A History of the Expansion of Christianity - Vol. 7

A History of the Expansion of Christianity - Vol. 7

A History of the Expansion of Christianity - Vol. 7

A History of the Expansion of Christianity - Vol. 7

Excerpt

We now come to what, for the time being, must be the final volume our story. In it we must attempt two main tasks. First we must describe the course of the expansion of Christianity in the years from 1914 to 1944, the date when, from the necessities of the author and the publisher, this work is being brought to its conclusion. Second, we must look back over the course of the entire narrative, from the inception of Christianity to A.D. 1944, and endeavour to discover and summarize such general conclusions as seem to arise from it.

The tasks are ones of peculiar difficulty. The period which seems to have begun in A.D. 1914 did not end in 1944. We have been viewing the other eras of the spread of Christianity from the perspective of time. While an age seldom begins or concludes with a precise day or year, we have been able to give approximate dates for their inception and termination. We have looked back upon them as completed and have surveyed the well-rounded whole. We cannot do that with the era which commenced in 1914. Obviously in 1944 it was still unfinished. We cannot view the entire scroll because it was not then completely unrolled. So, too, with our attempt to draw generalizations from the history of the expansion of Christianity. That story has not been ended. Indeed, in spite of its nearly nineteen and a half centuries, in 1944 it seemed to be only in its early stages. Not until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did Christianity become really world-wide in its geographic extent. Even then among many peoples, some of them the most numerous on the globe, it was merely beginning to have a marked influence. Those who for centuries had professed adherence to it were by no means fully conformed to it. It is tantalizing to be compelled to pause at a semi-colon, but we have no other option.

Moreover, as one attempts to summarize the course of Christianity thus far he becomes painfully aware of the imperfections and superficialities of the historian's craft. From the standpoint of Christian affirmation, the most important "effects of Christianity on its environment" lie "beyond history." The environment with which Christianity primarily deals is human lives, and these, so Christians have always confidently declared, have only barely begun this . . .

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