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The Changing Shape of Church History [Paperback]

By Justo L. Gonzalez (Author)
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Item description for The Changing Shape of Church History by Justo L. Gonzalez...

"[Gonzalez] shows how church historians such as Eusebius, Augustine, the Magdeburg authors of Centuries, Baronius, and Harnack changed the way church history has been written over the centuries, how people of color and women have recently changed the writing of church history, and what might be the future of church history in the 21st century."

Publishers Description
New, different readings of church history are finally reflecting Christianity's deep roots in every culture worldwide. Gonzalez listens to voices from centers other than the North Atlantic to help us see a different perspective of church history -- a global story that includes those previously marginalized -- as he offers us a hopeful outlook for the future of world Christianity.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Chalice Press
Pages   159
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.68" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.47"
Weight:   0.54 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2002
Publisher   Chalice Press
ISBN  0827204906  
ISBN13  9780827204904  

Availability  95 units.
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More About Justo L. Gonzalez

Justo L. Gonzalez Justo L. González, a retired member of the Río Grande Conference of the United Methodist Church, went to college and seminary in Cuba before receiving postgraduate degrees from Yale University. He taught at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico and Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. He played a key part in the founding of the Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana and of the Hispanic Summer Program. He was also the first executive director of the Hispanic Theological Initiative. Justo has published more than one hundred books, as well as hundreds of articles, and edited the journal Apuntes for twenty years.

Justo L. Gonzalez currently resides in Decatur, in the state of Georgia.

Justo L. Gonzalez has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Abingdon Essential Guides
  2. Armchair Theologians
  3. Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible
  4. Good News for the Millennium
  5. History of Christian Thought
  6. Jesus Collection
  7. Know Your Bible (Spanish)
  8. Three Months
  9. Three Months with

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Church History

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Changing Shape of Church History?

More weaknesses than strengths in this book  Oct 9, 2006
Gonzalez's work indeed has more weaknesses than it does strengths. The principal weaknesses of Gonzalez's book lie in his presuppositions and recommendations in how the discipline of church history should be thought of and practiced. However, the strength of his book, as always, resides in his impressive wealth of knowledge pertaining to the field of church history and the ability of which he communicates it.
In the first chapter of his book, Gonzalez brings up a powerful presupposition that is questionable. His point about past historians emphasizing church history to the tune of "North American Protestantism" is somewhat problematic. This assertion by Gonzalez is debatable in a couple of different ways. First, with respect to his example about Walker's A History of the Christian Church and its over emphasis on the reformation and those events closely associated, the point being made is at best a noteworthy example of a book that is limited to a particular flavor of church history. At worst, Gonzalez's initial point, that certain areas of church history have been neglected, is simply an obvious fact that no reasonable person would disagree with. Thus, it seems that his use of Walker as an example is a bit weak to paint a picture of what he calls, "The Old Map."

The second problem that relates to Gonzalez's presupposition of viewing church history in a fair and balanced way is found in his diatribe against the apparent centrality of the "North Atlantic" base of historical church thought. Assuming that he is correct in his assertion that church history is, or was, being seen through Western Protestant goggles, there is a question that arises. What is wrong with emphasizing the reformation of the church as a vital point in church history? Does the reformation not warrant extra emphasis due to the undeniable fact that it changed world history? The answer to the question by most Christians is yes. That being said, special emphasis on the reformation in Europe can be warranted in church history due to the outcome of the reformation. This of course does not negate the reality that there is certainly other church history that is necessary to learn. Furthermore, it is doubtful that any sensible Christian, or historian for that matter, would disagree with this. However, the point here is that Gonzalez may be attempting to glean too much out of this reality (44).

Of the many recommendations that Gonzalez makes, perhaps the weakest is his assertion that somehow the church must be ecumenical but at the same time be orthodox. This is by no means a bad recommendation, but a benevolent one. Unfortunately, and Gonzalez no doubt understands this, it is easier to say than to employ. For example, his discourse about religious practices and expressions of the masses (who are loosely defined minorities) all being equally valid is both disturbing and irresponsible to posit (29). This is not because they, the masses, are not worthy or inferior, but because all religious practices and expressions are not equally valid. For example, to say that Pelagius' view of soteriology is equally valid to that of Augustine is like saying A can be both A and ~A. Thus, it is not a case of Gonzalez being incorrect in his recommendation of being ecumenical and orthodox, but the weakness of his recommendation is that it is simplistic and naive without adequate qualification.

