This book is a sweeping treatment of church history by Tom Holland, who might best be called a sympathetic unbeliever. What would a church history look like if written by an atheist who was willing to give the influence of Christianity a fair shake? This book provides an answer to that question.
The subtitle is “How the Christian Revolution Remade the World,” and as Holland makes very clear, it is how the Christian revolution remade the world for the better.
One of the central questions in philosophical or historical debates is the question compared to what? It is a question that needs to be asked far more frequently than it is, and it is apparent that Holland asks this question of himself easily, readily. It appears to be running constantly as a backdrop to all his thinking.
And this is how he can discuss, in detail, a long parade of Christian extremists and weirdos without forgetting what they were challenging, and what they ultimately replaced. But it is not just the weirdos, we also meet the principled visionaries and the huge impact they have had. There are saints and scoundrels here both, and out of this glorious cavalcade of humanity, staggering toward redemption, a believer can catch a glimpse of the inscrutable wisdom of God.