Archives For Church History



Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola…

Ignatius of Loyola (c. October 23, 1491 – July 31, 1556) was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. (via Wikipedia)

Struggling to know how to pray?
St. Ignatius offers three practical methods of praying.

Here’s an important passage adapted from his classic book The Spiritual Exercises

Download the full book as a FREE PDF ebook (via CCEL)


Three Methods of Prayer
St. Ignatius of Loyola

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Walking the Ancient Path With John Michael Talbot

A Review of

The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today
John Michael Talbot

Hardback: Image, 2015
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Jake Kampe


Sometimes we are served well to take a good look at history in order to comprehend and find meaning within the present. Understanding the lives of those who have walked on this Earth before us is imperative to understanding ourselves as well as our place within the Kingdom of God. As American culture, and more significantly, the Church, finds itself within a system of complexity and identity crisis, the need for a healthy balance is become increasingly apparent. When inundated with a seemingly endless onslaught of belief systems, theological constructs and Christian trends, it is becoming more and more difficult to build and strengthen a clearly definable foundation of faith. Becoming increasing frustrated, especially within younger generations, Christians are finding the repetitive and sometimes transparent teachings of modern Christianity empty, often leaving them with more feelings of discontent than peace. It is no surprise than countless Christians are finding or rediscovering comfort in the liturgical Church structures, spiritual disciplines and the teachings and philosophies of the ancient leaders. Looking specifically at the example of the Church Fathers, the Church has at its disposal a priceless asset that is just as essential for us today; maybe even more so.

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St. Catherine of SienaToday is the Feast of
St. Catherine of Siena…

Thrifty Christian Reader
is offering
two bargain ebooks
by St. Catherine

(One FREE, One 99c!)



Our poem of the day, adapted from Catherine’s Dialogue….

Eternal Godhead
St. Catherine of Siena


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St. Ignatius of Antioch

Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred near the end of the first century.

Here is the story of his martyrdom, from The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Volume 1).
[ Which is available as a FREE ebook from CCEL ]

This story was told and recorded for the encouragement and empowerment of the Church of that day, who were faced with widespread persecution.  Not all details in this story should be taken as factual, although the basic story of how Ignatius is martyred is usually accepted as fact.


The Martyrdom of
St. Ignatius of Antioch   

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Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

> > > >
Next Book

Lila: A Novel

by Marilynne Robinson

Read the NY Times Review

Read an excerpt of this book here

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This is the latest post in a series that will, in effect, create a library of classics that are available as free ebooks.

Previous post: [ Classic Horror Novels ]
1st post in this series: [ Classics of Ancient History ]

This week we focus on Early Christian History. We have selected the following books as recommended reading.

In 2013, we are encouraging our readers to mix up their reading habits, and read (or re-read) classics in addition to new books, such as the ones we review here in the ERB.

Broadly speaking, a classic is any book that is not a new book, or in other words that is worth reading five, ten or even one hundred years after its initial publication. ERB Editor Chris Smith has an article on The Huffington Post website arguing for reading a mix of classics and new books in 2013.


As far as Early Christian History goes, the best free ebook resource is the Early Church Fathers Series (aka, Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers) that is available through The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL).  Although the works in this 38-volume series are 19th century English translations, they are a good starting place for people wanting to read primary sources of the Early Christian era in translation.  Although not available for FREE in Kindle format, it is available for FREE in PDF formats, which should work well on most tablets (Kindle Fire, iPad, etc).  Click the link below to access this great resource:

Early Christian History

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A Fresh Look at Early American Evangelicalism

A Brief Review of

Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America

Catherine Brekus

Hardback: Yale UP, 2013.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]


Reviewed by Douglas Connelly


I have read a lot of early American church history since my days in seminary and some of my most-revered mentors come from the era of the Great Awakening – George Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards and Francis Asbury.  But I can’t ever remember reading a word about Sarah Osborn until I picked up this excellent book.  The author, Catherine Brekus, is an academic (who teaches American religious history at the University of Chicago), but she tells Sarah Osborn’s story in a compelling, embracing style that draws the reader along and into every detail she explores.  The book is more than just the biography of a remarkable woman; it is the story of the broader evangelical movement in early America told through the experience of a remarkable Christian.
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Maximus the Confessor - The Life of The VirginPeerless in Her Tenacious Presence.

