Skip to main content

Davidson, A Public Faith: A Book Review






I try and read at least one church history book a year.  Every time I do it always amazes me how different the perspective of a different historian can be.  Ivor Davidson is head of St Andrew's divinty school at the moment although he used to be at Otago in NZ.  Davidson's book is part of an 8 part Monarch History of the Church, so this book covers 312-600AD (actually we get well into the 600s by the end of the book) and so is a nice medium between one volume church histories and a more detailed study on one characer or controversy.  I picked this up in the bargain bin at my local Christian bookstore and have been glad I did.  On the strength of this one I'll be looking out for the others in the series. 



Davidson accomplishes the usual survey of historical theological disputes in 7 of the 14 chapters.  The writing is engaging and Davidson is admirably evenhanded taking care not expose and explain the political influences on the debates and their results but without overstating them.  He is careful to locate each theological dispute in its context.  Davidson's phd is in patristics and this shows up in his affectionate and assured handling of the church fathers.  The emporers, from Constantine onward, are also major characters.  Davidson clearly has his own opinions on the theological subjects and isn't shy of exposing his own bias, but usually only towards the end of chapters and certainly not in a way that suggests it affects his portrayal of the protagonists. 

The other 7 chapters help keep the book really interesting, taking on either broad surveys or more detailed examinations of certain areas.  For example, chapters on Christian ascetics, worship, barbarian Europe and the spread of christianity in England.  Those chapters help the book go into areas that (at least in my limited reading in Church history) tend to get sidelined and certainly kept things interesting.

Given that this is more of a survey of a historical period the book's primary thesis is that the era 312-600 represents the church going public (with emperial support) and that this new public persona for the church was a mixed blessing. I doubt it is a thesis anyone sensible would quibble with but as a deliniation of the ways in which the church's public character both brought opportunities for the gospel and resulted in compromises of the gospel A Public Faith is excellent.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

ANZABS 2018 program and abstracts

ANZABS CONFERENCE 2018
6-7 December, 2018


Venue: Wesley Hall, Trinity Methodist College,

202A St Johns Rd, Meadowbank, Auckland 1072

Thursday 6 December
9.30 am – REGISTRATION
10.00-10.10 – mihi
10.10-11.00 – Keynote speaker: Robert Myles – Fishing for Eyewitnesses in the Fourth Gospel
11.00-11.30 – Morning tea
11.30-12.00 – Lyndon Drake – Economic Capital in the Hebrew Bible
12.00-12.30 – Anne Aalbers – Resurrection and Celibacy: Two Sides of the Same Coin?
12.30-1.00 – Jonathan Robinson – "And he was with the beasts," (Mark 1:13): Ambiguity,
Interpretation and Mark as a Jewish Author
1.00-2.00 – Lunch
2.00-2.30 – Ben Hudson – Ethical Exhortation and the Decalogue in Ephesians
2.30-3.00 – Csilla Saysell – The Servant as 'a covenant of/for people' in Deutero-Isaiah
3.00-3.30 – Afternoon tea
3.30-4.00 – Jacqueline Lloyd – Did Jesus minister in Gaulanitis?
4.00-4.30 – Mark Keown – Jesus as the New Joshua
4.30 – AGM
Friday 7 December
9.30-10.00 – Ben Ong – Pākehā Readin…

Updated Current Research and Book Reviews

So, my PhD must be going well because I have just spent the morning updating my blog pages for Current Research and brand spanking new Book Reviews page. But it is not just procrastination, it is good to stop and and get an overview.

I had totally forgotten about half the book reviews I had done on this blog, they go back to 2009! I am still working on writing the sort of reviews I really enjoy reading, but now that I'm regularly doing reviews for journals it is great to also review books on this blog where I have stylistic freedom and no space limitations. I had always hoped this blog would be a good source of free books, but while it was a source of free books they were not good ones. Reviewing for journals (as a PhD student) has been much better and is helping me keep my broader education going even as I delve deep into my PhD subject. Looking at my old book reviews helps me realise how far I have come. Hopefully, much growth as a blogger, scholar and human being (perhaps not i…

How to use Google Docs and Translate to make a Quick Rough Translation of a Modern Language Document (for FREE)

We all know that there is no substitute for knowing the language and that Google translate can make amusing mistakes. However, the ability to quickly make rough translations saves a great deal of time and also allows you to (carefully) engage in language literature that doesn't come up frequently enough to be worth learning, but has that one article you really want to read.

1. Make a good quality PDF scan of the document with one page per scan. (this may mean twice the number of scan pages, but it will save you time in the long run, trust me) I use a piece of paper to blank the page I don't want to copy in each scan. Ensure the scans are straight and all on the same orientation.

2. Save the resulting PDF in Google Drive.

3. Right click on the PDF in Google Drive and [open with] [Google Docs]. This will open a new window in your browser and will take some time - now is a good time to recite some verb conjugations. This is because Google's OCR is turning the scan into text b…