l'enfer c'est les autres
I have no background in the subject matter and found the book incredibly difficult to follow since he's constantly throwing out terms that are new to me. Soon as I understood one theological school of thought he'd throw another one at the listener, and by that time I would be completely confused and wonder what the point he was trying to make in the first place.
I think the book is probably a fairly good history, but a listener must have some kind of religious background to fully appreciate the discussion points brought up by this thorough history on a topic for which I still know almost nothing about.
This was time well spent, a lot of time. The author has the idea that he is writing a complete history of Christianity. He alludes to the fact that he is a modern British author, and a friend of Christianity, which is code for "I no longer believe in Christ, I am too modern for such a view, but I appreciate the things the Christian culture has brought to the world." One gets the idea that McCullough was writing for his peer group of secular, atheistic British scholars. His has done his home work, and his detailed descriptions of much of the historical processes of the institution of the Church is informative and interesting. However, he makes unsupported assertions throughout the book criticizing the motives or the church which is distracting and often shocking in a book that is supposed to be a clear history of the church. One gets the idea that this is a piece of rebellion against the author's father, who was a priest in the Church of England.
Clearly I did not really understand the way the institutional church split into western, eastern and Russian churches. Often the politics of various leaders of nations worked to co-opt the leaders of the church to get the church to support the secular leaders. Often church leaders were forced to make political decisions for the good of the church as an institution. There were great leaders and weak leaders of the various churches throughout the ages, but the church survived. I also did not understand the development of the Coptic Christians in Egypt. Fascinating reading, but keep in mind the author has a political, secular agenda and watch for his unsupported assertions about the church's leaders and their motives.
This was a good audio book.
Yes, I was inspired to do much more research due to the unsupported assertions concerning the motivations of various church leaders that the author makes. This additional research has been wonderfully confirming of development of the Christian culture in the west and the key role the church has played in creating the civilization of charity we have today.
Listen to the book, but keep your ears open. I bought a copy of the book as a reference and have used it concerning the historical facts that are presented.
I have nothing but high praise for the book. It is an enormous undertaking, and it succeeds remarkably well. I have one personal problem with the audio presentation: the narrator possesses a very good, very smooth voice. I wish he had taken the time to look up some of the words instead of just deciding on a pronunciation. It was very disturbing to the flow of the book to hear a word pronounced in an unfamiliar way.
I tried to make it to the end of the audio, out of sheer stubbornness, but about 2/3 of the way through I bailed, and finished the print (e-book) version. The history, and even the theology, were fine, but the Middle Ages/Renaissance begins a heavy emphasis upon philosophy; I tried fast forwarding through that, which proved ineffective. The historical aspect resumes after the French Revolution (for those interested).
Narrator does a good job with material that becomes highly technical (I won't quibble with "dry") at times, but he just couldn't carry the conversational tone for several dozen hours.
Recommended on audio only for those truly into theology and philosophy, rather than history and sociology. Perhaps because I agree with the author's point-of-view, but I didn't have trouble with "bias", not minding his asides particularly.
The information is clearly huge in scope and the author appears to be well acquainted with the various influences on the development of Christianity in the west as well as the east. Early one a bias against the validity of the Christian faith begins to come out with unnecessary criticism and surprising praise for the faith of Islam. So, it becomes hard to accept this as an unbiased history.
I was hoping for a scholarly work, to shed some light on an area that I am lacking, but the work is so biased that it is beyond insulting. I am very upset that I wasted a credit on something so one sided. In this book, only a fraction of the history of early Christianity is being portrayed, and that is the side that discredits the entire belief system, aggravated by negative editorial comments.
The most recent part I listened to, being just one of hundreds of derogatory biased statements, was to the effect that Constantine ordered 50 copies of the bible to be made, which required 5,000 cow hides, this fact followed by a quip "so much for Christian dissaproval of animal sacrifice." I would think this was funny if it were in a backroom conversation, but find it inappropriate in a 'history' text.
If you are hoping, as I was, for a neutral rendition of history, you will have to look to another source. Too bad Audible doesn't give a refund for books like this.
I have been extremely disappointed with this book. MacCulloch has an axe to grind against Christianity. It was a waste of a credit. I am still waiting for a quality history of Christianity, this book is not it. The book is filled with speculation, conjecture and the author's opinions.
While he covered some of the history and in many respects was enlightening, whenever possible he will take a negative slant against Christianity. There are too many areas where he speculates about the absence of documents and then proceeds to impute his theory on what a particular thinker, saint or actor in Christian history "might really have said". I am looking for unbiased history. If it comes out good or bad so be it. There are enough facts, writings and archeological evidence regarding Judaism and Christianity that there is really no need to speculate on what may or may not be missing. Or what late Christians/the Church may or may not have excised from the records. So many of his statements are conjecture ending with "we may never know".
I do not write this to defend Christianity, the book is just bad history writing filled with the author's supposition and outright hostility.
MacCulloch throughout this book makes snide comments on people and practices he writes about, speculates about things that don't exist and will continually give his opinion on the intent of whom he writes.
A much better writer is Rodney Stark and the book: The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion. It does not cover the Hebrews or Church history in as much detail but gives excellent treatment to the preceding roots of monotheism.
The book is excellent. The narrator/reader is unfamiliar with Christian history and consequently mispronounces many words, which is annoying. Otherwise, all good.
I enjoyed this book as a text for Education for Ministry. Many of my course mates struggled at first with the "scattershot" approach, but once they understood the methodology, they too became grudging fans.
Having seen several DVD's based on "History of Christianity" prior to reading this book also contributed to my enjoyment.