Reaching the last lap of this series of 2000 years of Christian History, lets recap before we move forward. In part IV, we saw the church going through a time of conflict, Franciscan and Dominican orders being established and the pope growing in power to the extent where he superseded man. The Inquisitions were also established where people who had differing beliefs to the Roman Catholic ways were tortured, penalized, exiled or faced death. Meanwhile, the reformation was at hand with thinkers such as Wycliffe, Hus and Savonarola being assisted greatly with the invention of the printing press which made the Bible available to everyone for the first time. The eastern part of the Roman empire, would fall to the hand of the Muslim Ottomans, becoming part of the Muslim empire although Greek Orthodox beliefs continued in the region. With the sale of indulgences, the reformation would officially begin at the hand of Martin Luther and the likes of Ulrich Zwingli. Protestantism which spread quickly even with heavy opposition from the Catholic church, even leading to wars between the two groups, would also give birth to the Anglican Church in England, a separate entity from the church in Rome. While Calvin’s teachings were soaked in by Protestantism, a counter reformation was underway inside the catholic church which did not reform many of its earlier teachings. While the Jesuits traveled on missions programs with spain and portugal as they extended their land overseas, many reformers such as Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were executed for their beliefs – but Protestantism could not be stamped out, and would become one of the largest sects in Christianity – distinctively different from Catholicism, although borrowing and having many of its roots in the teachings of Rome. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here. For the 2nd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 300AD – 600AD please go here. For the 3rd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 600AD – 1200AD please go here. For the 4th part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 1200AD – 1600AD please go here.
As mentioned in the previous 4 Parts of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.
2000 years of Christian History – Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD
1609: Smyth baptizes self and first Baptists – One of the two groups that fled to Holland amidst Anglican persecution were the Baptists (the other were the pilgrims). Queen Elizabeth had stabilized the Anglican Reformation by taking the stand of “The Anglican Church would be almost Catholic”. Some of the Protestants who were bothered by this moderate route wanted to purify the church from within(Puritans), while others wanted to separate(Separatists). John Smyth, a Cambridge graduate, preacher and lecturer started such a separatist church in Gainsborough, finally fleeing to Amsterdam along with his congregation under heavy opposition from the Authorities. Through contact with Mennonites (Anabaptists) he altered his thinking and many of his congregation – believing infant baptism was unscriptural and rebaptizing himself and the believers. When he sought to merge his congregation with the Mennonites, ten members opposed it, and returned to London, where they setup the first Baptist Church.
1611: King James Version of Bible published – When Queen Elizabeth died childless, James VI of Scotland became king of England becoming known as James the 1st. The Puritans who wanted to purify the Church somehow managed to get approval from the King for a new Bible translation. Even though the Geneva Bible and the Bishop’s Bible were already in circulation, under King James, 54 scholars were tasked in creating the King James Version, which has become one of the few translations to have been accepted as accurate and lasted for centuries.
1618: Thirty Years’ War begins – A series of wars waged in Central Europe between 1618–1648, it was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, and one of the longest. Its roots stem from the war between Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmenting Holy Roman Empire, which gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe.
1620: Mayflower Compact drafted – The Separatists who withdrew from the Anglican Church under harassment had moved to Holland, but were not comfortable with Dutch Pluralism. Turning towards the New World, they dreamed of building a pure church, untainted by the flaws of the Church of England. Led by John Robinson, 102 Separatists set sail from Plymouth harbour on a vessel called the Mayflower towards America. The Mayflower compact was signed by 41 men aboard the vessel, agreeing to build a colony for the glory of God and advancement of Christianity. There main theme was that they would govern themselves without the rule of a human king – apart from God – the ruler of all.
1646: Westminster Confession drafted – Under Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentary army, the Puritans came into power in England with the king being beheaded subsequently. The Westminster assembly which created a confession of faith based on Calvinistic beliefs would last till 1658 being ruled by elders instead of priests and bishops – until the death of Cromwell. Charles II who came to power restored the episcopacy in England, although the Church of Scotland remained bound to the Westminster Confession.
