Under the spell of nineteenth-century Romanticism, Christian thought experienced a seismic change. In the words of the Oxford theologian A. M. Fairbairn, “The old theology came to history through doctrine, but the new comes to doctrine through history; to the one all historical questions were really dogmatic, but to the other all dogmatic questions are formally historical.” Historical studies came to dominate the field, and Clio was queen of both the theology department and the seminary. From the magisterial works of August Neander and Adolf Harnack to the pathbreaking studies of David Strauss and Albert Schweitzer, serious thinkers sought to understand—and potentially to recover—the Christian message by studying how it unfolded through time.

Diarmaid MacCulloch’s ambitious single-volume history of Christianity stands in that great tradition and, at the same time, is a self-conscious effort to bring it forward...


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