The bottom line: A worthwhile companion text that presents a broad overview of key and carefully selected Christian writings over the first one and a half millennia A.D.
Readings in World Christian History: Volume I is not meant to be read by itself but is meant to serve as a companion to History of the World Christian Movement: Volume I by Irvin and Sunquist.
Without HWCM to provide context and locate the different authors and texts in history, the book becomes difficult to navigate and reads like a haphazard collection of unrelated compositions.
In this anthology, like HWCM, the editors make it clear that most textbooks tend to adopt a Eurocentric approach to the Christian movement and therefore mold history through a Western lens. This method ignores or diminishes the forces at play outside of Europe. Aware of the distortions inherent in this method, the editors have a “new appreciation of cultural diversity and geographical spread of ancient and medieval Christianity” and their presentation of the faith’s development in this volume is broad and inclusive. Resultantly, this book becomes a series of carefully selected narratives from different peoples, places, traditions and ideologies, as opposed to a unified stream with one point of view.
The book follows a chronological timeline and the sections are further divided into blocs that pertain to a controversy or a theological current. Each selection also has a brief introduction from the editors that gives the reader some context of the writing and a sense of the ideological orientation of the writer.
Taken by itself, one of the most significant values of this book is its introduction to theologians-in-training to the wonderful breadth of Christian writers, both big and small, through the 1400s. So while more well-known writers such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Origen, and Tertullian are included, the text also has, for example, the Didache, The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity, writings from Basil of Caesarea, the Apology of Patriarch Timothy to Caliph Mahdi, The Heliand, Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo, The Lives of Mar-Yahbh-Allaha and Rabban Sawma, and Unam Sanctum.
I used this book as required by a graduate level seminary course and found it to be invaluable in shedding light onto the historical developments, currents, and controversies in Christendom from the death of Christ to the 15th century. Readings in World Christian History will be most valuable to students of Christian and church history, theologians, and seminarians. Also, anyone with a keen interest into why and how Christian dogma and ideology has been molded, shaped, and transformed since the death of Christ will find this book precious as well.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal