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Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church

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The third edition of Christianity Through the Centuries brings the reader up-to-date by discussing events and developments in the church into the 1990s. This edition has been redesigned with new typography and greatly improved graphics to increase clarity, accessibility, and usefulness. - New chapters examine recent trends and developments (expanding the last section from The third edition of Christianity Through the Centuries brings the reader up-to-date by discussing events and developments in the church into the 1990s. This edition has been redesigned with new typography and greatly improved graphics to increase clarity, accessibility, and usefulness. - New chapters examine recent trends and developments (expanding the last section from 2 chapters to 5) - New photos. Over 100 photos in all -- more than twice the number in the previous edition - Single-column format for greater readability and a contemporary look - Improved maps (21) and charts (39) Building on the features that have made Christianity Through the Centuries an indispensable text, the author not only explains the development of doctrines, movements, and institutions, but also gives attention to "the impact of Christianity on its times and to the mark of the times on Christianity."


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The third edition of Christianity Through the Centuries brings the reader up-to-date by discussing events and developments in the church into the 1990s. This edition has been redesigned with new typography and greatly improved graphics to increase clarity, accessibility, and usefulness. - New chapters examine recent trends and developments (expanding the last section from The third edition of Christianity Through the Centuries brings the reader up-to-date by discussing events and developments in the church into the 1990s. This edition has been redesigned with new typography and greatly improved graphics to increase clarity, accessibility, and usefulness. - New chapters examine recent trends and developments (expanding the last section from 2 chapters to 5) - New photos. Over 100 photos in all -- more than twice the number in the previous edition - Single-column format for greater readability and a contemporary look - Improved maps (21) and charts (39) Building on the features that have made Christianity Through the Centuries an indispensable text, the author not only explains the development of doctrines, movements, and institutions, but also gives attention to "the impact of Christianity on its times and to the mark of the times on Christianity."

30 review for Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Collins

    I read this book for my Church History courses under Dr. Randy Cloud. While I learned a lot from Cairns' treatment of Church History, I have three major criticisms of this book. The first is more superficial: Cairns' charts are not helpful. They make little sense and could be designed in a much more understandable way. Secondly: It is very obvious when reading that Cairns comes from a strongly evangelical perspective. He is quick to point out the flaws in other Christian traditions and not one t I read this book for my Church History courses under Dr. Randy Cloud. While I learned a lot from Cairns' treatment of Church History, I have three major criticisms of this book. The first is more superficial: Cairns' charts are not helpful. They make little sense and could be designed in a much more understandable way. Secondly: It is very obvious when reading that Cairns comes from a strongly evangelical perspective. He is quick to point out the flaws in other Christian traditions and not one time (that I noticed) did he do the same with evangelicalism. Now, evangelicalism is not bad, but it was clearly given the preferred and untouchable position which is scholastically irresponsible. Finally, and flowing out of my second criticism: Cairns gives 90% of his attention to the family tree of evangelicalism. This led to a great neglect of the Roman Catholic Church (which received several sections in total), the Eastern Orthodox Church (which received a few paragraphs in total), and the development of Christianity in outside of Europe prior to the 1800s (which received the equivalent of a few footnotes). The final two chapters of the book itself (41 & 42) are largely dedicated to singing the praises of the growth and influence of evangelicalism rather than to giving a wide overview of the church universal as it stands today. While I have no quarrel with evangelicalism as it comes to reporting church history, a book that claims to be "A History of the Christian Church" should have a much wider scope than an ethnocentric highlight reel of the West and should at least try to mute its radiant praises of one Christian tradition to the detriment of all others.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Adam Calvert

    In this book Dr. Cairns has skillfully crafted a brilliant and accessible survey of the history of the Christian Church from its inception all the way up to the present day (latest ed. 1996). His writing is engaging, helpful, and honest. Obviously with a survey book, no one can include all the details of any significant person, event, or movement. But Dr. Cairns does a wonderful job (as any historian would do) of selecting which things to include and which things the reader can do without. The boo In this book Dr. Cairns has skillfully crafted a brilliant and accessible survey of the history of the Christian Church from its inception all the way up to the present day (latest ed. 1996). His writing is engaging, helpful, and honest. Obviously with a survey book, no one can include all the details of any significant person, event, or movement. But Dr. Cairns does a wonderful job (as any historian would do) of selecting which things to include and which things the reader can do without. The book is very well divided into 42 chapters from 11 sections in 3 major periods. The text alone is enough for the price of the book, both in content and lucidity; but there are also great pictures, maps, and charts along the way. While many don't understand the importance of knowing church history, if you are someone with the remotest interest in the subject (and even if you're not), I highly recommend this work. There is not one better survey I know of in this field. It will change and shape your understanding of your very roots as a Christian.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Freeman

