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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Noll

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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Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

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No Place for Truth by David Wells

These books represent the best analysis on the present status and recent history of evangelicalism.  This list is meant to be informative and not to be alarmist or disconcerting.  I think the classic Dicken’s line, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times‘ will apply the Christ’s church til He return.  It is implicit also in this list that works commending a Christian worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, are must reads.  I have also omitted more esoteric debates including books on open theism, federal vision, new perspectives on paul… etc.  The purpose of this list is zoomed out than those specific issues.

1.  No Place for Truth by David Wells  [e, p, s]

How modernity crept in and screwed up evangelicalism.  Absolute classic.

2.  The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll  [y, l, e, p, s]

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that it is so scarce and scant.  You may also want to read Os Guinness’ Fit Bodies Fat Minds, addressing evangelicalism’s intellectual laziness and preoccupation with the temporary.

3.  The Democritization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch  [e, p, s]

Fascinating analysis of the democritization of Christianity in America.  His historical analysis is keen and well-researched.

4.  Christianity and Liberalism by J. Greshem Machen  [e, p, s]

This classic work delineates the liberalism of the early 20th century as being a completely other faith than the historic orthodox Christian faith.  86 years later it is still relevant.

5.  God in the Wasteland by David Wells  [e, p, s]

Wells continues where he left off in No Place for Truth, by challenging evidenced consumerism in evangelicalism.

6.  The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells  [e, p, s]

The title is a play on Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Tillich’s work was a classic in early 20th century Protestant liberalism.  Wells draws connections between the emergent movement as really being a form of rehashed 20th century era liberalism.  Wells is also scathing on the level and abuse of marketing in modern evangelicalism.  As far as Wells goes, his Above All Earthly Pow’rs s also a worthwhile read:  in terms of analysis Pow’rs is to post-modernity what No Place for Truth was to modernity.

7.  The New Shape of World Christianity:  How American Experience Reflects Global Faith by Mark Noll  [e, p, s]

I am surprised by the lack of press for this book.  Noll examines the history of Christianity in America and draws parallels in key growth areas (Southern hemisphere and the East).  Noll is actually rather positive amid the torrent of bad press on what American Christians are exporting.  This is an important work because we are good to be reminded that American evangelicalism is not the height of church history.  Further, the church is Christ’s and she will prevail.  I think Noll has his fingers on the pulse of what is going on and what is next, we would be wise to listen to what he has to say.

8.  Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism by George Marsden  [e, p, s]

This is a must read if you seek to understand our history.  Also an important work is Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.

9.  Reclaiming the Center:  Confronting Evangelical Accomodation to Postmodern Times by Various Authors  [y, l, e, p, s]

Various heavyweights chime in on the necessity of remaining faithful to the preaching of the Word and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you like this work, I suggest also Os Guinness’, Prophetic Untimeliness:  Challenging the Idol of Relevance.

10.  Christless Christianity by Michael Horton  [y, l, e, p, s]

This books has caused a bit of a stir.  You can read John Frame’s book review here.  I have yet to read the book, but I thought it a worthwhile mention to engage in present dialogue over the status of the Gospel in evangelicalism.  From what I gather, Horton has guys like Joel Osteen in view when he speaks of a Christianity without Christ.

11.  Young, Restless, and Reformed by Colin Hansen  [y, l, e, p, s]

This book is an important first look at the growing demographic of young Reformed folk.  This is an area that needs further analysis and hopefully a good work will come soon.

12.  Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges  [y, l, e, p, s]

Bridges is 100% right when he highlights several sins that evangelicals strangely tolerate:  gossip, anger, pride, jealousy, anxiety, and selfishness to name a few.

13.  Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon  [e, p, s]

Gordon applies Marshall McLuhan’s keen insights to shed light on the dearth of serious bible teaching in evangelicalism.

14.  Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll  [y, l, e, p, s]

I think Mark Driscoll is a very important voice in evangelicalism, moreso than many of my fellow Reformed brethren.  This book is a humorous yet insightful look into the story of the planting of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  There are many lessons weaved into the narrative that are wise and memorable.

15.  Why We’re Not Emergent:  From Two Guys That Should Be and Why We Love the Church:  In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck  [y, l, e, p, s]

The first book is a solid book on the emergent church.  I also wanted to end this list with on a positive note with Why We Love the Church.  Many times we can get so bogged down in self-criticism that we forget to praise God for all the truly good things he is doing in and through the church in America.

What we need is always adherence to the same three things:  orthodoxy, orthopathos, and orthopraxis.

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

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future… Part 1

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George Whitefield

I have been reading a bit recently on evangelicalism as a movement in the United States.  I want to devote a few posts to defining evangelicalism and providing some analysis of its strengths and weaknesses, past and present.  I have been influenced heavily by Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, Iain Murray’s Revival and Revivalism, David Well’s No Place for Truth, Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars.

We shall work our way from the past toward the present and then future, but before we do anything we must try to define evangelicalism.

Many things have served the muddy the term “evangelical” – the politicization of the Christian Right (ie. Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson), fundamentalism (is it part of evangelicalism or not), and the broadness of its history and key figures (ie. Jonathan Edwards, John Darby, and George Whitefield).

Our working definition of evangelicalism will be from David Bebbington (Cambridge), who describes the movement by four distinctives:

1.  Biblicism:  taking the Bible seriously (and typically holding to the doctrines of inerrancy and  infallibility)

2.  Crucicentrism:  having Jesus’ work of atonement on the cross as the central focus of the Scriptures and ministry

3.  Conversionism:  emphasis on need for all peoples to be converted to Christianity

4.  Activism:  the belief that Christians must be active in expressing their beliefs publicly

The movement has its beginnings in the First Great Awakening in the early 1700s.  It was first in Great Britain and then the United States.  Key to its expansion was the vivid theatrical preaching and promotional methods of George Whitefield.  In 1735-1739, Whitefield first takes the preaching and revival to Great Britain.  At this time John Wesley, a friend from their time at Oxford, had a dismal ministry in Georgia and was invited by Whitefield to come and take over the preaching and revivals in Great Britain.  Wesley, by his own admission, was uncoverted at this time preaches until he finally believes the gospel (under the counsel of a Moravian named Peter Bohler).  Whitefield then take his preaching and revival to the colonies.   Whitefield preached some 18,000 sermons and gave some 12,000 exhortative speeches in his 30 years of ministry.  He preached to every major city on the Eastern seaboard of the United States, crossed the Atlantic 13 times, and preached in Scotland, Wales, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Bahamas.  Without amplification, Whitefield preached regularly to several thousand people.  It is estimated that 80% of the entire population of the American colonies heard him preach at some point.   In America alone he preached to 10 million people.  It was with great fervor and very broad sowing that evangelicalism germinated.

Next time we shall examine the [controversial] methods of the First Great Awakening…

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