Friday, August 22, 2008

A Concise History of Christian Thought

If you are a Church History fan, then there is a book that is a must have for you this year. A Concise History of Christian Thought is amazingly concise (hence the name) and readable. The book is a total of 336 pages, yet covers a wide array of significant figures and events in Christian history. Most topics are covered in 1-2 pages, and include direct quotes from the author in question.

In this book you'll learn some of the following fascinating facts about church history:
  • As a teenager, Origen (185-253) was set on following his father into martyrdom. The only thing that hindered him was that his mother had hidden his clothes! Origen also made the first attempt at writing a 'systematic theology' for the early church.
  • Peter Abelard (1079-1141), considered "the most brilliant thinker of the twelfth century," began tutoring the teenage daughter of the director of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. They fell madly in love and the daughter, Heloise, became pregnant. Abelard decided to secretly marry Heloise, but her father felt betrayed, and put Heloise in a convent. He then sent a special group of visitors to Abelard's house, who made sure he would never impregnate another (There is an entire book available on this romance called Heloise and Abelard.)
  • Peter Lombard (1099-1160), a prodigy of Abelard's, wrote a book called The Sentences. Writing a commentary on this book became the standard preparation for a doctorate of theology until well after the Reformation.
  • Jan Hus (1372-1415) of Prague, a leader of the Bohemian reformers and a supporter of Wyclif's, was burned at the stake for his stance against the institutionalized church. His writings were a precursor to the reformation of the 1500's. (Luther was condemned by the church in part because he confirmed some of Hus's and Wyclif's teachings).
  • Martin Luther, the father of the reformation, avoided execution because a prince in Germany agreed to hide him in a castle for a full year.
  • The "five points of Calvinism" were not summarized by Calvin, but compiled at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) in response to the 5 points the Arminians had drafted to summarize their beliefs. (Calvin died in 1564).
  • Robert Bellarmine (1542, 1621), the namesake of Bellarmine College in Louisville, spent his life defending Catholicism against the protestant 'heretics.' In 1616 he was charged with the awkward task of informing Galileo that the Inquisition had decided it was the earth, and not the sun, that was the center of the universe (Glad they cleared that one up).
There's tons of great information in here, and it is a great reference work. Ever been in a conversation where someone drops the name of an obscure theologian? Well if you have this book you can go home and learn about them in a couple of pages.

A Picture of the Jan Hus statue from our trip to Prague last summer
(The statue was being renovated).

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