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Many young believers have no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

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The Papacy, Part 2 (History of Christianity Podcast #182)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #182, titled, “The Papacy, Part 2.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is 1 Peter 2:9-10 which reads: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Jerome of Bethlehem. He said: “As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built! This is the only house where the Paschal Lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the Ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Papacy, Part 2” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Leo died in 461 and was succeeded by Hilarius [HE-LAHR-EE-US], who had been his close associate, and who continued his policies. But under the next pope, Simplicius [SIM-PLIS-EE-US], conditions changed. In 476, Odoacer [OH-DOH-AY-SER] deposed the last Western emperor, and thus began in Italy a long period of political chaos. In theory, Italy was now part of the Eastern Roman Empire. But there were constant tensions between the popes and the Eastern emperors, mostly having to do with the theological controversies to which we shall return shortly. Eventually, this resulted in a schism between East and West that would take several years to heal. This schism was further aggravated by the invasion of Italy by the Ostrogoths. Since they were Arian, tensions between them and the earlier population were unavoidable. By 498, these tensions resulted in the existence of two rival popes, one supported by the Ostrogoths and the other by Constantinople. There were violent riots in the streets of Rome, where the followers of one pope clashed with the followers of the other. At long last, after a series of synods, the conflict was resolved.

The new pope was Hormisdas [HOR-MEES-DAS] (514-523), and under his leadership a series of negotiations finally ended the schism with Constantinople. Meanwhile, the Byzantine Empire was enjoying its brief resurgence under the leadership of Emperor Justinian. It was then that Belisarius [BEL-EH-SAHR-EE-US] invaded Italy and put an end to the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. But this did not bring a favorable change for the church in Italy, for the emperor and his functionaries tried to impose there a situation similar to that which existed in the Eastern empire, where the church was almost completely subject to the state. The next few popes, for as long as Byzantium held sway, were mere puppets of Justinian and of his empress, Theodora. Those who dared follow an independent policy soon felt the consequences of imperial wrath.

As part of this revival of the Byzantine Empire, Justinian rebuilt in Constantinople the cathedral of Saint Sophia, Hagia Sophia–dedicated to Christ as Holy Wisdom. It is said that when he beheld the finished product he boasted: “Solomon, I have outdone thee!” This structure still stands, although now surrounded by minarets built after the Turkish conquest.

Byzantine power over Italy did not last long. Only six years after the last stronghold of the Ostrogoths had been conquered, the Lombards invaded the area. Had they been united, they would soon have conquered all of it. But after their first victories they broke up into several rival groups, and this slowed their advance. After Justinian’s death in 565, Byzantine power began to wane, and Constantinople could no longer maintain a strong army in Italy. Thus, those who had not been conquered by the Lombards, although still technically part of the Eastern empire, were forced to take measures for their defense. In Rome, the popes became responsible for the preservation of the city against the Lombard threat. When Benedict I died in 579, the Lombards were besieging the city. His successor, Pelagius II [PEH-LAY-JEE-US], saved it by buying the Lombards off. Then, since no help was forthcoming from Constantinople, he turned to the Franks, hoping that they would attack the Lombards from the north. Although these initial negotiations did not come to fruition, they pointed to the future, when the Franks would become the main support of the papacy.

The next pope, Gregory, was one of the ablest men ever to occupy that position. We have already met him as the person who sent Augustine and his companions in a mission to England. He was born in Rome around 540, apparently to a family of the old aristocracy. At that time Justinian reigned in Constantinople, and his generals were fighting the Ostrogoths in Italy. Belisarius [BEL-EH-SAHR-EE-US], Justinian’s ablest general, had been recalled to Constantinople, and the war dragged on. The Ostrogoth king, Totila [TOH-TEE-LAH], took the offensive for a short time. In 545, he besieged Rome, which surrendered the next year. At that time, archdeacon Pelagius [PEH-LAY-JEE-US] (later Pope Pelagius II [PEH-LAY-JEE-US]) went out to meet the victorious king and obtained from him a measure of mercy. It is likely that Gregory was at Rome at the time, and witnessed both the sufferings during the siege and Pelagius’s [PEH-LAY-JEE-US] intervention on behalf of the city. In any case, the Rome that Gregory knew was a far cry from the ancient glory of the empire. Shortly after Totila’s [TOH-TEE-LAH] victory, Belisarius [BEL-EH-SAHR-EE-US] and the Byzantines retook the city, only to lose it again. After years of neglect and repeated sieges, the city was in a grave state of chaos and mismanagement. Many of its ancient monuments and buildings had been destroyed in order to provide stones for repairing the walls. The aqueducts and the system of drainage had fallen into disrepair, and disease was rife.