    This is the classic! Highly recommended. I found myself relying heavily on this book to look up details that other books might hint at. I found the layout a bit challenging at times. But the index helped to make up for this. Some events are covered in multiple chapters but with a different focus for each. They were not "inconsistent" but just not holistic. This would require me to jump around to gain a complete picture of some events. The book has great charts, good writing and has been updated t This is the classic! Highly recommended. I found myself relying heavily on this book to look up details that other books might hint at. I found the layout a bit challenging at times. But the index helped to make up for this. Some events are covered in multiple chapters but with a different focus for each. They were not "inconsistent" but just not holistic. This would require me to jump around to gain a complete picture of some events. The book has great charts, good writing and has been updated to make it the classic that still stands. Highly recommended if you can only afford one book on church history. Definitely recommended for the intermediate church history student.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bringe

    This was a helpful overview of the church history of the last two thousand years in textbook format. I appreciate the book recommendations that are scattered throughout the book for further study. The author comes from a reformed-evangelical perspective, which I appreciate, although he is also sympathetic to premillennialism and egalitarianism, which I don't appreciate. But over all, I have a better understanding of Christian history as a whole and a greater recognition of my smallness in the wh This was a helpful overview of the church history of the last two thousand years in textbook format. I appreciate the book recommendations that are scattered throughout the book for further study. The author comes from a reformed-evangelical perspective, which I appreciate, although he is also sympathetic to premillennialism and egalitarianism, which I don't appreciate. But over all, I have a better understanding of Christian history as a whole and a greater recognition of my smallness in the whole thing. God has indeed been taking care of his church over time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    This book had some good information, had lots of dry spots, and had some quite heretical views especially toward the end.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Terrence D.

    This really isn't a bad book at all for the purpose it served. My Church History professor used this as a text book and it was more than adequate. I know some recent reviewers did not like the lack of depth, but being that this isn't a manifold tome of Church & Christian history, no one should really complain. The book was only meant to be an overview; not an in-depth and comprehensive work. If you want that then look elsewhere. Cairns paid attention to certain details that are crucial for our u This really isn't a bad book at all for the purpose it served. My Church History professor used this as a text book and it was more than adequate. I know some recent reviewers did not like the lack of depth, but being that this isn't a manifold tome of Church & Christian history, no one should really complain. The book was only meant to be an overview; not an in-depth and comprehensive work. If you want that then look elsewhere. Cairns paid attention to certain details that are crucial for our understanding of doctrinal and theological development through the ages and I truly appreciated that about him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Woodward

    This was just a great, great exposition of church history. It's not as detailed as it can be, but I'm afraid if it were more detailed it would be over the top. This is a great book to read along side "Turning Points" by Noll. If you're interested in church history, you ought to give this one your shelf space. This was just a great, great exposition of church history. It's not as detailed as it can be, but I'm afraid if it were more detailed it would be over the top. This is a great book to read along side "Turning Points" by Noll. If you're interested in church history, you ought to give this one your shelf space.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Vaughan

    I really liked the way that this book gives a view of church history from 20,000 feet. It’s not as detailed as some of the other church history books that I’ve read, but then again all of those other works are more than one volume. This is a great introductory book on the subject.

