Top positive review
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As a one-volume history of the whole of Christendom, this will be very hard to beat.
on 18 April 2014
Well I for one did read this book end-to-end and very swiftly, considering its length and my lack of free-time. I found it absolutely riveting and it gives an excellent summary of the full history of Christianity; covering all the main denominations, events and places. It does not shy away from the complex theological debates that influenced many of the disputes (in tandem with the politics). It does of necessity move back and forth in time and place, but it is generally well cross-referenced. There is a full glossary and further reading suggested. The author writes from a particular perspective and does frequently give his own judgements, but he is very up front about it. (We all have our own perspective but are not all so honest about it!) He is fond of the Anglican Church but not afraid to criticise it, just as he is keen to highlight the great positives in the history of Catholicism as well as the negative aspects. He also seems to write from the perspective of a non-believer (who is intimately familiar with the Anglican Church). This allows him a certain "historian's distance", but also leads to certain assumptions and statements that seem unjustifiably hyper-critical of Christian belief. Despite this, I found the text to be highly educational; and in spite of the hefty size, this tome frequently feels all too brief. (E.g., Bernadette Soubirous is swiftly dismissed in about sentence or two.) That cannot be avoided given the scope of the subject matter. However, I often read a sentence that stated or alluded to a very interesting fact, almost as an aside; but that carried no further explanation, and left me wondering as to the actual details. Finally, as the author often writes in long, complex sentences; one does have to occasionally re-read sentences to correctly comprehend them.
In summary, though, this is an excellent, informative and interesting overview of the history of human Church organisations. It covers most of what you should know as a cultural inheritor of this wide-reaching legacy. It may of necessity lack depth in places, but is should show how relevant, interesting and indeed fundamental this subject is to a proper understanding of our history and culture. Hopefully, it will also lead to further study.