Sunday, October 15, 2006

Book Review: Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley

I purchased & read this 500+ page book while I was still a Protestant. Yet even then, Mr. Shelley's transparent attempts and disguising his hatred for the Catholic Church were apparent to me. (I remember thinking "Wow, this guy really hates Catholics"). That was when I had no inkling whatsoever of joining the Church. Now as a Catholic, I can look back and see even more that he wrote which was anti-Catholic and revisionist history.

Don't get me wrong, if you're comfortable with evangelical ignorance and are not interested in facts this book comes highly recommended! (Although the lack of chronology throughout the book left me very confused). Well how biased is his book? Less than half of the book is devoted to the first 1520 years of Christianity. (The remaining 60% or so is devoted to the last 485 years) Anyone who can even spell the words "Church History" will know that the first 1500 years are far, far more rich and critical to Christianity than the last 485. That's whether you're Protestant or Catholic or whatever. These first 1500 years contain the apostles, the great martyrs, the church fathers, the great synods and councils which shaped orthodoxy and lets not forget Christ Himself. Yet Shelley would rather devote the majority of his book to the heretics who were excommunicated from the apostolic Church in the mid 1500s and the subsequent divisions between them.

Protestants are decievingly quiet about the real history of the canon. They have to be. Their entire doctrine of "sola scriptura" rests on logical fallacies made possible by historical ignorances as protestant books like this intentionally propogate. People must remain ignorant of the histories surrounding the selection of the canon or else they might just convert to the true Church. If Protestants realize that councils of the Catholic Church (and not Jesus Christ) selected which books would be in the Bible, they would also realize that the few weak arguments supporting Sola Scriptura completely break down. If they realize that the early Church along with Christ and the apostles used the Septuagint which included the apocrypha and that the earliest list of canonical books in the same order we have today by Athanasius in 367 AD also included the apocrypha (forget the fact that the early church routinely included it in virutally all of their canons) then they might realize how silly this basic protestant belief is. Of course, Shelley tries his best to keep all of this knowledge hidden. On page 67 he shows a chart of the canons as accepted by various churches and times. The fact that such vast differences existed and were only gradually eliminated by various councils (of the Catholic Church) should clue Protestants in that Sola Scriptura is a doctrine a few cards short of a full deck but aparently it doesnt. His account does mention some various early Church father documents such as Hermas and the Didache but fails to show the OT which would have included the apocrypha in the early Church thus clearly showing the unorthodoxy of the Protestant bible.

In the early pages he did mention many of the heroes of the faith such as Justin Martyr and St. Clement of Rome (the 4th pope) and he does paint them in favorable lights (if only in passing). Of course, he has to on some level since these are the early martyrs and fathers of the faith whether you're Catholic or not. But he fails to give any insight into their beliefs which are unequivocally Catholic and Orthodox. He spends much more time focusing on the ideas and heresies promoted by the reformers some 1500 years later than he does on those of the fathers and martyrs of the faith! If it were made clear how unanimously Catholic the early Church was, there would be more Protestants out there who would start wising up to the fact that they have been misled their entire life (I know... I was one of them).

As I progressed in the book his thinly disguised hatred for celibacy became very apparent. He even went as far to refer to the "evils of celibacy". It is mind boggling how aggressive Protestants get when you mention that word. They think celibacy is nearly a sin (forget the fact that both Christ and Paul advocated it). His bitterness against celibacy was so clear that you could tell he only grudgingly mentioned a portion of the great accomplishments made by the monks and nuns over the years and he by no means does that topic justice.

He has a list of popes and in order to conceal the true orthodoxy of the Catholic Church, he begins the list at 440 AD! This is such an unbelievable and clear bias.. hardly the work of a true historian! Whether you believe in the Catholic Church or not, the succesors to the Apostle Peter are well documented. He does have a footnote that reads "The Roman Catholic Church lists 48 popes before Leo I"... He should add "I removed them for the sake of deception".

He conveniently leaves out the fact that Luther and Calvin split from the church because they disagreed with the Pope and Church tradition yet imprisonned and even killed those who dissagreed with them. Although on page 243 he does mention briefly (in an apologetic manner) the massacre of over 100,000 peasants ordered by Martin Luther when they demanded an abolishment of serfdom since they had "turned to violence". He goes on to mention that many of the survivors returned to Catholicism now recognizing Martin Luther as a "false prophet".

Similarly he spends quite a bit of time on the Spanish Inquisition (which is routinely overblown in modern books) and completely ignores or mentions only in passing the many atrocities the various Protestant Churches are guilty of.

If I had read the book recently, I would be far more aware of the bias in this book than I was since I was Protestant when I read it and these are only the things I remember (since I wasn't looking for any of this). But I think you get the picture: DONT READ THIS BOOK. A Protestant writing a book on Church History? Hah!

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