Thursday, July 22, 2010

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley (highly recommended)

I just finished Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley.  The title, Church History in Plain Language (CHPL), is a great way to describe the book.  It is about church history from the time of Jesus to the end of the 20th century AND it is easy to read (i.e. in plain language).  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in history and to any and all Christians.

The writing is the most appealing part of this book.  Church History can frequently seem daunting because of all the names and events; and many books are written so academically that the information is not readily accessible to beginners (such as myself) to Church History.  This book is a remedy to that ailment.  The book is easy to read and, at the same time, I didn't feel like the material was diluted.

The book is written from a Protestant perspective but that was okay with me; I just happen to be a Protestant.  :)

Each chapter is about 10 to 15 pages long.  The chapters are organized loosely by chronology.  They are organized more by topic within a time period within church history.  Where Shelley could, he writes an anecdote about person and then describes the context of that person within that time.  This method was great because it drew me into the story of each time period and it personalized the period allowing me to see it through the eyes of an individual.

There were a lot of things (especially between the time of ACTS up to the REFORMATION) that I just never learned.  For example, I did not know that Atilla the Hun came from Mongolia right up to the walls of Rome.  I did not know why the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split or even what the difference between the two were.  Etc.

A perspective that CHPL helped me gain was this: the problems that are plaguing the church today, the heresies that Christians have to deal with today, none of it is new.  Looking through CHPL, the problems we have today are just theme-and-variations of problems that we've had in the past.  So for anyone who needs to problem solve, a study of church history may be invaluable.

Overall, this book was outstanding.  The information is essential (I believe) for all Christians.  The book is written well and the written in such a way that the information is easily accessible.  The book is engaging and the drama and stories of each age are highlighted.  It is not too long (for a history book that covers 2000 years); it is about 500 pages long.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in history or any Christian.  :)  Well, until the next time...

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