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Papacy.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

The Papacy, Part 1 (History of Christianity #181)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #181, titled, “The Papacy, Part 1.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Matthew 16:17-19 which reads: “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Ephraim the Syrian. He said: “Those who labor for the vain things in life strive to make those who labor for God’s sake stumble, that they might not be confronted with examples that accuse their conscience; but in so doing they only embellish the crowns of conscientious laborers.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Papacy, Part 1” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The second institution which, jointly with monasticism, gave unity and continuity to the Middle Ages was the papacy. The word pope simply means “father,” and in early times was used to refer to any important and respected bishop. Thus, there are documents referring to Pope Cyprian [SIP-RHEE-UHN] of Carthage [KAR-THAJ], or to Pope Athanasius [ATH-AH-NAY-SHEE-US] of Alexandria. In the West the title was eventually reserved for the bishops of Rome, but in the East it continued to be used with more liberality. In any case, what is important is not the origin of the title of pope, but rather how the bishop of Rome came to enjoy the authority that he had in the Middle Ages, and still has in the Roman Catholic Church.

The origins of episcopacy in Rome are not altogether clear. Most scholars agree that Peter did visit Rome, and that there is at least a very high probability that he died there. But the various lists of the early bishops of Rome, mostly dating from late in the second century, do not agree among themselves. While some claim that Clement was Peter’s successor, others name him as the third bishop after the apostle’s death. This has led some scholars to suggest the possibility that in the beginning Rome did not have a single bishop, but rather a “collegiate episcopacy”–a group of bishops who jointly led the church. While such a theory is open to debate, it is clear that during the early centuries the numerical strength of Christianity was in the Greek-speaking East, and that churches such as Antioch and Alexandria were much more important than the one in Rome. Even in the West, the theological leadership of the church was in North Africa, which produced such figures as Tertullian [TUR-TUL-EE-UHN], Cyprian [SIP-RHEE-UHN], and Augustine.

It was the Germanic invasions that brought about the great upsurge in the pope’s authority. In the East, the empire continued existing for another thousand years. But in the West the church became a guardian of what was left of ancient civilization, as well as of order and justice. Thus, the most prestigious bishop in the West, that of Rome, became the focal point for regaining a unity that had been shattered by the invasions.

A prime example of this is Leo “the Great,” who has been called the first “pope” in the modern sense. Later, we shall see his participation in the theological controversies of the time–most notably the controversy on the relationship between divinity and humanity in Christ. In that participation it is clear that Leo’s opinion was not generally accepted simply because he was the bishop of Rome, and that it took a politically propitious moment for his views to prevail. Since Leo intervened in controversies that took place mostly in the East, many Eastern bishops–as well the most Byzantine emperors–saw this as an unwarranted attempt on the part of the bishop of Rome to expand the range of his authority. It was only when more favorable emperors came to power that Leo’s positions were more generally accepted. This in turn resulted in growing prestige for the papacy.

In the West, however, things were different. In 452 Italy was invaded by Attila and his Huns, pagans from Eastern Europe who had first sought to conquer Constantinople, but whom the Byzantine authorities had diverted toward the West–in part by offering them gold. They took and sacked the city of Aquileia [AH-KWIL-EE-AH]. The road to Rome was open to them, for there was no army between them and the ancient capital. The Western emperor was weak both in character and in resources, and the East had given indications that it was unwilling to intervene. It was then that Leo left Rome and marched to meet “the Scourge of God.” What was said in that interview is not known. Legend has it that Attila saw Saints Peter and Paul marching with the pope, and threatening the Hun. Whatever was said, Attila decided not to attack Rome, and turned toward the north, where he died shortly thereafter.