1647: George Fox begins to preach – In an England which had many denominations that had sprung up in place of one church, differences of interpretation flourished, although none of them did away with the clergy altogether. George fox, who taught immediate access to God without the need of any clergy, and reliance solely on the Holy Spirit, created the society of friends where aristocrats and common men worshiped together and where both men and women could speak as they felt led by the Spirit. Despite persecution that followed the freedom seeking sect, it grew being known as the Quakers.
1648: Peace of Westphalia ends Thirty Years’ War – A series of peace treaties signed in Osnabrück and Münster, these treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
1675: Spener’s Pia Desideria advances Pietism – A graduate of the University of Strasbourg who became a minister in the Lutheran church, Spener formed devotional meetings known as collegia pietatis, the basis of the movement known as Pietism. Sermons that applied Scripture to life, small group meetings, bible study, group prayer and congregational singing were some of the key aspects of Pietism.
1732: Awakening at Herrnhut launches Moravian Brethren – The spiritual descendants of John Hus, the Moravians had no place in the world – being different to Catholics, Lutherans & Calvinists. The group that dispersed for a while, finally started regathering in 1722 to the estate of Count Zinzendorf, who started building a school and shops, naming the place “Herrnhut” (Lord’s Watch). By 1725 there were 90 Moravians at Herrnhut, and 300 by the next year. As the community grew, Zinzendorf moved out from his manor house into the community and exerted leadership. Becoming united in their faith, they selected elders and a 24 hour prayer vigil was set up (this lasted for over a century). They made contact with other Moravians in Europe, and leaders were trained to visit and share about Herrnhut. In 1732, they branched out into foreign missions such as Greenland, West Indies, Lapland & Georgia. By 1742, 70 had left the community of 600 for missions in Suriname, S.Africa, Guiana, Algeria, Ceylon and Romania. By the time Zinzendorf died in 1760, 226 missionaries had been sent out. They had baptized more than 3000 & established centers in Pennsylvania and London. Most notably, the Moravians had an influence on John Wesley who incorporated some of their concerns into the Methodist movement, and William Carey who followed their example in Protestant Missions work.
1738: John and Charles Wesley’s evangelical conversions – The two Anglican brothers who attended a “Holy Club” at Oxford, began to be nicknamed “Methodists” because of their stringent methods in their search for holiness. Being moved by a message about grace from Luther’s commentary of the Romans at a Moravian meeting, John and his brother preached this new message of grace everywhere. Travelling 250,000 miles on horseback, he preached throughout England and Scotland appointing preachers, creating fellowship classes and prayer bands. The Wesleys who wanted to see a change in the Anglican Church broke away from it unwittingly, and Methodism changed British society, being attributed by many Historians as the reason for not seeing a bloody revolution such as the one the French experienced at the end of the 18th century.
1771: Francis Asbury sent to America – One of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, as a young Englishman Asbury, traveled to America and, during his 45 years there, he devoted his life to ministry, traveling on horseback and by carriage thousands of miles to those living on the frontier – spreading Methodism throughout America.
1779: Newton and Cowper publish Olney Hymns – The combined work of John Newton and William Cowper, the hymns were written and published for use in Newton’s rural parish, which was made up of relatively poor and uneducated followers. As hymn-singing gained popularity, many of the hymns were reproduced in other hymn-books and pamphlets. Today around six of the original 348 Olney Hymns regularly feature in modern church worship, the most famous of which is “Amazing Grace”.
1780: Robert Raikes begins his Sunday school – Starting in a kitchen teaching street urchins, Robert wanted to change their lives. He had previously tried to help ex-prisoners, but to no avail. Now he turned towards the young, publicizing it in his paper. John Wesley who loved the idea used it in his groups. Raikes who received the endorsement of Queen Charlotte, had created a movement that had a quarter of a Million kids attending Sunday Schools in England by 1787. It would also plant the seeds of Public Education and revolutionize religious education touching the lives of countless lives of youngsters.
