The plan for the six projected volumes (he only completed the first four as far as I know):
- Founding of Christendom: BC years up to 324 AD
- Building of Christendom: 324 AD-1100 AD
- Glory of Christendom: 1100 - 1517
- Cleaving of Christendom: 1517-1774
- Revolution against Christendom: 1774-1914
- Martyrdom of Christendom: Modern World (20th century)
In the Introduction he asks: What is Christendom? What kind of history can be written of it? This is the first key point I want to have my student think about. Dr Carroll gives his own answer in the rest of the Introduction.
Carroll says that most people nowadays can't define the term Christendom and many have never even heard of it.
Christendom has faded today to the edge of invisibility..... These years of Christendom's apparent eclipse are perhaps the best time to attempt the telling of its full historical story, from preparation through birth and growth, climax, division, and retreat -- so as to be more ready for its coming resurrection.So that is his subject.... the preparation for Christendom, its building, its flourishing, and its seeming crisis in this age (though I am sure he would present it more hopefully than that). He goes on to say what differentiates his work from other histories dealing with similar subject matter:
--It is not primarily focused on the institutional church or churches, or on clergy. Neither is it focused primarily on the temporal, political order. He blends ecclesiastical AND political history.
"The history of Christendom includes as a major element the lay or temporal order insofar as it is penetrated and influenced by Christianity."
---It is written from a Catholic perspective. His conviction is that Jesus Christ founded a visible Church and that this church is the Roman Catholic one,
"through which He acts in particular ways not available to member of most of the separated churches, notably in the Holy Eucharist..."
---Though from a Catholic perspective, it includes discussion of the lives and influence of non-Catholic Christians, or of non-Christians who have influenced Christendom for good (the noble pagans come to mind). The Catholic Catechism affirms that non-Catholic Christians are "separated brethren" -- that especially in these days of uncritical and increasingly hostile secularism, we are united in many key ways. For this reason Dr Carroll brings up ecumenism, which doesn't involve minimizing or glossing over real differences in theology, but which he sees as a hopeful sign during these troubled "post-Christendom" days. Ecumenism has undergone a flowering in this past century which is probably one good sign in a generally dark period of history.
"(God) has other sheep, who are not of the visible Catholic fold, members of His church through baptism by water or by desire. Many non-Catholic Christians have served Christ well--- indeed, better than a great many Catholics have served Him. Their services are included in this history."
---He holds no brief for rationalism and the modernist principles of Bible exegesis, something that has burrowed into and done damage to all Christian churches.... not just in itself but insofar as it leads to the other extreme of fideism or fundamentalism. It seems to me that we are presently in post-rationalist days in many respects but probably I can use this as a discussion-opener for my high schooler. ... it can tie into understanding one's own faith in comparison with other philosophical trends in our society.
--- He makes no secrecy of his opposition to the supernatural forces of death and destruction -- he draws a sharp distinction between noble though flawed and insufficient paganism, and the kind of evil found in, say, the Harappan or Carthaginian civilizations, as evidenced by baby sacrifice and human degradation. My student and I can use this theme both to discuss how it shows up even in our time, and also to discuss natural reason and morality -- how far it can go unaided, and where it is insufficient.