Leo was still Bishop of Rome in 455, when the Vandals sacked the city. At that time, he was unable to stop the invaders. But it was he who led the negotiations with the Vandal leader, Genseric [JEN-SER-IK], and thus avoided the burning of the city.

Needless to say, these episodes–and others like it–gave Leo great authority in the city of Rome. That he was able to do these things was due both to his personal gifts and to the political situation of the time, when the civil authorities proved incapable of performing their duties. But in Leo’s mind there was a deeper reason. He was convinced that Jesus had made Peter and his successors the rock on which the church was built, and that therefore the bishop of Rome, Peter’s direct successor, is the head of the church. Thus, in Leo’s writings one finds all the traditional arguments that would repeatedly be mustered in favor of papal authority.

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Papacy.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

Benedictine Monasticism, Part 2 (History of Christianity Podcast #180)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #180, titled, “Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] Monasticism, Part 2.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Romans 8:5-6 which reads: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Benedict of Nursia [NUR-SEE-AH]. He said: “Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] Monasticism, Part 2” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

An errant monk is to be admonished secretly. If after two such admonitions he does not repent, he is to be reprimanded before the community. The next step is excommunication, which means being barred, not only from communion, but also from the meals in common and from every contact with the other monks. If he is still unrepentant, he is to be whipped. If even this is to no avail, he is to be sorrowfully expelled from the community. Even then, if he repents, he is to be received again. This, up to three times, for after the third expulsion the monastery will be forever closed to him. In short, the Rule is not written for venerable saints, such as the heroes of the desert, but for fallible human beings. This may have been the secret of its success.

The Rule also insists on physical labor, which is to be shared by all. Except in exceptional cases of illness or of unique gifts, all will take turns in every task. For instance, there will be weekly cooks, and in order to show that this work is not to be despised, the change of cooks will take place in one of the services of worship. Also, the ill, the elderly, and the very young will receive special consideration in the assignment of tasks. On the other hand, those who come from wealthy families will receive no special treatment on that account. If it is necessary for some reason to establish an order of priority in the monastery, this will be done according to the length of time that each has been part of the community. Thus, whereas poverty for earlier monasticism was a form of private renunciation, Benedict sought to achieve through it the creation of a new order within the community. A monk’s poverty welds him to the community, in which all are of equal poverty, and on which all must depend for all their needs.

The core of the monastic life as Benedict conceived it was prayer. Periods were assigned each day for private prayer, but most of the devotions took place in the chapel. There the monks were to gather eight times a day, seven during daytime, and once in the middle of the night, for the Psalmist says: “seven times a day I praise thee” and “At midnight I rise to praise thee”.

The first gathering for prayer took place in the early hours of dawn, and was followed by seven others. These hours, kept by most monastic houses during the Middle Ages, were called matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and compline. Most of the time at each of these gatherings was devoted to reciting the Psalms and to readings of other portions of scripture. The Psalms were distributed so that all would be recited in the course of a week. The other readings depended on the time of day, the day of the week, and the liturgical season. As a result, most monks came to know the entire Psalter by heart, as well as other portions of scripture. Since many of the laity who had the necessary leisure followed similar devotional practices, they too acquired great familiarity with various parts of the Bible, as they appeared in their breviaries–books containing the material to be read at various hours. The eight hours of prayer came to be called canonical hours, and their celebration the Divine Office.

Although Benedict himself had little to say about study, soon this was one of the main occupations of Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] monks. In order to celebrate the Divine Office, books were needed. Monks became adept at copying both the Bible and other books, and thus preserved them for subsequent generations. Their houses also became teaching centers, particularly for the many children who were placed under their care in order to be trained as monks. And many also served as hospitals and pharmacies, or as hostels where a weary traveler could find shelter.

Eventually, monasteries also had a profound economic impact, for many were established on marginal lands that were brought into production by the labor of the monks. Thus, countless acres were added to the agricultural land of Europe. Furthermore, in a society where the wealthy considered manual labor demeaning, the monasteries showed that the highest intellectual and spiritual achievements could be coupled with hard physical labor.

