The Unquenchable Light

by Kenneth Scott Latourette

Richard Heard, M.A., M.B.E., M.C., was a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge and University lecturer in Divinity at Cambridge (1950).

This book was originally written as the William Belden Noble lectures at Harvard University in 1940.


(ENTIRE BOOK) A brief historical overview of the development and spread of Christianity, examining the several periods of advance and decline and detailing its various branches.


  • Introduction

    The author explains how he divides the history of Chistianity into certain periods, and why.

  • Chapter One: The Initial Advance (to A.D. 500)

    Not even in the first five centuries did the Church fully live up to its ideal. Never were all who called themselves Christians in one visible organization. Yet, with all their weaknesses, it was through the churches that Christianity and with it the influence of Jesus spread.

  • Chapter Two: The First and Greatest Recession (A.D. 500 – A.D. 950)

    Christianity faced a long period of decline which for a time seemed to presage the end of the influence of Jesus. The fall of Rome, the Arab invasion and Islam of the 7th and 8th centuries. In Western Europe Christianity seemed dying from within. However, in spite of the prodigious numerical losses, the largest proportionately which Christianity was to know, by A.D. 950 Christian communities were scattered over a broader area than they had been in A.D. 500.

  • Chapter Three: The Second Great Age of Advance ( A.D. 950 – A.D. 1350)

    In this period Christianity was to mold an important culture more profoundly than ever it had molded a culture before and was to expand more widely geographically than at any previous time.

  • Chapter Four: The Second Major Recession (A.D. 1350 – A.D. 1500)

    Decay undermined the morale of the Church in the main center of Christianity, Western Europe, and among most of the Eastern Churches it was even more pronounced.

  • Chapter Five: The Third Great AGe of Advance (A.D. 1500 – A.D. 1750)

    In the course of the fifteenth century movements broke out, chiefly in Western Europe, which were to bring unprecedented reinvigoration to Christianity and were to make it, by A.D. 1750, the most widely influential of the faiths of mankind.

  • Chapter Six: The Third Major Recession (A.D. 1750 – A.D. 1815)

    In the eighteenth century came a new recession in the Christian tide. Rationalism, Deism and romanticism. The numerous revolutions in Latin America.

  • Chapter Seven: The Fourth Great Age of Advance (A.D. 1815 – 1914)

    Never had Christianity or, indeed, any other system or set of ideas been so widely spread as in the century which followed the close of the Napoleonic Wars, primarily through the missionary movement. During this period Protestant Christianity, giving rise through its churches to movements for the transformation of society which often had little organic connection with the Church, was having a wider effect in mediating the influence of Jesus to the world than was Roman Catholic Christianity.

  • Chapter Eight: The Latest Age (A.D. 1914 to the present)

    Unquestionably the nineteenth-century world with which the remarkable expansion of the faith was closely associated is largely gone. In some respects, incredible though the affirmation may seem, it is more potent in the life of mankind than ever before. But the age-long conflict, at best at least latent and often chronic or acute, between Church and state, seems for the time to be going against the Church.

  • Chapter Nine: The Outlook for Christianity

    By its nature Christianity must always be in antagonism to much in the world about it. Yet it must live in that world, bear witness to the Christian Gospel, and seek to permeate the world with its ideals. While it can never hope to bring the world into full conformity to its standards, it must always be striving to do so. Now and again it will make striking progress. This seems to be best accomplished by organized, avowedly Christian fellowships, the churches.