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Customer Review

on 18 November 2003
I really liked this book. Written from the perspective of a historian (rather than, say, a theologian), it traces the radical change in outlook of western culture between the fall of the Roman Empire and the replacement of much of its former authority by new church structures. Among the most interesting elements is his treatment of how the Emperors (both Roman and Byzantian) used the church for their own political ends, but were in turn used by the church - a relationship that approached symbiosis, but again not without its traumas and conflicts as well.
The author also does an excellent, and in my view very fair, appraisal of the early church philosophers and movements. He neither idolizes nor vilifies such early bastions of Christianity as Augustine, and even the crisis over the Arian heresies (to modern eyes both tragic and farcial) are treated carefully. Overall the book doesn't paint the prettiest of pictures of the early church, and certainly exposes how many of the dogmas that one would think (if you have a Catholic or Othodox background at least) have been eternal but in fact owe most of their existnace to 3rd or 4th century politics than they do any divine revelation.
Top marks from me, and a very fulfilling read for anyone interested in late classical or early medieval history, as well as *everyone* interested in Christian theology.
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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