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2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

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of conflict, Franciscan and Dominican orders being established and the pope growing in power to the extent where he superseded man.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.

German Christians celebrating Luther-Day in Berlin in 1933, speech by bishop Hossenfelder

German Christians celebrating Luther-Day in Berlin in 1933 – The German Christian Flag can be seen at the back with Nazi emblem in the middle

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.

Conclusion
christianity-graphic-11While 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.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD

 

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2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD

Get ready for a bit of a longer journey than parts 1,2&3, as we dive into the age of Reformation! Recapping part III, previously we saw Christianity which was now the Religion of Rome, spreading all throughout Europe. With the birth of Islam, Rome was threatened as Islam conquered most of the areas under Roman rule, even capturing Jerusalem. While the Eastern and Western churches grew apart finally breaking all ties, Muslims threatened Europe – being pushed back at the battle of Tours. The pope became significantly more powerful, superseding emperors in esteem and even owning land. The 1st Crusade would return power of Jerusalem back to Rome through much bloodshed, but would fail to hold Jerusalem in their grasp as the Muslims retook the city, inciting a failed 2nd Crusade and a partially successful 3rd. Universities of Paris and Oxford were begun creating incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation, while movements such as the Waldensians signaled the beginning of a free thinking Christianity, which was outside the Church of the Roman Empire. 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

As mentioned in the 1st, 2nd & 3rd 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 IV – 1200AD – 1600AD

1208: Francis of Assisi renounces wealth – Renouncing his father’s wealth, Francis became a beggar, asking for alms from the “haves” in order to give to the “have nots”. Francis who started preaching in deserted chapels generated a faithful following, to whom he drafted a set of rules, creating the Fransican Order. By 1218 there were more 3000 followers who had renounced wealth, creating a change in Italian society – where the rich got richer and the poor starved.

1215: Innocent III assembles Fourth Lateran Council – While previous popes had called themselves “Vicar of Peter”, pope Innocent III claimed he was the “Vicar of Christ” – claiming to be the representative of Christ on earth, he said the pope was “a mediator between God and man, below God but beyond man”. At the 4th Lateran council most of his ideas would be adopted into church doctrine. The council ruled that annually every person must make confessions to a priest and take communion. The doctrine of transubstantiation (communion bread and wine were the actual body and blood of Christ) became official. Heretics could be legally punished by excommunication and confiscation of property. The pope alone had authority to make or break bishops. The council also declared that Jews wear special identification badges, forbidding Christians to engage in any commerce with them – eventually leading to Jewish Ghettos.

1220: Dominican Order established –  a Roman Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Saint Dominic, it was established to preach the Gospel and to combat heresy. The teaching activity of the order and its scholastic organization placed the Preachers in the forefront of the intellectual life of the Middle Ages.

1232: Gregory IX appoints first “inquisitors” –  Pope Gregory IX instituted the Papal Inquisition, a mechanism that severely punished people accused of heresy, which was mainly established to curb Catharism and the Waldensians. Out of these 2 sects, the Cathari posed the greater threat, as they taught a dualistic faith in which the material world was created by an evil entity, while the spiritual was created by the good. Staffed by the Franscian and Dominican orders, the original intent for the Inquisition was a court of exception to inquire into, and glean the beliefs of those differing from Catholic teaching, and to instruct them in the orthodox doctrine. In 1252, Pope Innocent IV officially sanctioned the use of torture to extract the truth from suspects, and over the centuries the tribunals would take different forms, investigating and stamping out various forms of heresy, including witchcraft and Judaism.

1272: Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae – A student at the University of Naples, Thomas would go onto become a Dominican monk. Thomas tried to reconcile philosophy and theology, emphasizing that they did not need to contradict each other. When Catholicism fought against Protestanism, at the council of trent, they used Aquinas’ work.

1302: Unam Sanctam proclaims papal supremacy – A charter created by pope Boniface VIII, it decreed that it was necessary to belong to the Roman Catholic church to receive eternal salvation(as the Roman Catholic Church was regarded the one true church), the position of the pope as supreme head of the Church, and the duty of submitting to the pope in order to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation. The pope who was called the successor of Peter, on whom the church was built – would have authority over the sheep, and whoever did not come under that authority would not be included into the sheep of Christ.

