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Christianity (American Heritage) Paperback – 24 Jul 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (Trade); 1st Mariner Books Ed edition (24 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618056874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618056873
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,246,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A critical portrait of Christianity follows its beginnings two thousand years ago to today, documenting such areas as the life of Christ, the rise of cathedrals and kings, the political climate of Rome, and the flight of the Puritans to the New World. Reprint.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Excellent survey of a 2000 year history 24 May 2005
By John M. Lemon - Published on
Format: Paperback
Bainton has a lot of ground to cover in only 400 pages, but he does it well. While the entire book is interesting, the first quarter, which briefly describes the history of the Jews and focuses the early Christian era, is fascinating. The book proceeds to cover pretty much everything you'd expect: the Christianization of Rome, Byzantium, the Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire, Augustine and his philosophy, monasticism, the crusades, the Inquisition, Luther, Erasmus, the Reformation, Calvin and other Protestant movements, the endless power struggles between church and state, the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Enlightenment, and the role of Christianity in the modern era. I found the narrative to be very informative, balanced, and non-judgmental.

One of the book's strong points is that it briefly summarizes the philosophy of Christianity's leaders and key historical movements, and explains how they were a source of growth or conflict. The philosophical discussions can be a bit dry at times, but they are necessary. The history of Christianity is all about the history of ideas in conflict, and the power of various factions to promote or protect their ideas and to stifle those of their opponents.

Don't believe the reviewer who complains of Bainton's anti-Catholic bias. I believe it is perhaps the reviewer's own bias that is speaking here. Bainton is very fair and even-handed. He is equally critical of Protestant and Catholic atrocities, abuses and hypocrisy. But he is equally fair in his praise of Christian charity and its efforts toward social progress.

For me, reading this book underscored the wisdom of our nation's wall between church and state. Wherever church and state are combined, oppression and persecution are sure to follow. For centuries, Christian churches have tried to influence the state, and states and principalities have tried to enforce religious creeds, all at an unbelievable cost in human life. The great irony is that separating church and state has been beneficial for stabilizing both institutions. It is no accident that religion has flourished in this country, and that peace began to settle in Europe as emerging states began to enforce religious tolerance. Those who yearn for a strong religious influence in politics would be wise to read this book. History shows that there are precedents, and that the reality is not so appealing as the dream.

One minor complaint: It would have been nice for Bainton to include a bibliography or a "for further reading" list. The subject is so vast and his knowledge is so encyclopedic that I'm sure he could have made some excellent recommendations for armchair historians.
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Factual, burtally objective, a must for Christians.. 12 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you want to find out where modern Christianity comes from, this is your source book. Well, documented, fiercly objective, and no overly unnnecessary words. Dr. Bainton has managed to make a subject that could bore readers to death, totaly fascinating reading. Every person who considers him/her self a Christian should read this. It should be on the shelf right next to their Bible.
Outstanding book for an Adult Education class 1 April 2013
By Gordon - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am leading an adult education class on Christian History. The book is easy to ready. The author links events in early Christianity to significant developments in our modern Christian denominations as well as the Medieval ages.
Good Read. 9 Dec. 2014
By IQ - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written. Very detailed but not boring.
2 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Biased 24 Feb. 2004
By FoolforChrist - Published on
Format: Paperback
Though the book shows some promise in the first half, it becomes increasingly biased as it moves towards the Reformation. The auhtor is a congregational minister - no surprise.
A better read would be Karl Keating's "Catholicism and Fundamentalism", Thomas Aquinas' "Summa", and The Catechism of the Catholic Church"
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