Here is a review of the new Diarmaid MacCulloch book, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (MacCulloch previously published an accessible survey of the Reformation period). The provocative title refers both to the future of the faith, and to the presence of certain proto-Christian ideas before Jesus.
A couple of clips from the review, which appears on the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s website, and is written by Margaret McGuiness, chair of the Religion Department at La Salle University:
No text purporting to trace the rise and development of a major world religion can do it all, and Christianity is no exception. MacCulloch does at least touch on many important representatives of events, movements, and doctrinal developments. Topics as diverse as the teaching on Purgatory, Eucharistic doctrine, and evangelicalism are explained and placed within the context of major events such as the Reformations (Protestant and Catholic), the Enlightenment, and the culture wars of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In addition, the author attempts to incorporate the role of Christian women into the larger history, and includes figures as diverse as the mystic Teresa of Avila; Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline nuns, the first active women’s religious community; and English Protestant feminist Mary Astell.