Medieval Christianity: A New History by Kevin J. Madigan

Medieval Christianity: A New History by Kevin J. Madigan cover imageSummary: Medieval Christianity is important to understand the development of Christianity, but also the development of Christianity is a result of both theology and social issues outside of the church. 

I have been slowly working through Medieval Christianity for months. After reading Jesus Wars, I had questions about The Virgin Mary, which led me to pick up Medieval Christianity and Cultural Christians in the Early Church. As with any good history of Christianity, you realize that Christian history is not simply a history of people thinking big thoughts about Christ. It is also about a response to events and realities outside the church. Discussions about the role of the Pope in political affairs are not just theological but also have a relationship to tax rates, the need for armies,  potential invasions from outside of Europe, the way reform movements frame their arguments, and how the technology of information transmission works.

One of my seminary classes was about the history of Christian thought, and the professor’s method was to talk about philosophical ideas, but he did not connect them to the history that helped to give rise to those ideas. As someone who likes to ground ideas in historical movements, I felt lost throughout the class because I did not feel like I had anything to connect those ideas to the context from which they arose.

This is a question outside of the time period of Medieval Christianity, but I was having a conversation last week about the differences and similarities between Ignatius and Luther. They overlapped in time and had many similar issues they were trying to respond to, but their response was very different. Personality and personal history is part of the reason for their difference, but also their culture and the local history is another part.

Madigan is trying to write a history textbook that pays more attention to women and the daily life of laypeople while telling the larger story of a huge span of time and geography. There is no way to get to a high level of detail in everything, given the reality of nearly 1000 years of history being told. The fact that this was only a bit over 500 pages is about the editing process of what needed to be focused on. I do not have the background to evaluate whether the editing decisions were right. But I felt like I better understood the era than I did before I picked up Medieval Christianity. I was not new to this era. I have read several large-scale histories of Christianity. And I will keep picking up different histories every few years. I thought this was helpful, especially since this audiobook was free to me from Audible’s member library.

Medieval Christianity: A New History by Kevin J. Madigan Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook

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