Richard Heard, M.A., M.B.E., M.C., was a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge and University lecturer in Divinity at Cambridge (1950).
Published by Harper & Row, New York, 1965. This material was prepared for Religion-Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
(ENTIRE BOOK) This book summarizes the history of the Christian religion, directing attention to the challenges it has met, the failures of many of its most loyal adherents to live up to "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," and some of the achievements in seeking to make that calling a reality.
Christianity has had a wider geographic spread and is more deeply rooted among more peoples than any other religion in the history of mankind, therefore it must be of concern to all who are interested in the record of man and particularly to all who seek to understand the contemporary human scene.
- Chapter 1: The Cosmic Setting as Presented in the Christian Scriptures
Through the long centuries in which God was seeking to prepare the way for the “incarnation” God was seeking men who would willingly respond to “the light which lighteth every man” and slowly was finding some in the small minority of God’s “chosen people” who were struggling to understand what God’s Spirit, respecting their free will, was trying to say through them.
- Chapter 2: Pre-Christian History
Five questions emerge as this long history is faced. (1) What is the reason for this presence of religion as a continuing accompaniment of human history? (2) Is advance seen in the history of religion? (3) Which if any of the high religions most nearly approaches the truth with which religion is concerned? (4) Is religion to continue, or is it a passing phase in mankind’s long pilgrimage? (5) If religion is to continue, what form or forms will it take?<
- Chapter 3: The Earthly Life of Him Through Whom Christianity Began
A brief resume of Jesus’ life whom Christians assumed was God incarnate, yet fully human.
- Chapter 4: The Initial Five Centuries of Christianity
Professed Allegiance of the Roman World; Influence of That World; Birth of the Catholic Church; Definition of Christian Beliefs.
- Chapter 5: Deepening Twilight, A.D. 500-950
The decline of Christianity from approximately 500 A.D. to 950 A.D. can be ascribed to the gradual weakening of the Roman Empire, the inroads of the barbarians from the North and the conquests of the Arabs, the bearers of a new religion, Islam. The tenth century saw Christianity at a lower nadir than at any time to the present.
- Chapter 6: Revival and Involvement in Medieval Europe, A.D. 950-1350
Beginning in the middle of the tenth century, a slow recovery of Christianity began, first among the Scandinavians, then by the West led by Roman and those in the East loyal to Constantinople.
- Chapter 7: Geographic Losses and Spiritual Decay: Partly Offset by Fresh Religious Movements, AD- 1350-1500
From the mid-fourteenth through the mid-sixteenth centuries saw a succession of Moslem conquests, divisions and corruptions in the Catholic Church, healings through an ecumenical council and corruption in the papacy as well as outside Rome. Yet there were indications of continuing vitality despite movements condemned by the Catholic Church.
- Chapter 8: Revival, Reform, and Expansion, A.D. 1500-1750
The surge of life in Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was seen chiefly in Western Europe. There it had two main expressions — in the emergence of Protestantism and in a renewed animation in the Roman Catholic Church which purged it of much of the glaring corruption of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, gave birth to new monastic movements, and inspired the most extensive missionary activity that Christianity or any other religion had thus far produced.
- Chapter 9: The Shock of Augmented Revolution, A.D. 1750-1875
The transition from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries was a climax of movements and trends long present but now exploding in the intellectual, religious, political, and economic life of Western Europe. Christianity had become intertwined, seemingly inextricably, with that structure of Western European civilization which the new stage in the revolution undermined.
- Chapter 10: The Nineteenth Century: Mounting Western Domination, with Economic, Intellectual, and Social Revolutions, A.D. 1815-1914
The industrial revolution challenged Christianity through a multiplicity of new social structures. The Catholic Church’s response was mixed, while the Protestant response was more positive.
- Chapter 11: Christianity, Challenged and Expanding: The Half-Century Which Followed A.D. 1914
The half century following 1914 found Christianity both openly attacked and endangered by a less openly but more subtle erosion. The facing of this challenge resulted in a greater impact of Christianity upon mankind as a whole — greater than at any earlier time.
- Chapter 12: An Attempt at an Appraisal and Forecast
"…The close of the age" may seem evil and that "close" be either at hand or far off, but we as Christians must continue to witness, seeking to bring all men to discipleship and to lead them to obedience to what Jesus taught His disciples.