1789: French Revolution begins – A period of radical social and political upheaval in France, profoundly affected French and modern history, marking the decline of powerful monarchies and churches and the rise of democracy and nationalism. Popular resentment of the privileges enjoyed by the clergy and aristocracy grew amidst a financial crisis following two expensive wars and years of bad harvests, motivating demands for change and leading to this revolution by the common people.
1793: William Carey sails for India – An English Baptist missionary, Carey traveled to the Danish colony, Serampore, India, where he translated the Bible into Bengali, Sanskrit, and several other languages and dialects, amidst enormous physical pressure.
1793: Festival of Reason (de-Christianization of France) – With the French Revolution in full sway, caused by opposition towards the Roman Catholic Church, a Republic was proclaimed and the King Executed in 1792. This led to a cult which came to epitomize the new republican way of religion. Churches across France were transformed into modern Temples of Reason, including Notre Dame in Paris. Altars were dismantled and an altar to Liberty was installed and the inscription “To Philosophy” was carved in stone over the cathedral’s doors, while girls in white Roman dress and tricolor sashes milled around a costumed Goddess of Reason who “impersonated Liberty”. This cult was then replaced with the cult of the supreme being. Both cults were officially banned afterwards by Napoleon Bonaparte.
1801: Concordat between Napoleon and Pius VII – During the French Revolution, the National Assembly had taken Church properties and made the Church a department of the State, removing it from the authority of the Pope. The Concordat was signed between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII seeking national reconciliation between revolutionaries and Catholics – solidifying the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France and bringing back most of its civil status, while remaining largely in favor of the state.
1806: Haystack Prayer Meeting – Viewed by many scholars as the seminal event for the development of Protestant missions in the subsequent decades, it all started with 5 Williams College students gathering in a field to discuss the spiritual welfare of the people of Asia. Some of its members established the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and in 1812 it sent forth its first missionaries to India. In 19th century, it sent missionaries to China, Hawaii, and other nations in southeast Asia, and many of its missionaries undertook translation of the Bible into native languages, and some created written languages where none had existed before.
1807: Wilberforce leads abolition of slave trade – Heeding the advice of Pastor John Newton (one-time slave trader and author of Amazing Grace) William Wilberforce remained in Politics having acquired a prestigious seat in the British Parliament. A leading voice against slavery, in the British Empire, Wilberforce lobbied for the abolishing of slavery, finally coming to effect in Britain, a month after his death in 1825.
1811: Campbells begin Restoration Movement – A pastor at the Presbyterian church, Thomas Campbell had disagreement on church doctrines, and branched out with the means of bringing restoration to the early church. With his study of the New Testament and belief in immersion rather than infant baptism, he affiliated with the Baptist Church. With tension brewing between Baptists and Campbellites, they eased out and was merged with the church of Barton Stone. The 25,000 strong movement was known as the Disciples of Christ, and at the turn of the 20th century had over a million Disciples. The Campbells tilted many from the formal religion to a personal faith setting the stage for the revivalist and fundamentalist movements.
1812: Adoniram Judson begins mission trip – One of the students who were at the haystack prayer meeting, Judson set sail for India along with his new wife. Opposed by the British rulers in India who disliked these Americans, they moved to Burma and started learning the language and translating the New Testament to Burmese. After six years of hard work, they won their 1st convert. His wife would pass away at the age of 36, though Judson continued his work for 24 more years, establishing 63 churches, mostly among the “Karen People” who had a tradition that foreigners would visit them and restore the knowledge of the true God, which they had lost. Over 100,000 of the Karen people were baptized.
1816: Richard Allen founds African Methodist Episcopal church – At the time where Black people were segregated from the whites, Richard, a black man, who had occasionally preached at St.George’s Methodist Church, were seated (because of a misunderstanding) in the white section with other black worshipers. Reverend Absalom Jones who insisted that they get up and move began dragging the worshipers away – to which they walked out. The blacks who had generously furnished the church and even paid for the laying of the floor, started their own service in a rented storeroom – eventually buying a land and building a church on it. The oppression, the blacks went through at the hand of their white brothers, even after the abolishment of slavery drove Richard Allen to found the African Methodist Episcopal church where black believers could serve Christ gladly – giving rise to a strong black spirituality in America that lives on today.
1830: Finney’s Urban Revivals begin – A lawyer, Charles G. Finney, joined the Presbyterian Church and was ordained in 1824. Traveling on horseback, he went from village to village preaching as if he was in front of a jury. In 1830, Finney led remarkably successful revival meetings in Rochester, New York – making Revivalism a feature of American urban life. Though he did not encourage them, the revivalists allowed shouting, groaning and other evidences of emotion bringing growth despite its’ critics. With local church involvement, Finney would come and preach in areas with support of promotion such as handbills, placards and newspaper advertisements.
1830: John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren – At a time where meeting outside the established Church of England was unheard of, Darby and some of his friends did just that. Becoming fascinated with Prophecy, he held a series of conferences on the subject. Seizing the teachings of 18th century Chilean monastic Manuel de Lacunza, he taught a premillennial return of Christ(Lacunza also proposed that Christ would appear first to remove His faithful from the worst of the tribulation, before returning fully to establish His reign.) The movement which was based at Plymouth became known as the “brethren”, welcoming all denominations and serving without ordained ministers. Darby’s view of prophecy came to be known as dispensationalism, the prevalent teaching today, which explains God to have related to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants in a series of “dispensations,” or periods in history.
1854: Immaculate Conception made dogma – The Catholic belief that the conception of Mary in her mother’s womb was free from original sin was made Church doctrine by pope Pius IX with the support of the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic bishops in 1854.
1854: Hudson Taylor arrives in China – At a time when Britain was attempting to make China another colony of the Empire, Taylor learned the language, translated Scripture, and ran a hospital. Returning to England in 1860, he went back in 1866 with 16 other missionaries. By the time Taylor died in 1905, there were 205 mission stations, 849 missionaries and an estimated 125,000 Chinese Christians.
1854: Charles Haddon Spurgeon becomes Pastor in London – Becoming the pastor of a small Baptist church in Waterbeach when he was 18, Spurgeon was given the opportunity to preach at the prestigious New Park Street Chapel at 19. Invited to become the pastor of the Church, Spurgeon would hold the position for nearly 4 decades. Church attendance mushroomed, and the church rented bigger halls that could hold upto 12,000, while around 10,000 stood outside to hear the preacher. By 1861, the church built a facility that could hold 6000, while spurgeon published books, sermons & commentaries becoming known as the “prince of preachers”.
1855: D. L. Moody converted – A shoe salesman turned preacher, Moody’s evangelistic meetings took the British Isles by storm. Returning to America after 2 years, he was regarded an international celebrity, being invited to preach in many cities. Building on the revivalist tradition of Charles Finney, Moody preached a gospel free from denominational divisions. Music, counselling, follow-ups were all parts of an organized approach towards getting at people’s hearts. He also established a seminary for girls, a school for boys, summer bible conferences and a Bible Institute now named for him.
1865: William and Catherine Booth found Salvation Army – Establishing a mission to the poor in the East end of London in a humble tent, they eventually setup “food for the million” shops, offering cheap meals. Creating an organization that followed military lines, Booth himself was known as General because of his strict control. He used marching bands, uniforms, officers and a magazine named the War cry. The bands could be heard on the streets, as they effectively addressed the problems of the hungry and the homeless – & the gospel was preached to many who had never set a foot inside a church before. Through his lifetime, William traveled 5 million miles, preached nearly 60,000 sermons and drew about 16,000 officers into service with him – spreading not only throughout Britain, but into every corner of the world.
