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Publisher's Summary

Is the world better off without Christianity?

Combining narrative with keen critique of contemporary debates, author and historian John Dickson gives an honest account of 2,000 years of Christian history that helps us understand what Christianity is and what it's meant to be.

To say that the Christian Church has an "image problem" doesn't quite capture it. From the Crusades and the Inquisition to the racism and abuse present in today's Church--both in Catholic and Protestant traditions--the institution that Christ established on earth has a lot to answer for. But the Church has also had moments throughout history when it has been in tune with Jesus' teachings - from the rise of charity to the invention of hospitals.

For defenders of the faith, it's important to be able to recognize the good and bad in the church's history and be inspired to live aligned with Christ. For skeptics, this book is a thought-provoking introduction to the idea that Christianity is, despite all, an essential foundation of our civilization.

Bullies and Saints will take you on a big-picture journey from the Sermon on the Mount to the modern church:

  • Giving contextual accounts of infamous chapters of Christian history, such as the Crusades, and acknowledging their darkness.
  • Outlining the great movements of the faith and defending its heroes and saints, some of whom are not commonly recognized.
  • Examining the Church beside the teachings and life of Jesus and how it has succeeded in its mission to imitate Christ.
©2021 John Dickson (P)2021 Zondervan

What listeners say about Bullies and Saints

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Insightful and well told

Excellent narration. Fair, balanced and insightful review of Christian history. Presented in a way that is easily accessible.

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A "Rose Colored" look at Christianity

I've returned a number of books lately, so I forced myself to listen to this entire thing the whole way through. In a few words, this book could be summed up as "Christianity wasn't all THAT bad ... sort of ..." There were broad brush strokes like "Saint <female's name that I forget> spoke to the pope and convinced him to move the papacy to Rome. Uhhh, no. There was scant discussion on the excesses of the Church that caused the Lutheran Reformation, scant discussion on the control the Church wielded over its adherents, and little discussion on non-catholic, non-lutheran Christianity today, specifically the hate mongers in the center of the US who use Christianity as cudgel against homosexuals or abortion, and little to no discussion on that same group's influence over US politics. This book was a watered down, light beer of a read that looked at a few wavetops, and had little to no substantive discussion on the true bullies throughout the entire history of Christianity, organized or otherwise.

Narrator sounded nice though - he sounds like someone I'd introduce to my sister.

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Balanced, pragmatic and full of hard truths

I loved reading this book. Dicksons' tone is so balanced- pleasant even. Yet it was chock full of hard truths about the church.
It's not a book that is directly trying to convince sinners to come to salvation. Rather tries to correct the imbalance in some secular circles about the role religion plays in the evil mankind has perpetrated

The author repeatedly affirms that he's not trying to play down the terrible evil done in the name of religion- he's just trying to maintain a balanced view when comparing to other gross evils of mankind.
Christians have played a major part in the ignoble pattern of man's inhumanity to man. But it's heartwarming to note that Western civilisation owes so much to Christianity. There's so much we take for granted today that came directly from the church. Hospitals, charities and even the very concept that all people are born equal.
There's the interesting bit about "moderate" atheists (not the really militant ones). They acknowledge that their moral imperative is actually based on the Christian ethos- certainly not the classical Greek or Roman worldview.
And what an ending! Yes, many one-liners are just empty soundbites - but I really liked this one!

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High quality!

I discovered John through Cross Examined and Frank Turek. I loved this book. 100% recommend

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Overall Helpful

Overall, this book is helpful and balanced. At times, though, Dickson is guilty of telling half-stories. He self-consciously attempts not to do this, but his chapters on Ambrose and the Crusades especially left a lot wanting. I did appreciate his emphasis on Alcuin of York and the Inquisition. Those were, in my opinion, the best and most insightful chapters. I recommend reading this while supplementing it with some other secondary sources that might give slightly different perspectives.

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Phenomenal Narration!

I absolutely loved the book itself, and must say the narrator only added to that. Phenomenally well done and an engaging work throughout.

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A great book on a difficult topic

Dickson gave a wide ranging treatment of the contribution of Christianity and/or Christians, as well as the bad things done in the name of Christ and/or by Christians. He manages to give us a painful dose of reality, while giving us reasons to remain hopeful in Christ. Well done. To Christ be all the glory

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Honest!

