30 Events That Shaped the Church: Learning From Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival by Alton Gansky is a monumental work. The author had to take 2000 years of church history and choose 30 events that he believed had the greatest impact on the church. Not only that, he then had to write about them in a way that educated the reader on the events and the people without going into too much detail and without being dry. Then, Gansky had the task of showing why he thinks these are the 30 best examples of historical events that shaped the church.
Overall, the author did a wonderful job tackling the big task that he created for himself. I could empathize with his introductory comments about aching every time he cut an item off of the list in order to come up with his 30. I read the first 15 events in one sitting and then read the remaining half over two days. Needless to say, the book is quite readable and will provide a great snapshot of church history for someone looking for introduction to major events.
I found it rather intriguing that Gansky opted to place the New Atheists as the final item on his list. Though recent, the New Atheist movement has likely already crested and is fizzling out. But it did result in the church arising to a new challenge and created the need for a new generation of shepherd-apologists to deal with the fallout that the movement will leave in its wake for years to come.
There will always be debate over what Gansky “should have” included and “should have” excluded based upon one’s own church background (or lack thereof). Personally, I have a couple of areas that I may have opted to do differently. Based upon the chapter, I can see why the author chose Smyth instead of one of the first Anabaptists though it would have been interesting to see a different figure as the feature. Second, it would have been nice to see a chapter on the launch of worldwide missions (since overseas long-term and short-term missions are now woven into the fabric of many church cultures) instead of the chapter on the Dead Sea Scrolls (which could have been included in another chapter – such as the Neo-Evangelicals).
As a bit of critique, though I admire the clear longing that the author has for an expression of the unity of the church on the earth (mentioned outright or alluded to in many of the chapters), some of that passion and disappointment may have bled over into the writing too much. In particular, there was an overwhelming flavor of the author’s disappointment in the Fundamentals and Neo-Evangelicals chapters that overly colored some of the historic good that those elements provided the church then and still today.
Overall, the book is well written, approachable, and well argued. It is a worthy read for anyone interested in an introduction to 30 church shaping events over the past 2000 years.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.