The Story of Christianity (Book Review)

Recently I’ve been reading quite a bit about Church History.  I’ve found the subject eminently interesting.  Considering the past has a way of making contemporary issues come into focus by placing them in context of what has gone before us.  This is an important thing for Protestants, evangelicals, and even a-historical Christians to remember.  For many of us, we know a little about the history of our particular congregation or church denomination/movement, perhaps going back to the time of our parents.  For the more historically inclined, we may have taken a course in high school or college on Christian History, or picked up a book in the library or bookstore on the subject.  But we may not realize that church histories tell stories and weave them into a coherent narrative that tells one sweeping story.  The process of writing necessarily requires that we leave out many details to tell the story we think most important.  But the tendency is for the average person to think that they have the whole story when they learn about a subject.

This is why the book, The Story of Christianity: A Celebration of 2000 Years of Faith, is a helpful read for Christians.  It is authored by a Roman Catholic (Michael Collins) and an evangelical (Matthew A. Price), but it seems that the text was merely supplemented by the evangelical writer.  In other words, the story it tells is primarily the Roman Catholic version of the history of Christianity.  It its pages you’ll find fascinating pictures, quotes, and excerpts of people, art, artifacts, and events that most popular-level Protestant church histories ignore.

The Story of Christianity divides the last 2000 years into 8 epochs:

  1. Church & Empire (64-313)
  2. Christian Empire (313-590)
  3. The Conversion of Europe (590-1054)
  4. Crusades to Renaissance (1054-1517)
  5. The Reformation (1517-1648)
  6. Enlightenment & Revival (1648-1776)
  7. Mission & Revolution (1776-1914)
  8. The Global Church (1914-1999)

Before addressing church history after the time of Jesus, the authors write about the Roots of Christianity (2000 BC – AD 64), exploring the Old Testament, the life of Christ, and the apostolic age.

The publisher is DK, so you can expect the same excellent graphic layout for which DK books are famous.  This approach to learning history is stimulating both to the mind and one’s sense of beauty.  The story of the ancient and modern church is blended well in its pages.  If you enjoy learning about church history and the history of Christianity by reading the printed word and by digesting film documentaries, then this book will prove an fun, informative, educational, and thought-provoking read.

From the cover:

From its Old Testament beginnings to present-day Christian worship, Christianity has a fascinating, complex, and controversial history.  This book provides a truly global view of Christianity across all denominations.

This richly illustrated history progresses from the Old Testament to the present day, covering topics as diverse as the early martyrs, the birth of the monasteries, the conversion of Europe, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation, and the rise of the Third World church.  It also examines the wide-ranging beliefs and doctrines of the church at the end of the 20th century.

With a refreshing, stimulating, and highly visual approach, The Story of Christianity guides the reader through the 2000-year history of the Christian church.  Alongside the events, figures, and movements that helped shape the church of today, the book illuminates the role of Christianity in ordinary people’s lives.

Contemporary quotes, maps, photographs, and works of art give an immediacy to the story while special features highlight the interplay between the church and the arts, and teh political and philosophical movements of each century.

Beautifully illustrated, clearly presented, and written in a lucid and accessible style, this unique book encapsulates the essential history of the Christian religion.

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