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The Church in an Age of Revolution (The Penguin History of the Church) (v. 5) by Alec R. Vidler

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The French Revolution dealt a fatal blow to the alliance of Church and State. The Christian church had to adapt to great changes - from the social upheavals of the Industrial Revolution to the philosophical speculations of Kant's 'Copernican revolution', to Darwin's evolutionary theories. Some Christians were driven to panic and blind reaction, others were inspired to re-interpret their faith; the results of this conflict within the fabric of the Church are still reverberating today. In this masterly appraisal of a doubt-ridden and turbulent period in Christianity Alec Vidler concludes with a discussion of the position of the Church in modern times and expertly answers the question: 'Has the Church stood up to the Age of Revolution?'

Reviews (7)
I'm currently engrossed in reading Victorian history and literature, and purchased this book to get a quick infusion of church history for that period. The book was a perfect choice for my needs. While the book's coverage extends from the French Revolution to the present day, it is mainly concerned with the events of the nineteenth century in Europe, England and Scotland.
Mr. Vidler starts with a discussion of Catholicism in France during the periods of revolution. He delineates the struggle between those favoring strong papal control and those who wanted a more secular society. He moves on to the Oxford movement in Britain where there was a tendency toward revival of Catholic beliefs and liturgy. The Chartist movement and the Christian Socialists were a development of the Industrial Revolution. Marked attempts were made to address the political and financial poverty of many of England's citizens.
The author also covers the split in the Church in Scotland; the impact of Charles Darwin on Christian thinking; the growth of liberal theology and the Catholic modernists; the influence of Kierkegaard; and the impact of imperialistic missionary programs on European and British colonies.
Although written by an Anglican theologian the book is a very even handed treatment of Protestant and Catholic movements and theology during modern times. He presents the good along with the bad, and in sum presents the reader with a concise, informative church history in slightly less than 300 pages. My only caveat is that if you are primarily interested in twentieth century coverage of this topic, then you had best look elsewhere. Coverage of the current period is relatively brief and extends only to 1971, the date of publication.
In a small package, Vidler has written an analysis - - not merely an overview - - of reactions by the Christian Churches to moderrnity and its discontents from the French Revolution to Vatican II. This is a deceptively small book for it is dense, deep, and highly informed. It may even be too concise for the casual reader; I read it with an abundance of other source materials. Figures such as Coleridge, John Henry Newman, and Kierkegaard are portrayed with sympathy. This is essential to any understanding of the Western world in the 19th and 20th centuries.
I would like more focus and information on the churchs in other parts of the world and how they responded to changes in science and philosophy. There was too much material on England. I did find it enlightening to follow the thesis: leadership and theologians express ways to relate to God but it is the people in the pew that determine if it helps them individually in their relationship to God. It is far wiser to begin with the people and their relationship to God and then theologize/speculate clearer ways to express this relationship. The leaders and theologians often are hundreds of years ahead or behind the people in the pew.
was pleased
good condition
This is a good review of the church in a time of revolution -- broadly speaking, the 19th century.

While there are points at which the book is well-done, even engaging, it is uneven. Its strengths are the book's dealings with British (especially English) church life. Its chapters on other churches are less helpful, and the basic rule is that Vidler operates from an Anglo-centric view of the church, and the further removed from London, the less useful is the book.

There are points at which these weaknesses are almost embarrassing. For instance, an entire chapter is -- not necessarily inappropriately -- devoted to Soren Kierkegaard, while the entirety of eastern Christianity [!] is likewise given a chapter. Painting with such a broad brush means that some churches (the Russian, for instance) are given an almost cursory review, while minutiae about the English prayer book revision's fate in Parliament is recounted in great detail.

My final comment is that while this is # 5 in the "Pelican History of the Church," this is not so much a history as a series of essays, which can almost give a feeling of being a slideshow. Drawing connections and relationships is part of the historian's, and sometimes this book does a less than optimal job in doing that.

Having said all this, the book is overall useful, and mostly an interesting read. A survey of church history is never easy, and the 19th/early 20th century is certainly a complicated map to cover. Trying to do so in slightly less than 300 pages is even harder!
Considering the date of publication, 1962, one reference on page 152 might have been stopped by an editor.
To be perfectly honest I haven't read the book. I wanted to, but I was a bit surprise to find out that the Kindle version is more expensive than the paperback one!! mmmm...how can this be???

ISBN: 0140137629

Rating: 4.9/5

Votes: 792

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ISBN13: 978-0140137620

Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised, Reprint edition (January 30, 1962)

Language: English

Subcategory: World

Pages: 304

The Church in an Age of Revolution (The Penguin History of the Church) (v. 5)
Author: Alec R. Vidler
Title: The Church in an Age of Revolution (The Penguin History of the Church) (v. 5)