1870: First Vatican Council declares papal infallibility – With the pope’s power being questioned even by priests and bishops, in a world which was no longer uniformly Catholic – the papacy had even lost political influence. Pope Pius IX who had pronounced the doctrine of immaculate conception, and the Syllabus of Errors (a list of things no Catholic was allowed to believe in) now called the 1st Vatican Council, where he proclaimed that the “pope – the Vicar of Christ, has full direct power over the church and its hierarchy” and that “when he speaks from the chair in his capacity as pope, he is infallible“. Both of these ideas became doctrines of the Catholic Church.
1896: Billy Sunday begins leading revivals – Leaving baseball for the Christian ministry, Sunday gradually developed his skills and became the nation’s most famous evangelist with his colloquial sermons and frenetic delivery, attracting the largest crowds of any evangelist before the advent of electronic sound systems.
1906: Azusa Street revival launches Pentecostalism – A black baptist preacher by the name of William J Seymour was calling believers to be “sanctified” and “be baptized in the Holy Spirit” which he said would be accompanied by speaking in tongues. Amidst negative publicity many people traveled to see what was going on. Seymour was a student of Charles Fox Parham, who had tried to spread this revival in Kansas city and Lawrence, but failed. In 1903, Parham prayed for a woman from Texas who was healed afterwards, and invited him to Texas, where it was successful. By 1905, “Pentecostal” or “Full Gospel” meetings were drawing crowds with an estimated 25,000 adherents. Seymour, who started in the home of some friends, moved to Azusa street, which became the focal point for a growing Pentecostal movement. The movement which was anti-organizational and anti-denominational, created a plethora of smaller Pentecostal Denominations. A group of southern Pentecostals led by Eudorus N. Bell, named the Church of God in Christ, with 325 ministers, summoned Pentecostals to a meeting in Arkansas, where the Assemblies of God denomination was born.
1921: First Christian radio broadcasts – With the invention of Radio, many churches and ministries started broadcasting – which grew to 60 religious radio stations by 1928. Leaders like Billy Graham and Oral Roberts blazed the trail into Television in the 1950s and 60s having quite an effect on Evangelism and Christianity as a whole through the electronic mediums.
1934: Barmen Declaration – Hitler had wooed and deceived the church, gaining much support from Lutheran and Catholic clergy, who saw appeal in a distinctively German Church. In view of this, a document was adopted by Christians in Nazi Germany who opposed the “German Christian” movement(Deutsche Christen) at the time, declaring that the German Christians had corrupted church government by making it subservient to the state and had introduced Nazi ideology into the German Protestant churches that contradicted the Christian gospel. About one third of the Protestant clergy that led what was called the “confessing church” would stand against the German leader – but to no avail.
1938: Kristallnacht accelerates Holocaust – With the assassination of a German diplomat by a German-born Polish Jew living in Paris, a series of attacks were made against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria, with at least 91 Jews being killed in the attacks, and 30,000 arrested and incarcerated, while Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Martin Sasse, Nazi Party member and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia, the leading member of the Nazi German Christians, published a compendium of Martin Luther’s writings shortly after the Kristallnacht; where he “applauded the burning of the synagogues” and the coincidence of the day, writing in the introduction, “On 10 November 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany.” The German people, he urged, ought to heed these words “of the greatest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews” referring to the harshly anti-semitic words of Martin Luther, written in pamphlets such as On the Jews and Their Lies.
1945: Dietrich Bonhoeffer executed by Nazis – Bonhoeffer, who was a head of a confessing church seminary was forbidden to speak publicly or publish with the seminary closing down. Bonhoeffer, who felt Hitler was the antichrist became a part in a plot to kill the German leader which failed. Bonhoeffer was later arrested, not for his work as a double agent, but for smuggling 14 Jews into Switzerland. In prison he would write pieces such as Letters and papers from prison and a book named the cost of discipleship. He was one of the many Germans who stood against the Nazi regime and its corrupting influence on Christianity.
