Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Covering nearly 2,000 years of Christian history in the span of 192 pages is a daunting task, yet author Jonathan Hill does just this in What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us? (InterVarsity Press)
The intriguing question that doubles as the title sets the framework for this ambitious effort wherein Hill covers topics as broad and diverse as culture and thought (chapter 1), the arts (chapter 2), architecture (chapter 3), education (chapter 4), and more.
The author of The History of Christian Thought and Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity, Hill holds degrees in philosophy and theology from Oxford. This academic background is definitely a plus when it comes to the topics covered in What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us?
The content is reminiscent of What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, Under the Influence by Alvin Schmidt (retitled How Christianity Changed the World), and Christianity on Trial by Vincent Carroll and David Schiflett.
However, while these other authors are direct in their goal of defending Christianity, Hill takes an objective approach, more often than not allowing the facts of history to speak for themselves: "This book isn't meant to be a defence of Christianity: I certainly don't try to argue that Christianity is true, for example, and I don't have an agenda of my own that I am trying to push. Rather, it aims to be an objective look at some of the positive contributions that Christianity has made to the world ..." (p. 7) Nevertheless, Hill provides a wide assortment of information that can indeed be construed as apologetic or, at the very least, incorporated into an apologetic case for Christianity.
Refreshingly, Hill sometimes interjects an endearing style and wit. This sense of humor at times extends to the many full color illustrations. This makes reading Hill's presentation of Christian history entertaining as well as informative.
Overall, What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us? manages to present the many positive aspects of Christianity in a compelling manner. In addition, the numerous color illustrations are of high quality and serve to illuminate rather than dominate the text.
For a summary of the positive influence of Christianity throughout history see my booklet, What Christianity Has Done for the World.
A version of this review appeared in Christian Research Journal.