A Short History of Christianity

A Short History of Christianity

A Short History of Christianity

A Short History of Christianity

Excerpt

This short history of Christianity is intended to make its way between specialized monographs and ponderous general narratives of the past of this faith. Depending on a historian's distance from the subject, his perspective, and the time and space he would have to tell the story, he could theoretically write such a history in four lines or four thousand pages. The early Christians were not timid about reproducing digests of sermons which compressed a view of all world history into a few lines in the canonical Book of Acts. Yet they could look at the potential of expansion of one historical moment, the event of Jesus Christ, and say: "But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25).

I am to stand at the distance which will make possible a book of less than four hundred pages. Awed by my audacity at accepting the assignment, I should like to atone by fulfilling it with a modesty of method and intent. I shall try to strike a note somewhere between the prosaic positivism of syllabi for classrooms and the rhapsodic passion of uncritical religious histories. The entire book is an attempt at recovering the obvious, from its four chronological divisions (Early-Medieval-Reformation-Modern) to its principle for narration. That principle relies on "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all" Christians, the four notes of the Church (one, holy, catholic, apostolic). The Church is one, according to its own profession, because it is the one Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head; holy because God has chosen it for His own and lives in it through His Holy Spirit; catholic because it is "spread throughout the whole world from one end to the other" and because it is all-embracing in intent; apostolic . . .

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