Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here’s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Rumours of Christianity's demise greatly exaggerated

By Lyle Shelton - posted Wednesday, 4 January 2012


In an age of historical amnesia, it is easy to fall for glib catchphrases like 'religion poisons everything'.

But with the passing of Christopher Hitchens, who coined this phrase in the title of one of his books, a new history of Christianity provides historical context and nuance.

It undermines Hitchens' and other assumptions of the 'new atheists' about the contribution of the most influential religion of the past two millennia.

Advertisement

Following his Short History of the World and Short History of the 20th Century, Australia's greatest living historian, Geoffrey Blainey, tackles the Jesus sect in A Short History of Christianity (Penguin Books, 2011).

Like the previous works, this is accessible history to the layperson (no pun intended).

Blainey writes with perspective and deep understanding that doesn't shoe-horn people and events into the narrow prism within which we make moral judgements today.

For instance intolerance was not confined to the church in an age when precious truths were often defended with brutality.

Having just completed a century where atheist government killing and torture made the crusades and the inquisition look tame in comparison, balance and perspective is necessary before judgement is passed about whether or not Christianity is a moral evil, as the new atheists imply.

Rather than poisoning everything, even a casual glance at history shows it is more accurate to say that Christianity has been the great civilising influence in the face of barbarism, indifference to the sick and poor and in opposition to tyrants in the institutional church, nobility and state.

Advertisement

This is no whitewash of Christianity's blemishes but the conclusion Blainey makes is that its success has been its ability to constantly reinvent itself.

Indeed this is a theme that runs through the book as the 'centuries glide by'. Whether it was the monastic movement which preserved both theological and classical learning, Franciscan Friars with their vow of poverty challenging the opulence of the institutional church, or Luther, Wesley and other non-conformists calling Christians back to the basics of the faith there is a an ebb and flow which explains why Christianity maintains its place in the hearts of millions.

With today's focus on fault-finding, Blainey reminds us of many of the culture-defining contributions of Christianity.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

This is a review of A Short History of Christianity,  Geoffrey Blainey. (Penguin Books 2011)



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

23 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Lyle Shelton is Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby based in Canberra.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Lyle Shelton

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Lyle Shelton
Article Tools
Comment 23 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy