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Posted April 3, 2010
Turning Points is one of Noll's most accessible books. Not a dry scholarly treatise, but rather a lively and well-written overview of 12 critical events in the history of Christianity. Noll's idea is that focusing on specific episodes not only allows for a more detailed treatment of each than would be possible in a comprehensive text, but also permits "more opportunity interpretive reflection." I think he was exactly right--he can go into considerable depth on each event, explaining why it was so significant.
Turning Points thus does not pretend to be a comprehensive narrative. For those looking for such a treatment, may I recommend Paul Johnson's "History of Christianity," which I regard as the finest one-volume comprehensive church history.
Like any list-making project, one can quibble with Noll's choices. He leaves out some of my favorite episodes (which is not exactly the right phrase, but you get my point). Not included are such events as the three Great Awakenings; the installation of John Paul II; the crusades; and so on. At the same time, however, it is hard to quibble with Noll's choices. Events like Nicea, Worms, the French Revolution, and so on were all major "turning points" that deserved comprehensive treatment.
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