  9. 5 out of 5

    A

    An excellent introduction to church history. This is a review of the second revised edition (1981). The book is in a two-column format and is just over 500 pages. The author Earle E Cairns (short bio here) was an ordained minister of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (UPCUSA). The UPCUSA was absorbed into the very progressive PC(USA). Both denominations were/are known for their progressivism . Despite that, I encountered staunchly conservative theology in this book. The author makes no qual An excellent introduction to church history. This is a review of the second revised edition (1981). The book is in a two-column format and is just over 500 pages. The author Earle E Cairns (short bio here) was an ordained minister of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (UPCUSA). The UPCUSA was absorbed into the very progressive PC(USA). Both denominations were/are known for their progressivism . Despite that, I encountered staunchly conservative theology in this book. The author makes no qualms for his disdain of the social gospel, liberation theology and the sort, has firm and uncompromising views on inerrancy, the gospel, the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the Trinity and biblical ethics. Some have lamented this book as being not deep enough. But that is unfair since its being criticized for what it is not attempting to do. It is more of a bird's eye view of church history. This doesn't necessarily imply that the work does not have depth or is evangelical-fluff. On the other hand, it is well annotated and for those who do want to go deeper, there is suggested reading list at the end of all 39 chapters! This list in some chapters extends for quite a lot of pages. Not just popular level books but also scholarly publications. The book is divided into 3 parts and the parts are further subdivided into sections: Ancient Church History (5 B.C. to A.D 590) - this part starts with the philosophical climate prefiguring Christ's birth up to the developments in hierarchy and liturgy that started taking place which eventually leads on to the Middle Ages. Something worth noting in this part is that the author spends the very first chapter on how not only Jews, but also the Greeks and Romans had a part to play in setting the climate for the birth of Christ. It is surprising that the author acknowledges Plato, Socrates for their role in setting the stage for the development of Christian doctrine, surprising because since the Enlightenment, it is said by recent authors who have worked on retrieving Christian metaphysics, that materialism, idealism, rationalism and other forms of liberalism have corrupted the reading of Scripture, so much so that even those that are touted as "conservatives" now are said to have imbibed liberal presuppositions in their hermeneutics. The veracity of this platitude of liberalism's influence, I'm quite unsure and not informed well enough at the moment of writing this review, this was just an interesting observation as I skimmed some of those pages. Christian Platonists have an ally in this 20th century author. To what extent, is something that the reader must decide upon. But there is the very essential acknowledgement that Christianity did not arise in vacuum and everyone who reads Scripture, reads with some presuppositions and metaphysics. These parts are quite foggy since I read these sections when I didn't know better (more than a year ago) and will have to go through them again to provide anything sure or substantial that the authors elucidates. Medieval Church History ( 590-1517) - this part deals with the medieval church. This section should be must read for all Protestants. There is a general overview of the development of Roman Catholic doctrines and/or dogmas, of course not all, but the important ones. There is an entire section (≃ 30 pages) dedicated to the papacy. Other sections deal with the church-state relationship during this period and attempts at internal reform leading to ultimately the Reformation Modern Church History (1517-) - deals with the reformation in various countries, the post reformation period where there was development of the Reformed/Particular Baptists/Westminster, Anglican and Lutheran confessions. The counter- Reformation is discussed. Methodism, Quakerism, Arminians and other sects/denominations that rose during this time are given due consideration. The first and second Great Awakenings are dealt with. True to his Calvinistic roots, the author is more sympathetic to the First Great Awakening. The development of liberalism, rationalism, naturalism, Marxism, Darwinism, liberation theology, social gospel etc are explored. 20th century theologians and evangelicals are also mentioned in fine; Francis Schaeffer, Edward T Young, Van Til, Carl F Henry, James Kennedy, Moody, Billy Graham, David Wilkerson etc. Televangelists and prosperity gospel peddlers also get their mentions. The book closes with a conclusion, briefly listing some problems and prospects. Liberation theology, Marxism, syncretism, contextualisation in mission work, opposition in the East to mission work, moral decline are some of the major problems the author concludes. The book concludes positively with prospects for the church. This is a book that I will refer to often for a quick summary and maybe and hopefully work through some of the suggested reading at the end of each chapter. "The students of church history will remember other eras when it seemed as if the problems and enemies of the church would overwhelm it. It surmounted the very difficult problems of the heretical Arian and pagan Germanic invasions from 375 to 500 and the threat from Islam in the seventh and eight centuries." - Pg 478 Our Lord Jesus promised "... I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt 16:18). And He is building his church even now and no device of the world, the flesh or the devil can prevail against it. Let us be comforted by this wonderful promise and by the "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) who lived before us.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erica Reagan Powell

