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Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years This book may be too ambitious It claims to cover three thousand years of global history, but it does so sketchily, most of its focus being on, first, the Middle East and, second, Europe and America The Britishness of the author is clear as is the fact that he himself is not a Christian The content ranges from the breezy, as in his descriptions of modern trends, to the dense, as in his treatment of the controversies animating the earliest church councils Most readers will find parts of it ob This book may be too ambitious It claims to cover three thousand years of global history, but it does so sketchily, most of its focus being on, first, the Middle East and, second, Europe and America The Britishness of the author is clear as is the fact that he himself is not a Christian The content ranges from the breezy, as in his descriptions of modern trends, to the dense, as in his treatment of the controversies animating the earliest church councils Most readers will find parts of it objectionable or, perhaps, find its omissions so.Still, it is not a bad read MacCulloch writes well enough, peppering his tale with occasional amusing anecdotes or light sprinklings of wit and sarcasm I found none of it boring and some of it, most particularly his treatment of Christianity in sub Saharan Africa, informative.My greatest objection to this enormous undertaking is that MacCulloch offered very little insight to the mysteries of the Christian faith From my perspective, such mysteries are those elements of Christian belief that appear to fly in the face of experience, reason and common sense How was it, for instance, that people murdered other people over questions of the exact nature of the the procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity or for any number of other to me at least obscure reasons That they did so is fact Why they said they did so is often on record MacCulloch reports on these matters well enough What he doesn t do is offer insight into the real interests and passions involved, into the psychologies of those people I want, in other words, a book that makes such concerns real to me, rather than just another at a distance description of the surfaces of history This book is seriously insane I m only halfway through and we ve already covered Rome, early popes, African christians, the Orthodox Church, the beginnings of various brotherhoods and convents, ways to pray, Constantine, early theologians and philosophers, pergatory, the energy of God I can t list everything The only issue I have is that it s just too much at once This is the perfect book for someone studying theology.The Virgin Mary, the Tartars, the reformation and restoration, Martin Lut This book is seriously insane I m only halfway through and we ve already covered Rome, early popes, African christians, the Orthodox Church, the beginnings of various brotherhoods and convents, ways to pray, Constantine, early theologians and philosophers, pergatory, the energy of God I can t list everything The only issue I have is that it s just too much at once This is the perfect book for someone studying theology.The Virgin Mary, the Tartars, the reformation and restoration, Martin Luther, Methodist and baptist churches, celebration by slaves, French Revolutionv, Bible Production, Free Masons, Quakers, witches, missionaries, Jesuits, the end of the British empire, Bonhoeffer, the Nazi regime, Pentocostalism, teaching evolution, apartheid the list is endless Once In A Generation A Historian Will Redefine His Field, Producing A Book That Demands To Be Read A Product Of Electrifying Scholarship Conveyed With Commanding Skill Diarmaid MacCulloch S Christianity Is Such A Book Breathtaking In Ambition, It Ranges Back To The Origins Of The Hebrew Bible And Covers The World, Following The Three Main Strands Of The Christian Faith Christianity Will Teach Modern Readers Things That Have Been Lost In Time About How Jesus Message Spread And How The New Testament Was Formed We Follow The Christian Story To All Corners Of The Globe, Filling In Often Neglected Accounts Of Conversions And Confrontations In Africa And Asia And We Discover The Roots Of The Faith That Galvanized America, Charting The Rise Of The Evangelical Movement From Its Origins In Germany And England This Book Encompasses All Of Intellectual History We Meet Monks And Crusaders, Heretics And Saints, Slave Traders And Abolitionists, And Discover Christianity S Essential Role In Driving The Enlightenment And The Age Of Exploration, And Shaping The Course Of World War I And World War II We Are Living In A Time Of Tremendous Religious Awareness, When Both Believers And Non Believers Are Deeply Engaged By Questions Of Religion And Tradition, Seeking To Understand The Violence Sometimes Perpetrated In The Name Of God The Son Of An Anglican Clergyman, MacCulloch Writes With Deep Feeling About Faith His Last Book, The Reformation, Was Chosen By Dozens Of Publications As Best Book Of The Year And Won The National Book Critics Circle Award This Awe Inspiring Follow Up Is A Landmark New History Of The Faith That Continues To Shape The World This is a monumental piece of work by an erudite scholar It covers the whole range of Christian history from its roots in Judaism to modern day As a starting point it delves into the Old Testament contrasting it s God jehovah a jealous and vengeful God with the loving God that sacrifices his son in the New Testament.It shows the rise of Christianity from an obscure Jewish sect, through the rebranding by St Paul, and on to an established state religion It is a truly astonishing journey Thr This is a monumental piece of work by an erudite scholar It covers the whole range of Christian history from its roots in Judaism to modern day As a starting point it delves into the Old Testament contrasting it s God jehovah a jealous and vengeful God with the loving God that sacrifices his son in the New Testament.It shows the rise of Christianity from an obscure Jewish sect, through the rebranding by St Paul, and on to an established state religion It is a truly astonishing journey Throughout its history Christianity evolves, slewing off new offshoots whilst some early established churches wither and die particularly in the middle east and central asia Modern Christianity is the largest and most dynamic religion in the world I must confess that I got lost at times in trying to comprehend the infinitesimal gradations