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Church History in Plain Language

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,874 ratings  ·  310 reviews
With more than 315,000 copies sold, this is the story of the church for todays readers. The fourth edition of Shelleys classic one-volume history of the church brings the story of Christianity into the twenty-first century. This latest edition of the book takes a close look at the rapid growth of evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity in the southern hemisphere, ...more
Kindle Edition, Fourth, 543 pages
Published December 10th 2013 by Thomas Nelson (first published February 1st 1982)
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Mike Day You can purchase an audio version. I have both, a print and audio version. This book is worth marking and highlighting and reading more than once!

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Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll begin by saying that this is probably one of the most easily readable church history books available. The writing style is straightforward and non-academic. The chapter lengths are perfect for daily reading. For a survey of the last 2000 years, Shelley manages to put in a lot of detail without getting bogged down in it. There's a lot to like about this book.

There are a few things to dislike about this book though. First, it should be called Western Church History with a Calvinist Bias.
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two-thirds finished!!! LOVE HISTORY! Just as they say, studying another language improves understanding of your native language....that is what this book has done/is doing for me--religiously!

FINISHED!! What a book. I loved it! The chapters I particulary enjoyed were those about the 18th-21st century. I am crazy-wanting to read a kazillion books now. I feel like this book does an excellent job of outlining Christian history, gives a few juicy details, and then moves on...just enough to make me
Dec 31, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zero-stars, 2018
Yes, I did learn some stuff. However, this book is not objective at all. The authors assert their opinions and biases when describing historical events and critiquing people and people groups of the past. For example: the author unnecessarily criticizes the theology of a man from the 3rd century using a quote from a modern day theologian...this was written to a very specific audience with a very specific theology and assumes that not only does every reader have this same brand of Christianity
David Bigg
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good brief summary of the history of the church. Enjoyed reading this book a lot.
Jake Welchans
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best church history material I've come across. Well organized, informative, detailed, and written in a way that won't put you to sleep. Love this books. Highly reccomend.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: church, history
Although long, this book is broken into short chapters and is written in a style that makes it easy to read. It gives an overview of Church history from Christ to the current age discussing major themes, events, people, etc. It was kind of like drinking from a fire hose, but it was helpful. I'm slowly building on my church history context and this book was a great aid to that.

It's fairly neutral (although it assumes that the reader will be at least sympathetic to the Church; in the end it talks
Lindsay Bowley
Outside of the Bible, I have not read another book that better helped me understand my faith. It is a frustrating time in the church right now, yet what we are experiencing is not new. Ive never learned the context behind the denomination I am in versus all of the other denominations throughout history. I now know that my faith in this time period is not a blip on the church timeline but is instead part of a long story of a blemished body of believers constantly being wooed back to truth ...more
May 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is an approachable introduction to the history of the Christian church. Those seeking a basic understanding of church history (or a quick review of it) will probably be satisfied with what they find in it. The end of each chapter lists recommendations for further reading; and a list of popes and several indexes in the back of the book make this a ready reference book. It could be good for church small group study.

However, the book lacks two things for the academic reader. First, it
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a number of years, I've wanted to fill in my lack of knowledge of the history of the church of Christ between the book of Acts and now. Hence, my purchase of this book. The "in plain language" part also was important to me.
Professor Shelley succeeds both in telling the story of Christian church history and doing so in plain language. It is such a massive topic that even in 500-plus pages he has to go over things very quickly. All sorts of fascinating characters step in and out of the
Nicholas Bradley
Oct 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in knowing Church history from Jesus until present day
This book helps you to palm church history and teach you about groups of people that are simply not remembered in every day life. It goes into where certain traditions and doctrines came from and how we as the Ecclesia all fit into this crazy world. It talks about doctrine to a fair degree and explores greatly where a lot of these doctrines came from. It is VERY understandable and is organized in such a way that you can either read straight through like a timeline (although it is a little jumpy) ...more
Nov 30, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: noone
Shelves: abandoned
I'm not against apologetics books.
I'm not against Church history books written unashamedly from the Christian POV.
I'm not even against shameless mixing of the two.
I like books written in plain language.

I like good books.