A Feature Review of

The Life of the Virgin

Maximus the Confessor .

Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Stephen J. Shoemaker.
Hardback: Yale University Press, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Jordan Daniel Wood

*** Today, August 13th, is the Feast of Maximus the Confessor …

Translated for the first time into English, The Life of the Virgin is the earliest complete hagiographical biography of Mary the mother of Jesus (1). That fact alone commends and justifies the excellent work Stephen J. Shoemaker has completed. What is more, The Life was almost certainly authored by the currently acclaimed (and justly so) Maximus the Confessor, a towering theological giant for Christian traditions East and West. Shoemaker makes the authorial case cogently in his “Introduction” to the work, citing the “unanimous” attribution of the manuscript to Maximus, highlighting several internal features of the text that place it in the early-mid 7th century (Maximus’s time), pointing to circumstantial evidence in Maximus’s historical-biographical context that contribute to the likelihood of his composing such a work, and even deferring to the seasoned intuition of Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was certainly no stranger to the thought-world of Maximus: for Balthasar, in The Life one finds “a Maximus, who is entirely new but recognizable,…. And is much more accessible than in most of his theological works” (12). Providing such a different portrait of Maximus, then, also commends Shoemaker’s timely translation. Continue Reading…


Peter Gorday - Francois Fénelon: A BiographyThe Apostle of Pure Love

A review of

Francois Fénelon: A Biography, The Apostle of Pure Love

Peter Gorday

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2012
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Alex Joyner

By the time Paul McCartney asked what was wrong with “Silly Love Songs” in 1976, we were in deep.  Having gorged ourselves on pop culture confections of romantic transcendence, we were in danger of running out of new clichés  to apply to this crazy little thing called love.  Even McCartney himself grasped for new words by the end of his song.  “How can I tell you about my loved one?” he repeated without answer over the disco beat that was drumming in a new age of cynicism about love.  Things were about to get a lot more complicated.

Or perhaps just re-complicated because, as Peter Gorday reveals in his new biography of the pre-Enlightenment French archbishop Francois Fénelon, love has always been a many-splintered thing, the source of great passions, great inspiration, and great controversy.  In Fénelon he finds a rich spirituality of “pure love,” a theme Gorday feels “speaks to the disillusionment that so many people feel with regard to conventional religiosity” (208).  If contemporary society has fallen victim to narratives of self-love or to the cheap packaging and fleeting fulfillment of Osteen-style faith, Fénelon gives us a journey to God that is less about us and more about God – less about consumer and more about cross.

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Food and Faith in Christian Culture - Albala / EdenThe Centrality of Food
Within The Christian Tradition

A Review of

Food and Faith in Christian Culture.

Ken Albala and Trudy Eden, eds.

Paperback: Columbia UP, 2012.
Buy now : [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Alden Bass.

Why is fish not considered a meat during the Lenten fast?  This is just one of the questions about food practices which is answered in the new collection of essays entitled Food and Faith in Christian Culture. Unlike Norman Wirzba’s recent volume by the same name, these essays survey Christian attitudes toward food in the early modern and modern eras. As Ken Albala, one of volume’s editors, observes: in the early modern period, “[f]ood…was at the core of the average person’s concept of religiosity” (44). Although the essays are quite diverse, the collection is unified by four major themes, which Trudy Eden names in her Introduction: “commensality, fasting, the sacrament, and bodily health” (5). The essays are ordered chronologically, beginning with the eating habits of fourteenth century Florentine monks and concluding with the fasting practices of contemporary English Benedictines. Despite the monastic bookends, the essays investigate practices in a wide range of Christian communities, from Greek Orthodox to Brethren in Christ, from Lutheran and Reformed groups to the bizarre sect of the Unity Society of Practical Christianity.

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