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Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  542 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Evangelicalism\u2019s premier historian provides a general introduction to church history.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Baker Academic (first published June 1st 1997)
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Community Reviews

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This is a very good basic book on the history of Christianity, which is actually used as a textbook. In fact, there is a set of detailed questions in the back which is suitable for discussion or study groups.

One of the interesting things about this book is its approach to the subject. It does not try to give an impossibly condensed yet comprehensive history of the subject in one huge unwieldy volume. Nor does it take the multi-volume approach and go into minute details.

Instead, it takes a serie
Melissa Travis
This is great as a reference book, but not really for a cover-to-cover read. Informative but very dry.
The second of Mark Noll's books that I've read, and again I was impressed. The author takes a methodical, objective walk through nearly 2000 years of Christian history, highlighting a dozen key events such as the Council of Nicea (~standardization of the Biblical text), coronation of Charlemagne (ascendency of Christianity as civilization itself in western europe), the French Revolution (struggle between enlightenment thinking and religious traditional power). Add to this the Counter-Reformation ...more
The textbook for a Church History subject I'm teaching. A balanced, readable, interesting single volume survey. The selection of 13 'turning point' events from 2000 years of church history is a great device -- Noll has managed to present a reasonably satisfying treatment of the subject in only 330 pages, whilst also keeping the significance of each event constantly in view. Well presented as an introductory textbook with photos, select quotations from primary sources, each chapter starting with ...more
Je lis donc je suis
I found this to be amongst the best of the books I have read on this topic, and I have read a few this year. I would attribute this primarily to the books accessibility. Most of the volumes I have read or seen on the history of the Church appear to be college textbooks. As such, well, they kind of make for dry reading. This is sad because most Christians then justifiably choose not to become aware of their family history, thus becoming a people without roots. Even more sad is that it leaves the ...more
Zaak Robichaud
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacob Aitken
First church history book I ever read. Some interesting socio-economic explanations for why people did x.
Turning Points was a book that I had to read for a college class on Baptist history and Christianity; although only about 75% of the book was assigned for the class, I ended up reading the remaining chapters as well for my own benefit (although I personally got more out of the first 75%, but that's probably because I absolutely had to remember in case of a quiz the following day).

The book covers thirteen important turning points in the history of Christianity, although the author makes note tha
This was an okay book. I had to read it for a class in college. It was kinda hard to follow at times. Sometimes the author would discuss what he considered a 'turning point' right away; other times he discussed the backstory behind a given 'turning point' without going into much detail as to why said 'point' was a 'turning point.' He was correct about one thing - there are many 'turning points' in the growth of any major religion and it can be hard to narrow it down to any limited number of foca ...more
Mr. Noll has a good idea to focus on key events, or turning points, in the history of Christianity. This allows the reader to see church history as a series of connected events where occasional mountain peaks provide a radical shift in the landscape of Christianity. While it may seem counter intuitive that mountain peaks connect the whole of history, Mr. Noll does a fine job of connecting the peaks to show that history is all part of one range. Perhaps the mountain peak/range metaphor breaks dow ...more
Lego Ergo Sum
I found this to be amongst the best of the books I have read on this topic, and I have read a few this year. I would attribute this primarily to the book’s accessibility. Most of the volumes I have read or seen on the history of the Church appear to be college textbooks. As such, well, they kind of make for dry reading. This is sad because most Christians then justifiably choose not to become aware of their family history, thus becoming a people without roots. Even more sad is that it leaves the ...more
Frank Peters
I fully expected that Turning points would be one of my favourite books, due to the topic which is a hobby of mine. Everything about the book was done properly in every way, yet for reasons that I do not understand, I found it to be a difficult and awkward read. Noll prefaced the book with an excellent, humble introduction admitting his background (e.g. American Protestant) and inevitable bias. He then proceeded to outline what he believes to be the most significant turning points in the history ...more
David Wood
A Review - I love church history...and I love Mark Noll's writings. Therefore, I wasn't disappointed reading t
his book. Noll is always insightful and lucid in his writings. In Turning Points, he offers the reader an entry point into the wonderful world of church history. Rather than walking through history in a chronological manner, Noll encourages the lay student to engage in church history by focusing in on key "turning points" in the history of Christianity.

So, what does Noll look at? He exam
(These are notes are made for my personal research library)

Esler Research Notes Turning Points, Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity by Mark A. Noll

Author Background Mark Noll is a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. He is an evangelical who lives and works in a Roman Catholic school and has written a number of significant books that evangelicals have pointed to as important books to their movement. He is popularly known for the book, “The Scandal of the Evangelical
Robert Clay
A very well written work by one of America's most esteemed professors and historians of church history. The organization of the book is superb, the basic idea being summed up in the title. From the introduction:
"Concentrating on the turning points of church history also provides an opportunity to highlight, to linger over specific moments so as to display the humanity, the complexities, and the uncertainties that constitute the actual history of the church, but which are often obscured in tryin
This was interesting and thought-provoking. Although Protestant himself, Noll makes the reader aware of his personal bias and tries to be fair in presenting different aspects of theological debate. The book is well organized around various critical turning points, which the writer recognizes as an over-simplification of history but a useful pedagogical tool. As such its a good introduction to the history of the church, touching on major issues without getting too deep into the details. It is not ...more
Thomas Freeman
Good Book. A bit overly simplistic. Noll attempts to be "unbiased" and thus over generalizes at times. Instead of recognizing some of the weaknesses in key historical figures he will over emphasize their strengths or impacts on history.

His primary goal is to look at major turning points that shaped long trends of church history. I believe that he is probably very accurate and he does a good job of explaining why he chose the events he chose. Along they way, you will see much about the time perio
John Kaess
This book is unique among books about church history. Rather than covering all the people, processes and events that have taken place over the past 2,000 years, this book focuses on 14 key moments which made significant impacts on the church and changed in some way what it was, what it believed or what it did. It is an excellent second source for studying church history. It is a bit dense, in that it doesn't have much fluff and shouldn't be read in a cursory manner.
Raj Agrawal
Good overview of major events in history of organized Christianity, with a clear bias in favor of Protestant, evangelical Christianity. The nature of politics, conflict, and pressures from other cultures/religions is largely oversimplified, but this is still an excellent resource to build a working understanding of the history of the faith.
I love Noll's approach to this book. It is much easier to read than many other church history books. He focuses on specific important turning points in the history of the church, and tells the stories of the church's development surrounding those events. He shows how God is sovereign, and how the church is imperfect. Many events he mentions are events that were familiar to me, but the stories surrounding them and the understanding of their importance in the grand scheme of church history was oft ...more
This book traces the history of Christianity by defining 12 "turning points," which are pivotal moments in its development. These range from the Council of Niceo, to the Reformation (the Diet of Worms, actually), to the Edinburgh Mission conference in 1910.

It was a good book, and certainly well-researched, but quite a bit of it went over my head. The author is a theologian at Wheaton College, and the book assumes a fair amount of knowledge. You need to be a student of Christian history, and I su
Adam T Calvert
A valuable resource in introductory church history. It reads more like a textbook than Bruce Shelley’s Church History in Plain Language, but it’s still a very readable “textbook;” and it’s no where close to the size of most other introductory church history textbooks.

Mark Noll takes the reader through what he sees as some of the more definitive events, or “decisive moments,” of the history of the church. He begins and ends each chapter with a devotional piece relating to that time period of hist
Turning Points is a wonderful short book, aware of its limitations, but providing a coherent glimpse into church history. It is mainly an entrance at the level of ideas and major individuals (theology and church leaders), only hinting at social practices of ordinary people. It is weighted too heavily to the Reformation and spends too long on Luther alone, only touching on Calvin and the Puritans. But all that said, it covers major ideas very well and will be useful to introduce subjects and thou ...more
Robin Haworth
I love Mark Noll, and I enjoy reading about church history, so this should have been a slam dunk for me, but for some reason I found it just ok. I might have actually preferred it to be a bit longer and a bit more detailed. I also might have preferred one long narrative as opposed to hitting the major highlights (like Bruce Shelley's "Church History in Plain Language"). Nevertheless, if you know very little about church history and would like a shorter read that covers the watershed events, this ...more
Greg Taylor
I've read several of Mark A. Noll's books, and he is a thorough and honest scholar and historian. Turning Points is one of his best books, in my opinion, because more than any other book he's written, he sweeps through Christian history and shows why certain points in history, these "turning points," are important. Two examples of turning points: church councils and the nailing of the 99 Theses on the wall of Wittenberg by Martin Luther. He explains why these things are important. It has been ma ...more
Brian Watson
In this book on Christian history, Mark Noll tries to tell the story of that history by focusing on several key "turning points," such as the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Council of Nicea (325), the Diet of Worms in 1521, and the French Revolution of 1789. Though he writes about those turning points, he often fills in the historical gaps between those events, connecting the dots between historical trends. He also provides, in the introduction, some good reasons to study Christian history.
As far as books on the history of Christianity go, Noll does a great job of turning something commonly called dry and turns it into an exciting series of events. Some chapters are done better than others, but Noll's overall effect is a good one. He brings the facts and important issues to the surface of the conversation in a way that highlights the importance of each turning point. Definitely a good read if you're looking for an overview of the history of the Christian church.
James Palmer
Got it as a course text for my church history class. Very good book, tries very hard to be balanced although definitely written from a western evangelical perspective.

Excellent introduction for those who wish to find out more.
Nov 19, 2007 Wes rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people
This is a great book about the history of the church. The layout is not like your grade school history book. The history of the church is given as relates to major turning points. This seems like a more realistic view ans also make the book easier to follow and find specifics. It is a definite read for those wishing to know more about the history of Christianity and why things are done in such a way.
May 03, 2012 Philip is currently reading it
Great overview of Christian History. It's a great way to read about Christian History if you just don't have the time to finish books quickly. The book consists of 10 turning points, each taking up a chapter. Because each chapter is a separate turning point and almost entirely unattached to the previous ones, it's easy to pick up midway through after reading other things.
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Mark A. Noll (born 1946), Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, is a progressive evangelical Christian scholar. In 2005, Noll was named by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America. Noll is a prolific author and many of his books have earned considerable acclaim within the academic community. The Scandal of the Evangelical ...more
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