    This was my second attempt at reading this book... finally made it! It reads like a textbook -- a bit dry and factual at times -- so I recommend simultaneously watching Dr. Ryan Reeves church history lectures on YouTube. He does a great job of bringing some of the people and events to life in a way that's interesting and memorable. This was my second attempt at reading this book... finally made it! It reads like a textbook -- a bit dry and factual at times -- so I recommend simultaneously watching Dr. Ryan Reeves church history lectures on YouTube. He does a great job of bringing some of the people and events to life in a way that's interesting and memorable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    I borrowed this book from a friend to learn an overview of church history which I certainly obtained that here. To cover a complete and detailed history of Christianity would be impossible in one book but now I will search out others that cover specific churches. Cairns discusses his material by topic and I found it difficult to keep events straight in chronological progression.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessi H

    Organization was confusing. The author didn't write by either dates or events -- everything was lumped together confusingly. Things already talked about were brought up again. Several points made were interesting, but overall it was a dull book. Organization was confusing. The author didn't write by either dates or events -- everything was lumped together confusingly. Things already talked about were brought up again. Several points made were interesting, but overall it was a dull book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Excellent book! It could use another revision, though. Written about as objectively as possible, almost encyclopedic in knowledge. I highly recommend it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Paul

    The book approached church history in a detailed way fit for academic use in lecture halls.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Young

    Great overview. I appreciate how Cairns looks not only at what the church itself was up to in different ages, but also taking into account the broader historical context. Balanced and thorough.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    This being a general overview of church history from the time of Acts to "present day", (mid 1990's), it is not a good read if one is looking for detailed accouts of any given movement or event during the covered timespan. The book does give the reader the basic flow of the church's origins, to the height of papal power, the reformation, the expansion into the new world, and why the church is the way it is today. The final chapters are some persoanl conclusions of where the chruch is headed both This being a general overview of church history from the time of Acts to "present day", (mid 1990's), it is not a good read if one is looking for detailed accouts of any given movement or event during the covered timespan. The book does give the reader the basic flow of the church's origins, to the height of papal power, the reformation, the expansion into the new world, and why the church is the way it is today. The final chapters are some persoanl conclusions of where the chruch is headed both positively and negitively. I feel that the author of this book does not do the best job of reporting the facts without inputting his personal opinions. I only say this because this book is marketed as a history book and not a commentary of church history, and i feel the authors personal beliefs and personal doctrinal beliefs sometimes cast a shade on a particular event, movement, or denomainational belief that is being written about. If one is sturdy in their own beliefs than this is a good book to obtain a general overview of church history. But if one is unsure of their beleifs than they may find themselves getting angry at some of the comments of the author or one may be pursuaded to think that since the author wrote it than all Christians must belief it. If that is the case than do not read this book. The author has been good about suggesting other books to expand one's knowledge of church history. These suggested reeadings can be found at the end of every chapter and this owuld be a good way to receive varying viewpoints about the same segment of church histoy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Vani

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Haven't finished all of it yet, who knows if I will :o This is a nicely laid out book on church history ! however.... the writing and commentary of some chapters are a different matter. The author repeatedly likes to cast a shade on church history based on his own theology which to me is inexcusable for a book marketed as a history book. Author should know better. The most blatant part so far is when he goes to talk about St. Augustine. Whom he agrees of him being a great spiritual influence Early Haven't finished all of it yet, who knows if I will :o This is a nicely laid out book on church history ! however.... the writing and commentary of some chapters are a different matter. The author repeatedly likes to cast a shade on church history based on his own theology which to me is inexcusable for a book marketed as a history book. Author should know better. The most blatant part so far is when he goes to talk about St. Augustine. Whom he agrees of him being a great spiritual influence Early Christianity and how regarded he is among Protestants and Catholics alike. But he glosses over the fact how Augustine emphasized the visible church, the sacraments, and purgatory. The author basically saying .... "Yeahh Augustine was great, the most intelligent and influential philosopher of his time ! No doubt about it. But wait... when he talks about things against our theology plug your ears, we shouldn't listen" A very....sweeping under the rug kind of maneuver :P

