Friday, October 30, 2009

Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity

Read the subject book by Mark A. Knoll for a Church book club. Very well done and somewhat surprising book. I grew up in a fairly far-out fundamentalist Baptist church that occasionally brought in people from Wheaton College in Chicago. Since that church was so fire-breathing anti-Catholic (the Catholic church was "the Harlot" of Revelation, "the woman that sits on seven hills") I expected something of that view here. Noll is a professor at Wheaton, but either Wheaton has changed, or Noll is quite the liberal for that school.

The biggest impression that hits me is the same one that happens every time I read about church history -- one has to be fairly "liberal minded" in one way relative to Christianity to NOT be a Catholic. The story of the Christian church for most of it's history is very much the story of the Catholic Church.

The biggest thing I learned about was "The Great Schism" in 1000 to 1100, where the Orthodox and Roman church split. The disaster of the 4th crusade of 1202 sacking Constantinople was also a revelation to me.

The "turning points" picked were the following:

  1. The Fall of Jerusalem (70) -- the church pushed out of it's cradle.
  2. The Council of Nicea (325) -- The origin of the creed most Christians agree with.
  3. The Council of Chalcedon (451) -- Politics and the Church
  4. Foundation of the Benedictines (530) -- The importance of monks to the church
  5. The Coronation of Charlemagne (800) -- Church and State rule Europe
  6. The Great Schism (1054) -- East and West divide.
  7. The Diet of Worms (1521) -- Martin Luther and the Reformation
  8. The English Church Splits (1534) -- The state splits from Rome
  9. The Founding of the Jesuits (1540) -- The great Catholic missionary movement
  10. The Conversion of the Wesleys (1738) -- Religion as personal piety
  11. The French Revolution (1789) -- Secularism turns on religion
  12. Edinburgh Missionary Conference (1910) -- Roots of ecumenicalism
  13. Further turning points in the 20th century
I rather enjoyed the book, but it is one that most folks would find quite dense and overly detailed -- for "the masses" I would suggest something lighter, but then without all the detail, it is very hard to see the reality of the importance of the church to western civilization.