David Chidester is an American academic who teaches in South Africa. He is modest enough to use an old joke against himself. When Chidester told Archbishop Tutu he taught comparative religion, Tutu twinkled, "Ah, comparative religion--that is the religion for those who are comparatively religious." The objectivity and modesty that allows Chidester to poke fun at his own profession enlightens his monumental history of the Christian Church on every page.
Chidester tells the Christian story from its beginnings as a persecuted sect in the Roman Empire up to its present day international diversity. It is a rich and complex tapestry, and Chidester handles his huge subject with rigorous scholarship, copious but unobtrusive notes, and a clear and readable style. He keeps track of the big historical trends while focusing on the fascinating personalities who have dragged the Christian Church into scandal and schism as well as lifted it to the heights of inspiration and holiness.
Chidester splits the Christian era into three chunks: the opening 10 chapters deal with the first 500 years, the next 10 deal with the middle millennium, and the last section covers the world wide expansion of Christianity since the Reformation. Those who like their church history to be a disguised religious pep talk won't like this book because Chidester is expert at not taking sides. But for anyone who wants to study the majestic procession of Christianity through the history of the last 2000 years, this big book is worth every penny. -- Dwight Longenecker, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.