I recently finished reading a book titled Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History. It is an extremely helpful survey of historical evidence with a bearing on some of the greatest historical misunderstandings of church history. It includes chapters on the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, anti-Semitism, and the supposed torture of scientists by the Roman Catholic Church during the Medieval period.
Author Rodney Stark is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. His storied academic career includes a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his book The Rise of Christianity. While this book covers some of the same material Stark has treated in other books, much of it is fresh. I’ve come to appreciate Stark’s writing very much. His work is insightful and well researched.
Bearing False Witness is a curious beast. It is a book defending the history of the Roman Catholic church, written by an “independent Christian” and former Lutheran/agnostic who currently teaches at a Baptist university. And since he is a sociologist, his background does make an appearance from time to time in his work. There are stranger things, but few so delightful.
Although Stark does not write as an apologist, his work has a great deal of apologetic value. Anti-Catholic polemic affects not just Roman Catholicism, but Christendom in general. When Crusaders are wrongly described as bloodthirsty barbarians who conquered peace-loving Muslims, every Christian is implicated as a matter of course. When the Roman Catholic Church is demonized for the fictitious persecution of Medieval scientists, every church is attacked.
I thoroughly recommend Stark’s newest book. Some of the myths he treats will be well-known to observant and studious Christians. They are not as familiar to many other people, which is why these myths continue to persist. This book is required reading for all believers concerned about the public perception–and especially misunderstanding–of the Christian faith.