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The Christians: An Illustrated History

Lion Hudson Books, 176 pages
RRP: $34.95

I was pleasantly surprised by this concise historical coverage of a two millennia history.

I wondered about the title, because nowadays the term is used sometimes apologetically and sometimes aggressively. However, I was impressed as the story of the Christians, in their many forms and in their diverse circumstances, was well covered, with fairness and with honesty.

The Christians: An Illustrated History is very well presented, well-bound and using high quality paper. The setting out makes for easy reading and the art work is especially worthy of mention.

Modern printing makes it possible to show us photos of ancient manuscripts, elaborate icons and works of art that most of us would never see otherwise.

The history is comprehensive. Included are those parts we know fairly well, but also segments from historical eras and various traditions that many Protestant laypeople would miss from their education.

For example there are chapters on the Patriarchal Period, the Monastic Movement, the Eastern Church, Islam and the Crusades, the Reformation of course, but also the Counter-Reformation, modern Catholicism, the Ecumenical Movement and the modern missionary era.

In the Introduction Dowley, an historian based in London, confesses the difficulty of writing a small book, (much more difficult than a large one) on such a topic.

Summarising complex themes and condensing long histories has to lead to some oversimplification.

Dowley deals honestly, but all too briefly, with modern issues of Biblical interpretation, theological controversy and pluralism (no mention of feminism), and Pentecostalism, but I have the sense that I am sitting on the cusp of a massive change in the way we view ourselves.

Seeing the Christians over against other religions makes one wonder about the future.

The Christians: An Illustrated History is a must for any school or church library. It is a well-produced summary of who we are and where we have come from.

Reviewed by Rev Bill Adams