REFORMATIONS by Felipe Fernández-Armesto

REFORMATIONS

A Radical Interpretation of Christianity and the World, 1500-2000

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A Catholic and a Protestant ransack the last 500 years in a search for some unifying characteristics of modern Christianity. Although originating in the Mediterranean world and Europe, Christianity is now a global religion of startling diversity. More than half the world's Christians are either African or of African descent. With tens of thousands of new Christian denominations and independent congregations emerging every decade, it is becoming more difficult to classify them all with the simple label ``Christian.'' Historians Fern†ndez-Armesto (Millennium, 1995, etc.) and Wilson (The Astors 17631992, 1993, etc.) attempt to find common ground amidst the apparent anarchy. They focus on Christian leaders, Christian art, and Christian architecture to illustrate the common themes in Christian history that can be found in apparently incongruous examples of the faith. A spare Baptist preaching house in England and Philip II's massive Spanish Palace, the Escorial, are treated as contrasting instances of Christian devotion. But the authors' examples are often arbitrary and sometimes erroneous. The pioneering innovations in hymnody associated with Dwight L. Moody's revival crusades are attributed to Billy Graham. Their critique of the Pharisees fails to acknowledge the distorting anti-Semitism of the New Testament account, and their celebratory treatment of Christian missions evades the role of missionaries in Western imperialism. Each chapter has a theme, but the authors fail to stick to the subject. A discussion of the Eucharist, for instance, might be embedded in a chapter on heresy and authority. Occasionally, they deliver sweeping generalization about the fate of religion that are not sustained by the illustrative material in the chapter. As anarchic and disorganized as Christianity itself, this book might be useful as a source of anecdotes for sermons or lectures. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 4th, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83104-X
Page count: 324pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1997




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