This one is not. Neither is in in plain language. This is a bad book, the language is above all boring to death. What the book lacks in style, it has in abundance in bad history and pitiful apologetics. I can't understand how anyone could have read it, even on assignment.
Jeff Mcadams
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic! I finished this book with a sense of awe at the work of God, the Architect and Builder of the Church. I also gained a more gracious and inclusive perspective of my fellow Christians in sundry traditions and denominations here and abroad.
Brian Eshleman
A good overview that hits the Big Questions of Christian history in an approachable way. Each chapter's suggestions for further reading also intrigue me.
Donald Owens II
I am a fan of plain language. So let me say this plainly. I would not recommend this book as an introduction to church history. A useful quick read for someone already familiar with church history, but not a reliable source. Not just because of the lackluster prose, or the factual errors other reviewers have catalogued, but because of his unadmitted bias.

In discussing the rise of the papacy (ch. 14), the author says, Our primary concern, however, is neither the vindication nor the refutation of
Chris Campbell
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An impressive condensation of 2000 years of history into 520 pages (just about 4 years per page when you think about it), Shelley and Hatchett do an admirable job of making the great advances of Christian thought easy to understand. This is clearest when writing about the early church councils and the Reformers, with theological conflicts carefully explained, and some clever supplemental material with genuinely helpful tables and charts. Shelley is never shy about his perspective, and any ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Bruce Shelly does a fantastic job at objectively outlining in broad strokes the historical landscape of the Christian church. He takes his readers from the days of the disciples walking with Jesus through the early Catholic Church, the crusades, the Reformation, the expansion of various veins of Protestantism and up through to the modern day.

Bruce tells the good, the bad, and the reality of where the church has been, as well as the challenges it faces on the horizon.

This book challenged me to
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not possible to write a one-volume history of the church. Shelley, however, does a commendable job of selecting persons, times, and places for focus, without losing the sense of development and growth that is the history of the church. Obviously directed at a primarily American audience, this is a good way to get someone started on a perusal of the church's history. The chapters are brief enough that someone could read a chapter a day and still finish in less than two months with a decent ...more
Liz Baker
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would never have read or finished this behemoth apart from it being required reading for a class, but its a book Im glad to have read. It walks through all 20 centuries of worldwide church historythe good, the bad, and the ugly. I felt the full spectrum of emotions as I readamazed, horrified, thankful, sad. There are things over which we can rejoice and many that we are right to mourn.

One takeaway out of many....The age we live in is truly amazing...the idea of the separation of church and
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
The title really is pretty accurate! Having come, lost and confused, off of reading Chadwick's History of the Early Church, this was a breath of fresh air!

This book managed to give a pretty good overview of the history of the (primarily Western) church in very clear, understandable language. When new people and ideas were introduced, they were actually explained somewhat succinctly. I felt this was a great introduction to the study of church history. The author freely included his opinions and
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I feel like I was whirled though the history of the world while reading this fascinating book on how churches and their relationship with God, and especially Jesus, evolved. I admit to skimming some parts, and also to reading some parts aloud to my husband. :) The main takeaways for me: It is an immense privilege to be able to own and read scripture. Power corrupts. There have been so many groups and methods by which Christ has been preached...but the turning point really was the doctrine ...more
Stacy Guillory
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would encourage church members to read this history book.
We have a tendency to think of church culture and even the way we view Christian Life as something that hasn't changed but reading through this book will give you a broader more in depth view of the history of the church.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Accessible. Says a lot in little space. Really appreciated the summary sweep of the entire book in the epilogue.
Ross Ripamonti
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent top line overview of Church history.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Encourage all people to read this. Believers or not. Catholics or Protestants.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All Christians should read this, or something similar. Education is key!
I am in a "learn about Christian church history" mode these days. I will be the first to confess also that I am not educated in this area and unfortunately have been brought up in a Christian tradition that does not emphasize much church history unless it is local, American, or protestant. Thus I am reading several books that all have to do with church history, each from a slightly different Christian tradition.

