Book Write-Up: Introduction to World Christian History

Derek Cooper.  Introduction to World Christian History.  Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016.  See here to purchase the book.

Derek Cooper teaches world Christian history at Biblical Theological Seminary.  His book, Introduction to World Christian History, is about Christianity in the world from the first to the twenty-first centuries.  Part 1 concerns “Christianity from the first to the seventh centuries,” and it covers Christianity during that time-frame in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Part 2 goes from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries, and it, too, looks at Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Part 3, which covers the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries, looks at Christianity in Europe, Latin America, Northern America, Oceania, Africa, and Asia.

One would expect a book such as this to be a massive tome, but it is not.  It is 254 pages.  People can probably debate about whether Cooper does certain topics justice in such a slender volume, but the book is useful and informative in what it does cover.  The book looks at Christianity as it existed in these regions, says something about their distinct beliefs (e.g., whether their Christology was or was not Nicene), discusses the issues that the Christianities faced, and addresses whether the Christianities numerically grew where they were.

Cooper also does well to include a glossary in the back.

In terms of critiques, the book’s organization was somewhat scattered.  Perhaps it would have been more user-friendly had it been organized differently, by region rather than chronology.  Part 1 could have been about Asian Christianity, Part 2 could have been about African Christianity, Part 3 could have covered European Christianity, and a Part 4 could have covered North America, Latin America, and Oceania.  Such an organization would have been less distracting for the reader, and it would have provided a more holistic, story-like depiction of the various Christianities in the world.

The index could have included a few more things.  Cooper makes the point that there have been scholarly challenges to the usage and understanding of the Nestorian label.  This interested me, and I looked in the index to see where else Cooper covered this in the book.  Cooper should have included Nestorianism in his index.

A bibliography at the end, divided by region, also would have been helpful for readers desiring to learn more.

The book seems to accept certain folklore uncritically.  Cooper did well to refer to that folklore, for that made the book interesting, and perhaps the only stories we have about how Christianity came to certain areas are from folklore.  Still, Cooper should have said something about the difficulty in accepting some of that folklore as historically accurate.

There were many times when Cooper was descriptive and offered little analysis.  Yet, there were times when he provided analysis.

Whatever critiques one can make, this book is a decent handbook about the history of Christianity from the first to the twenty-first centuries.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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