett. Hatchett has done an excellent job of preserving the purpose of Shelley's work (that is, as a general overview rather than as a detailed or scholarly text) while adding material where necessary (e.g., a more detailed discussion of Gnosticism) and bringing the text up to date as of the early twenty-first century.

I consider this book most beneficial as a first introduction. Those already familiar with church history will find that most events, movements, trends, and the like, are treated fairly briefly, but without undue simplification. One thing I would like to see handled in more detail is a discussion of Orthodox Christianity, which (as is true of many church histories for the Western reader), is given very little space after the time of the Great Schism in the eleventh century. Other than this, I find the book an excellent text for the person becoming familiar with the history of the church for the first time.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert on May 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book is a very concise overview of 2000 years of church history. It meets its goal of setting forth a complex history in plain language. It is not a scholarly work, but one intended to educate the lay person who wants to know more about church history and doctrinal differences among the various Christian denominations. The book also does a good job of setting forth church history, without drawing judgments about the merits of various differences between Catholic and Protestant theology.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alice on July 27, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book is excellent for the layperson or the student who wants general yet deeper church history from the time of Christ's resurrection to almost today. I have used it for many things and have encouraged many students to have this in their library. I know that it has been used by Denver Seminary. The writing is for "regular" people rather than the grad-student. It answers many questions of creeds, history, heresies, church splits, journeys, missions and so on. If you want a good introduction to church history, get this one!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shayne Gardner on August 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I learned a lot of fascinating things about Christianity's development throughout it's history. Now I know the origin of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, Apostles, Glossolalia, Deacon, and even Christians. I especially liked the early period within the Roman empire.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D Petterson on September 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is by far one of the very best books written on church history. It takes you from the 1st Century to the present. If you are interested in this subject, don't hesitate to purchase for a good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Walter Aebi on August 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent treatise of church history. As it says it is written in plain language. Well researched and helpful as one preaches or teaches on the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wells on September 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very well written. Explains a lot of things that I never heard about before in plain, uncomplicated English.
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