I want to thank Baker Books for providing me with a copy of 30 Events That Shaped the Church in return for my honest review.
History is so important. It gives us a lens through which we can view current events, and a perspective by which we can understand the world. I think that understanding the history of the church is especially important for Christians. It helps us understand different denominations, historical events, and so much more.
It’s becoming popular for New Atheists—and even world leaders—to attack the history of the church. I think it’s important for students (and parents!) to know their history. The church has certainly impacted history both in the pursuit of Christ and in the defense of sin.
Alton Gansky has written a nice overview of major moments in church history in 30 Events That Shaped the Church: Learning from Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival (Baker Books, 2015). The book is 264 pages long and covers specific events that impacted Christianity in some major way.
Our family covers history in four-year cycles, so I appreciate books that are chronological and can be read as we go through our studies. I like the fact that 30 Events That Shaped the Church covers each event in a fairly comprehensive way, giving readers an understanding of what happened and how it impacted Christians of the time and of today. Because the events chosen were things that impacted the church, rather than being things that the church specifically did, the book gives a somewhat unique and different perspective. Gansky writes in a mostly impartial manner, giving the reader the ability to interpret the events and their impact on his or her own. There were a few areas of the book where I felt that Gansky made statements that were not quite accurate or somewhat partial (particularly in areas I have studied in-depth, so mentioning that in regards to a historical overview may not be entirely fair), but I don’t feel that those areas were glaring enough to dissuade me from reading the book to my middle school children. We read history from a number of perspectives for that reason—every historian or journalist brings with them a worldview through which they filter the information they share.
In his introduction, Alton Gansky acknowledges that choosing only 30 events over the last 2 millennium was a difficult task (I bet!). I felt a number of the events he covered (particularly in the modern era) really added to my own understanding of theology and the church today. Gansky also covers Catholic history (before and after the Reformation), which I think is interesting and important. For Protestants to understand our Catholic neighbors, we need to be aware of issues like the Council of Trent and Vatican II (in my opinion).
Events covered in the book (by chapter heading):
1. Pentecost (AD 30); 2. The Conversion of Paul (AD 35); 3. Gentiles and Judaism: Showdown in Jerusalem (AD 50); 4. When Rome Burned (AD 64); 5. The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (AD 70); 6. The Edict of Milan (AD 313); 7. The First Council of Nicaea (AD 325); 8. Jerome Completes the Vulgate Translation of the Bible (405); 9. The East-West Schism (1054); 10. Innocent III Expands the Power of the Papacy (1198); 11. Unam Sanctam Proclaims Papal Supremecy (1302); 12. Gutenberg Produces the First Printed Bible (1456); 13. The Protestant Reformation (1517); 14. The Scientific Revolution Begins (1543); 15. The Council of Trent (1545); 16. Smyth Baptizes Himself and Begins the Early Baptists (1609); 17. The King James Version is Published (1611); 18. Bishop Ussher’s Chronology (1650); 19. The Great Awakening in the United States (1740); 20. The Bill of Rights is Written (1789); 21. Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species is Published (1859); 22. The Scofield Reference Bible Is Published (1909); 23. The Fundamentals (1910); 24. The Scopes “Monkey Trial” (1925); 25. The Rise of the Neo-Evangelicals (1943); 26. The Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered (1947); 27. The Jesus Movement (1960-70s); 28. Vatican II (1962); 29. The Rise of the Christian Right: Confrontational Christianity (1979); 30. The Rise of the New Atheism (Present)
I think 30 Events That Shaped the Church is a valuable contribution to the literature on the history of the church available for lay people. I appreciate the narrative quality of the writing, and the information covered. Gansky’s explanations are entirely appropriate for middle and high school students of history.
You can purchase 30 Events That Shaped the Church at:
You can find the coordinating book 60 People Who Shaped the Church at:
Other books for older students reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions by Aaron Little
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology by Brian Cosby
- Bitesize Theology: An ABC of Christian Faith by Peter Jeffrey
- Zachary Macaulay (Bitesize Biographies) by Faith Cook
- Questions God Asks by Israel Wayne
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