God bless the truth telling man! This is a must read if you call yourself a Christian.

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Very interesting and fair

I learned a great deal from this book about the highs and lows of church history. The author was consistently fair-minded, honest, and respectful. This was no small feat since there has generally been more heat than light on the subject. He is unafraid to admit failings of the followers of Christ, while unflinchingly defending the “beautiful melody line” of Christ Himself. If you have ever felt awkward when people say things like “religion is the cause of most war and conflict in the world”, or other anti-religious rhetoric, this book will give you a fuller understanding of the truth and a greater appreciation for the Christian faith itself.

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Refreshingly honest

This is an awesome book. As a Christian and Church goer I really appreciated the honest discussion of the good and the bad of Christianity throughout history. Thank you John Dickson.

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  • scragg007
  • 10-25-21

Top class scholarship and easy-to-understand

This is a fantastic book about the mixed history of the church. It is honest and vulnerable, whilst seeking the truth of what difference Christianity has made to our world. It doesn’t dumb down on the facts but presents them in a way that is easy to understand, and that sees the connection with our lives today.
And John’s Aussie accent just adds to the listenability!
Must buy!!!!

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  • Steven Davis
  • 01-24-22

Jesus’ Humility and Integrity - Fundamentals for God’s people and Institutions

An excellent and fruitful read presented with real humility and integrity! I am very grateful to John Dickson who has sort to critically and helpfully with outstanding research to give us an exceptional contribution in this area. I found his summaries of great tracts of history really engaging and informative. I would also have urged John to include briefly a section about the contribution of the Irish, assuming there was some, to the the continuation of Western Christianity in the midst of upheaval following ‘the fall of Rome’. What ‘bullies and saints’ were present in this part of the world at that time. I recommend this readable and wonderful resource to the everyday thoughtful believer as well as Pastors, Priests, Church and Youth Workers and really anyone who wants to seriously know some truth in our world full of misnomer and falsehood. Again a special for me.

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  • Malcolm
  • 09-18-21

Excellent read for all about the history of the church

Fantastic book where Dickson evenhandedly evaluate the good, the bad and the ugly in church history. Christian or not, you will be surprised and challenged by how Christians have acted in the name of Jesus. And of course, the book is far the better for being read by John Dickson himself. Can’t recommend the book more highly!!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-29-21

An honest account of Church history

I enjoyed but was challenged by John's account of Christian action in history. I found myself resonating with those who sought the good of others - singing the melody of Christ. At the same time I was saddened by those who abused their power to achieve what might have been considered good outcomes. Yet, I was challenged, have I done this myself? This book challenged my humility and made me want to ensure I wasn't caught up in my own view that thinks I know better than others and will forcefully put my view across.

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  • Mrs. B C Murrill
  • 08-26-21

Great insights into historic Christianity

Well researched and insightful overview of the good the bad and the ugly parts of Christianity. Really worth getting to understand that no generation of Christians gave it right and we must keep going back to the source to express true faith in Jesus

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-20-21

Insight for all

Dr John Dickson has written a brilliant book here. It’s historically accurate, even handed and unflinching its look at historic Christianity’s influence and practice. Christian’s will find pause and cause for humility and a powerful reminder of the need to live more in accord with the “beautiful melody” of their beliefs. Atheists will be presented with a more accurate rendering of Church history where the author doesn’t pull punches in presenting the worst of Christianity. Overall it’s restored my faith in Christianity’s message while reminding me of how tragically the church has failed at times to live it out.

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  • Zak F.
  • 07-17-21

Heartbreaking and Hopeful

John did a fantastic job at outlining the tragic and terrific history of the church. It seemed to me to be a reasonably balanced view considering his own convictions. The audio version was great too, very engaging.

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  • Andrée
  • 07-06-21

Fine for newbies to history

I would recommend this book to those with limited knowledge of the events of the past yet interested in history. It has some academic content, but it is not really an academic item. The tone of the reader/author is appropriate, but I wonder if it would have been better read with another professional voice. Overall, in my opinion, it is an ok book because it is honest.