Although the monastic movement had many followers in Western Europe before Benedict’s time, it was Benedict’s Rule that eventually became widespread. In 589, the monastery that Benedict had founded at Monte Cassino was looted and burned by the Lombards. Most of the monks fled to Rome, taking their Rule with them. It was there that Gregory, who would later become pope, came to know them. Soon their Rule was followed by many in the city of Rome. Augustine, the missionary to England, took the Rule with him to the British Isles. With the support of the papacy, the Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] Rule spread throughout the Western church. The many monasteries that followed it, although not organized into a formal “order,” were thus united by common practices and ideals.

Next time, we will begin looking at “The Papacy.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

Benedictine Monasticism, Part 1 (History of Christianity #179)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #179, titled, “Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] Monasticism, Part 1.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is 1 Timothy 6:6-7 which reads: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Augustine. He said: “Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] Monasticism, Part 1” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

We have already seen that when the church was joined to the empire, and thus became the church of the powerful, there were many who found in monasticism a way to live out the total commitment that had been required in earlier times. Although this movement was particularly strong in Egypt and other portions of the Eastern empire, it also found followers in the West. This Western monasticism, however, tended to differ from its Eastern counterpart on three points. First, Western monasticism tended to be more practical. It did not punish the body for the sole purpose of renunciation, but also to train it, as well as the soul, for a mission in the world. Columba and Augustine of Canterbury are examples of this practical bent of Western monasticism. Secondly, Western monasticism did not place the premium on solitude that was typical in the East. From the beginning, Western monasticism sought ways to organize life in community. Finally, Western monasticism did not live in the constant tension with the hierarchy of the church that was typical of Eastern monasticism. Except in times of extreme corruption of the heirarchy, monasticism in the West has been the right arm of popes, bishops, and other ecclesiastical leaders.

The main figure of Western monasticism in its formative years–in many ways, its founder–was Benedict, who was born in the small Italian town of Nursia [NOOR-SEE-AH] around 480 CE. Thus, he grew up under the rule of the Ostrogoths. Since his family belonged to the old Roman aristocracy, he was well aware of the tensions between orthodox and Arian, and the persecutions that the former suffered. When he was about twenty years old, he resolved to become a hermit, and went off to live in a cave. Then followed a period of extreme asceticism, as he sought to overcome the temptations of the flesh. Eventually his fame grew and, as had happened earlier in Egypt with other admired monks, a group of disciples gathered around him. When the place proved unsuitable for his purposes, Benedict moved the small community to Monte Cassino [MON-TAY CASS-EE-NOH], a place so remote that there still was a sacred grove, and the local inhabitants continued celebrating ancient pagan worship. Benedict and his followers cut the grove, overturned the pagan altar, and built a monastic foundation in that very place. Shortly thereafter his sister Scholastica [SKO-LAS-TIH-KAH] settled nearby and founded a similar community for women. Eventually, Benedict’s fame was such that the Ostrogothic king went to visit him. But the monk had nothing but harsh words and dire prophecies for the man whom he considered a tyrant.

Benedict’s greatest significance, however, was in the Rule that he gave to his community. Although fairly brief, this document would determine the shape of monasticism for centuries. Rather than extreme asceticism, what the Rule seeks is a wise ordering of the monastic life, with strict discipline, but without undue harshness. Thus, while many of the monks of the desert lived on bread, salt, and water, Benedict prescribed that his monks would have two meals a day, each with two cooked dishes, and at times with fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, each monk was to receive a moderate amount of wine every day. And, in addition to his bed, each monk should have a cover and a pillow. All this was to be done only in times of abundance, for in times of scarcity monks should be content with whatever was available.

There are, however, two elements of the monastic life that are crucial for Benedict. These are stability and obedience. The first means that monks are not free to go from one monastery to another as they please. Each monk must remain for the rest of his life in the monastery that he has initially joined, unless ordered to go to another place. The commitment to stability on the part of Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] monks proved one of the sources of the institution’s great relevance in a time of chaos.

Secondly, the Rule insists on obedience. First of all, this means obedience to the Rule itself. But the abbot is also to be obeyed “without delay.” This means not only instant obedience, but also that an effort is to be made to make that obedience willing. If what is commanded is impossible, the monk is to explain to the abbot why it is so. If, after such explanation, the superior insists on the command, it is to be obeyed as well as possible. The abbot, however, must not be a tyrant, but is himself subject to God and to the Rule. The word “abbot” means “father,” and as such should the abbot behave.

