Thursday, May 13, 2010

A History of Christianity DVD, episode 1

Title: A History of Christianity
Episode 1 – The First Christianity
Rated: not rated
Runtime: approx. 60 minutes
Languages: Closed captioned for the hearing impaired; Spanish subtitles
Genre: Historical/Documentary
Starring: Diarmaid MacCulloch
Producer/Directors: Gillian Bancroft & Sian Salt
Screenwriter: Diarmaid MacCulloch
Composer: James Atherton, Johnny Clifford
Studio: Ambrose DVD

A History of Christianity is a six-part series presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch, an Oxford history professor whose books about Cranmer and the Reformation have been acclaimed as masterpieces. Spanning the globe, McCulloch explores not only the actual history of the Christian church, but also posits a very convincing “what if” scenario concerning the Christian church in Asia and the Far East.

While the scenery is breathtaking, and the scholarship is first-rate, I do take issue with some of Mr. McCulloch’s treatment of this most important subject. The series title, A History Of Christianity, could be considered misleading. McCulloch appears to equate the Christian church and Christianity throughout the first DVD. Christianity is treated as just another “religion,” rather than a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The series is extremely ecumenical in scope, and Mr. McCulloch expresses historical skepticism concerning Christian beliefs. A few quotes from the DVD suffice:

“Somehow, the followers of Jesus became convinced that he rose from here [his tomb] to new life. The belief that Jesus could overcome death is the most difficult and troubling affirmation of the Christian faith.”

“The main character here is not Jesus or the Gospels. It is, in fact, the church, the institution of Christian faith that has fought its way through history.”

Positively, Mr. McCulloch has done an outstanding job at tracing the history of the Christian Church, and exploring the tensions that have impacted the church and made it what it is today. And the opportunity to “visit” important areas of the globe in his search for the church makes for a wonderful “armchair adventure.” I’m looking forward to the next DVD in the series, as Mr. McCulloch takes the Western Road from Jerusalem.

Discovering the Surprising History of the First Christians

New DVD series examines Christianity’s global roots.

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—There are two billion Christians in the world today, a third of humanity—Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and many more. Though Christians, by definition, are well-versed in the story of Christ and the apostles, many have given little thought to the details of their Christian heritage—the miraculous transferring of their faith from the first Christians huddled at Golgotha, across two centuries worth of cultures and languages, wars, and the rising and falling of empires. How did this small, obscure Jewish sect that preached humility and personal sacrifice become the biggest religion in the world? The answer will surprise you.

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years is a six-part series co-produced by the BBC, the Open University, and Jerusalem Productions and presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch, one of the world’s leading historians and Professor of History of the Church and Fellow at St. Cross College, Oxford. As MacCulloch reveals the true history of Christianity, he explores the question, “What does it really mean to be a Christian?”

While most Christian histories start with St. Paul’s mission to Rome, MacCulloch asserts that the Christianity stayed much closer to its Middle-Eastern roots and that, in fact, the first Christians actually took the eastern road from Jerusalem, spreading their faith across Asia, even to parts of China.

“Today, Christianity is seen as a Western faith. Indeed, many in the Muslim world would see Western lifestyles as Christian lifestyles. But Christianity is not by origin a Western religion,” MacCulloch says. “Its beginnings are in the Middle East, where there still exist churches which have been Eastern since the earliest Christian era. The story of the first Christianity tells us the Christian faith is, in fact, hugely diverse with many identities.”

MacCulloch is one of the most widely traveled Christian historians, and A History of Christianity is the first retelling of the Christian story that is truly global in scope. Filmed in high definition, A History of Christianity takes viewers on a 2,000-year odyssey that reaches the farthest corners of the world, from Palestine in the first century to India in the third, from Damascus to China in the seventh century, and from San Francisco to Korea in the twentieth.

A scholar whose fascination with Christian history was cultivated at an early age, Diarmaid MacCulloch is the last in three generations of Anglican clergy. That personal connection enriches the storytelling, as he describes not only the main ideas and personalities of Christian history, its organization, and spirituality, but how it has changed our views on politics, sex, and human society.

“Religious belief can transform us for good or ill. It has brought human beings to acts of criminal folly as well as the highest achievements of goodness and creativity. I tell the story of both extremes,” MacCulloch says.

The twentieth century brought what many perceive to be the greatest threat to Christianity—skepticism and spiritual apathy. Still, MacCulloch contends that the future of Christianity is filled with possibilities.

The DVD set will arrive in stores, including Sam’s Club, in time for the Easter Season. The series will also be available on

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years 6 DVD Set presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch
March 2010

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