Entrusting the apostles to continue the work he had started by instructing them to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .," Jesus kindled the fires of a new religion in a world largely dominated by polytheism, cult leader worship, and mysticism. In the first century of its existence, Christianity was both welcomed and vilified throughout the Roman Empire. Many of Christianity's original adherents were martyred -murdered by those who believed it a danger to their authority or, at the very least, the cause of unrest among an otherwise docile populace. Christians themselves practiced their religion with great diversity, linked as much to local influences as theology. Political intrigue, theological beliefs, and simple misunderstandings created a need for dialogue between the many practitioners of the growing faith. Christianity's adoption as the official faith of the Roman state tied it inexorably to the fortunes of the Empire. This also helped to create a gulf between the two main theological branches of the religion, which remain to this day.
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by Thomas F. Madden
"Professor Madden is easy to listen to and seems to have no theological axe to grind. His voice has a pleasing boyish quality that belies the depth and range of his scholarship and that renders theological and historical complexities with clarity. We first watch Christianity emerge from the multifaceted world of Hebrew monotheism into Greco-Roman polytheism. This is relatively uncomplicated compared to what later follows: cutting through the political intrigues of church councils, resolving heresies, creating early monastic traditions, and witnessing the sharp divisions that develop between Eastern and Western spirituality. It is a taxing journey that we and the Western world have made, but Professor Madden leaves us with the sense that it was worth doing. P.E.F. (c) AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine"
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