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Customer Review

on 3 April 2004
This book is an interesting although deeply flawed look at Church history over the past 2,000 years. It is less a history than a collection of moments in time without a true feel for the flow of events. In addition, many prominent events are simply ignored or passed over with barely a mention. Let me give a few brief examples. Little is said of the collapse of the Church in North Africa where it was thriving (Saint Augustine was a bishop in Hippo) until it was replaced by Islam. The Crusades are barely discussed and their effects on relations with the peoples of the Middle East aren't discussed at all. The Thirty Years War is given a single paragraph. This is surprising because this war turned Europe from a continent of nations based on religion into a continent of nations where national loyalties were more important than religious loyalties. The loss of power of the religious leaders in Europe can be traced to that war.
This is fairly typical of the book. It discusses many prominent people such as Saint Augustine and Saint Jerome in some detail but fails to put their lives into a perspective of overall Church history. The flow of the book is often interrupted by jumps ahead and then back again so sometimes it is confusing because it isn't clear as to what events have occurred and which are still to come. There is also a tendency in the book to move too fast at times and introduce characters with a sentence and then never mention them again.
All that being said, the book is not a complete failure. Taken from a Catholic viewpoint, the book is an acceptable, although incomplete, introduction to Church history. The author does not try to hide the bad acts of the Church that led to the Reformation, for example, and instead points out the critical failures of the Church. His discussion of some key Protestant leaders such as Luther and Calvin will enlighten those who knew little of their lives. In fact, the book is at its best when the author ignores trying to write a history and instead gives us short biographies of key figures in Church history.
The last part of the book covering the period since Vatican II was the most disappointing to me. The author abandons any attempt to write a history and instead turns the book into an editorial about the Church's failure to become "modern" in the last 40 years. Strangely, this is the longest part of the book. I'm not sure how a book claiming to be a history can discuss 1,960 years of Church history in 400 pages and then the remaining 40 years are given more than 100 pages. Overall, the book is fair as an introduction to Church history until about 1900 but a failure as an editorial on the current Church.
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