1309: Papacy begins “Babylonian” exile in Avignon – In the period from 1309 to 1377, during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon, in France, rather than in Rome. At the election of Clement V (a frenchman) as pope, he declined to move to Rome, remaining in France, and moving his court there. This absence from Rome for 67 years was known as the “Babylonian Exile of the Papacy”, in which a total of 7 popes reigned from France, finally ending with Gregory XI who moved the court back to Rome.

1321: Dante completes Divine Comedy – The Italian poet, Dante’s creation reflected most of the beliefs of his age such as, purgatory, and the working off of sin to reach heaven. Influenced by Thomas Aquinas, his work would in turn influence many other poets after him, and create a vivid picture of what hell, purgatory and paradise looked like for a long time to come.

1370: Catherine of Siena begins her Letters – Living apart from the world for 3 years, Catherine reentered society at the time of the black death – ministering to the dying and visiting prisoners who were condemned to death. All this while she wrote many letters giving spiritual counsel from the common folk up to the pope. She encouraged pope Gregory XI to move back to Rome from Avignon at the time of the Exile of papacy. After Gregory XI moved to Rome, and died shortly afterward, she would still counsel pope Urban at the time of the Great Schism.

1378: Great Papal Schism begins – After the Baylonian Exile of the papacy ended, by pope Gregory XI moving his court back to Rome from Avignon(France), Gregory XI would pass away shortly. With riots breaking out for a new roman pope, Urban VI was appointed. Many of the cardinals, who regretted their decision later, appointed Pope Clement VII in Avignon as a rival pope – which threw the church into turmoil, as both popes had been appointed by the same leaders. The conflicts quickly escalated from a church issue to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe, as secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize as pope. This schism would last close to 40 years, coming to an end with the council of constance.

1380: Wycliffe supervises English Bible translation – The leading English scholar of his time, Wycliffe may be largely responsible for the early reputation of Oxford, where he studied and taught. As his studies led to question the Catholic teachings, he began to speak out against the church’s right to temporal power and wealth, the sale of indulgences (letters that were believed to pardon sin), church offices, worship of saints and relics, the doctrine of transubstantiation, as well as the pope’s authority. Regularly defending himself before bishops and councils, he became a hero, creating a following named the Lollards who traveled England teaching the Scriptures to the common folk. In 1377, he was banned from writing and most of his work burned – while he was stripped of his position at Oxford and forbidden to teach his views. Working with other scholars, he used a handwritten copy of the Vulgate to create the first English translation of the Bible, which was improved in a second edition after his death, and distributed illegally by the Lollards. He was excommunicated by the council of constance after his death, and in 1428, his bones were exhumed, burned and scattered in the river. The Reformation was already well underway through his teachings and his work on the English translation of the Bible.

1413: Hus burned at stake – Ordained as a priest in 1401, John Hus taught at Charles University in Prague. A noted preacher who taught against the worldliness and moral failings of clergy (including the pope), stressed on purity of life and personal piety, as well as asserting that Christ alone is the head of the church. When he became popular among the masses, the archbishop of Prague objected to his teachings, instructing him not to preach and asking the university to burn Wycliffe’s writings. When he did not comply, pope John XXIII excommunicated the whole city, forcing Hus to leave Prague. In his book “on the church“, he claimed that only God could forgive sins, no pope/bishop could establish doctrine contrary to the bible, nor could any Christian obey a clergyman’s order if it was plainly wrong. Hus, who was summoned to the council of Constance, where he was arrested as soon as he arrived – as well as his teachings along with Wycliffe’s condemned. Stating that pope or bishop who is in mortal sin, ceases to be a pope or bishop, he added the king to the list. Refusing to renounce his “errors”, he was sentenced to be burned at the stake, and his ashes scattered on a river. His courageous death would lead to the birth of the Moravian church and fuel the reformation.

