Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries - Vol. 1

Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries - Vol. 1

Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries - Vol. 1

Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Here is an attempt to narrate the history of Christianity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The nineteenth century is regarded as beginning with the close of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and as ending in 1914, with the outbreak of what is usually called World War I. The twentieth century is defined as beginning with the latter year. Obviously it has not ended when, because of the inescapable date when these volumes are written, it was still in medias res.

Why this choice of subject and period? Important though Christianity has been and is in the history of mankind, it is being vigorously challenged. In the past two centuries such large-scale open defections from it have occurred in its erstwhile stronghold, Europe, the traditional Christendom, that some thoughtful and even friendly observers have held that beginning at least as far back as the eighteenth century the world has been progressively entering the post-Christian era. If that is true, why tell the story of a waning force and a dying faith? Why undertake it while the story is in progress and before it has reached the end of another major stage? When set against the background of all history, the century and a half which are the scope of these volumes are only a moment. But even that moment is extraordinarily complex, and the five substantial volumes which are projected for this work cannot hope to cover it fully or in great detail. To deal with it adequately would entail the labour of several lifetimes, for the surviving records are incredibly vast and are scattered over many lands, and this writing is being begun when the author is in his seventieth year, presumably with only a decade or less of working time remaining. Huge in bulk though they are, impossible of coverage by one man, the written and printed documents which must be the historian's main reliance do not permit a well-rounded account. It is part of the genius of Christianity that what, from its standpoint, are some of its most significant fruits are in humble lives which leave behind them few if any detectable records. Faced with these difficulties, the conscientious scholar might well refuse to embark on the enterprise here essayed and view with distrust the results of any such seemingly preposterous undertaking.

The reasons why the venture is being entered upon and at this time and . . .

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