Next time, we will continue looking at “Benedictine [BEH-NUH-DIK-TEEN] Monasticism.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 5 (History of Christianity #178)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #178, titled, “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 5.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is 2 Corinthians 5:20 which reads: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Ramon Llull [LUHL]. He said: “Death has no terrors for a sincere servant of Christ who is laboring to bring souls to a knowledge of the truth.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 5” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Soon, however, there were conflicts between those who followed this form of Christianity, and those who belonged to the Scotch-Irish tradition. In Northumbria [NORTH-UM-BREE-AH], we are told that this conflict became serious, for the king followed Scotch-Irish tradition, and the queen held to the Roman one. Since the date for Easter differed, one of them was fasting while the other was feasting. In order to solve the difficulties, a synod was held at Whitby in 663. The Scotch-Irish stood fast on the traditions they said they had received from Columba. The Roman missionaries and their partisans retorted that St. Peter’s tradition was superior to Columba’s, for the apostle had received the keys to the Kingdom. On hearing this, we are told, the king asked those who defended the Scotch-Irish position:

“Is it true what your opponents say, that St. Peter has the keys to the Kingdom?”

“Certainly,” they answered.

“Then there is no need for further debate. I shall obey Peter. Otherwise, when I arrive at heaven he might close the doors on me and keep me out.”

As a result, the Synod of Whitby decided in favor of the European tradition, and against the Scotch-Irish. Similar decisions were made throughout the British Isles. But this was not due simply to the naïveté of rulers, as the incident at Whitby would seem to imply. It was really the almost inevitable result of the pressure and prestige of the rest of Western Christendom, seeking uniformity throughout the church.

In Italy, the Germanic invasions brought a chaotic situation. Although in theory there were emperors in Rome until 476, these in truth were no more than puppets of various Germanic generals. Finally, in 476, Odoacer [OH-DOH-AY-CER], leader of the Germanic Heruli [HER-UH-LY], deposed the last emperor, Romulus Augustulus, and wrote to Zeno [ZEE-NO], the emperor at Constantinople, telling him that now the empire was reunited. At first Zeno [ZEE-NO] was flattered by this, and he even gave Odoacer [OH-DOH-AY-CER] the title of “patrician.” But soon there were conflicts, and the emperor decided to rid himself of the Heruli by inviting the Eastern Germanic Ostrogoths to invade Italy. This was done, and for a short while Italy was under the rule of the Ostrogoths.

Since the Ostrogoth invaders were Arian, the older population of Italy, which followed the Nicene or Catholic faith, looked to Constantinople for support. This in turn made the Ostrogoth rulers suspect that their subjects plotted treason. For this reason, the orthodox were often persecuted, although usually not on religious grounds, but rather on charges of conspiracy. It was thus that Boethius [BO-EE-THEE-US], the most learned man of the time, was put in jail by King Theodric [THEE-OH-DRIK]. While in prison he wrote his most famous work, On the Consolation of Philosophy, which debates predestination and free will, as well as why evil men prosper while good men are ruined. In 524 he was executed, jointly with his father-in-law Symmachus [SEE-MAH-KUHS]. Two years later, Pope John died in prison. Since then, Boethius [BO-EE-THEE-US], Symmachus [SEE-MAH-KUHS], and John were considered martyrs of the Roman Church, and the tension between the ancient population and the Ostrogoths grew. Finally, when the Byzantine Empire, under Justinian, had a short period of renewed grandeur, Justinian’s general Belisarius [BEL-EH-SAHR-EE-US] invaded Italy and, after twenty years of military campaign, he and others put an end to the kingdom of the Ostrogoths.

But in 568 the Lombards invaded Italy from the north. As Constantinople began losing some of the power it had gained under Justinian, there was the danger that the Lombards would overrun the peninsula. Thus, by the middle of the eighth century, the popes, aware that they could expect little help from Constantinople, began to look to the north for help. Thus developed the alliance between the papacy and the Frankish kingdom that would eventually lead to the crowning of Charlemagne as emperor of the West.

