The early years of the church, those after Paul's writings and before good ol' Gutenberg have always been enshrouded with mystery to me. While I have read some about it, I've never studied enough of it to satisfy my curiosity. Being the visual learner I am, I was relieved to discover the DVD series, A History of Christianity. My review is based on the first episode of the series, which I was sent to review.
The BBC series is hosted by Diarmaid MacCulloch, the eminent scholar who wrote The First Three Thousand Years. The cinematography is beautiful as MacCulloch takes viewers on a journey around the world, watching the Christian faith unfold and spread. A good portion of focus is on the Middle East and this was very eye opening for me. What little I've read generally refers to Paul's travels and the Roman influence. This first episode explored more Eastern forms of Christianity and different churches that developed through the early years and many that managed to withstand (and some even to have power over) the pressures of society and politics.
I found it interesting that the series discussed not only the historical facts, but also discussed the influence the faith had on society as a whole, even those who believed differently. Through the years, Christianity has undeniably contributed to the changing shape of society. However, this influence was largely discussed as a dispassionate analysis of the evils of the church. While this lack of bias is a good thing, as a Christian, the tone made me feel like part of a pygmy tribe under observation. It is, primarily, a history series, not a theological series put about to discuss faith. It is a history of the church, not a history of the faith. It seems impossible to discuss the history of Christianity without discussing faith or spirituality, but it was accomplished. While I would love to see a history that covered these aspects of our history...what was life like for early Christian families? what did their faith look like on a day-to-day basis?...It was nonetheless helpful to have this deeper look into the history of the church.