Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Top 10 Books on Church History

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Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley

These books are more or less on church history.  I am intentionally not including major works on America and evangelicalism as there will be a post later on Top 10 books analyzing American evangelicalism.

1.  Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley  [y, l, e, p, s]

A classic, readable, simple yet thorough book on church history for everyone.

2.  Turning Points:  Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity by Mark Noll  [y, l, e, p, s]

A nice summary of the major turning points in church history.

3.  Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark  [y, l, e, p, s]

Absolute classic, read write-up here.

4.  Church History Volume One:  From Christ to Pre-Reformation:  The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context by Everett Ferguson  [e, p, s]

Probably the best technical volume on church history up to the Protestant Reformation.

5.  The Story of Christianity Volume Two – The Reformation to the Present Day by Justo Gonzalez  [e, p, s]

Probably the best technical volume on church history from the Reformation to present.

6.  The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable by F.F. Bruce  [y, l, e, p, s]

The best little book (and extremely readable) confronting the tsunami of criticism heaped on the Bible.  The book is mentioned here for its concise explanation on the formation of the canon of Scripture.

7.  Documents of the Christian Church edited by Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder  [p, s]

Primary sources are important.  It is rare for people to read primary sources anymore.  Sometimes it is rare to read secondary sources anymore… in the digital age, we read the wikipedia article or a blog post or a book review/summary about a book that is about a primary source.  With that said, this is a great compendium of primary sources of which church histories are written from.

8.  Readings in Christian Thought edited by Hugh Kerr  [p, s]

This volume serves as a good introduction (or remainder) of the main thoughts of the major thinkers/theologians/figures in church history.

9.  Cities of God by Rodney Stark  [y, l, e, p, s]

I have yet to finish this book but it has been quite good thus far.  He draws heavily on themes from his Rise of Christianity, where he demonstrates how Christianities urban presence during plagues and persecutions afforded it incredible influence in a Roman empire that was overwhelmingly non-urban – making the case that Roman culture was made in the cities.  I think there are incredible insights that need to be applied here today and am disturbed at the under-representation of churches in urban areas (for more on this see this post and this post).

10.  The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success by Rodney Stark  [y, l, e, p, s]

Stark makes the list again for some keen analysis on the affect of the church on the world throughout history.  If you like any of his works, you might also check out his For the Glory of God.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)


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