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ted Rohe

    I had read most of this book for a seminary class and I picked it up recently to finish it. It is a bit outdated book published in 1996 in its third revision, but it still has insight as it looks at the history of the church. Moreover, it is interesting to read about its views of the direction of the church, its current/future problems etc. It does help to have that perspective. This book isn't as in depth or well written as say Roger Olsen's book on church history (which I read for the same cla I had read most of this book for a seminary class and I picked it up recently to finish it. It is a bit outdated book published in 1996 in its third revision, but it still has insight as it looks at the history of the church. Moreover, it is interesting to read about its views of the direction of the church, its current/future problems etc. It does help to have that perspective. This book isn't as in depth or well written as say Roger Olsen's book on church history (which I read for the same class), but it does help classify and show the progression of church history. It is interesting as the book does hit upon some movements that are not as popular today in both orthodox and heretical movements. It was not the most exciting read on church history, but it was a pretty helpful but small contribution in the cannon of church history books that I have been reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    William Dicks

    Church history remains important Very few Christians today know any part of church history. They do not know of the doctrinal battles, the tribulations and victories that have marked the church age between the Ascension of Christ and the present. I wonder how many of today's pastors know any significant amount of church history apart from the odd biography here and there! For those that are interested in the history of the church, and if you are a Christian you should be, Cairns' Christianity Thro Church history remains important Very few Christians today know any part of church history. They do not know of the doctrinal battles, the tribulations and victories that have marked the church age between the Ascension of Christ and the present. I wonder how many of today's pastors know any significant amount of church history apart from the odd biography here and there! For those that are interested in the history of the church, and if you are a Christian you should be, Cairns' Christianity Through the Centuries is an excellent book to whet your appetite for church history. I certainly recommend this book!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gerald Thomson

    A great overview of the church since the time of Christ. Truly only touches the surface, but provides the highlights as well as analysis as to what the various moves of the church has meant. You will definitely want to delve into some of the topics in more depth through other sources. Very interesting history when looking at today’s debate about the separation of church and state. It truly puts the issue in perspective when you see what those who came to America were running away from where a tr A great overview of the church since the time of Christ. Truly only touches the surface, but provides the highlights as well as analysis as to what the various moves of the church has meant. You will definitely want to delve into some of the topics in more depth through other sources. Very interesting history when looking at today’s debate about the separation of church and state. It truly puts the issue in perspective when you see what those who came to America were running away from where a true state church ruled.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    I have read this book from the reformation forward and something about it never really sat right with me. I just chalked it up to it feeling too much like a text book, which I hate. This book came up in conversation with a friend the other day and he helped me realize that this is terrible writing, and after a second review, I realized that this was what was bothering me before. Cairns writing is just not good. There are other histories the read better and don't feel like a text book. I have read this book from the reformation forward and something about it never really sat right with me. I just chalked it up to it feeling too much like a text book, which I hate. This book came up in conversation with a friend the other day and he helped me realize that this is terrible writing, and after a second review, I realized that this was what was bothering me before. Cairns writing is just not good. There are other histories the read better and don't feel like a text book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rock Rockwell

    A really good read if you like history, want to see how Christianity is woven in history (councils, leaders, denominational offshoots, etc.). Cairns is not deep, but moves quickly through out this book but provides the essential information at each stage of history. Good for High School history classes.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark Notestine

    Enjoyable and easy to read survey of church history that I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject. A little too light on the ancient/early church like many surveys; this shortcoming can be addressed through books such as "The Early Church" by Henry Chadwick. Enjoyable and easy to read survey of church history that I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject. A little too light on the ancient/early church like many surveys; this shortcoming can be addressed through books such as "The Early Church" by Henry Chadwick.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barry Black

    I read this book in College for Church History 1 and Church History 2. Good overview of Church history. I would actually give it a 3.5 rather than a 3. Leaves out a great deal about the Inquisition and how the Roman Catholic church persecuted Bible Believers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Don

    Talbot Course: Reformation and Modern Theology A solid look at the history of Christianity. It reads like a history textbook because it is one.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Didn't have to read it all and probably never will. It is very dry but very concise. Good book to reference in the future. Didn't have to read it all and probably never will. It is very dry but very concise. Good book to reference in the future.

  27. 5 out of 5

    G.M. Burrow

    Didn't leave a brilliant taste in my mouth. Didn't leave a brilliant taste in my mouth.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cbarrett

    College level overview of the history of the church. Written in an easy style. Really good for a quick reference near the desk.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    Kinda boring.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Good overview of the history of the church.

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