Chadwick, an eminent church historian, has written an original and sweeping history of the Christian faith from the multi-faceted perspective of a people's religion. Lavishly illustrated and thoroughly detailed, A History of Christianity profiles one of the most powerful and lasting influences on global civilization.
Starting with Christianity's origins as a Jewish sect, the author shows how Europe was converted; and then how the Christian faith was accepted by the Americas, much of Africa, and parts of the East. He discusses the effects of the faith on the lives of believers throughout two millennia: the mutually uneasy relationship of the early Christians with the State; the rise of great monastic and clerical institutions; the different holy orders and their roles in disseminating the faith; Christ's imitators, and the canonization of exemplary Christians; the coming of the Protestants, and their attitudes towards work, worship, and religious toleration; and Christianity's decline in Europe even as it expanded into the wider world.
The book also explores Christianity's relationship with such key twentieth-century issues such as the emancipation of women, birth control, Muslim fundamentalism, Nazi racism, and Marxist atheism. In addition, Chadwick explains the evolution of the faith's artistic expression: the development of ecclesiastical architecture, from discreet house churches in the Roman age, via the soaring splendor of the Middle Ages, to the studios of the TV evangelists; the rituals, including the interpretations of the sacred texts, vestments, and the rise of choral music, from oratorio to hymns and spirituals. Finally, he discusses the Church's role in caring within the community—that is, medical and pastoral care—and its shifting attitudes to cruelty and war, from the martyrdoms of the Spanish Inquisition to the pacifism of this century.