Christianity is a concise and readable survey of the history of Christianity, from its beginnings in late antiquity, through the Reformations in the West, to its present-day globalization. Focusing particularly on the modern period, it provides a valuable introduction to contemporary christian beliefs and practices, and looks at the ways in which this diverse religion has adapted, and continues to adapt, to the challenges of the modern world.


This is a short book on a vast topic. The Christian tradition is fast approaching its 2000th anniversary. During those two millennia, it has evolved through a myriad of permutations and variations, creating scores of groups and movements, all claiming the appellation of Christian. The goal of this text, therefore, is not to exhaustively document all the possible ways of being Christian. Rather, it is an attempt to introduce the reader to the sweep of Christian history and to some of the natural mechanisms by which the tradition has diversified and changed over the centuries. Of course to do even this in the short space of this series format has meant making many difficult choices. Several relevant topics and figures have had to be left to more detailed studies. Nevertheless, I am confident that the reader, armed with this introduction, will not only possess a good working knowledge of Christianity, but he or she will be in an excellent position to pursue more in-depth studies of this fascinating religious tradition.

Many people helped me in the preparation of this volume, and I would like to express my gratitude. First. I would like to thank Professor Ninian Smart for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the “Religions of the World” series. I also wish to thank Melanie White, commissioning editor at Calmann and King, for her patience and careful attention at all stages of the project. I am also indebted to Professor Frank Gross, a colleague here in the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. Professor Gross’s thorough criticism of the original manuscript led me to reconsider several aspects of the presentation, much to the profit of the finished text. In addition. I benefited greatly from the extensive comments of the four anonymous reviewers from Prentice Hall; although we did not always agree on interpretive issues, their detailed critiques nevertheless led to many improvements in the text. And last. I would like to thank Charles Wilson and Cybelle Shattuck for their enthusiasm and encouragement.

Brian Wilson

March 1998

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