Derek Cooper. Introduction to World Christian History. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. See here to purchase the book.
Derek Cooper teaches world Christian history at Biblical Theological Seminary. His book, Introduction to World Christian History,
is about Christianity in the world from the first to the twenty-first
centuries. Part 1 concerns “Christianity from the first to the seventh
centuries,” and it covers Christianity during that time-frame in Asia,
Africa, and Europe. Part 2 goes from the eighth to the fourteenth
centuries, and it, too, looks at Christianity in Asia, Africa, and
Europe. Part 3, which covers the fifteenth to the twenty-first
centuries, looks at Christianity in Europe, Latin America, Northern
America, Oceania, Africa, and Asia.
One would expect a book such as this to be a massive tome, but it is
not. It is 254 pages. People can probably debate about whether Cooper
does certain topics justice in such a slender volume, but the book is
useful and informative in what it does cover. The book looks at
Christianity as it existed in these regions, says something about their
distinct beliefs (e.g., whether their Christology was or was not
Nicene), discusses the issues that the Christianities faced, and
addresses whether the Christianities numerically grew where they were.
Cooper also does well to include a glossary in the back.
In terms of critiques, the book’s organization was somewhat
scattered. Perhaps it would have been more user-friendly had it been
organized differently, by region rather than chronology. Part 1 could
have been about Asian Christianity, Part 2 could have been about African
Christianity, Part 3 could have covered European Christianity, and a
Part 4 could have covered North America, Latin America, and Oceania.
Such an organization would have been less distracting for the reader,
and it would have provided a more holistic, story-like depiction of the
various Christianities in the world.
The index could have included a few more things. Cooper makes the
point that there have been scholarly challenges to the usage and
understanding of the Nestorian label. This interested me, and I looked
in the index to see where else Cooper covered this in the book. Cooper
should have included Nestorianism in his index.
A bibliography at the end, divided by region, also would have been helpful for readers desiring to learn more.
The book seems to accept certain folklore uncritically. Cooper did
well to refer to that folklore, for that made the book interesting, and
perhaps the only stories we have about how Christianity came to certain
areas are from folklore. Still, Cooper should have said something about
the difficulty in accepting some of that folklore as historically
There were many times when Cooper was descriptive and offered little analysis. Yet, there were times when he provided analysis.
Whatever critiques one can make, this book is a decent handbook about
the history of Christianity from the first to the twenty-first
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
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