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240 of 260 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A History Of The Christian Church, April 3, 2010
This review is from: Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (Hardcover)
This is a long and scholarly history of the background, birth and growth of Christianity. The author is an Anglican and church historian. The narrative makes it clear that there has never been just one church, but many interpretations of who Jesus Christ was : from the early gnostic "heretics" (who lost the PR/political battles and were banned) to the Western Roman Church to the Eastern Greek Church to the Reformation and beyond (which spawned Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, et al). The love of Christ as shown by early Christian martyrs and by St. Francis of Assisi is contrasted with the intolerance of differences as shown by the religious wars and the Crusades. It is very readable and assumes no prior knowledge by the reader. With the approach of Easter, Mr. MacCulloch has written a book for the lay reader.
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Tracked by 9 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 14, 2010 8:36:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 3, 2010 4:13:21 PM PDT
john says:
C. Hutton writes "from the early gnostic "heretics" (who lost the PR/political battles and were banned)"

I have to disagree - I think this is a poorly reasoned statement; the Gnostic and Manichean heretics were skeptics and pessimists. They were extremely narrow in their beliefs, with the Manicheans insisting that creation itself was evil. They insisted on an asceticism way beyond the Christian rejection of materialism. In this narrowness, they prefigured Mohammedanism and Puritanism.

By making dogmas and renouncing Gnostics and Manicheans, the Church opposed the very thing you are accusing it of: intolerance. It was the Gnostics and Manicheans that were notoriously intolerant and excessively ascetic; and their theology was so labyrinthine as to be incomprehensible, as St. Augustine testifies in his Confessions.

As for PR/political battles, it is Orthodoxy itself that time after time has been on the losing end, but somehow is always able to rise again after being left for dead. From Arianism, which became the official state religion until Julian The Apostate, to the Reformation, to Modernism and now Post-Modernism, the Church survives. Pope Benedict standing on the very spot where Saint Thomas More was condemned is a powerful testament. As the watered-down faith begins to spill away, there again is the Church, timeless, refreshed, and renewed.

>The love of Christ as shown by early Christian martyrs and by St. Francis of Assisi is contrasted
>with the intolerance of differences as shown by the religious wars and the Crusades.

Again, I have to take issue with your understanding of the facts - in my opinion you have it horribly backwards; it is the Church that has always stressed the tolerant, merciful side of Christ. Every sacrament in the Church is a welcome or a washing or a mercy.

It is the Christ of the Bible that is unequivocal and intolerant: He tells us he came not to send peace but the sword; that those who follow him will be killed and hated by all nations; That any man that comes to him that hates not his father and mother - yea and his own life! cannot be his disciple. At nearly every point in his ministry Jesus was controversial and made enemies; people weren't crucified for being 'nice' or 'tolerant.' How broad-minded is the man who said the following:

"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day."

It is the Christ of the bible who pulls no punches and tells us in no uncertain terms that some of us are going to hell; it is His Church that holds out His heart of mercy to us.

As for the Crusades they were for the most part defensive wars to repel Islamic incursions into the Holy Land and Europe, and not due to 'intolerance of differences.' If they were intolerant, it was an intolerance to being wiped off the face of the earth. The lands conquered by Islam, after all, were Christian before they were Muslim.

The reviews I've read have raised some questions for me about this work: does MacCulloch give the Crusades balanced treatment, or is it the typical modernist one-sided revision of Islam-good, Catholic-bad? I'm beginning to suspect the latter. If so why are people touting this as a scholarly, learned, scientific work. He's obviously making value judgments with a particular point of view. Shouldn't a scholarly work simply present facts and let the reader make the judgments?

Another question is how many 'religious wars' were really about theology or belief? Why are people so willing to believe that all wars today are fought for oil, rather than for principles, but when looking back over our shoulders, we think all such wars were religious? Certainly demagoguery was not a 20th century invention. But let's cede that they were truly wars of religion: whom should we admire more, the man who fights for oil or the one who fights for a principled belief? Who is the backward, intolerant barbarian, and who is the enlightened man of Reason?

Does MacCulloch address this at all? By the tenor of this and other reviews, I've got a feeling he doesn't. He begins to sound more like the typical liberal academic reading his own beliefs into the historical record and I'm wondering if I should invest 1000 pages of reading time in a biased work. Someone who's read this, give me a reason why I should keep an open mind, please.

What does MacCulloch - as you describe above as an Anglican - say about the persecution of the Catholic martyrs in England - like the torture, hanging, beheading, and mutilation of St. Edmund Campion by the Protestants on the false charge of sedition?

Again, I'm asking these questions in all sincerity because these 5 star reviews rave about the scholarly, learned history assembled by MacCulloch - is it because the reviewers are sympathetic to his point of view, or is this in fact a balanced piece of work? I don't mind 'warts and all' history, but sounds like the Roman Catholic Church has the 'warts', and Protestantism and Modernism - really anything not Catholic - have the 'all.'

