Christian History in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic, By Jennifer Woodruff Tait alt

Christian History in Seven Sentences

A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic

Introductions in Seven Sentences

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Christian History in Seven Sentences
  • Length: 184 pages
  • Dimensions: 0 × 0 in
  • Published: May 18, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5478
  • ISBN: 9780830854783

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The history of the Christian church is a fascinating story.

Since the ascension of Jesus and the birth of the church at Pentecost, the followers of Christ have experienced persecution and martyrdom, established orthodoxy and orthopraxy, endured internal division and social upheaval, and sought to proclaim the good news "to the end of the earth." How can we possibly begin to grasp the complexity of the church's story?

In this brief volume, historian Jennifer Woodruff Tait provides a primer using seven sentences to introduce readers to the sweeping scope of church history.

Among the sentences:

  • "No one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion." —The Edict of Milan (AD 313)
  • "Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance from the Father." —The Nicene Creed (325)
  • "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." —Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses (1517)
  • "The church is confronted today, as in no preceding generation, with a literally worldwide opportunity to make Christ known." —The Edinburgh Conference (1910)

Pick up and read. The story continues.

The accessible primers in the Introductions in Seven Sentences collection act as brief introductions to an academic field, with simple organization: seven key sentences that give readers a birds-eye view of an entire discipline.

"Church history can be daunting, especially to those who've never had good history teachers. Yet it has played a massive role in shaping the faith we share today. Who better than Jennifer Woodruff Tait, the editor of the leading popular magazine on the subject (Christian History), a part-time minister, and fantastic teacher, to get us over our fears and introduce us to some of the most important episodes in the Christian tradition. This is a clear, fair-minded, and reliable introduction to the most important subject you have yet to understand. Warmly recommended."

Douglas A. Sweeney, dean and professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

"Jennifer Woodruff Tait thinks that study of the Christian past provides 'navigation charts' to help believers sail safely through the turbulent waters of the present. Her sharply focused attention to seven key sentences from strategic moments in the history of Christianity demonstrates the wisdom of her metaphor. This book is an ideal resource (with another metaphor) to begin mining the riches of the past for the best kind of wisdom in the present."

Mark Noll, author of Turning Points: Strategic Moments in the History of Christianity

"Jennifer Woodruff Tait tells the story of Christianity with energy, clarity, and audacity. There is no musty smell of the past here. The epoch-making conflicts and the breathtaking creativity described in this book are still with us. Succinct and engaging, this introduction gives readers an appreciation for some of the biggest moments in church history."

Daryl R. Ireland, research assistant professor of world Christianity and associate director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University

"This book is just what the author says it is: a clear and helpful map to a historical terrain that deserves much more exploration today than it usually gets—especially from Christians, who have the most reason to explore it. What makes it such a helpful book is that it is written in exactly the style that such a book needs. C. S. Lewis once claimed to have been, in essence, a 'medieval man,' who thought and wrote in many ways through the sensibilities of that era. Since I first read her writing, I've thought that Jennifer Woodruff Tait writes with the clarity and force of the eighteenth-century philosophes (and even better with the orthodox faith that eluded most of those penetrating French thinkers). In fact, that clarity and force and faith she shares with Lewis, whom we both admire. To my mind these traits of Dr. Woodruff Tait's writing, along with the synoptic vantage point she has gained from her long and wise service as editor of the beloved Christian History magazine, guarantee that this book will prove the perfect navigation aid for this generation of students—and for readers of all ages—in their historical explorations."

Chris R. Armstrong, author of Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians, program fellow, Kern Family Foundation (Wisconsin)

"This book is full of sensible and occasionally surprising decisions, all of them elegantly expressed. It has something for everyone—theological disputation, political intrigue, spiritual insight, and a touch of drama. Woodruff Tait has managed the seemingly impossible task of distilling the church's history into a slender volume. Best of all, she imbues that history with a sense of tradition. One feels the gravity and freedom that comes with taking up the Christian tradition as one's own. This is church history as it should be, written for any and for all."

Justus H. Hunter, assistant professor of church history at United Theological Seminary

"Jennifer Woodruff Tait has given us a real gift in Christian History in Seven Sentences. This slim volume is stuffed with substance. Along with the major narratives, it includes an amazing number of brief references that connect people, movements, and ideas, and prompt further reading. The book seamlessly weaves theological explanation and historical background, reinforcing the conviction that God's actions and human agency interact mysteriously and truly for God's great saving purposes. And it's all done through sparkling prose. Lay readers will find this book a helpful introduction to Christian history, and pastors needing a refresher, a joyful goad. This is the kind of work needed to help people grow deeply in the faith."

Steve Rankin, director, Spiritual Maturity Project

"Jennifer Woodruff Tait has expertly succeeded at the monumental task of summing up the history of Christianity in just seven formative sentences. Tait's approach is accessible, readable, and engaging. Readers will gain a clear sense of the scope and trajectory of Christianity's intricate story in broad strokes from the church's birth at Pentecost to the Edinburgh Conference and Vatican II of the twentieth century. In the end, the reader should be left without any doubt that our engagement with the Christians of the past is crucial to our lives as Christians in the present."

Jennifer Powell McNutt, Dyrness Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Wheaton College

"Four features of this superb book stand out: First, the writing. It is consistently lucid yet thought-filled, witty yet serious. Second, the erudition. The notes and bibliographic essay alone are worth the price of admission. Third, the conciseness. Jennifer Woodruff Tait brings the entire sweep of (mostly) Western Christian history into view through the deft device of isolating, exegeting, and contextualizing key sentences in the tradition's story. Finally, the import. Foregrounding not only her own Christian faith but also the implications of such faith for the church today, Tait answers the 'So what?' question clearly, decisively, and with a pastor's heart."

Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Christian History, Duke Divinity School



1 The Edict of Milan (313)
2 The Nicene Creed (325)
3 The Rule of St. Benedict (c. 530)
4 The Excommunication of Patriarch Kerularios by Pope Leo IX via Cardinal Humbert (1054)
5 Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517)
6 The Edinburgh Conference (1910)
7 The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

General Index
Scripture Index


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Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the managing editor of Christian History magazine, the author of The Poisoned Chalice: Eucharistic Grape Juice and Common-Sense Realism in Victorian Methodism, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.