in interpretations of the substance of God and the trinity that has caused so much trouble in early Christianity, and also in the bewildering array of different churches and shades of thought in later times Considering that this book comprises a thousand pages it rattles along, and subjects are introduced and dealt with succinctly, though not superficially, before we get to the next topic A good book MacCulloch makes reading exhaustive history exhilarating rather than exhausting, and although everyone will have a favourite nit to pick mine being the dubious treatment of Hegel, and the absence of anything about Erigena only the most die hard partisan could claim that this is anything other than brilliant Ignore anyone who tells you it s anti insert your own sect here , and read it Take your time And I m sure you ll be mining the recommended reading section at the back of the book be MacCulloch makes reading exhaustive history exhilarating rather than exhausting, and although everyone will have a favourite nit to pick mine being the dubious treatment of Hegel, and the absence of anything about Erigena only the most die hard partisan could claim that this is anything other than brilliant Ignore anyone who tells you it s anti insert your own sect here , and read it Take your time And I m sure you ll be mining the recommended reading section at the back of the book before you ve finished chapter 7, at the latest What I want to know is how MacCulloch manages to tell a linear story in a way that doesn t pervert the thematic content or maybe he s written a thematically arranged book which doesn t pervert the temporal changes In either case, a great relief from most long histories which are full either of repetition or of anachronies Finally, I would guess that this is the only perspective from which such a book could be written son of a clergyman, friend of but not believer in the religion, who obviously nonetheless cares greatly not only about its history, but also about its survival Avoid, of course, if you want a biased, slanted interpretation of any given point This is a very good history It depresses me a bit because it is written in the cynical, anti establishment style which is typical of the educated elite today, but it is valuable for its quality and the insight which it offers regarding the multitude of different takes on Christianity most of them sincere and justified, none of them isolated from political expediency which were the fruit of the early Church Its quite humbling for those who maintain the correct doctrines and at the same time This is a very good history It depresses me a bit because it is written in the cynical, anti establishment style which is typical of the educated elite today, but it is valuable for its quality and the insight which it offers regarding the multitude of different takes on Christianity most of them sincere and justified, none of them isolated from political expediency which were the fruit of the early Church Its quite humbling for those who maintain the correct doctrines and at the same time gives one thejustification for preferring the views that one holds Oddly enough the last word in a huge tome seems to tell that it is, of all things, the doctrine of original sin that gives Christianity its most promising hope for continued relevance into the future As a double priests kid both my parents were Anglican clergy an assumption was usually made that I knew quite a bit about Christianity This was not accurate as I neither had much interest in the subject, nor access to a decent history about the faith MacCulloch has rectified this with A History Of Christianity Detailed yet readable, he takes an unbiased look at both the good and bad of the religion, never apologizing for either He also doesn t ignore the spiritual, faith aspect of his subj As a double priests kid both my parents were Anglican clergy an assumption was usually made that I knew quite a bit about Christianity This was not accurate as I neither had much interest in the subject, nor access to a decent history about the faith MacCulloch has rectified this with A History Of Christianity Detailed yet readable, he takes an unbiased look at both the good and bad of the religion, never apologizing for either He also doesn t ignore the spiritual, faith aspect of his subject matter, explaining it as some of the rationale of Christians actions, yet not subscribing to it either Highly recommended for anyone interested in religion and its effect on society I ll begin my review this way there are a few reviewers who did not like this book due to the secular but by no means anti Christian perspective most educated readers would expect from a serious church historian Naturally, many of these reviewers associate MacCulloch with the atheistic academic left, which I m sure would come as a surprise to the author, given his background in the Church of England If Christian apologetics masked as church history is what you are looking for, then I have I ll begin my review this way there are a few reviewers who did not like this book due to the secular but by no means anti Christian perspective most educated readers would expect from a serious church historian Naturally, many of these reviewers associate MacCulloch with the atheistic academic left, which I m sure would come as a surprise to the author, given his background in the Church of England If Christian apologetics masked as church history is what you are looking for, then I have a few titles for you, but they are tear your eyeballs out bad.Suffice it to say I have been looking for a book like this one for a long time and I doubt a better book on church history will be written anytime soon The book is information dense and rather dry but, in all fairness to MacCulloch, a litany of jokes may have added a pound or two to this already hefty tome Diarmaid doesn t spare us any details.I was tempted to give this book 4 stars instead of 5, because it is the kind of book where you often have to read a passagethan once and even then, the details don t always stick That being said, I found it rather engrossing and regularly consulted other books on my shelf when reading it.A very enriching read This book should have been called Christianity A Speculative History from a Somewhat Antagonistic Viewpoint I only read the first 150 pages, plenty far enough to understand how MacCulloch feels about Christianity Most of the book is, by nature, extrapolation based on a very fragmented set of documents and conflicting histories, but