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The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (Story of Christianity) Paperback – July 18, 1984

4.3 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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From the Publisher

Sheds light on the major cultural and theological currents shaping the church during this period.

From the Back Cover

The Story of Christianity, Volume 1, is an informative, interesting, and consistently readable narrative history. It brings alive the people, dramatic events, and ideas that shaped the first fifteen centuries of Europe, such as the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the New World. Historian Justo Gonzalez shows how various social, political, and economic movements affected Christianity's internal growth.

Gonzalez skillfully weaves in relevant details from the lives of prominent figures from the apostles to John Wycliffe, tracing out core theological issues and developments as reflected in the lives and struggles of leading thinkers within the various traditions of the church. "The history of the church, while showing all the characteristics fo human history, is much more than the history of an institution or movement," Gonzalez stresses. "It is a history of the deeds of the spirit in and through the men and women who have gone before in the faith." The Story of Christianity demonstrates at each point what new challenges and opportunities faced the church, and how Christians struggled with the various options open to them, thereby shaping the future direction of the church.

The Story of Christianity will serve as a fascinating introduction to the panoramic history of Christianity for students and teachers of church history, for pastors, and for general readers.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 429 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; 1st edition (July 18, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060633158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060633158
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Justo L. Gonzalez, author of the highly praised three-volume History of Christian Thought and other major works, attended United Seminary in Cuba, received his M.A. at Yale, and was the youngest person to be awarded a Ph.D. in historical theology at Yale. Dr. Gonzalez is now on the faculty of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gonzalez's book here is perhaps the best survey of church history available. His book is concise and scholarly. He rarely goes off on unnecessary tangents, and he always presents the material clearly. This is why I would recommend this book for anybody who wants a non-threatening and enjoyable introduction to church history. He covers many important figures, such as Ignatius of Antioch, John Chrysostom, and Athanasius. All of the major players are there. He also gives his readers insights into important church events, such as the council of Nicaea. The book is filled with charts and timelines of popes, emperors, etc. This book was very helpful in a church history class I took recently. It was not the main textbook, but it helped me put the theology I was learning into historical context.
Gonzalez, as another reviewer mentioned, is Protestant. From what I have read he does not have an anti-Catholic bias, but he does cover the materials in a more Protestant way. One example is his lack of coverage of Pseudo-Dionysus. However, this book is only an introduction, and does not claim to be the end all guide to every figure in church history.
Overall, Gonzalez has written a fine work that is now a standard textbook in many Catholic and Protestant Seminaries and Universities. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on "Eastern Christianity." You don't have to be a scholar to get into church history. I think Gonzalez will get you interested if you read his book.
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Format: Paperback
In THE STORY OF CHRISTIANITY, divided into two volumes, Justo Gonzales does a fantastic job of bringing the history of the church alive. His writing style is engaging and the text tends to read more like a novel at times than a typical textbook. And for me that is what this was: a textbook for a Church History class. But by the end of the semester I found myself reading more for pleasure than class requirements.
Gonzales focuses on the high points for the most part because these books are surveys. In particular, there is a greater focus on men like Constantine, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. He is fair in his research and opinions, and no matter what background you come from you'll find that he presents the facts in an honest and unbiased (as possible) fashion. Coming from an evangelical background I learned much about the roots of that movement and was also very pleased to find a wealth of information on the eastern churches, liberal protestantism, scholasticism, etc. The development of the church in early Latin America, Africa, and Asia is also given attention. Gonzales covers all of the bases.
THE STORY OF CHRISTIANITY is a fine resource for those who wish to gain a firm understanding of the history of the Christian church or for anyone who desires to have a quality resource on the subject available to them. For student, layperson, or teacher, this is an excellent buy. Five Stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In another text ('The Changing Shape of Church History'), Justo Gonzalez writes about the shift away from a Eurocentric focus on the history of Christianity to a recognition that Christianity is a global phenomenon, not just due to Western missionary activity, but rather has been since its earliest day. Gonzalez keeps this global perspective in mind in his two volume narrative history, 'The Story of Christianity'.

This first volume looks at the history of Christianity from the first century to the dawn of the Reformation period. In his section on the early church, Gonzalez explores the Jewish and Roman worlds of the time, and how the early churches, from Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the Second Temple and the missions of Paul to the early teachers and leaders of the church as it grew in various ways. The persecutions of the early centuries and the martyrs, as well as many of the controversies and heresies, are presented with an interesting analysis. Gonzalez does not take the position that just because something has been labeled a heresy historically that it is necessarily bad or wrong doctrine.

The second section begins with Constantine and continues through most of late antiquity - this is the period of the church becoming an official arm of the state, many of the great creedal councils, and some of the leading lights in Christian theological development. Persons such as the Cappadocians (Gonzalez includes Macrina as a person in her own right here, and so avoids the general term 'Cappadocian Fathers'), Ambrose, John Chrystostom, and Augustine are highlighted. Gonzalez also looks at the major heresies of the time - Donatism and Arianism.
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Format: Paperback
A readable book, the Story of Christianity Volume 1 will be a simple, but informative read especially for those who never have studied the historical roots and development of Christianity. Dr. Gonzalez takes you back to eras of the first Christians to the beginning of the Renaissance and the Spanish and Portuguese colonization. The first chapters present the first centuries of the church and the frequent persecutions and martyrdoms. Dr. Gonzalez captures the passion of the martyrs as they suffered under the Roman authorities. Later, he leads the reader through various events that shaped the Church, and its followers such as the legalization of the Christian faith under the Emperor Constantine, the various ecumenical councils to address heresies, and formalization of the Church as a legal institute. An interesting chapter was the development of monasticism as a reaction to the decrease in persecution of the Roman Empire and the austerity of monks. This follows growth of the Papacy and its continual tension between the Eastern Roman Empire and the conflicts between the two parties, which were political as much as theological. As the rift grew between the two empires, Western Christianity spread to the various European tribes and their conversion. Especially interesting were the chapters regarding the height of papal power and its political influence through Innocent II, and the Unum Sanctum following under Boniface VIII. The volume ends with the rise of Renaissance humanism and the colonial Altogether, the work provides tremendous insight into the origin of beliefs and practices that are held today by the church's contribution, and its followers through the ages. Dr. Gonzalez narrative is written well and seeks to capture the drama and the conundrums that Christians often found themselves.Read more ›
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