Books: The Help in Ages Past

A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY

by PAUL JOHNSON

556 pages. Atheneum. $13.95.

"A Christian with faith has nothing to fear from the facts," Paul Johnson writes. Johnson is an Orwellian socialist deeply concerned for liberty, a dyspeptically progressive Roman Catholic, former editor of the left-wing British journal New Statesman, and a believer with a passion for accuracy. He has written a literary rarity, a highly readable, deeply learned, thoroughly fascinating account of 2,000 years of Christian history.

There are plenty of contemporary resonances, of course. Does anyone still believe that the hippies and gurus and...