Review: Christianity at the Crossroads

41fAACe5-LL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_Michael J. Kruger is President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kruger is a leading voice for the study of early Christianity and the development of the New Testament and has a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where he studied under the advisement of Larry Hurtado. Kruger is the author of several books, including The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (with Andreas Köstenberger) and Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. In his most recent publication, Kruger offers readers an important and unique glimpse into the distinctives of early Christianity in the overlooked world of the second century.

Christianity at the Crossroads is topically arranged around several key issues within second-century Christianity. These issues reflect a sociological transition, a doctrinal-theological transition, and a textual-canonical transition reflected in early Christianity. Kruger devotes space to numerous aspects within the boundaries of each of these transitions and offers readers a balanced introduction, including engagement with both primary and secondary sources. Kruger begins with a detailed overview of the sociological structure of second-century Christianity. He dedicates most of the chapter to the relationship between Jew and Gentiles, but also deals with other issues related to social standing, education and literacy, and gender. Kruger subsequently evaluates the political and intellectual acceptability of second-century Christianity, the ecclesiological structure of the second-century Christian church, theological diversity and unity witnessed in the second century, and the “bookish” nature of early Christianity along with the new Scriptures they produced.

There is much to appreciate about Christianity at the Crossroads. Kruger is recognized as an expert in early Christianity and his balanced interaction with both primary and secondary sources is unique for a volume of this nature and scope. Readers will gain a sense of early Christianity from early Christians, as well as modern and contemporary scholarship. Kruger is also balanced in his evaluation of the sources, though his presuppositional convictions are transparent. It would have been nice to see a fuller treatment then what was provided here. For example, it would have been helpful to see more detailed interaction with Christian theology of the period. That said, as an intended introduction to second-century Christianity, Kruger is detailed and informative in his engagement and offers readers a trustworthy sense of direction for further study. Lastly, I found the organization of the book to be the best possible option for accomplishing what Kruger was looking to achieve. It is easy to follow and logically structured for future topical reference.

Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church by Michael J. Kruger is uniquely positioned in the market place to close an unfortunate gap in the literature on early Christianity. Before Christianity at the Crossroads the options for a survey of second-century Christianity were few. But, Kruger offers more than a missing link. This book is written with clarity and precision. Few scholars on the subject can communicate as clearly and precise as Kruger, and readers will benefit from its accessibility. If you’re looking for a book that is both informative and engaging on a subject often overlooked, then Christianity at the Crossroads will be a fantastic addition to your library. It’s easily one of Kruger’s best books yet.

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