Review: The Story of Christianity

I’ve just finished reading “The Story of Christianity” by David Bentley Hart. He is, as you may recall, the author of “Atheist Delusions” – a book I highly recommend. Anyway, I came across the book recently, and as I’d enjoyed Atheist Delusions – and as the Kindle edition was 56p on Amazon (still is, at the time of writing!) then I decided to give it a go.

Let me say this: the foundation degree at Oak Hill includes a two-year church history and doctrine course (which is what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years). This book basically goes through all that we’ve done on the “church history” part. In fact, if you wanted to do the course that we’ve been doing in book form, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Most of the major events and people are covered (some things in more depth than on our course), and the whole thing is written well and engagingly. To give you an idea – I’ve been able to follow it while at the same time suffering from sleep deprivation from a one month old baby. That speaks well of the book!

There are a few areas where I’d disagree with Bentley Hart, mainly I think in theological emphasis or interpretation of particular events, but as a historian he does a great job. And although most of the events are covered, this isn’t the book to go to if you want to look at church history in great depth – it’s a popular-level overview.

I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone who has an interest in Christianity and who – like me until a couple of years ago – is ignorant of much of church history. Let me give  you a few reasons why I think this book is worth reading:

  • You can’t understand the state of the church today without understanding where the church has come from;
  • I thought Bentley Hart’s presentation of the crusades – an area which people often talk about without actually having any historical facts to hand – was very helpful;
  • Similarly, his chapter on science and Christianity was very helpful (this is a topic he covers in more depth in Atheist Delusions);
  • Although the book is not in huge detail (by design), there are some book recommendations at the back and a general overview is often a good starting point for further reading. It will introduce you to many of the key players throughout the church’s history.

Most importantly, many people have misgivings about the future of the church at the moment. This book will help to put things in perspective: the church has survived a tough 2,000 years. Christians have been persecuted in the past, and indeed today many endure persecution (apparently Christians are the most-persecuted world religion). And yet, Christianity is still growing fast in many places. This book certainly gave me a lot more confidence in the church’s future, which is surely worth it!

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