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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"30 Events That Shaped the Church" (Alton Gansky)

TITLE: 30 Events That Shaped the Church: Learning from Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival
AUTHOR: Alton Gansky
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (272 pages).

Alton Gansky has done it again! Having written "60 People Who Shaped the Church" he has done the same (almost the same) for the Church. Instead of 60, he has wisely chosen to concentrate on half. For a book this size, it is really difficult to pick out 30 out of so many important events. Storytelling is a necessary art for any historian. In these 30 events, Gansky writes with full understanding of our modern day challenges. He is also an author of 24 novels which makes him a formidable and experienced storyteller. In this book, Gansky tries to uncover lessons we can learn from the past beginning with Pentecost (AD 30), the conversion of Paul (AD 32), and the Early Church, to the rise of confrontational Christianity (1979) and the rise of the New Atheism (Present). In choosing the 30 events, Gansky is looking for events that shape our Christian behavior and thinking. Admittedly, this book is more like a sampling rather than a detailed list of events.

As usual, Gansky gives a helpful annotated summary right at the table of contents page of the significance of the events. He puts in brackets the estimated time period, and allocates about 9-12 pages per event. At Pentecost (AD 30), Gansky relays hope that just like the few number of disciples who braved the persecutions and difficulties of their day, modern believers in the minority can do the same with the similar spirit of perseverance. In the conversion of Paul (AD 32), we learn of how God uses the worst of persecutors to become the champion of the gospel. The showdown between Gentiles and Judaism in AD 50 occurred at both the head and the heart level, motivated by obedience to the Great Commission. As Rome burned in AD 64, we read about Nero the great persecutor of Christians who crushed the believers but not their spirits.  Along came Titus who helped crush the Jerusalem temple in AD 70 to bring an end to the Jewish rebellion, reminding us the futility of trying to use physical force in what is supposed to be a spiritual battle. With the introduction of the Edict of Milan (AD 313), Christianity becomes the official religion which brings along a different set of problems like divisions and theological disputes. The First Council of Niceaa (AD 325) helped seal the deal on defending the Trinity via the Nicene Creed. Jerome's completion of the Vulgate translation in AD 405 serves as a template for future translations. We learn of the East-West Schism (1045) caused by disagreement over theology, governance, and the use of icons that shaped the Western and Eastern Orthodox churches of today. In 1198, the papal power gets expanded during the reign of Innocent III, followed by a proclamation of papal supremacy in 1302. These enforced proclamations stir the uprising of those who insist that it is the Scriptures, not the Church, that should deserve our prime allegiance.  Following the first printed Bible at Gutenberg (1456), the Protestant Reformation quickly followed suit (1517), led by Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and others. This created a similar Roman Catholic Reformation within the establishment through the Council of Trent (1545) which was in essence a defense of Catholic doctrines. Other Revivals are mentioned in the book like the American Great Awakening (1740), the Fundamentals (1910), Neo-Evangelicals (1943), Vatican II (1962), and the Christian Right (1979). Several events selected are related to the Bible, like the publishing of the King James Bible (1611), the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), Dead Sea Scrolls (1947), the Vulgate (405). It is interesting to see Bishop Ussher's Chronology (1650) included in the list. Credited for his work on dating creation at 4004BC, Ussher combines his wealth of knowledge and research to arrive at this conclusion, which other well-known scientists like Kepler and Newton had similarly concluded.

This book will provide a mini-history lesson of events that had influenced and shaped the Church of today. Of course, historians can argue and highlight other more worthy events to be included. That would very well mean having 40, 50, 60, or hundreds more to be included. That said, due to the limits imposed in this book, the thirty events are fairly significant and Gansky ought to be congratulated for his diligence in sorting out just 30 out of so many. If I am not wrong, I suspect that if Gansky was to write this same book again, he may very well remove some and add others in. Let this book spur the interest in the study of history of Christianity. It is more valuable that way.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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