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Christianity: An Introduction

Christianity: An Introduction
Philip Kennedy

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The Christian faith has the allegiance of one third of the human race. It has succeeded in influencing civilization to such a degree that we now take its existence almost for granted. Yet it might all have been so different. Christianity began with the words and deeds of an obscure village carpenter's son who died a shameful criminal's death at the hands of the Roman occupiers of his country: itself an insignificant outpost of the powerful ruling Empire. The feverish land of biblical Palestine, awash with apocalyptic expectations of deliverance from its foreign overlords, was hardly short of seers and prophets who claimed to be sent visions from God. Yet the followers of this man thought he was different: so different, in fact, that some years after his death and asserted resurrection they scandalously insisted not only that he was sent by God, but that he 'was' God. Many introductions to Christianity are written by Christians, for Christians. This elegant textbook, by contrast, shows that the history of the religion, while often glorious, is not one of unimpeded progress, but something still more remarkable, flawed and human.

Author Info

Philip Kennedy teaches theology in the University of Oxford, where he is a Senior Research Fellow at Mansfield College. He is the author of 'A Modern Introduction to Theology: New Questions for Old Beliefs' (2006) and 'Twentieth Century Theologians: A New Introduction to Modern Christian Thought' (2009), both published by I.B.Tauris.


Christianity is such a complex, diverse phenomenon that an introduction must simplify, but without simplification: and this Philip Kennedy achieves with admirable success. His book captures Christianity in all its allure and diversity. Kennedy’s prose is limpid, but his judgments sharp and challenging. For the rich Christianity offers the divine, cosmic Christ, but for the poor there is the human Jesus, humiliated but triumphant in his blessings; and in the interplay between these two images, Kennedy finds reason for the success and conflicts of the Christian story. This is a simply superb introduction to Christianity in all its contradictions and variety.
– Gerard Loughlin, Professor of Theology and Religion, Durham University

What an epic and what a read! From the Babylonian Empire to the banking crisis at the end of the first decade of the third millennium; from messianic stirrings to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Kennedy combs times and geographies like a contemporary Faust. His prose is lucid, his observations deft and the figuring of events, cultural achievements and people masterly. This is not a summary and it is not just an overview. It is a magnificent story about divine longing and human frailty. Anyone interested in Christianity past and present will learn immensely from this panoramic odyssey.
– Graham Ward, Professor of Contextual Theology and Ethics, University of Manchester

Several features of the book will suit undergraduates very well. While it does not try to be encyclopedic, it is nevertheless plenty comprehensive for an introductory course. It includes a valuable time-line and an excellent guide to common terms. The sections on doctrine are accurate without being apologetic; in fact, the emphasis on cultural history will appeal to instructors whose principal aims are not at all theological. Beginning students will appreciate the long section on “Christianity in a Globalized World,” in which Kennedy surveys such subjects as ecumenism, the ordination of women, the Second Vatican Council, and the advent of mega media churches. This is an excellent portrayal of the range and depth of Christianity’s engagement with the world.
– Terry F. Godlove, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Hofstra University

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: I.B. Tauris Introductions to Religion

ISBN: 9781848853836
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2011
Number of Pages: 360
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 5 maps, 30 bw integrated

ISBN: 9781848853829
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2011
Number of Pages: 360
Illustrations: 5 maps, 30 bw integrated

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