1414: Council of Constance begins – held from 1414 to 1418, the council ended the Great Schism, where rival popes claimed right as true pope of the Church. The rest of the claimants were deposed and Pope Martin V elected in their stead.

1453: Constantinople falls; end of Eastern Roman Empire –  The Ottomans commanded by Sultan Mehmed II, defeated an army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI, capturing Constantinople, bringing an end to the Eastern Roman empire. Mehmed who transferred the capitol of the Ottoman Empire from Adrianople to Constantinople declared himself Kayser-i Rum, literally “Caesar of Rome”, that is, of the Roman Empire, though he was remembered as “the Conqueror” – founding a political system that survived until 1922 with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. While the church Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque which stands to date, the Greek Orthodox Church remained intact, even though Turkey which contains Constantinople (present day Istanbul) is now a dominant Muslim state with more than 95% of its population being Muslim.

1456: Gutenberg produces first printed Bible – At a time where the Bible was only available in Latin, copied by hand on parchment or papyrus sheets, the average person relied on the local priest and pictures or statues in the church for information on the Bible. With Gutenberg’s invention, God’s Word became readily available to everyone – no longer did the pope or a priest have to come in between the believer and his comprehension of the Bible. Previously, only the clergy had access to God’s Word, so that they could compare it to church teaching – but with the printing press, the road to reformation was paved further.

1478: Establishment of Spanish Inquisition – Spain’s rulers King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who showed great devotion to Catholicism, received the title “Catholic Kings” from the pope, and in 1478 requested that the pope establish the Inquisition in Spain with themselves as Inquisitors. In 1492, all Jews and Muslims were expelled from Spain. The inquisition humiliated, tortured and brought people to the stake, confiscated property and sold the office of “familiar” – (a person who informed on others while enjoying freedom from arrest), all the while becoming a powerful entity. While Protestantism took hold of Europe under persecution, in Spain it fell under the harsh hand of the Inquisition. Protestant books were banned, and even suspicion that a person was Protestant brought in the Inquisitors, resulting in Protestantism never taking hold in Catholic dominant Spain.

1497: Savonarola excommunicated – In the self centered, wealth conscious society of Florence, even the church was influenced – monasteries knew little about the vow of poverty. A pious Dominican monk Savonarola, spoke harshly against it prophesying the downfall of the city. In 1494, when France attacked them, the people overthrew its rulers and appointed Savonarola instead. People changed their lifestyles, giving up their fine clothes and gambling, while bankers and traders returned whatever they had wrongfully taken from others. While crowds flocked to hear Savonarola preach, many became monks themselves. Savonarola’s attack against worldly clergy including then pope Alexander VI (who had fathered several illegitimate children) was ordered to stop preaching – to which he obeyed. After a year in silence, Alexander allowed him to preach again – and Savonarola restarted his attacks against corruption in the church. The pope excommunicated Savonarola, threatening the city interdiction. Finally the people turned against their leader who was handed over to be burned at the city’s great piazza.

1516: Erasmus publishes Greek New Testament – A catholic priest named Erasmus created his own translation of the Bible in Latin and included a Greek text as well into it. It is believed that he included the Greek  text to permit qualified readers to verify the quality of his Latin version. He is recorded saying “But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep.” This Greek version would also help fuel the reformation as it would point out errors in the Latin.

Covers of 3 Publications done by Martin Luther – Left: Dass Jesus Christus ein geborener Jude sei (That Jesus Christ was born a Jew) ; Middle: Von den Jüden und Iren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies) ; Right: Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi (Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ)

