Finally, I finished this book. Here is my review.
This book is excellent: a must read for anyone interested in history, sociology or apologetics. It can be a foundation for any Christian seeking to understand "the big picture" and a guide for anyone wanting to unlock cultural secrets of the West to more effectively preach the gospel. The author consistently and directly tackles the question, "How has Christianity changed the world?"
The author establishes a benchmark for change in each chapter by contrasting early Christian views and practices with that of the surrounding world, chiefly the Greco-Roman system but also the Judaic and Semitic systems of the Middle East and, less often, the Far East systems. He then traces how Christ's followers impacted their world from a discipleship perspective and attempts to hit the highlights of change as they unfold in history to the modern age.
The first few chapters are by far the most impactful. The Christian ideas regarding respect for human life and women, health care and abolition were the most significant and often shocking to me. The high ideals held by and sacrifices made by Christians were in stark contrast to the very base and ignoble ideas of the Greco-Roman system- the same type of system we as a society are fast striving to rebuild. The middle of the book tackles important but less impactful ideas, specifically regarding government, economics and science. The end of the book was somewhat tedious, addressing architecture, music, literature, holidays and language; but he rigorously followed the same pattern and showed how much of our modern world still echoes the teaching of Christ.
The author is Lutheran and this slant definitely shows, but it never put me off. He equally embraces all mainstream Christian denominations without apparent partiality and constantly goes back to the Scriptures, to the teachings of Jesus and the acts of the early church. He favorably portrayed some people (such as Origen) and writings (Didache, Shepherd of Hermes) which I have been taught were the "bad guys" in some way or another, or were evil writings. This has caused me to question to some extent this clear-cut assumption. I may pursue further reading on some of these but it is really of little interest to me.