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Church History In Plain Language Paperback – May 7, 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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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: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 2nd edition (May 7, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0849938619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0849938610
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Shelley's book is indeed easy to read and very clear most of the time. The writer doesn't seem biased, so readers don't have to worry about being lead to ideas that don't really reflect what happened. The book mentions people and their motivations, and covers history from the time of Jesus until relatively modern days.
Sometimes it's not so easy to follow the timeline, as Shelley often jumps back and forth in time, but that lack of linearity seems to better necessary to explain some events. The subjects covered are also very dense and such brief explanation might sometimes raise more questions than those it answers. That's the price to pay for trying to cover so many years of history in around 500 pages focusing on clarity. Eventually, you might want to check other sources for a more detailed coverage. The author provides some of the major titles on each chapter, so that will be a start. I fully disagree with the reader from Oklahoma who thinks "the book's format screams "boring," with page after page of bare text, no text boxes, too few paragraph breaks", The second edition has nothing to point regarding that, there are many paragraphs and breaks, several sub-topics inside each chapter. You seldom read more than 2 pages without reaching some break or topic change. In fact, that's an area where Shelley did a really good job, the text separation is superb. (I wonder what the Oklahoma reader would think about G.K.Chesterton's (brilliant) "The Everlasting Man", now THAT is having NO breaks) :-)
Regarding content, I'll mention a few of the main topics of each chapter: The book starts with the Jesus movement, the apostles, and proceeds to the age of Catholic Christianity (Persecution, Rise of orthodoxy, the formation of the bible, the power of the bishops, etc).
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Format: Paperback
When I first purchased this book, I was rather wary. All too often, historians dealing with religion bring along a few spare axes to grind when writing their texts. I was happily surprised by Bruce Shelley's "Church History in Plain Language." It is a clear, reader-friendly overview of the history of Christianity.
Shelley is as fair as can be expected. He approaches history as neutrally as possible while still acknowledging his Protestant background. Instead of trying to fit history into a doctrinal box, Shelley presents facts. Shelley focuses on the key events and personalities that shaped the history of Christianity.
The most appealing thing about "Church History in Plain Language" is its readability. The author's narrative goes a long way in making what could be dry and boring into an engaging story. In some cases, Shelley has made me feel closer to some of his subjects (Augustine, Gregory the Great, and Calvin) in just a few pages than other authors have with whole books.
I highly recommend Bruce Shelley's "Church History in Plain Language." It is probably the best one volume introduction to the history of Christianity available.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Shelley of Denver Theological Seminary has written an easy to read text on Church History with his book <I>Church History in Plain Language</I>. If there were one good word to describe this book, it would be "decent". The text isn't spectacular, but it isn't bad either. It is simply a short and relatively unbiased account of Christian history.

The book divides the past two thousand years of Christian history into eight ages, telling the stories of major movements and people of each age. This organization causes some problems because most of the movements and personalities of Christianity leave lasting impressions and have long histories. But Dr. Shelley seamlessly overcomes these obstacles by jumping ahead and looking back when it is relevant while keeping the writing cohesive. The end result is a decent, concise account of the history of Christianity. There is one pitfall to the writing style, however. Dr. Shelley never cites quotes with endnotes or parenthesis unless he is quoting the Bible. There is a list of notes at the back of the book, but none of them are referenced. That is a nuisance, but it is a small blemish to the overall writing style.
But, readers beware: though Dr. Shelley tries to be unbiased, he is sometimes unsuccessful. He is from a Protestant background and the book reflects that. When he examines different factions of Christianity on their own, he is relatively fair. But when he looks at them side-by-side, he often has favorites: the Lutherans over the Catholics, the Puritans over the Anglicans. His bias leads him into several contradictions as well.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first book on church history that didn't put me to sleep after two pages...instead I found that I couldn't put it down. At long last, I understand what it means to be a Protestant or a Catholic. I've considered myself a Christian for years with little or no comprehension of the church's early years or continuing struggle to define itself. This book has encouraged me to learn more about my faith. I highly recommend it to all laypersons for its readability.
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