Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity
~Mark A. Noll
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ISBN/ASIN : 080106211X
Manufacturer : Baker Academic|
Release data : October, 2000
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A Valuable Book for Believers and Nonbelievers Alike
By describing the ten events which the author thinks are the most important in the history of Christianity, Dr. Noll has developed a great framework on which to structure a survey history of the entire religion.
Dr. Noll is an evangelical Protestant, but he makes it quite clear where his prejudices lay and how it may affect what he has to say. He also helpfully points out how someone who disagrees with him could reach different conclusions. In fact, he is so scrupulous in examining his own biases, that this book is a model for any honest historian writing about any subject.
The book is also a lot of fun. In addition to thorough discussions of each of his turning points, he has sidebars on things like developments in the writing of hymns and prayers. You learn more about Christianity (and the development of the Western world) in this short book than you do in many books ten times as long.
Outstanding Starting Point
With this book, Mark Noll provides an introductory-level study of Christian history - NOT as a sweeping movement over thousands of years (which many larger, more ambitious works encompass), but as a series of turning points - events that changed the way Christianity perceived itself, and was perceived by the world. In this way, a student can gain a quick introduction to many of the issues that have faced Christianity throughout history without being overwhelmed by dates, names, doctrines, etc.
Obviously, as with any "best of" listing, there are things I would have liked to have seen added. There is no mention of the Scopes trial, and Darwinism receives small mention. This trial, more than any other event, triggered the rise of fundamentalism, which has certainly had an impact on the way Christianity is perceived. The controversy over Darwinism still shapes Christian thought today -- as can be seen in Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.
Overall, an excellent resource, though I would encourage readers to invest in a more thorough treatment of Christian history in addition to this book.
Primers for Historians...nicely done
Noll is to be commended for doing a nice job concerning an impossible task. Someone wisely stated that one does not evaluate church history by events, but by people. Noll challenges that assumption, by evaulautaing events in church history.
This book is written as an intro text, easy to read, for laymen. But more advanced historians can profit from it, sharpening them on finer points. Of particular interest to me were the chapters concerning the middle ages (monasticism, crowning of Charlemagne, and Luther, especially Luther.) Noll's commendation is for giving a list of possible turning points for future historians...worth noting. On a personal level, one hopes that an historian would write a modern-day, post communist history on the church concerning their survival of that satanic, abominable philosophy. Such a work would point to the glory of God.
This is a good, intro text. If read with Bruce Shelleys's work, one would have an adequate grip on the Church. Granted, the book has its sleepy parts (thus the four stars), its brilliant parts (Luther), and its soul-stirring parts (the church surviving Communism). Also, Noll is to be commended for his objectivity as a Protestant historian.