Hello. I have been very excited about the progressive Christian movement and have been doing a lot of reading on it...Shelby Spong, etc......I have been a conservative Christian most of my life, but have felt cheated because I know that most churches do not teach the real facts about church history. I am looking for a referral to a good book on Church history from the death of Jesus to current. Like how did we get to where we are today. More specifically, I am looking for things like Aneselems substitional atonement, information on other church Father's (the main ones at least). I just learned through my own research that substitionary atonement came from Anselem around 1000 AD and that his father was very harsh (abusive?) - no wonder Anselem viewed God as harsh and needing to kill someone! These are the things the church refuses to teach, but I want to learn. Please help me. Thanks! And Blessings!
Our Associate Director asked several of us to come up some suggestions for you, so I am copying them with my response to you. Your question is asking a lot. To give you an idea, while in seminary I was required to take two courses, with four to five books each on church history alone. However there have been some more contemporary attempts at doing just what you are asking but rust me, these are not easy reading.
The most recent and my first recommendation is a book written by Diarmaid MacColloch called The History of Christianity. (2009)You may find this daunting but it is close to 1200 pages long. I assure you that you could not cover the book thoroughly in any less. It is a New York best seller. Although I have not personally read the book it has had excellent reviews by people I respect. (I actually ordered it recently)
A classic book, by the same title was written by Paul Johnson in 1975 would also give you a solid foundation. I did have to read this one and it was a challenge in my early seminary days. At that time it was considered cutting edge because Johnson was not afraid to point out the good, the bad and the ugly in history of the church. I remember that taking me by surprise in the early 1980s. It is also close to 1000 pages and will take you some time. I am told that MacColloch’s book is more readable and probably a better book since there has been a lot of scholarly work done in the this area in the last 40 years.
If you would like the best book of the earliest beginnings, John Dominic Crossan The Historical Jesus. Crossan covers much of the same material without all of the scholarly demands in his next book Jesus a Revolutionary Biography and it is a much easier read.
Two books that might help you on your historical journey are both by Robert Price. The first one Deconstructing Jesus 2000 and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man may be more information than you want right now but these books are incredibly illuminating about the sketchy information we have about Jesus the pre-Jesus social setting, the religious, political and cultural forces the influenced the way the story of Jesus was told and early Christianity was formed.
There is about a year of reading for you. Write me back and let me know what you learned.
Thanks for writing.