Beliefnet
For Bible Study Nerds

Reader Appeal: Bible Students, Pastors, Pew-Sitters

Genre: Christian History

FBSN Rating: A

 

It’s rare to find a book that could appeal to both a Bible Study Nerd and the average pew-sitter, but Alton Gansky has made one anyway.

30 Events that Shaped the Church takes a unique approach to Christian history. Instead of giving a broad overview of thousands of years between us and them, he spotlights specific moments in our shared past, choosing only the ones that he sees as having the most influence on our belief and experience today. That’s interesting, if only for the concept. Thankfully, Gansky (a former pastor and now a prolific novelist) is a superb writer as well. Add to that his well-researched information and a critical-thinker’s eye, and you’ve got a book that works.

Gansky chooses some of the standard moments you’d expect: Pentecost (when the church was officially born), the Council of Jerusalem (when we realized Christianity wasn’t just a Jewish sect), Titus’ destruction of the Jerusalem temple (which caused Christianity to spread into the entire world), and even the first Council of Nicaea (which solidified and preserved basic Christian doctrine for us today). These chapters are worth reading, but might not be new for those who have studied church history with any sincerity.

It’s Gansky’s unexpected choices of key events in our history that make this book stand out: the declaration of papal supremacy in 1302; John Smyth baptizing himself in 1609; Bishop Ussher’s attempt in 1650 to date the age of the Earth; the writing of the Bill of Rights in 1789; the Jesus Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and even the rise of new atheism that we are experiencing today. These events aren’t the ones professors spend a lot of time teaching about in seminary, so it’s refreshing to explore them here. And, while you may or may not agree with everything Gansky says, he certainly will make you think.

Like I said, it’s rare to find a book that appeals to both nerds and normals alike, but this could be one. Check it out for yourself, and afterward share it with a friend. Who knows what great conversations you’ll have as a result?

 

30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky

(Baker Books)

 

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