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Church History in Plain Language: Fourth Edition Paperback – December 3, 2012
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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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My takeaways are: the church is messy, Christians are messier, but God's hand is steady and sure. While the evangelical author/editor have an opinion, they do a good job of presenting the historical facts and mostly let the reader form his/her own opinion.
Covering 2000+ years in 500 pages does not allow the authors to dwell on anyone one phase in great depth although they slow down to set the stage for the events and explain how the events shaped the church as we know it today.
One theme, that struck me throughout church history, is that the local church rediscovers "the church" and then at some point its "leaders" highjack the movement for their benefit. Constantine's rule is a reminder of our desire for the church to have "the power of the state" when the power of the Gospel is all that is needed. The history of the Roman Catholic church is another example of the excesses that occur when man attempts to use the church for the benefit of the institution over the good of the gospel. Most interesting to me was how much I have misunderstood what has happened in the last 4oo years both in America and in the world.
To read about the rapid growth of the gospel in East Africa fueled by Ugandan pastors is inspiring. The American church of 2017 can learn a lot from what is happening in Africa, Asia, and even the middle east.
The "national leadership" of the American church has been more focused (out of fear) in attacking the moral depravity of our nation when the gospel is the only true message of the church. Jesus Christ was a man and God. Yet in America we tend to strip Him of His supernatural power to not only save but to transform.
One of the clear messages of the book is that our interest in protecting the church using state power/legislation, proven methods, revivals, camp meetings, programs, etc. takes the focus away from the gospel and that is the only source of power of the church of Jesus Christ.
I will read this one again and maybe even again. Good read!
#1) Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Virgin Mary appears to an Aztec man and asks for a church to be built. She leaves physical evidence in a tilma that can still be seen in Mexico to this day. This supernatural event led to the conversion of over 9 million Aztecs in a decade. Pretty significant Christian conversion for Catholics and Protestants alike.
#2) Miracle at Fatima. The Virgin Mary appears to 3 children in 1917 and provides prophecy that predict World War II and the rise of communism. The virgin promises a miracle on October 13, 1917 and over 70,000 people (skeptic and Christian alike) show up for a miracle where they see the sun dancing, spinning, changing colors, and moving locations. This was the largest publicly viewed miracle in the history of the church and yet it doesn't get a mention.
I would still recommend purchasing and reading this book regardless of your religious affiliation. I say this as a former Protestant who enjoys church history :)
Personally/spiritually, I was encouraged by two things: 1. There are always reformers that call the church at large back to true biblical faith. 2. The challenges we face today are nothing to be shocked and afraid of, many similar challenges have been faced in previous ages of the church.
Top international reviews
What I'm seeing, is that Jesus deity isn't front and center with this author- and, for me, his embellishments in his 'storytelling' takes away from the reason why I bought this book- which was to get an accurate understanding of the actual history of the church. Simply put- in just the first 7 pages, this author has brought me to a place where I don't trust what he's written- and I'm therefore not able to finish it. For me, a real disappointment. I highly don't recommend.
Highly recommended for group study.
A good resource to understand how we have come about the present state of the church and world that we live in.