1517: Luther posts his Ninety-Five Theses – The new basilica which was being built in Rome needed an enormous amount of wealth – and one of the fundraising techniques was the “sale of indulgences” – where one could get their loved ones out of purgatory for a fee and earn credit against ones own sin. Tetzel, a Dominican monk in charge of indulgences would travel saying “listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseeching you and saying ‘pity us, pity us’. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance”. When Tetzel came to Wittenburg, where Martin Luther, a German priest, was a professor at – he strongly opposed the sale of indulgences and tacked a list of 95 grievances to the church door. In it he said “divine forgiveness certainly could not be bought or sold, when God offers it freely”. This was just the beginning. Luther went out to lead a religious revolution, railing against church corruption and a new understanding on papal and scriptural authority. He had criticized the sale of indulgences and worship of relics, even before tetzel came along – the meeting merely brought the conflict to the surface. In 1520, the pope issued a decree condemning Luther’s views, which Luther burned. In 1523, Luther advised kindness toward the Jews in “That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew”, but only with the aim of converting them to Christianity – when his efforts failed, he wrote “On the Jews and Their Lies” & “Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ”, in which he argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people but “the devil’s people”, and referred to them with violent, vile language. This would give way to further antisemitism and would even be used by the Nazis to perpetrate the holocaust. His views on “justification through grace” have also become a key part of Christian theology.

1518: Ulrich Zwingli comes to Zurich – While the reformation was underway in Germany, it also rose up in Switzerland under Ulrich Zwingli. Influenced by Erasmus, Zwingli immersed himself in the Greek New Testament. When Zwingli became pastor of the main catholic church at Zurich, he announced that he would preach through the gospel of Matthew instead of the prescribed lectionary. In 1522, some of his parishioners defied the church’s rule about eating meat during lent – being supported by Zwingli who preached a sermon on freedom. At a public debate in Zurich, Zwingli’s views prevailed – and over the course of 2 years priests and nuns married, catholic images were removed from the churches and the Catholic mass was replaced with a simple service in which preaching was emphasized. The reformation was underway in Zurich.

1521: Diet of Worms –  A diet, a formal deliberative assembly held at Worms in Germany, called Luther and asked him to retract his published views – to which Luther is recorded as stating “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen”. The assembly forbade anyone from helping Martin Luther. Luther was later excommunicated and his writings banned. He was kidnapped and hidden in Wartburg castle, for his own protection by prince Frederick afterwards.

1525: Tyndale’s New Testament published – Credited as the first English translation of the New Testament done from the Greek, William Tyndale, an Oxford scholar, was inspired to create this work by Martin Luther’s German Translation of the New Testament. With heavy opposition from the church, he would leave England and publish the English New Testament, and later be strangled and burned at the stake.

1525: Anabaptist movement begins – A group of Christians under Zwingli, sought quick changes and a self governing church ruled by the Holy Spirit, instead of the church hierarchy. As this movement objected to infant baptism, the Zurich council wanted them to cease from disputations. The group that wanted the church returned to the state of the Scriptures, baptized one another (receiving the name Anabaptist “rebaptizer”), seeking to separate church and state, where political power would not compel the conscience of the believer. This radical group caused riots, being seen by Protestants and Catholics as wrongheaded, bringing persecution, death by fire and drowning to many Anabaptists. The movement spread nonetheless, attracting some Protestants and birthing the Mennonites and Brethren churches.

1529: Colloquy of Marburg – Phillip the landgrave of Hesse, brought the two great reformers, Zwilgli and Luther together, to the end of strengthening the Reform movement. Meeting at Marburg, the two theologians discussed 15 doctrinal issues, agreeing on 14. While Zwingli saw the Eucharist as a Spiritual reception of Christ’s body and blood, Luther saw it in more concrete terms. They parted ways giving way to a greater split in Protestantism – the Zwinglians and Lutherans.

1534: Act of Supremacy; Henry VIII heads English church – Henry, who had married his sister-in-law, Catherine, after his brother’s death, had no son to follow him on the throne. Attracted by Anne Boleyn, the king sought a divorce from the pope, citing Lev 20:21. The pope who was afraid of angering the holy roman emperor, Charles V, who was Catherine’s nephew, stalled Henry. The impatient English king appointed Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury, who immediately granted the divorce. Henry married Anne, who gave birth to Elizabeth the same year. In 1534 the English Parliament passed an act of supremacy, declaring “the king’s highness to be supreme head of the Church of England” – creating a state church which the pope had no authority over. The Church of England, once broken from the pope, remained separate giving way to Anglicanism.

