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Laurie Guy: Introducing Early Christianity

 

Laurie Guy, Introducing Early Christianity: A Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs & Practices (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 310 pages, ISBN 9780830826988.

In Introducing Early Christianity, Laurie Guy, a lecturer in church history at Carey Bible College in Auckland, New Zealand, and a lecturer with the School of Theology at the University of Auckland, has written a balanced but provocative, simple but scholarly account of the earliest centuries of Christianity and their nascent implications for its most developmentally formative period. It lucidly lays out the major landmarks and will serve well as an introduction to the era for those embarking on or renewing their journey into Christian history. Well-placed hints at deeper directions and their internal dynamics in the events it covers should intrigue readers enough to invite further reflective research.

Guy’s effort ambitiously aims at analyzing early Christians’ life as well as well as their beliefs and practices during the first five centuries of Christian history. Thus it is characterized more by breadth than depth. Yet it relies heavily on primary sources and does not sacrifice substance for simplicity. It is also topical rather than chronological, though in turn investigating each of its chosen themes in a generally chronological manner. It is limited primarily to Christianity’s early development within the environs of the Roman Empire, although readily admitting its reach even early on beyond those borders. Numerous charts, graphs, and tables, suggestions for further reading, as well as a Glossary, maps, and author and subject indexes are helpful aids.

With experience as a lawyer, minister and missionary, Laurie Guy teaches church history and New Testament at Carey Baptist College, Auckland, New Zealand.

Introducing Early Christianity has an orderly and easily discernible development of its contents. After a very brief Preface, Chapter One, “If Paul Could See Us Now” looks at what Guy calls “Four Centuries of Dramatic Change,” and sets the tone for the rest of the book by comparing and contrasting the Christianity of Paul’s time with that of the next four centuries. Guy’s creative freshness shows as he invites readers to imagine Paul having something like a Rip Van Winkle experience in which he awakes after four centuries to see what had become of Christianity by then. Guy suggests that the core affirmation of Christ’s lordship remained constant while enormous shifts in day-to-day existence occurred as well. The next ten chapters examine selected topics that arise out that comparison-contrast. Chapter Two, “Second Generation Christianity,” looks at “The Churches of the Apostolic Fathers” and Chapter Three, “Suffering and Dying for God,” at “Persecution and Martyrdom.” Chapters Four and Five, “Getting Organized: Ministry and Structure” and “Getting Recognized: Emperor Constantine’s Revolution,” address the political and practical landscape of early Christianity’s development. Here one not only sees seeds of current ideas on relations of Church and State, but also how they eventually affected, for good or for ill, the shape and substance of the Early Church.

 

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Category: Church History, Fall 2009

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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