In “The Lost History of Christianity”, Philip Jenkins thoroughly and reflectively explores the growth and declination of the forgotten Eastern Church in order to show how “losing the ancient churches is one thing, but losing their memory and experience so utterly is a disaster scarcely less damaging” (262). He shows the importance of the memory of the Eastern Church by showing the facts, connecting the facts, and showing why the facts matter.
One of the best things Jenkins does is speak with a language that is story-like. Because he does this, it is easy to be pulled into the world he describes and paints through words. In the midst of this, there are statements which fit smoothly and also profoundly impact the reader. His ability to tell a story, in effect, allows the reader to better learn from what he writes. In fact, in the final two chapters, Jenkins concludes everything by showing how the rise and fall of Eastern Christianity can help faiths, especially the Christian faith, thrive in the world today. This includes a beautiful theological explanation of the destruction of churches in the midst of God’s sovereignty.
He also presents other religions kindly and respectfully. Specifically, his treatment of Islam is very respectful and honest. Because of this, it allows people to see that Christian-Islamic relations were quite different in the 7th century than the 21st century. They were a world different. He also never places the blame on Islamic ideology when, sometimes, it was simply a crazy ruler. In doing this, he helps mend decades of shattered and torn relationships between Christians and Muslims.
In conclusion, “The Lost History of Christianity” presents factual elements which are placed side by side for the betterment of the world. Rather than being merely “academic scholarship”, its’ practical application and focus on mending broken relationships makes it unique it its’ class. Any student of religion, especially Christians who have forgotten their past, should read this masterpiece because it sharpens more than the mind. It sharpens the soul. In the words of George R.R. Martine, “a mind needs books as sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge”. In this case, Jenkins’ story is a whetstone for the soul.