Although there are more weaknesses in Gonzalez's presuppositions and recommendations than strengths, he does have many great things to say with respect to the discipline of church history. For one, Gonzalez often points to situations in the past where Christians failed in their mission to reflect Jesus Christ to a fallen world. His discourse on the hubris of modernity was particularly insightful when he demonstrates the hypocrisy of 19th century Christians in their quest for racial superiority (55). Furthermore, he gives an eloquent exposition on the pros and cons regarding the fall of the modern metanarrative.

Perhaps the most powerful point in Gonzalez's book is his chapter on "Mapping a New Catholicity." The strength of this insightful chapter culminates in his explanation about the differences of being "cath'holic" versus sectarian (73). In his exposition of this, he very smoothly works in the necessity of ideas such as creeds and the canon of scripture.

Although there is much more to talk about with respect to Gonzalez's book, the points above illustrate the general character of his methodology. He attempts to introduce a policy on how to do church history, but ends up making many hasty generalizations in the process. In addition to his recommendations he is responsible for arguing from weak presuppositions that are unsubstantiated. These points, then, are the principal weaknesses of the book. That being said, the strength of the book resides in Gonzalez's impressive wealth of knowledge relating to church history. The point remains, however, that his recommendations on how to change the discipline of church history are at best worthy of noting and at worst are unqualified preliminary hypotheses. Thus, it seems that Gonzalez is not attempting to communicate The Changing Shape of Church History, but to introduce a manifesto on how to reinterpret church history (4).

Change as a constant...  Oct 8, 2004
Justo Gonzalez is a major figure in the field of church history, part of the first generation to break free of the European/North American dominance in terms of methodology as well as person - Gonzalez, himself the author of seventy books, used to be the 'translator' for his seminary classes, being the only English-speaking member. He would read the books and translate freely as he read aloud. He had discussions and debates with his professors over the nature and method of church history, which sowed the seeds for the changes he would later implement himself in his works, which have gradually become standard works in their own right.

I was fortunate enough to hear lectures by Gonzalez recently which dealt with the issues in this text - how have our perspectives changed over the past generation with regard to history generally, church history in particular, and the theological understandings that come out of these perspectives? One of Gonzalez's primary concerns is how the changing perspectives affect students in seminary and thus ministers in the parishes. Gonzalez highlights the recent events of September 11, 2001 as indicative of the change - the West is no longer monolithic and impregnable in any regard; the world is not as secular as it might have seemed, and shifting patterns of power and loyalty around the world will make the third millennium much different.

Gonzalez book divides the text into two primary tasks - the first, to look at the changing 'geography' of church history. This is a metaphor, for if history is a drama, geography is the stage, according to Gonzalez. He explores issues in terms of boundaries and horizontal boundaries, topographical features, and contrasts maps old and new. The second primary task is to look at the changing history of church history. Gonzalez sees these issues in terms of struggles - struggles over interpretation and understanding of pieces such as the history of Israel, the history of the Greco-Roman world, and more. How one uses history, and how one practices historical understanding, is of great importance in how history will be perceived.

In his final chapter, Gonzalez clarifies that absolute, objective history is impossible regardless of the care taken in making the history as bias-free as possible. For many historians, the future is as important as the past, and how one draws history helps define how one will project the future. Gonzalez identifies several main points for how church history should be studied - first, one should recognise the new catholicity, that church history and understanding is now drawn from perspectives all over the world, not just the dominant Western academy. These perspectives also include inclusivity on various bases, such as race, gender, class and culture.

This is not really a book of church history as much as it is a book about church history. How the future will see and shape history is of vital importance to the community, and Gonzalez has provided useful and insightful tools for the task.

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