Church History in Plain Language

Church History in Plain Language

Fifth Edition
Bruce L. Shelley, Marshall Shelley
$64.99 USD

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  • 9780310115984
  • Digital Enhanced Edition
  • Desktop, iOS, Android
  • July 13, 2021
  • Christian Church History

About the Authors

Bruce L. Shelley

Bruce L. Shelley

Ph.D., University of Iowa

Bruce Shelley was senior professor of church history and historical theology at Denver Seminary.

Marshall Shelley

Marshall Shelley

D.D., Denver Seminary

Marshall Shelley is director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Denver Seminary. He previously served as an editor and vice president at Christianity Today International for thirty-four years.


“Just plain good. No, make that great—accessible, reader friendly, and simply put: interesting!”
—MARK GALLI, former editor in chief of Christianity Today

“If you want a stimulating journey through the rich history of Christianity, this is the one book you must read!”
—DR. SCOTT WENIG, Denver Seminary

“Updates and enriches this already classic text, making it particularly poignant for our age.”

“Detailed and thorough while also sweeping and comprehensive. Christian history needs to belong to everybody. This book will help it do just that.”
—THE REV. DR. JENNIFER WOODRUFF TAIT, Christian History magazine


Bruce Shelley’s history of the church brings the story of global Christianity into the twenty-first century. For this fifth edition, Marshall Shelley assembled a team of historians, historical theologians, and editors to revise and update his father’s classic text. The new edition adds important stories of the development of Christianity in Asia, India, and Africa, both in the early church as well as in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It highlights the stories of women and non-Europeans who significantly influenced the development of Christianity but whose contributions are often overlooked in overviews of church history.


  • Details the rapid growth of Christianity in the southern hemisphere
  • Examines the influence of technology on the spread of the gospel
  • Discusses how Christianity intersects with other religions in countries all over the world

The fifth edition of Church History in Plain Language provides an easy-to-read guide to the worldwide Christian story with intellectual substance and promises to set a new standard for readable church history.

Table of Contents

  • List of Profiles of Faith

  • Preface to the Fifth Edition

  • Contributors to the Fifth Edition

  • Prologue

  • PART 1: The Age of Jesus and the Apostles, 6 BC–AD 70

  • 1. Away with the King! The Jesus Movement

  • 2. Wineskins Old and New: The Gospel to the Gentiles

  • PART 2: The Age of Catholic Christianity, 70–312

  • 3. Only “Worthless” People: Catholic Christianity

  • 4. If the Tiber Floods: The Persecution of Christians

  • 5. Arguing about the Event: The Rise of Orthodoxy

  • 6. The Rule of Books: Formation of the Bible

  • 7. School for Sinners: A Structure That Fits

  • 8. Apostles to Intellectuals: Interacting with Other Worldviews

  • 9. Countries of the Sunrise: Early Christianity in Asia and Africa

  • PART 3: The Age of the Christian Roman Empire, 312–590

  • 10. Laying Her Sceptre Down: Conversion of the Empire

  • 11. Splitting Important Hairs: The Doctrine of the Trinity

  • 12. Emmanuel! Christ in the Creeds

  • 13. Exiles from Life: Beginnings of Monasticism

  • 14. The Sage of the Ages: Augustine of Hippo

  • 15. Peter as “Pontifex Maximus”: Beginnings of the Papacy

  • 16. Somewhere between Heaven and Earth: Eastern Orthodoxy

  • 17. Bending the Necks of Victors: Mission to the Barbarians

  • PART 4: The Christian Middle Ages, 590–1517

  • 18. God’s Consul: Gregory the Great

  • 19. The Search for Unity: Charlemagne and Christendom

  • 20. Lifted in a Mystic Manner: The Papacy and the Crusader

  • 21. The Nectar of Learning: Scholasticism

  • 22. A Song to Lady Poverty: Francis and the Apostolic Lifestyle

  • 23. Chaos and the Law of Necessity: Decline of the Papacy

  • 24. Judgment in the Process of Time: Wyclif and Hus

  • PART 5: The Age of the Reformation, 1517–1648

  • 25. A Wild Boar in the Vineyard: Martin Luther and Protestantism

  • 26. Radical Discipleship: The Anabaptists

  • 27. Thrust into the Game: John Calvin and Reformed Rule

  • 28. The Curse upon the Crown: The Church of England

  • 29. “Another Man” at Manresa: The Catholic Reformation

  • 30. Opening the Rock: Uttermost America and Asia

  • 31. The Rule of the Saints: Puritanism

  • 32. Unwilling to Die for an Old Idea: Denominations

  • PART 6: The Age of Reason and Revival, 1648–1789

  • 33. Aiming at the Foundations: The Cult of Reason

  • 34. The Heart and Its Reasons: Pascal and the Pietists

  • 35. A Brand from the Burning: Wesley and Methodism

  • 36. A New Order of the Ages: The Great Awakening

  • PART 7: The Age of Progress, 1789–1914

  • 37. Restoring the Fortress: Catholicism in the Age of Progress

  • 38. A New Social Frontier: Nineteenth-Century England

  • 39. To Earth’s Remotest People: Protestant Missions

  • 40. The Destiny of a Nation: A Christian America?

  • 41. A Bridge for Intelligent Moderns: Protestant Liberalism

  • 42. Nothing to Lose but Chains: Slums and the Social Gospel

  • PART 8: The Age of Ideologies, 1914–1989

  • 43. Graffiti on a Wall of Shame: Twentieth-Century Ideologies

  • 44. Rootless Immigrants in a Sick Society: American Evangelicals

  • 45. New Creeds for Breakfast: The Ecumenical Movement

  • 46. The Medicine of Mercy: Roman Catholicism and Vatican II

  • PART 9: The Age of Technology and the Spirit, 1990–

  • 47. New Technologies, New Contexts: Christian Ministries in the West

  • 48. More Peoples, More Tongues: Emergence of the Global South

  • Epilogue

  • Notes

  • For Further Study

  • Index of People

  • Index of Movements

  • Index of Events

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