A Public Faith: From Constantine To The Medieval World: From Constantine to the Medieval World AD 312-600 (Monarch History of the Church) Paperback – 22 Apr 2005
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About the Author
Dr Ivor J. Davidson is Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology at the University of Otago, New Zealand, though he tends his roots in his native Scotland. He has degrees in classics and theology. His publications include a major two-volume study of the De Officiis of Ambrose of Milan (Oxford University Press 2002). His current research is concentrated in Christology.
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Beginning with the Emperor Constantine’s “public patronage of Christianity” beginning in 312, Davidson traces the development and expansion of the church to include a number of key individuals during this period such as Augustine as well as some of the key church councils that took place during the period of time this volume gives it focus. Additionally, false teachers such as Arius are examined to include the details of his heretical position and why the church held the famous Council of Nicaea to deal with the issue of Arius and his teaching. Davidson aptly discusses the result of the Council of Nicaea to include the Creed of Nicaea and the Canons of Nicaea as well as their overall impact on Christian teaching and beliefs from that point forward. Davidson clearly notes the continued issue of Arianism and the necessity by the church to seemingly constantly deal with that teaching and its various offshoots. Theological discussions such as that of the incarnation and such theological terms as homoousios and how that relates to the incarnation of Christ were important points of the faith during this period and Davidson does a great job of engaging such topics.
The spread of the church into Asia Minor is also a point of emphasis for Davidson in this volume. While Constantine had a policy of promoting Christianity, Julian took the tact of promoting religious tolerance going so far as to repair places of pagan worship. As with the debate over Arianism, many other issues of great theological importance took place in the East to include the discussion over the status of the Holy Spirit which led to works by individuals such as Basil and his treatise called On the Holy Spirit written around 374-375. Furthermore, discussion took place concerning the Trinity with the so-called Cappadocian Fathers contributing much thought and writing to such issues. Davidson also addresses the Council of Constantinople with its condemnation of a number of heresies of the period.
Other movements such as Asceticism and the monastic movement come under the apt scrutiny of Davidson as he clearly notes the impact of the ascetic movement during this time to include the development of monasteries throughout the Middle East and in the West. Church Fathers such as John Chrysostom are focused on by Davidson and rightly so given the impact he had in particular with the issue of Origen. The great Augustine of Hippo to include his life, teachings, and times receives a lengthy treatment by Davidson which is no surprise given the enormous influence Augustine has had on theological and church history. Augustine involved himself with a number of discussions concerning issues such as Donatism, Pelagianism, sin, grace, the human condition, all of which are discussed by Davidson in great detail. Davidson also spends time looking at Augustine’s classic work <em>The City of God</em>, noting the “expansive critique of Roman religion and philosophy” contained in its pages.
The formative period of church history discussed by Davidson in this book also includes a number of key theological issues such as monophysitism and a number of offshoot teachings that came to be from that perspective. Davidson does a great job of covering the debate that raged over the nature of Christ and the seemingly constant division that occurred between those who held various theological positions on these issues. Furthermore, the development of positions on practices such as baptism, the liturgy, the Eucharist, consecration, prayer, hymns, music, church structure, and a number of other key ecclesiastical stances are important elements of this time period and Davidson covers them all in great detail noting along the way how this time period continues to impact how many view such church and theological related issues even in our time.
The rapid expansion of the Church following the time of Constantine up until the time of the Medieval World is a pivotal and important age of the Church and must be understood. Ivor Davidson provides for the serious student of church history a great resource by which to understand and engage this timeframe, noting the various issues that took place, how various heresies were addressed, the continued impact of those heresies, the development of ecclesiastical doctrine, and the numerous key figures both within and outside the church who carried great influence during this time. I highly encourage anyone interested in church history to give this book a read as in doing so, you will be understand this important period of the history of the church. I look forward to engaging the remaining volumes in this series.
Some highlights to this book are the great amounts of the illustrations and maps that the reader can view and study to better understand the text. At the back of the book, there were several pages for suggested further readings. As a seminary student, this section helps one obtain more resources for papers as well as for deeper knowledge for other courses to come. As a reader for leisure, this section allows to you find more resources in the areas that attract your attention.
As a seminary student, what the student liked the most about this book was that it brought a fresh and different view on the biblical text I have been studying before. The author provided great attention to certain key figures such as Augustine of Hippo, Basil of Caesarea, Ambrose of Milan, etc. There were chapters dedicated to them and their lives alone. The author also descriptively wrote on monasticism, the Fall of Rome and piety of Christians during this time.
If the student could rate this book on a scale of one to ten, ten would be the highest, the student would rate this book a 7 because the reader gets great details without being overwhelmed, the author does not leave the reader fending for themselves, he gives further suggested readings for each chapter, and the author gives a detailed timeline of all major events that occurred between the time of Constantine and the Medieval World.
As a student, I highly recommend this book because it would give the reader a greater awareness to the Christianity's history and the development of Christianity before the Medieval Ages. It gives the reader a macro view of Christianity before the Medieval Ages and gives the reader an understanding into why there was a the stages to the Medieval Ages. The student recommends this book along with the first book in this series to seminary students, professors, and those who are history buffs. I do not recommend this book to those who do not take an interest in history or understand for full scope of history as it pertains to Christianity. Overall the student enjoyed this book and gave a great summary of history before Medieval times really begin.
Thesis Statement: An overview of Christian History from 312-600
The author's intention in this book is to write a complete overview of Christian history from 312 to 600. This is written as a simple recording of the facts. Davidson says who did what and when. His challenge is to describe Christian history at a time when so many historical events were taking place. This occurred independently of one another as well as in conjunction with one anther. Yet he does a very good job of achieving a description of the overall course of history as well as the regional courses of history that were taking place through out the area of the world which is now considered Europe and the Near East. He is organized; however, the student will occasionally find himself grappling for identifiable landmarks when he transitions from one subject to the next. He does not have a particular slant or perspective. He offers little praise or condemnation for the events that took place. His presumed audience is the beginning student of Christian history.
The book is thorough it covers every aspect of this period as well as can be expected without becoming entrenched in the details of every event. One book could easily be written for each event that Davidson describes. His narrative is a logical, coherent, linear progression of history. It is easy to read; however, the reader must be prepared to fall back in time to a period already discussed when Davidson moves the subject to a different region of the great continent. His discussion is appropriate he allows the reader to evaluate the events of history. He does not constantly condemn or praise each individual or event in time as good and evil he simply presents them as they are. He does not shield the reader from negative characteristics of the faithful or omit positive characteristics of the faith.
The content is significant and relevant to the historical events that shaped Christianity during this period of time. It does not become embroiled in controversies that were largely irrelevant to the faith that developed. His description of the peoples is upfront and bold. He states who they were and how they were motivated at this point in time. Although he is disciplined and well organized he is not dry and lifeless either. The material is credible and persuasive one does not walk away from reading this book questioning the accuracy of its writing. One is not left to wonder how much of what he has read was the authors opinion and evaluation of the events and how much was the actual events of history. Davidson more than achieves his goal of writing an objective and informative outline of Christian history in the early stages of the faith as an accepted form of religious expression.
This is perhaps the most useful form of history to the beginning student as it is the cement from which foundations are built. It prepares him for the next stage of historical study which is to examine the historical context as it occurred in the daily lives of the ordinary people who lived during that period of time. It also allows for the evaluation of historical events from the view of a constructive or destructive force of human development. I was informed and educated by Davidson's presentation of Christian history. I would recommend it as a point of reference and beginning to anyone who seeks to study this subject. I highly recommend this book and The Birth of the Church also written by Davidson and plan to seek out his other works on this subject.