MacCulloch is always overanxious to undermine Christianity by taking huge leaps of speculation and is never, at least that I saw in the first 150 pages, willing to This book should have been called Christianity A Speculative History from a Somewhat Antagonistic Viewpoint I only read the first 150 pages, plenty far enough to understand how MacCulloch feels about Christianity Most of the book is, by nature, extrapolation based on a very fragmented set of documents and conflicting histories, but MacCulloch is always overanxious to undermine Christianity by taking huge leaps of speculation and is never, at least that I saw in the first 150 pages, willing to remain neutral or actually go the other direction.I found his writing style to be good and the idea for the book is fantastic I m fully prepared to deal with problems in history and with the faults of Christians throughout history, but I m not willing to read a book by an author I feel I can t trust or have to constantly second guess Because of that, the bits of information I gleaned are all mentally footnoted as being something to go back and verify from a less biased source.Here are a few examples Yet at the heart of the Egypt and Exodus story is something which no subsequent Israelite fantasist would have wished to make up, because it is an embarrassment the hero and leader of the Exodus, the man presented as writing the Pentateuch itself, has a name which is not only non Jewish but actually Egyptian Moses My response is that if the Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years is it so surprising and embarrassing that they d eventually adopt Egyptian names If the implication is that Moses was actually Egyptian, why doesn t MacCulloch just say that It wouldn t be the longest logical jump he makes in the book.Later, this is what MacCulloch concludes about the Beatitudes There is nothing gentle, meek or mild about the driving force behind these stabbing inversions of normal expectations They form a code of life which is a chorus of love directed to the loveless or unlovable, of painful honesty expressing itself with embarrassing directness, of joyful rejection of any counsel suggesting careful self regard or prudence That, apparently, is what the Kingdom of God is like Really Only the most literalistic reading of such a poetic passage could lead to such an imbecilic interpretation MacCulloch makes similar mistakes of interpretation of various other passages in the New Testament, notably in the Lord s Prayer and the command to leave the dead to bury their dead When writing about the resurrected Christ note, resurrected he says, He repeatedly appeared to those who had known him, in ways which confused and contradicted the laws of physics Again, we are talking about a ressurected being Why is physics even relevant When he refers to Paul and his desire to teach of salvation through Christ alone, MacCulloch phrases it this way Paul managed to find a proper in the Tanakh to sum up what he wanted to say This comes across as incredibly condescending, to take for granted that Paul was just manipulating the Tanakh to justify his message If MacCulloch had left out managed to find and replaced it with found it would have made all the difference It is maybe a small infraction on its own, but it was, for me, the last straw.In a way, I m really disappointed to stop reading this The parts of the book that talk about the origins of the Old Testament and the influence of Socrates and Aristotle on Christianity are great The discussion of differing ideas of Satan, comparisons of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, ideas on prophecy and life after death in the Old Testament and the obsession with the virginity of Mary are all fascinating For now though, I m done I don t have time to verify every reference and I don t trust MacCulloch to give it to me straight It took three library renewals to get through this book and thanks to an ice storm, the fifth this year , I still owe the library a one day fine, a whole nickel that they thank you for and dump in a desk drawer with a bunch of rubber bands, and I love living in the country and having that library , and then work kind of slammed me a little, so it s just been sitting there languishing on my currently reading shelf for two weeks And in all that time I still haven t come up with something deeply It took three library renewals to get through this book and thanks to an ice storm, the fifth this year , I still owe the library a one day fine, a whole nickel that they thank you for and dump in a desk drawer with a bunch of rubber bands, and I love living in the country and having that library , and then work kind of slammed me a little, so it s just been sitting there languishing on my currently reading shelf for two weeks And in all that time I still haven t come up with something deeply insightful or clever to say I keep coming up with jokes, like, You know what they say, An atheist is just someone who s studied their religion Honestly, this book was really very good It s history, which I love, and religious history, which utterly fascinates me with the scale and grandeur of brutality people are willing to inflict on other people in the name of charity and salvation The whole book which kept switching from the macro to the micro with expert timing, by the way I just kept picturing all of this three thousand year saga, a hiccup on the evolutionary timescale, playing out from the vast vantage point of elsewhere in our galaxy, where we re not even a blip of starlight in deep space And if it didn t seem petty before, well.Back down on an earthly scale or not even that, on a continent s scale, country by country the epic and the exhaustive scope of MacCulloch s research has to be praised I can t imagine taking on a scholarship of that magnitude It s just bewildering in breadth, and meticulous in detail All told, though, I much preferred Robert Wright s The Evolution of God not because it does the subjectjustice, but because it deals with the slightly different angle the actual evolution of the anthropological and sociological aspects of a religion, as well as what is worshipped within it that is farfascinating to me For a history of the church, though, you couldn t do much better than this without devoting your time in semester sized chunks, and maybe not even then.Honestly, to hold onto the mystery and conviction of a religion don t study its history


About the Author: Diarmaid MacCulloch

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