1947: Dead Sea Scrolls discovered – The finds from the Qumran caves are of great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism. There are only two silver scrolls which contain biblical text and are older than the Dead Sea Scrolls; which have been excavated in Jerusalem at Ketef Hinnom and are dating from around 600 BC.
1948: The creation of the state of Israel – With the end of the British Mandate for Palestine in 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the Zionist Organization and president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel”. The borders of the new state were not specified. Neighboring Arab armies invaded the former Palestinian mandate on the next day and fought the Israeli forces. Israel has since fought several wars with neighboring Arab states, in the course of which it has captured the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, part of South Lebanon, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.
1949: Los Angeles Crusade catapults Billy Graham – A Christian evangelist, ordained as a Southern Baptist minister, he rose to celebrity status holding large indoor and outdoor rallies, while sermons were broadcast on radio and television. According to his staff, more than 2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior”. Over 100 Million have heard him in person, with countless millions touched by his media ministries.
1950: Assumption of Mary made dogma – In the Apostolic Constitution written by Pope Pius XII, he proclaimed that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory“. This doctrine was put into effect using papal infallibility.
1960: Bennett resigns; charismatic renewal advances – With the rector of St Mark’s Episcopal Church Dennis Bennett, receiving the baptism of the spirit, it resulted in a split in his congregation with his resignation, and the movement quickly spread to other churches. Fundamental to the movement is the use of spiritual gifts – adopting beliefs and practices similar to Pentecostals.
1962: Changes made at the 2nd Vatican Council – Headed by pope John XXIII, this council allowed church masses to be held in the native tongues rather than mandatory Latin. It also accepted both clergy and laypeople as the people of God, who could share in ministerial functions. While Vatican I had seen pope as the successor to the apostles, this was extended to the whole body of bishops. Giving the Bible more importance, it encouraged laypeople as well as scholars to study the bible. Those in other denominations were stated to be Christians who are separated brethren, ending the idea of Christian equated exclusively with Catholic. The other believers did not have to return to Rome, to become Christian, as it was believed in the past. The church of Rome also renounced the power over the political realm for the first time at this council.
1963: King leads March on Washington – Martin Luther King, a Baptist Pastor would lead the march against segregation in America, towards a future of equality, winning the Nobel Peace Prize on the way, even though he would be gunned down for his beliefs – becoming the only clergyman in America to have a day named in his honor.
1966: Chinese Cultural Revolution – With Mao Zadeong coming to power in China, he had forced foreign missionaries out in 1950. In 1966, he launched a savage cultural revolution where Christian meetings were forbidden and Bibles burned. Government oppression only helped the growth of Christianity in China. By 1979 Churches were allowed to open, although through secret house meetings the number of followers grew exponentially at the time of the revolution than any other time in China.
While Christianity now branched out from Catholicism into Protestantism, Anglicanism and divided further into splinter groups such as the Baptist & Methodist, Christianity would be divided in belief, tradition and doctrine. These differences would even lead to wars at first, such as between Protestant nations and Catholic nations. While missionary work took on a new vigor, events such as the French Revolution would cause Catholicism to loose power over the state. With the abolition of the slave trade, blacks were accepted into society – only to be segregated by their skin color, resulting in Churches separated and headed by blacks. A new interest in Prophecy and theories such as dispensationalism would come to the fore of Christian doctrine, while Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement would become popular around the world, with revivals and massive Christian gatherings surrounded around famous preachers became the norm, with help of promotion by Radio, Television and Print. While the 1st World War had changed how each perceives war, the world would be plunged into war again because of the likes of Hitler and the Protestant division named “German Christian” churches who agreed with him. While Christianity grew silently elsewhere in the world, the biggest Christian denomination in the world – Catholicism would make “Immaculate conception”, “papal infallibility”, “Assumption of Mary” church doctrine, although it accepted other denominations as Christians for the first time since its inception.