Christian History in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Christian History in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic

Author:

Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Publisher:

InterVarsity Press

Publication Date:

May 18, 2021

Format:

Paperback

Length:

184 pages

OVERVIEW

It’s been said that those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it. This is perhaps especially true for Christianity, which makes specific historical claims about its origins and has had many groups who made big mistakes. Therefore, it’s important for Christians to at least know the basics of Christian history. Jennifer Woodruff Tait looks at seven Christian documents that changed the course of Christianity in big ways:

– The Edict of Milan (313)

– The Nicene Creed (325)

– The Rule of St. Benedict (c. 530)

– The Excommunication of Patriarch Kerularios by Pope Leo IX via Cardinal Humbert (1054)

– Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517)

– The Edinburgh Conference (1910)

– The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

With each of these documents, Tait gives readers the historical context to see what led up to the writing of the documents, what their ideas meant, and how things changed afterward.

Tait takes a concept that could easily be rather flat and formulaic, and carefully creates something more interesting. This could so easily become “Christian History for Dummies” or “Christian History: the CliffNotes version,” something terribly impersonal and boring. Tait summarizes events, but she always does it in a way that avoid sounding flat. She often livens things up with direct quotes or dramatically describing an important scene that set off the events. Occasionally she adds in personal comments, such as noting how brutal Luther and his associate were when they criticized each other (“they really knew how to insult each other in the sixteenth century!”). In several chapters, she even describes her personal connection to the material (such as how simple she thought the Reformation was before studying it, and how Vatican II effected the church she grew up attending).

All told, Tait has done a great job of making history feel alive and relevant to readers. The book is readable, informative, and captures how Christianity has morphed over the centuries. And Tait accomplishes all of this with less than 190 pages.

Terrifically educational and enlightening.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

5 stars

Recommended Audience

Christians interested in understanding Christian history at a basic level, while also getting tools for later deeper study.

Christian Impact

Tait helps readers to see the mistakes and the wise choices that Christians have made throughout history and how those choices have affected Christian unity and public understanding of certain ideas. Her view of history is always ecumenical and highlights the need to understand the past to make better choices for the future.

Christian History in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic

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