1536: Calvin publishes first edition of Institutes – Breaking from Catholicism and leaving his homeland, France, Calvin settled in Switzerland as an exile. Pastoring the church at St.Pierre, he brought about reforms, seeking to excommunicate those whose lives did not approach scriptural standards. Geneva became a magnet for exiles from all of Europe, giving Protestantism a unique vigor. Calvinism, a major branch of Protestantism would spread to Scotland, Poland, Holland and America – with teachings such as “unconditional election”, “irresistible grace” and “perseverance of the saints”.

1540: Loyola gains approval for Society of Jesus – With Protestantism on the rise, the catholic church began a counter reformation by attempting to change some of the more offensive abuses to win back protestant converts. Stressing the need for devotion and self denial, the society of Jesus – or Jesuits were started by an injured Spanish soldier name Ignatius of Loyola. An almost military like unquestionable obedience to the pope as well as the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience drove the jesuits, who reached out with an extensive missions program. When catholic strongholds such as Spain and Portugal expanded their territories, the Jesuits went with them to evangelize, reaching all of Europe, Japan, Brazil, Ethiopia and central Africa – as well as many parts of Asia.

1545: Council of Trent begins – The council which met periodically from 1545 to 1563, was put together by pope Paul III, with reformation of the catholic church in mind. Indulgence were abolished, and clergy were exhorted to avoid even the smallest of faults. Doctrinally, the council reaffirmed the Catholic position, standing against Protestant doctrines. They restated that the church alone can adequately interpret scripture and refused the use of the Bible in any other language other than Latin. These reforms further separated the Catholic and Protestant views.

1549: Book of Common Prayer released – At the death of Henry VIII, the archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, moved forward with the English reformation. Images were removed from churches, private confessions to priests were discontinued, and the clergy allowed to marry. But mass was still said in Latin. So Cranmer moved to create a liturgy that was pleasing to Protestants as well as Catholics. The book of common prayer was born.

1555: Peace of Augsburg – A treaty between Charles V and an alliance of Lutheran princes, which was made at the imperial city of Augsburg, – It officially ended the religious struggle between the Lutherans and the Catholics and made the legal division of Christendom permanent within the Holy Roman Empire.

1555: Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer burned at stake – When the son of Henry VIII died, his daughter Mary became queen. Attempting to return England to Catholicism, she earned the name “Bloody Mary” for her harsh reign in which Protestants were persecuted – among them reformers such as Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer who created the book of common prayer.

1559: John Knox makes final return to Scotland – A Scottish clergyman and writer who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation, founded the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland, helping to write the new confession of faith and the ecclesiastical order for the newly created reformed church in Scotland called “the Kirk”.

1563: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs published – A work of Protestant history and martyrology by John Foxe, It includes a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland – becoming highly influential in those countries, and helping shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism there.

1572: St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre – Calvinism that spread to France in 1555, had created the French Protestant Church with more than 400,000 adherents knows as Huguenots. With fighting erupting in 1562, many Huguenots were massacred by the Catholic French at Vassy. Three wars of Religion had been already fought between the two groups. There was hopes of peace in Paris in 1572, as the two warring factions were going to be united by a wedding. Henry of Navarre, a protestant, was marrying Marguerite of Valois, the daughter of Catholic Catherine de Medici. Catherine who planned to assassinate Gaspard de Coligny, a popular French war hero and leader of the Huguenots – failed miserably. With the assassination attempt foiled, Catherine ordered a massacre of the Protestant leaders in Paris. On St. Bartholomew’s day, Coligny was murdered in his room, and mobs were formed to hunt down Huguenots leaders. Huguenots who were prosperous business people were easy to find, and in the name of religious purity – the lower class massacred the middle class citizens, with bodies piled up by the hundreds. The craze which spread to other provinces, with mobs going wild, pushed the death toll to an estimated 100,000. Five more civil wars would be waged between the French Protestants and Catholics in the years that followed.

1598: Edict of Nantes – Issued by Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. In the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity. It would later be revoked by Louis XIV, the grandson of Henry IV, driving an exodus of Protestants, and increasing the hostility of Protestant nations bordering France.

Conclusion
While the church went through a time of conflict, Franciscan and Dominican orders were established, the pope grew 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.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part V – 1200AD – 2000AD