Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church

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History of Christianity - eBook. This third edition of Christianity Through The Centuries brings the reader up-to-date by discussing events and developments in the church into the 's. New chapters examine recent trends and developments expanding the last section from 2 chapters to 5. The ancient historians had a much higher appreciation of the pragmatic, didactic, and moral values of history than many modern historians have. The student who is conscious of the values to be achieved in the study of the history of the Christian church has a powerful motivation to study this particular area of human history.

One of the primary values of church history is that it links the past factual data of the Christian gospel with the future proclamation and application of that gospel in a present synthesis that creates understanding of our great heritage and inspiration for its further proclamation and application.

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Church history shows the Spirit of God in action through the church during the ages of its existence. Exegetical theology is linked in a meaningful pattern with practical theology as the student sees how systematic theology has made an impact on previous human thought and action. Church history has great value as an explanation of the present. We can understand the present much better if we have some knowledge of its roots in the past.

The answer to the puzzling query concerning the presence of over several hundred religious groups in the United States is to be found in church history. The principle of separation found a place early in the history of the church, and the Reformation accentuated it. It is interesting to trace the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA back to England and to note the origin of the Anglican church in the struggle of the royal power with the papacy.

The Methodist is interested in the beginnings of his church in the Wesleyan revival, which finally brought separation of Methodism from the Anglican church. Those of the Reformed or Presbyterian faith will take delight in tracing the origin of their church to Switzerland. Thus we become aware of our spiritual ancestry. Different beliefs and liturgical practices become more understandable in the light of past history. Methodists kneel at the rail for Communion because for many years the Methodists constituted a church within the Anglican church and followed its liturgical customs.

In contrast, Presbyterians are served the Communion in their seats. The difference in Methodist and Presbyterian theology becomes much plainer when one studies the views of Calvin and Arminius. Present-day problems of the church are often illuminated by study of the past because patterns or parallels exist in history. The refusal of most modern dictatorial rulers to permit their people to have any private interests separate from their public life in the state is more easily understood if one remembers that the Roman emperors did not think that one could have a private religion without endangering the existence of the state.

The relationship between the church and the state has again become a real problem in Russia and its satellite states; and it is to be expected that the state will persecute Christians just as Decius and Diocletian did in their day. The danger inherent in the union of the church and state through the state support for parochial schools and through the sending of envoys to the Vatican is illuminated by the slow decline of spirituality in the church and the interference with the church by the temporal power beginning with the control of the Council of Nicaea by Constantine in Tennyson, in his poem Ulysses , reminds us that we are a part of all that we have met.

The correction of existing evils within the church or the avoidance of error and false practice is another value of the study of the past of the church. The present is usually the product of the past and the seed of the future. Paul reminded us in Romans and 1 Corinthians , 11 that the events of the past are to help us avoid the evil and emulate the good.

Study of the hierarchical, medieval Roman Catholic church will point out the danger in the modern ecclesiasticism that seems to be creeping into Protestantism. New sects will often be revealed as old heresies in a new guise. Christian Science can be understood better after a study of Gnosticism in the early church and the ideas of the Cathari in medieval times. Ignorance of the Bible and the history of the church is a major reason why many advocate false theologies or bad practices.

Church history also offers edification, inspiration, or enthusiasm that will stimulate high spiritual life. Paul believed that knowledge of the past would give hope to the Christian life Rom. No one can study the brave stand of Ambrose of Milan—his refusing Emperor Theodosius the Communion until he repented of his massacre of the Thessalonian crowd—without being encouraged to stand for Christ against evil in high political or ecclesiastical circles. The industry and drive that enabled Wesley to preach over ten thousand sermons during his life and to travel thousands of miles on horseback is bound to be a rebuke and a challenge to Christians who have much better means for travel and study than Wesley had but who do not make adequate use of them.

The biographical aspect of church history is bound to bring inspiration and challenge to the student. There is as much need for the Christian to become aware of his spiritual genealogy as there is for the citizen to study the history of his land in order that he might become an intelligent citizen. In showing the genetic development of Christianity, church history is to the New Testament what the New Testament is to the Old Testament.