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 24, 2010 6:28:10 PM PDT
foxfire1013 says:
Perhaps you might want to read the book again and not try to interpret what happened in the past was because people had the same frame of mind as they do now. Professor MacCulloch's Book has a thorough note section.

You ask "Another question is how many 'religious wars' were really about theology or belief? " Why do you think 12 people hijacked airliners and killed 3000 people they didn't know? Why do you think we have, NOW, Christianity vs Islam in a much more potentially destructive way than we have in the past? Ask yourself why some people cannot be content in letting other people believe what they want to believe about God without conflict?

Whether one fights for oil or for a "principled belief", innocent people and other creatures die. How about not fighting anymore?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2010 7:53:59 PM PDT
C. Hutton says:
John -- As a graduate of both Catholic University of American and Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, it is my opinion that Mr. MacCulloch is NOT blaming the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), or as you phrase it, "has the warts." The book is not anti-Catholic and neither was my review. However, if you believe that the RCC is above reproach and never been wrong, then I suggest that you skip this book and stick to your more comfortable Catholic tomes. This text is a historical survey of Christianity and how people define "faith." By the way, when I used the phrase "religious wars," I was referring to the killings done by "true believers" on both sides during the post-Reformation period in Europe (and NOT the Crusades which you seemed to have assumed). C. Hutton

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2010 6:47:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2010 7:01:52 PM PST
john says:
Foxfire1013 writes:
"Why do you think 12 people hijacked airliners and killed 3000 people they didn't know? Why do you think we have, NOW, Christianity vs Islam"

Islam was founded as a conquering religion. The first act by its founder, after settling a family dispute in Medina, was to attack Mecca. The followers of this religion broke out in cheers when their "martyrs" flew planes into a building killing 3000 people.

Christianity was founded by a wandering mendicant. The first act of its founder was to submit to death on a cross while asking forgiveness for his persecutors. The followers of this religion wept when their martyrs - who had flown to Afghanistan to perform eye operations for poor children - where executed for no other reason than for being "the other."

But beyond that, what is your point? The greatest war in the history of the world is still within living memory. The Great War (parts 1 and 2) was not fought over religion at all: it was fought by progressive modernists and materialists who had renounced religion and fully embraced science as a governing principle of the human race. The total number of casualties in part 1 (WWI), both military and civilian, was about 37 million - 16 million deaths and 21 million wounded. Part 2 (WWII) killed over 60 million people. I won't even go into the Godless Communist regimes that filled the vacuum created by these wars and killed many tens of millions more in Asia and Africa.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2010 6:52:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 26, 2010 12:00:28 AM PST
john says:
***
C. Hutton writes:
"However, if you believe that the RCC is above reproach and never been wrong... "
***

As opposed to believing that the academy is above reproach and that it has never been wrong? Might they perpetrate frauds now and again to advance their agenda - perhaps something like purposefully fudging global temperature data and then conspiring with each other to suppress the work of those who disagreed with them?

***
C. Hutton writes:
"then I suggest that you skip this book and stick to your more comfortable Catholic tomes"
***

I haven't decided yet if I'll skip it. It seems like MacCulloch is a Bart Ehrman retread - just the latest in a line of proponents of the Bauer thesis - but I did ask for someone to give me a reason to spend my time on this book, so I do appreciate your response.

Pax Vobiscum

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2011 8:47:04 PM PST
I've read it and I agree, this is definitely a work of bias opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2011 2:18:06 PM PST
Customer says:
Foxfire: What in the hell are you jabbering about?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2011 2:24:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 26, 2011 2:25:13 PM PST
Customer says:
John: Excellent points you have raised throughout here. Thank you for your intelligent comments graced with honesty and civility. I will be taking a pass on this book.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2011 5:51:58 PM PST
foxfire1013 says:
A Reader: Do you have anything specific to say about what I wrote in mind or are you, like bad gas in the night, just flying by with a sound-byte?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2011 6:38:37 PM PST
foxfire1013 says:
In response to "But beyond that, what is your point? "; My point in the comment you responded to is that people seem to create "in-groups" and "out-groups" and then find ways to justify doing uneithical things, like steal from, kill, rape, yadda, from those who are not in one's "in-group".

I think religion is one way this division into "in" and "out" groups is accomplished and I think other philosophical approaches have had the same result. As you pointed out, the dogma of Communism replaced God with another alternative. I would ask you, does a "God" vs "Other" body count (more points for inflicting pain, humiliation, suffering before death) mean the Philosophy with the lowest points has "won" moral justification to become The Thing Everyone Is Required To Believe?

I guess I am an atheist with respect to any god humans have created and any non-god philosophy humans have created that claim to be The Path to Ultimate Truth.
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