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Christianity: A Global History [Paperback]

By David Chidester (Author)
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Item description for Christianity: A Global History by David Chidester...

A sweeping history of Christianity surveys the personalities, trends, movements, and strands of theological and philosophical thought that have made the religion in all its diverse forms successful around the world. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.

Publishers Description

David Chidester, one of the world's foremost scholars of religion, traces Christianity's growth and development from the time of Jesus to the dawn of the third millennium, revealing its rich diversity through the deeds and beliefs of heretics and saints, witches and healers, preachers and inquisitors. Chidester explores the emergence of the major streams of Christian thought and practice, distilling the cultural history of the Church and its impact on the world into this superbly readable book. Alongside this broad panorama is a richly human story that the author brilliantly encapsulates in incisive character sketches and historical vignettes.

Christianity, in all its many facets, has been and continues to be one of the most influential forces in history. Chidester shows that this religion, with its roots deep in the ancient world, has always been in a constant state of evolution, affecting and affected by the religions and societies around it. At times Christianity has coexisted peacefully with other forms of belief, exchanging ideas and practices with them. At other times profound, even violent, conflict has arisen. In this book David Chidester intelligently and objectively portrays Christians in different times and places, as a minority and as the majority group, a religion both absorbing and resisting the world around it. Christianity reveals the religion as it was and is lived in the life of everyday people rather than focusing on the dry dogmas and beliefs that fill most histories. Chidester's accomplishment is to capture the complexity and grand sweep of this story in one remarkable volume that is destined to take its place as a classic of religious history.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Christianity: A Global History by David Chidester has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 114
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 87

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   627
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.8"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 27, 2001
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0062517708  
ISBN13  9780062517708  
UPC  099455021005  

Availability  120 units.
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More About David Chidester

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David Chidester is Professor of Comparative Religion and Director of the Institute for Comparative Religion in Southern Africa at the University of Cape Town. Among his preivous publications are American Sacred Space, Religions of South Africa, Shots in the Streets: Violence and Religion in South Africa, and Religion and Public Education: Options for a New South Africa.

David Chidester currently resides in Cape Town. David Chidester has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Cape Town.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Church History

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Reviews - What do customers think about Christianity: A Global History?

Not so historical  Mar 10, 2003
Chidester markets his book as "A Global History" of Christianity but it feels more like a mosaic of stories told over the centuries that illustrate the religious activities of Christians. Christianity is not depicted as a growing institution or community but rather as an example of religous development among religions. This is probably due to the fact that Chidester teaches comparative religion, not in order to become relevant to one's life, but, as he puts it, "[to engage] in developing resources for understanding religion in all its global variety and local specificity that can in principle be applied to the study of any form of religion." In other words, comparative religion is applied to Christianity in a global sense so we can understand religion better. A bit circular I think.

The whole scope of his work, therefore, lacks a coherent development. Chapters skip from place to place as well as from time period to time period creating a frustrating read. Not only so, but even within chapters the bulk of material is designed to tell stories that span a third of the chapter rather than making generalizations about Christianity in a region or time period. I knew much about one individual at one place in one time but practically nothing about the rest of Christendom outside the one person's story. While this has the effect of personalizing the practice of Christian religion it avoids presenting any thorough history of that religion.

Another red flag that gave me pause was Chidester's extremely flippant portrayal of historical events. When recalling the story of the life of St. Paul, for example (who even he admits is foundational in the development of Christianity), he recalls his conversion from Pharisaic Judaism by claiming that, "At some point, however, Paul decided that the Christ congregations might have discovered a novel way of expanding the scope of the people of Israel by embracing both the circumcised and the uncircumcised within one spiritual family under the same God." A far cry from Luke's depiction of Paul encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus or even from Paul's own description of being "apprehended by Christ Jesus." Such liberty in altering Paul's conversion story - whether believed by the author or not - does not inspire confidence in Chidester's historical accuracy elsewhere.

The book is good for providing stories (even if they're highly colored or fabricated) that are entertaining and insightful to religious activity of some Christians (not necessarily representative of the whole population) and, indeed, Chidester himself admits that his intent is to write with the pen of a novelist. But as far as providing a history is concerned, his work is seriously lacking. Many reviewers have noted the extreme difficulty of writing a one-volume history of all Christianity - which cannot be negated - but this does not relieve the author of the charge of taking seriously the attempt to write a "history." If Chidester had just named his work other than history it would not be so misleading.

For a good one-volume history of Christianity that is also global in aspect (and actually gives a history), I highly recommend David L. Edward's "Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years."

A reasonable introduction  Feb 2, 2003
What is Christianity, is it the history of an idea or a series of institutions? Chidester the writer of this book is more concerned with Christianity as an idea. This contrasts a bit with other books on the topic of Christianity. Hans Kunne for instance has written a short history of the Catholic Church which is very much an institutional history.

One of the weaknesses of Chidesters book is that it is mainly doctrinal. It looks at the establishment of Christianity, its acceptance by the Romans and its revival after the collapse of the Western Empire. One thing which is missing is the history of the development of things such as the Cannon and the development of church structures. We know little about early Christian Communities and about the development of the Western and Eastern Churches as institutions.

Never the less this is something of a minor quibble. The history of Christianity is so vast that it is hard to discuss it in any detail even in a 600 page book. To make things more difficulty this is a global history with chapters on the development of Christianity in places as diverse as India and New Guinea.

The strength of the book is the development of the belief systeml. Thus he is able to chart the development of the interest in relics and icons. The development of Marianism and the intellectual tensions which led to the Reformation.

Although the book does not gloss over the shortcomings of Christianity, the persecution of heretics, ant-Semitism and the failure of the churches in Nazi Germany are all discussed the book is written from a Christian viewpoint. Thus there is no discussion about whether Christ existed as a historical figure or the controversy over the accuracy of the Gospels and New Testament.

The reality however is that the scope of the book is so wide ranging it is difficult to cover much of the material in depth. What could be seen as some as a little superficial would be seen by others as the compromise that has to be made in presenting what is an immense topic.

Decent survey  Jul 8, 2002
It is extremely difficult to write a one-volume history of Chrisitianity -- even if you are not pursuing it around the globe. Chidester has done and excellent job in keeping his focus broad, and not getting bogged down in the details. If, however, you are looking for a comprehensive work, one that explains everything about every major denomination, this is not it. But, even if that is what you are looking for, you may want to start here anyway. Chidester has provided a decent survey that can provide the unfamiliar reader with a good introduction.
A lively global survey of events and beliefs  Feb 8, 2002
From the dark days of the Inquisition to widespread missionary conversion efforts around the world, and the manifold conflicts between the Christian Church and other world religions and movements, David Childester's Christianity: A Global History surveys the rich historical pagent of Christianity, including its changing foundations, and the actions of those who operated within and outside the Church. A lively global survey of events and beliefs.
An unbiased historical review of Christianity  Oct 15, 2001
Historically revealing and presented in an unbiased, non-confrontational style, this book takes a look at Christianity from a historical perspective. This book covers Christianity from its beginnings to the current age of Internet surfing. The author disects Christianity by focusing on geographical regions to start with and then chronologically within those regions. Although it covers the entire span of Christian history, I thought the author should have given the origins of Christianity much more attention. The other portion that I found somewhat lacking was the development of the various Protestant denominations. However, this book was well rounded in its approach overall and worth the time and effort to read. If you're looking for a book to discuss the general development of Christianity, this book will do nicely. If you are looking for a book to describe the differences between denominations and their roots, I suggest looking elsewhere.

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