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Timothy Yates: The Expansion of Christianity


Timothy Yates, The Expansion of Christianity (Inter Varsity Press, 2004), 190 pages, ISBN 9780830823581.

I learned long ago that the IVP produces quality, well written publications and Yates’ book, though small in size, is no exception. Yates is and for years was an Anglican Priest who taught at University levels and his view of history or the expansion of Christianity is in many ways far different than mine.

The text includes nine chapters which describe the growth of Christianity in the ancient Mediterranean World and Asia and Europe to 1500. I learned of much Missionary effort in Asia and Europe that was new to me. Yates’ emphasis on the activities of the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican church confronted me with the need to rethink the attitude and bias that I prefer as I look at this subject as a Protestant and an enthusiastic Pentecostal believer.

My genre of thought has a tendency to brand much of the effort of the Roman Catholic Church as political and empire building with its forced conversions part and parcel of that expansion. Hence there is much here that you who share my views will find uncomfortable and confronting as you must adjust this thinking to accommodate Yates’ well researched and well written history.

I found his statements that Roman Catholicism (and not Protestantism) had the resources in the sixteen century to well evangelize and divide South America as far as boundaries and who got what made me rethink or at least wonder about much of what I have assumed for years. I have spent time in South America in missionary efforts that rejoiced in the renewal that the Pentecostal church has brought to that continent over against the established church that to our view was more political than spiritual.

Yates also covers America, early Africa, Oceania and the 20th Century which to his view is an African Century. I share that thinking that God has indeed visited Africa in recent years but Yates’ view again was different than mine, and that was challenging and discomforting.

I learned of many Missionary sending agencies that began in the 19th century in England and other European Countries. I was unaware of that the Paris Evangelical Mission ever existed, let alone those it sponsored. I also learned that these sending agencies were not particularly concerned with one’s theology or denominational leanings if any but with presenting the gospel to far off places. Some of the people and their contributions that Yates’ described were familiar but many were not.

The older I get the more I realize that much of the thought I carry around needs improvement, refinement and revision. I tussle at times with the fact that when I became a Christian 40 plus years ago, I left the Roman Catholic Church of my youth, and became an avid Protestant because that was where I found a saving knowledge of Christ. My early days in evangelical Christianity did not encourage dialogue or any sympathy with the part of our Christian world called the high church. Indeed the opposite was encouraged. Was that correct? Books like the one Timothy Yates has written challenge my opinions and thoughts. It will do the same for you.

Reviewed by H. Murray Hohns

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Category: Church History, Spring 2005

About the Author: H. Murray Hohns went home to be with Jesus on November 28, 2012. He was on staff at the largest church in Hawaii and served on his denomination's investment committee from 1999 until his death. Hohns held two degrees in Civil Engineering, an MA in Theology from Fuller Seminary, and served as an instructor at Foursquare's New Hope Christian College (formerly Pacific Rim Christian College) in Honolulu. He wrote six engineering books and hundreds of articles in every type of newspaper, magazine and journal.

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