|The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion|
From the get-go, this author makes surprising claims. And he offers plenty of evidence to back up what he writes. I took 19 pages of notes while reading this book because I want to remember his main points.
Stark walks down through the pages of history critical of many commonly held views. For instance, I had assumed the apostle Paul embarked on his missionary journeys with a few trusted Christian friends. According to Stark, the early missionary outreach was an undertaking that involved as many as 100 people and rivaled modern-day Billy Graham Crusades in scope
Rather than conversions centering on a disgruntled lower class of society, Stark maintains many religious converts came from privileged classes. And according to Stark, Christians promoted equality and compassion unheard of in the pagan world where unwanted infants, especially girls, were left exposed to the elements to die.
Stark clarifies what really happened under the reign of Constantine and sheds light on the real reason behind the Crusades, attacks not meant to forcibly convert but to counter and regain lands taken by Muslim attacks on Jewish and Christian territories.
The Dark Ages, according to Stark, were not that dark at all. Much progress took place in music, art, literature and science. Christians extended the sacraments to slaves, which eventually led to the abolition of slavery. I could go on, but suffice to say, every Christian should read this book. It includes almost 100 pages of back matter—a bibliography, notes and index. And there are tables and statistics to back up Stark’s claims. I liked the way Stark ended each chapter with a “Conclusion” that sums up the content. You could read just the Conclusions and gain a better understanding of the spread of Christianity.
The Triumph of Christianity will inform your faith and open your eyes to some startling misconceptions that have lingered through the ages. History has never fascinated me, but this author’s work kept me wanting to know more. The book is very understandable; I kept reading until the content ended on page 418.
Stark is a professor and codirector of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. His book Discovering God won the 2008 Award of Merit for Theology/Ethics from Christianity Today. He also wrote The Rise of Christianity, God’s Battalions and Cities of God.