The Christian ought to be as aware of the main outlines of the growth and development of Christianity as he is of biblical truth. Then he will have a sense of being a part of the body of Christ, which includes a Paul, a Bernard of Clairvaux, an Augustine, a Luther, a Wesley, and a Booth. The sense of unity that comes from a knowledge of the continuity of history will lead to spiritual enrichment. One who is fearful for the future of the church in countries where it is now persecuted will become more hopeful as he realizes the indestructible character of the church in past ages.

Neither external persecution, internal unfaithful officialdom, nor false theology could stand against the perennial power of renewal that is revealed in the history of revival in the church. Even secular historians give credit to the Wesleyan revival as the agency that saved England from the equivalent of the French Revolution. The study of church history offers a stabilizing influence in an age of secularism, for one sees the power of God operating through the lives of people transformed by the gospel. We should remember, though, that the church can be destroyed in a particular area by internal decay and unbearable external pressure.

The fine church in old Carthage, the Nestorians in seventh-century China, and the Roman Catholic church in sixteenth-century Japan did disappear. The reading of the history of the church has many practical values for the Christian worker, whether he or she is evangelist, pastor, or teacher. The writer has derived pleasure from seeing how much more intelligible systematic theology has come to the student who has studied its historical development.

The doctrines of the Trinity, Christ, sin, and soteriology will never be properly understood unless one is aware of the history of the period from the Council of Nicaea to the Council of Constantinople in An abundance of illustrative material for his sermons also awaits the efforts of the diligent student of church history who intends to preach. Is he seeking to warn of the dangers of a blind mysticism that puts Christian illumination on a level with the inspiration of the Bible? Then let him study the mystical movements of the Middle Ages or early Quakerism.

If he seeks to warn of the dangers of an orthodoxy unaccompanied by a study and application of the teachings of the Bible, then let him give attention to the period of cold orthodoxy in Lutheranism after , which created a reaction known as Pietism, a movement that stressed earnest study of the Bible and practical piety in daily life. Finally, church history has a cultural value. The history of Western civilization is incomplete and unintelligible without some understanding of the role of Christian religion in the development of that civilization.

The history of man can never be divorced from the history of his religious life.

Learn about the church Paul risked everything to serve

The efforts of despots throughout the ages to eliminate Christian religion have always resulted in the substitution of some false religion. Both Hitler and Stalin gave their systems of statism a religious element by their respective emphasis on race and class. One who has studied the history of the church will never again be denominationally provincial. He will sense the unity of the true body of Christ throughout the ages.

He will also be humble as he encounters the giants of his spiritual past and realizes how much he owes to them. He will become more tolerant of those who differ with him on nonessentials but who, with him, accept the great basic doctrines of the faith, such as the vicarious death and resurrection of Christ, which were emphasized by Paul in Acts —3 and 1 Corinthians —4.

The political element involves the relations between the church and the state and the secular environment of the church. No one can understand the reversal of policy in France involved in the change from the situation created by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of to the situation created by the Concordat of Napoleon in unless he has some knowledge of how Napoleon destroyed the democratic element in the French Revolution and set up a new authoritarian system in which only the Roman Catholic church was to play a part because it was the religion of the majority of Frenchmen.

An understanding of the political, social, economic, and aesthetic forces at work in history is essential if one is going to interpret church history properly. Such background will be provided at the points where it is appropriate. The propagation of the Christian faith cannot be ignored.

Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church - eBook

This involves the study of world missions, home missions, city missions, and the story of any special technique by which the gospel has been carried to others. The story of missions has its heroes and martyrs and is an integral part of the story of the church. The essential person-to-person nature of the spread of Christianity and the unlimited possibilities for a church faithful to its Lord is shown in a study of the propagation of the faith. This propagation has many times brought persecution to the church. This persecution was begun by the political-ecclesiastical Jewish state, was organized on an imperial basis by Decius and Diocletian, was often made a part of Muslim policy, and has been revived by the modern secular totalitarian state.

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  7. This branch of church history, far from leading to discouragement, shows rather that the church has made its greatest advance in periods of persecution or immediately after. Polity is another branch of church history.

    It is the study of the government of the church.