A World History of Christianity

Article excerpt

A World History of Christianity.

Edited by Adrian Hastings. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999. Pp. xiv, 594. $45.

The sure editorial hand of Adrian Hastings and the sturdy work of his contributors have combined to take an important step toward a genuinely global history of Christianity. Recent general histories have made increasingly sincere gestures toward this same goal. But the weight of convention has to date mostly prevented others from reflecting the world's current distribution of believers, where the demographic balance, but not yet the historiography, has shifted from North to South. This volume marks a breakthrough.

It contains thirteen separate chapters in which specialists on various regions or eras will doubtless find weaknesses. But to an aspiring globalist with formal training only in Western subjects, I judge the results to be superlative. Seven sections authoritatively treat the more familiar story: Martin Goodman on "the emergence of Christianity," Adrian Hastings on the period A.D. 150-55, Mary Cunningham on Orthodoxy in Byzantium, Benedicta Ward and G. R. Evans on the medieval West, Andrew Pettegree on Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Bruce Mullin on North America, and Mary Heimann on western Europe from the Enlightenment. Even in this well-trod terrain, however, there are important contributions to world Christian history-for example, from Hastings with substantial treatment of developments beyond the Roman Empire and from Mullins with the inclusion of Canada in his narrative.

It is, however, the innovative character of the book's other half that fulfills the claim of its title. R. E. Frykenberg's chapter on India combines a clear account of a complex history with a particularly insightful discussion of how the class of Western Protestant missionaries (tending toward the artisan) interacted unexpectedly with Indian castes. …


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