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This is not intended to be a volume of winners and losers, but an exploration of the rich diversity of Christianity in the modern era. It attempts to uncover some of the hidden dynamics of faith within the institutions of christianity and to help show each of us the many ways in which other Christians have tried to live out of the gospel in an uncertain world. This is a story of conflict, controversy, and even violence that at times seems quite divorced from the peaceful teachings of Jesus; however, this book tries to make a sense of the conflicts in their own settings. Certainly in these conflicts, we see power struggles, greed, hatred, and even cruelty manifesting itself. It is important that Christians not be naive about their own history, particularly in the light of the Holocaust. However, in most of the conflicts in this book we also see Christians striving to put the gospel into action. It is not a black and white story of saints being persecuted by sinners, but a complex story of real humans trying to be faithful amidst the confusion and ambiguity of human life.
One of the most important slogans of the Protestant Reformation was the Latin phrase Ecclesia semper reformanda -- "the Church is always reforming". This theological principle, so central to the work of the Reformers, is the unifying theme of Craig D. Atwood's history of Christianity in the modern era.
Surveying Christianity's development over the past seven hundred years, Atwood tells the story of the demise of a unified Christendom in the face of change and division. In highly readable prose, the author spotlights Christian thinkers' repeated efforts to reform the church, as well as the divisions and frequent warfare sparked by these efforts.
The idea of reforming the church has a two-fold thrust. It means rectifying abuses or errors in the institutional church and bringing the church back into line with its original purpose. As Atwood unfolds the story, each century brought more splintering of the institutional church and more diversity within the various denominations. Reforming the church also meant reshaping the Christian religion itself to meet the demands and challenges of a new day. Christianity had to adapt or become a relic of a bygone era. For the modern period in particular, Christianity has been continually reforming and adapting to new social situations. In the process, thousands of different Christian churches have developed. Always Reforming explains the origins and development of a bewildering array of churches that have arisen since Martin Luther's reformation first tore the "seamless robe of Christ".
Arising out of the author's college teaching of modern Western religious history, the book gives special attention to women and other long-silenced voices in thehistory of Christianity. It is a vivid narrative of men and women of faith who have tried to make sense of the Christian gospel in a complex and ever-changing world.
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