46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2009
Professor Hart is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, but as in many of his works, he gives considerable (and fair) attention to the West. He doesn't cover any new ground in this book that one wouldn't also find in the standard church history book, but he does cover old ground from new angles. In discussing the different epochs of Church History, Hart asks the reader questions that only an Easterner would ask, causing the reader to pause for reflection and to come away with a richer understanding of his faith. In this review I will focus on several areas that Westerners do not either speak of or speak of in simplistic terms: Christology, Asian Christianities, and the struggle for faith in the 19th Century. So, I won't be giving a point-by-point outline of the book. Most readers will be familiar enough with the material.
When we speak of Christ it's usually in terms of "God sent him to die for our sins so that we could be saved." That's true, but there's more to the story. As Hart notes of the Incarnation, "human beings were now able to become vessels of the divine presence, and Christians would look forward to a day when God's glory would be revealed in those who had been joined to Christ, and would transfigure the whole of creation" (12). Hart is not changing the story but telling it on different grounds, allowing different (but very biblical) questions to be raised.
Asian and African Christianities
If any churches can claim continuity with antiquity, it would be Armenian and Indian churches. Like other Oriental churches, the Armenian church had problems with Chalcedonian formulations (one wonders how much of this was substance and how much was language?).
According to legend, the Church in India was founded by St Thomas the Apostle. Hart argues this might not be entirely fiction. There were ancient trade routes from the Middle East to India and there were Christian communities in western India as early as the second century (62).
The Anguish of Faith in the 19th Century
Many writers point out the depression and anguish of the 1800s. Non-Christian writers were in despair (read a secular novel from the 19th century and see the quiet desperation). Christian writers, supposedly, were in flux. And much of this narrative is true. Hart goes on to say that despite the acute attacks on Christianity (Nietzsche, Comte, etc), there was a flowering of fresh Christian activity. And perhaps these were related. The Slavophiles of Russia reacted to the Enlightenment and in that reaction produced arguably the most creative Christian response. Alexei Khomyakov and Vladimir Solovyov articulated the Sobornost: an integrated approach to reality that values brotherhood, harmony, and concordance all in the context of a connected and rooted Christianity. Even to this day it is my opinion that Sobornost is the best response to socialism and capitalism. And finally, the 19th century gave us one of the greatest thinkers of all time: Fyodor Dostoevsky.
There is much more to the book. Hart debunks many mythical narratives told by the Enlightenment: Galileo actually had church protection and routinely failed to mathematically prove his conclusions. He gave the "correct" answers but his models could not allow for them. And Galileo could not allow for the fact that he was wrong. Hart notes that the Islamic empires didn't actually give scientific and cultural breakthroughs. Rather, they inherited the cultural legacy of three different civilizations. Those are other examples in the book. And of course, obviously, the book contains some of the most beautiful art work in Western Civilization
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2008
This is a magnificent and beautiful book. Exquisitely illustrated, it's the history of Christianity in brief -- as complete as one volume can put it and in words easily read and understood by the reader. It's easily worth several times what it costs, as it leaves one with a new assurance of what he or she believes and knows about Christianity. In very few words, Hart displays his excellent knowledge of the sweep of Christianity from its beginning to the present. There is beauty in both the illustrations and the prose. I highly recommend it!Story of Christianity: An Illustrated History of 2000 Years of the Christian Faith
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2008
Brilliantly written and beautifully illustrated, this excellent book is an exacting, fair-minded and eloquent look at both Christian AND human history. Hart's truly astounding knowledge of church/Christian history and his remarkable writing skills are on full display here, with his observations and story re-telling complimented by sometimes lovely, oft-times heart-rending and all-times exquisite illustrations, artwork and photographs. (This entry from Mr. Hart is aimed at a wider, more public audience than much of his other work. For those of you familiar with his more academic oeuvre, be prepared for a much more reader-friendly, and lovely, style of prose -a style and imagery often hinted at in his scholarly works but loosed here, in this less constricted writing environment, in all its' glory.) As one other reviewer mentioned, for a one-volume compendium on such a complex and exhaustive subject, this is as thorough and comprehensive a treatment as one can get. Whether well-versed on the topic or less so knowledgeable, for anyone seeking an objective, informed and fairly intensive look at the roots and rich history of Christianity, and how it has become what it is today, this is the handbook. For Christians looking for a thought-provoking, challenging and ultimately uplifting and reassuring study on the story of one Jesus Christ and the religion which bears His name, you need look no further than this beautiful and inspiring volume.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2011
I wish I could give this six stars. This is far and away the best book I have ever read (and, I think, will ever read) on Christian history. The illustrations are great, the explanations insightful, and the flow and pace are perfect. Hart tells the story of Christianity from its beginnings all the way to today, never missing an important event and all the while subtly undermining the fallacious myths of Christianity's modern-day detractors (the "assassination" of Hypatia, the "persecution" of witches, the "attacks" on scientists, etc.). Unlike most other history texts, Hart also doesn't forget to include the Christian world outside of Europe -- reminding us of the frequently forgotten stories of the Assyrian, Ethiopian, and Indian Churches. If anyone wants to learn about the history of Christianity -- this is THE book to read.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2008
I found this an excellent resource as a historical perspective on Christianity. It is an unbiased, factual read and helps to clear up a lot of the confusion that arises when conflicting religious perspectives quarrel about what Christianity "really" is.
I highly recommend to anyone with questions about religion, Christian practices, history of the Christian church, and especially to Christians who may not be certain what their beliefs truly profess.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2008
This is an intelligent, very well written and superbly illustrated summary of Christian History. For any Christian who wants to know more about their roots I can't think of a better book to begin reading about the incredible story of Christianity.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2013
After years of teaching Church History in high school, college and seminary, it has always been a challenge to find material that makes historical presentations without theological bias. This beautifully done volume presents accounts of the history of the Church that includes the church in Africa, India and other areas in an objective manner. Difficult issues in history are presented without interpretation or bias. Truly a wonderful book
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2011
This is an excellent "short history" of Christianity, with superb illustrations.
Although I am not a Christian, just a Theist, it seems obvious to me that the history of Christianity contains an awful lot of the history of Western civilization. Viewing "The West" without reference to Christianity is something like viewing China without reference to Confucius.
I guess the current crop of atheists would regard this book as something "quaint" --- something worth a glance or two before being consigned to the trash.
But that is trashing the history of our own society! What are we supposed to do, adopt Sharia law in its stead? Some atheists running around today don't seem to object to that idea. And neither do some Archbishops of Canterbury, amazing to say. (The current Archbishop seems to regard his job as writing literary criticism. (Think I'm pulling your leg? Look here: Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction (Making of the Christian Imagination).
I suggest that they read this book, and then extend their reading into the rest of the Christian tradition. They may not be so eager to embrace Islam as they were before!
A superb book!!
on November 17, 2015
This book covers the entire history of Christianity, from its beginning to today, including details about the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. I particularly enjoyed the story of the Universal Church, in the first few centuries after Christ's death, including its struggles, persecution, and ultimate victory over paganism.
Unlike several of Hart's other books, this one embraces crisp clear language and simple ideas, making it suitable for a general audience. And, with many interesting anecdotes along the way, "The Story of Christianity" manages to hook and engage readers from the first page to the last.
A great starting point for anyone seeking a general – and comprehensible – overview of Christianity.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2015
Great overview of the history of the Christian Church including the Eastern Orthodox Church.