"Church History in Plain Language" is written from a western evangelical Protestant
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A helpful introduction to Church History. Fairly comprehensive (for a survey) and quite readable -- each chapter is only about 10 pages. Having said that, 600 pages (with no footnotes taking up space) is a lengthy read! Helpfully attempts to draw out the significance of historical events for modern day readers throughout. Shelley writes as a protestant evangelical, but I thought he made a fair effort to be objective. The 'plain language' feature was frustrating -- I constantly found myself ...more
Simo Ibourki
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, christianity
The book is a good introduction to Christian history (inside and outside of the church). It's easy to read and a little bit long but that's okay because Christianity has a long history.

The author wrote the book from the christian POV. He said it in the beginning that the book is destined to the average christian who is ignorant of the history of Christianity. So while reading the book , I felt that Mr Shelley was on the defensive (read apolegitic), espeacially when he talks about "heritics", the
Jang David Kim
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It is impossible for one book to cover the entire church history. However, if I had to pick one, I would recommend this book. It's easy and fun to read (remember, history can get a bit dry and the author can get off track in meaningless events), while hitting all the major significant events and persons of the church history.

I love Shelley's thoughtful reflections to the events, not just "this is what happened." And most of all, it gives you a healthy framework of the entire church history and
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was really good. I was a history minor in college and have read through a few history books. This book takes the historical approach seriously. He does a good job at hitting the high notes and making you feel like a part of the story. My one complaint with the book is not really the authors fault, its the nature of history. So, many of the themes are overlapping by centuries and half-centuries that you can get side tracked on where he is at on the timeline while on a particular point. ...more
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Dr. Bruce Shelley was the long-time professor of church history and historical theology at Denver Seminary. He joined the faculty in 1957.

He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and received a theological degree from Fuller Seminary. He also attended Columbia Bible College.

Dr. Shelley wrote or edited over twenty books, including Church History in Plain Language, All the Saints Adore Thee,

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37 likes · 10 comments
“Christianity is the only major religion to have at its central event the humiliation of its God.” 4 likes
“In a sense the rise of Anabaptism was no surprise. Most revolutionary movements produce a wing of radicals who feel called of God to reform the reformation. And that is what Anabaptism was, a voice calling the moderate reformers to strike even more deeply at the foundations of the old order. Like most counterculture movements, the Anabaptists lacked cohesiveness. No single body of doctrine and no unifying organization prevailed among them. Even the name Anabaptist was pinned on them by their enemies. It meant rebaptizer and was intended to associate the radicals with heretics in the early church and subject them to severe persecution. The move succeeded famously. Actually, the Anabaptists rejected all thoughts of rebaptism because they never considered the ceremonial sprinkling they received in infancy as valid baptism. They much preferred Baptists as a designation. To most of them, however, the fundamental issue was not baptism. It was the nature of the church and its relation to civil governments. They had come to their convictions like most other Protestants: through Scripture. Luther had taught that common people have a right to search the Bible for themselves. It had been his guide to salvation; why not theirs? As a result, little groups of Anabaptist believers gathered about their Bibles. They discovered a different world in the pages of the New Testament. They found no state-church alliance, no Christendom. Instead they discovered that the apostolic churches were companies of committed believers, communities of men and women who had freely and personally chosen to follow Jesus. And for the sixteenth century, that was a revolutionary idea. In spite of Luther’s stress on personal religion, Lutheran churches were established churches. They retained an ordained clergy who considered the whole population of a given territory members of their church. The churches looked to the state for salary and support. Official Protestantism seemed to differ little from official Catholicism. Anabaptists wanted to change all that. Their goal was the “restitution” of apostolic Christianity, a return to churches of true believers. In the early church, they said, men and women who had experienced personal spiritual regeneration were the only fit subjects for baptism. The apostolic churches knew nothing of the practice of baptizing infants. That tradition was simply a convenient device for perpetuating Christendom: nominal but spiritually impotent Christian society. The true church, the radicals insisted, is always a community of saints, dedicated disciples in a wicked world. Like the missionary monks of the Middle Ages, the Anabaptists wanted to shape society by their example of radical discipleship—if necessary, even by death. They steadfastly refused to be a part of worldly power including bearing arms, holding political office, and taking oaths. In the sixteenth century this independence from social and civic society was seen as inflammatory, revolutionary, or even treasonous.” 2 likes
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