This 4th edition is a really fascinating history of Christianity and the Church, reworked and updated 20 years or so on from the original.
It looks at 14 key events that are considered to be major turning points, moments of such significance that the direction of the church hugely shifted.
It is a good read, not overly academic, and is meant to be for the “layperson” to gain an insight into our history, perhaps to have their interest piqued to then want to delve into some areas more deeply. At the very least the reader will gain a clearer understanding as to how we got to where we are today in the church.
The study of history is clearly a useful exercise to enable us to learn from successes and mistakes of the past. This is equally valid for the church, an organisation made up of fallible people, who have made major errors as well as initiated many brave ventures.
We need to learn, grow, get better at what we do and how we think, so we can continue to try to become more Christ like. And if studying history of the church helps this ambition then it is worthwhile.
I was especially interested to read that the early Church history seemingly pivots on the miraculous conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine, by way of a pre-battle vision of Jesus. This brought him victory, accession to the throne and a new support for the Christian faith and its followers, allowing it to flourish.
I now know why the Nicene Creed is so called, and understand the thinking that went in to creating it 1700 years ago. This and other events helped to form a theology that we may take for granted now, but which in fact took centuries to form.
We can see how the rise of monasticism was so core to the development of the church over millennia, in service, worship, prayer and mission. It is also helpful to see how, through the ages, Christians have responded to political, economic and social changes. The church adapted as the world changed, sometimes initiated by a handful of Holy Spirit inspired individuals who stood up to authority and spoke truth to power.
There is some comfort in knowing that despite man’s best efforts to steward the church through centuries of history, God has been the constant. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and He has been very forgiving!
I would like to think that we, as a broad world-wide church of Christian believers, would be able to heal the rifts, forgive the offences and build bridges across the divides … there are some signs of us having learnt, but perhaps only time will tell.
Thank you to Netgalley for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.