Didn't get to finish the book since it's really long and I only had it from the library, but it was good and satisfied my need for a basic overview of...moreDidn't get to finish the book since it's really long and I only had it from the library, but it was good and satisfied my need for a basic overview of Irish history from before the English started messing with it up to about 1800. Good writing and good at highlighting themes throughout--Nationalism is completely a modern invention, but this does not of course mean that the English didn't behave very badly in Ireland.(less)
While it did take me a rather long time to finish this one, it was not due to any dislike of the book. I must admit that I am rather biased toward thi...moreWhile it did take me a rather long time to finish this one, it was not due to any dislike of the book. I must admit that I am rather biased toward this book, though, because I took a class with Dr. Noll called, "World Christianity since 1800", my senior year at Wheaton College. Essentially, this class was his proving ground before this book was published, and Noll makes several similar remarks throughout the book. Nothing in this book was really new to me as a result, but it was still an excellent confirmation of what I would consider to be essential knowledge for any Christian, and really anyone interested in the state of the world today. Oh yes, and I also got to know and started dating my now wife in the class, so that further biases me toward this book. She also got it for me as a present.
Noll argues that a great way to understand global Christianity today is to look at the example of American Christianity, both because America has had a large impact on spreading culture and modern Christianity around the world but probably more so because the conditions that provided the context for the growth of American Christianity are similar to the conditions in many developing world countries today.
Noll makes a very convincing case, even though this book is really only a survey. He depends on the best scholars out there like Andrew Walls, Lamin Sanneh, Ogbu Kalu, and others. And Noll is truly just a master at his craft at this point, so he can call it like he sees it without having to resort to a lot of artifice in making his arguments, as younger scholars who are less proven would have to.
If you have any interest in Christianity and history, this is really a must read for you. (less)
Read this one a while back in grad school. Great work of history. You would never know about all of the people exchanges in the Balkans if it weren't...moreRead this one a while back in grad school. Great work of history. You would never know about all of the people exchanges in the Balkans if it weren't for books like this. Nationalism has done so much to try to erase the memory of the way that the Mediterranean world really operated in the Ottoman times, and we would do well to learn from the way these people got along (for the most part).(less)
Enjoyed this book--I always like the modern travels with historical discussion format, and Horwitz is a good writer. The book did feel a little bit li...moreEnjoyed this book--I always like the modern travels with historical discussion format, and Horwitz is a good writer. The book did feel a little bit like he rushed it out--it didn't all weave together very well and his commentary felt rather random rather than organized into a theme. Still, I will read his others as well, having already read Confederates in the Attic back in college.(less)
Hmm, where to start on this one? This is my first read of a Jenkins work, although several others of his are on my reading list, so I am not sure how...moreHmm, where to start on this one? This is my first read of a Jenkins work, although several others of his are on my reading list, so I am not sure how much my comments will relate to how he usually writes vs. this specific book. The content of this book is excellent but it is rather all over the place. Perhaps this is just due to the fact that anytime a historian attempts to write a book about such a large geographical area over such a long period of time, it is inevitable to be somewhat scattered and lack some coherence. Perhaps this book just needed a little bit longer in the editing process before it came out. Major kudos to him for writing about this subject matter. I would say this is really a must read for anyone who studies the middle east and a must read for Christians who care about the history of the church in the world.
Here are some specific examples of things that could have been better:
1.Why did he skip from about 1400 (when he argues quite cogently about the various factors that really crushed the old eastern churches) to the modern period? What about what happened in the time in between there? How did the Safavids and Mughals treat Christians? Ok, so you might say that this was out of the scope of his 1000 years, but then why did he spend such a large portion of the book talking about the modern period?
2.I really got his point about most Western Christians not knowing about the history of the Eastern churches very quickly. Now I know that I have studied some of this on my own, even some from primary documents, in grad school, so others would need more convincing than I would, but still, he kept reiterating his point over and over and over. The book (at least his opinion sections) could have been more concise overall really.
3. The structure of his book was not conducive to him making a consistent overarching argument about how/why this happened to the Eastern churches. For example, why does he spend so much time near the end of the book talking about the beginnings of Islam? If he was going for an overall argument about the nature of the complex relationship between Islam and Christianity fine, but talk about Islam earlier and make your argument flow more through your section on the history of the decline of the Eastern churches.
In conclusion, sometimes his attempt at doing a real history book that also appeals to non-specialists (or even general interest readers) is a major plus and sometimes it means he leaves some things out. All in all though, for a non-Middle Eastern historian, he really does get most things right. I have read many of the detailed secondary works which he uses and studied the particular history of Islam and the minority Christian and other faiths that survived under it, and I expected that I would have more quibbles with his positions or arguments. My quibbles are rather with his organization and lack of clarity. (less)
Really enjoyed this book. Sometimes it was a little too much, shall we say, "Borders History" for my tastes (he likes to make very large declarations...moreReally enjoyed this book. Sometimes it was a little too much, shall we say, "Borders History" for my tastes (he likes to make very large declarations about things being firsts, etc., when often those are not very accurate, e.g. Patrick was the "first" missionary beyond the realm of the Roman Empire if you don't count Thomas to India). Sometimes, he came across as a bit over-opinionated, but the book got better as it went along. He was fair in his presentation overall such as how praised St. Augustine for many things but also pointed out those times when Augustine got too harsh. In my opinion, Western Christianity needs a lot more of Patrick, Brigit, and Columba's Christianity of greater equality, deeper spirituality, closer connection to the land and to the regular people, etc., and a lot less of Augustine's (the emphasis on our total sinfulness rather than our being first and foremost children of God, his deprecation of sex, his justification of the might of the Empire to punish wrongdoers physically, etc.). Once he got beyond Rome, the book was really superb, and he makes his case quite well, as we learn about countless monks and nuns spreading the gospel and learning around Western Europe.
The book made me think about Christian History in a more meta-history fashion. For example, why did God allow the Vikings to go and smash so much of the good work that Celtic Christianity had done? Why have we lost the vitality of monasticism in our world (and I refuse to blame this on Henry VIII)?
I think the next one that I am starting will be a very good pairing to this book: Phillip Jenkin's The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia - and How It Died.(less)