The Christian Experience

An Introduction to Christianity

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Michael Molloy
  • New York, NY: 
    Bloomsbury Academic
    , January
     528 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Scholars have long written textbooks that trace the history of Christianity from its emergence as a small sect of Judaism into a global religion in the modern world. These textbooks traditionally survey the history of Christianity by discussing important people and events. And although Michael Molloy has similarly written a chronological history of Christianity in The Christian Experience: An Introduction to Christianity, his informative survey also includes some special features that will appeal to students and the lay reader.

In the process of tracing Christianity from its Jewish origins into the modern world, various disciplines and points of view receive special attention from Molloy: history, the arts, literature, theology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and biographies of important individuals. Molloy has chosen six special themes to guide the discussions of these disciplines and points of view in each chapter: Christianity is about individual Christians; Christianity speaks through the arts; Christianity involves political life; the Christian Bible spreads and shapes belief; Christianity expresses itself in images and symbols; and Christianity has to be experienced. This last theme is especially emphasized in each chapter as Molloy provides a short story that allows the reader to share in a Christian religious experience.

This textbook is a valuable resource for students and the lay reader for several reasons. First, readers are introduced to the different time periods of Christianity from multiple perspectives. In addition to learning about the biography of important individuals and history, readers also discover how Christianity interacts with other aspects of life such as politics or culture. Second, Molloy introduces the reader to Christianity in certain parts of the world that typically do not receive a lot of attention in other textbooks. For instance, Molloy has written two chapters about Eastern Christianity that cover regions such as Ethiopia, Armenia, Egypt, and Russia. Lastly, readers will find the organization of Molloy’s textbook logical and easy to follow. Molloy’s textbook is comprehensive in content and yet a reasonable size and the chapters are written in an engaging manner that is accessible to the non-expert.

Molloy’s textbook includes several special features that will appeal to the reader. Artwork and photographs, for instance, provide a visual representation of the content of each chapter. Also, sidebars contain important quotations from primary and secondary texts, helpful background information about important individuals or events, descriptions of beliefs or practices, and explanations about the arts. Furthermore, each chapter concludes with questions for review and reflection. Teachers will undoubtedly find these questions at the end of each chapter helpful since they may encourage conversation among students. And moreover, another special feature of Molloy’s textbook is the list of resources at the end of each chapter consisting of books, articles, music and audio, internet websites, and films for the curious reader who desires to learn more.

Overall, Molloy has written a textbook that masterfully surveys the history of Christianity. His clear writing engages readers by encouraging them to reflect on the importance of Christianity in broader contexts. In contrast to traditional textbooks about Christianity, Molloy pays special attention to the role of art, music, architecture, and religious encounters. As Molloy emphasizes, religion—especially Christianity in the case of his textbook—must be experienced to fully understand and appreciate.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Steven Shisley is adjunct professor of religion at California Lutheran University.

Date of Review: 
September 14, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Michael Molloy is author of Experiencing World Religions, 6th Edition.



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