In the previous volume of The Story of Christianity, Justo González took us to the dawn of the Reformation. In this second volume, he brings us from the Reformation to the present day.
Although more centuries were covered in the first volume, the sheer amount of change in the Christian church over these few centuries requires just as much length of treatment. The Reformation itself, was a complex event that had many causes and streams. It was so much more than just Martin Luther rediscovering salvation by faith.
We tend to focus on Luther and Calvin, but there were other things that were taking place. This includes the Anabaptists, but it also includes changes within the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church has its own story of what was happening at this time, and not just as background to the Reformation.
The Reformation was more than resetting the church and starting a new “normal.” It was the start of a number of continuing changes, both among Catholics and Protestants. González takes us through the rapid changes, including the First and Second Great Awakenings, that influenced the way in which Evangelicalism looks today.
The second volume of the The Story of Christianity continues González’s effective and clear teaching of the development of the Christian church. He takes complex events and makes them understandable but without sacrificing accuracy.
If you are interested in why the church looks the way it does today, you need to read about what happen the previous few centuries. The Story of Christianity: Volume 2 will help you do that.
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When I studied church history in seminary, the text that was assigned was The Story of Christianity: Volume 1 The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation by Justo L. González. I just recently reread this book as a part of my ongoing research.
I am reminded of what a tremendous resource this is. González is a tremendous scholar and he is equally a gifted writer. Church history can easily become a bog of names and dates that leaves the reader wanting to throw the book against the wall. But that is not the case with González.
González is able to get across the big story that provides the reader with everything they need to know but in a readable and accessible form. He traces out the major themes and introduces the important characters and yet it is somehow not overwhelming.
This first volume takes us from the beginning of Christianity to just before the reformation. That is quite the task, covering many centuries and seeing radical changes in the church. González is able to navigate these events by breaking down the history into sections such as: the early church, the imperial church, medieval Christianity and the beginnings of colonial Christianity.
There are more comprehensive church histories out there, but this is the introduction to church history that I recommend. It is the perfect place to start and to discover the eras that you want to learn more about.