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4.0 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0849938619
Manufacturer : Nelson Reference|
Release data : 07 May, 1996
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Church History in Protestant Language
After challenging some Protestant relatives to show any historical evidence for their beliefs, I noticed that they picked up this book. I spent one morning thumbing through it and doing some spot-reading. After only a few minutes, I came across several blatant misrepresentations of the teachings of the early fathers. I can only conclude that the author has deliberately pulled a typical Protestant "cut-n-paste" job with references to the early church fathers. Here is one example:
In describing the worship of early christians, the text cites Justin Martyr, writing in 155, in the following passage:
"On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits. When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things."
Well, golly, those early Christians sure sound a lot like the Protestants of today! Somehow, the author forgot to include the rest of the passage:
"Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation. When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss. Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren. He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts. When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.' When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent"
The full passage describes the Catholic Mass perfectly. If you don't know what Justin means by 'Eucharist', allow him to explain it to you from his First Apology:
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus"
In short, this book is absolutely a worthless reading of Protestant theology into history. If you want to really learn what the early church taught, read the fathers themselves, not some sad 'cut and paste' job like this 'history' text. If you don't have that much time, check out Jurgens' 'Faith of the Early Fathers' to at least read some quotes that authors like Shelley do not want you to read.
Good survey, but many vital gaps...
The book is written from a Christian perspective. Aside from the obvious conflict of Shelley's personal belief with authentic scholarship, there is nothing truly inaccurate about the book, and it is a decent survey of Christian history.
However, while Shelley seemingly attempts to cover all bases, his coverage of many important subjects is brief, scant, or nonexistent. This is especially true as the book reaches the post-Reformation.
Jesuit history in Latin America needed more attention, and while their is much discussion of communism, liberation theology received one sentence. Catholic/Protestant conflict in the US and Irish immigration are completely ignored, and do not expect any mention of William Penn, Richard Allen, or Lord Baltimore. Nor is there any reference to the development of Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, or other significant American sects.
Shelley also attempts to write "history" right up to the publication date, which makes his discussions of Islam and Africa seem silly in hindsight of 9-11.
Good presentation of church history from early beginnings to present day.
Every serious Christian should know at least the basics of church history; otherwise, it's impossible to understand the current theological debates and why there are so many denominations and how they relate to each other.
This book offers a clear and concise presentation of that subject, accomplishing the difficult task of tackling more than 2000 years of sometime complicated history. It starts with how the church started to build during the apostle's days, to the different heresies and difficulties facing them, to the rise of orthodox Christianity, to the catholic church, to the Christian empires, to the reformation then our present days. It doesn't skip any important event or crossroad!
Reading this book wasn't as dry as I expected: i wasn't ''entertained'' but didnt go to sleep neither, it kept me interested. Sometime it's a bit difficult to follow the timeline as Bruce jumps back and forth, but it seemed necessary for an accurate depiction of an event or personality. The general organization wasn't at all compromised.
At the end of your reading, you will get to know almost all an average `non-scholar/non-historian' person should about the history of Christianity in a mere 500 pages, without getting bored. One downside is that sometime the explanation of an event or conflict is brief and keeps you wanting to know more, but completely normal in such a small book about a huge history. You might need to reread the book to grasp all the details.
4 stars for clear style, engaging organization of the text, complete (yet concise) timeline coverage in a more or less objective manner.