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.