In summary, from the fifth to the eighth century Western Europe was swept by a series of invasions that brought chaos to the land, and destroyed a great deal of the learning of the antiquity. The invaders brought with them two religious challenges that until then seemed to be matters of the past: paganism and Arianism. Eventually, both pagans and Arians were converted to the faith of those whom they conquered. This was the Nicene faith, also called “orthodox” or “catholic.” In the process of that conversion, and also in an effort to preserve the wisdom of ancient times, two institutions played a central role, and thus were strengthened. These two institutions, to which we now turn, were monasticism and the papacy.

Next time, we will begin looking at “Benedictine Monasticism.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 4 (History of Christianity Podcast #177)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #177, titled, “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 4.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Matthew 9:37-38 which reads: “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Matthew Henry. He said: “It is our duty not to not only hold fast, but to hold forth the Word of life; not only to hold fast for our own benefit, but to hold it forth for the benefit of others, to hold it forth as the candlestick holds forth the candle, which makes it appear to advantage all around, or as the luminaries of the heavens, which shed their influences far and wide.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 4” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

At the same time as some of the various Germanic invasions were taking place, the Irish church was flourishing. Since it retained much of its earlier faith and culture, Ireland soon began sending missionaries to other countries, most notably to Scotland. The most famous of these missionaries was Columba, who settled on the small island of Iona with twelve companions, probably in 563 CE. The monastery that they founded there became a center of missions to Scotland, where there soon were several other houses patterned after the Iona community. Eventually, these missions moved south, to territories held by Angles and Saxons.

An important and lasting consequence of the influence of Irish Christianity on the rest of Europe was the spread of the practice of private or auricular confession to a priest, which had originally developed in Ireland, and was often accompanied by manuals for confessors. It is also interesting to note that the popular hymn “Be Thou My Vision” is a translation of a Celtic prayer or lorica [LAW-RUH-KUH] to thwart the evil influence of the Druids–Rob tu mo bhoile [BHAY-LAY].

For reasons that are not altogether clear, there were a number of differences between this Scotch-Irish Christianity and that which had evolved in the former territories of the Roman Empire. Instead of being ruled by bishops, the Scotch-Irish church was under the leadership of the heads of monastic communities. They also differed on the manner in which a number of rites should be performed, and on the date of Easter. A sign of resistance on the part of the Scotch-Irish monks was to wear a different tonsure, shaving the front instead of the crown of their head–as did other monks. Eventually, this practice was outlawed.

The other form of Christianity–the one reflecting and following the customs of the rest of Europe–had always been present in Great Britain among those who kept the traditions of Roman times, but it gained momentum when Christians on the continent became interested in Great Britain. A biographer of Gregory the Great–to whom we shall return later on in this chapter–records an incident in which young Gregory, who was then living as a monk in Rome, saw some blond young men who were to be sold as slaves.

“What is the nationality of these lads?” Gregory asked.

“They are Angles,” he was told.

“Angels they are in truth, for their faces look like such. Where is their country?”

“In Deiri [DEH-RIH].”

“De ira [“from wrath”] they are indeed, for they have been called from wrath to God’s mercy. Who is their king?”

“Aella [AA-EH-LLAA].”

“Alleluia! In that land must the name of God be praised.”

This dialogue possibly never took place. But it is certain that Gregory was interested in the land of Angles, and he may have considered going there as a missionary. He became pope in 590, and nine years later sent a mission to the Angles under the leadership of Augustine, a monk from the same monastery to which Gregory had belonged. When they realized the difficulties that lay ahead, Augustine and his companions considered giving up the enterprise. But Gregory would hear nothing of it, and they were forced to continue. Finally they arrived at the kingdom of Kent, whose king, Ethelbert [ETH-EL-BERT], was married to a Christian. At first they did not have much success. But eventually Ethelbert [ETH-EL-BERT] himself was converted, and increasing numbers of his subjects followed suit. Augustine them became the first archbishop of Canterbury (the capital of Kent). One by one, the various kingdoms became Christian, and Canterbury became the ecclesiastical capital for all of England.

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 3 (History of Christianity #176)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #176, titled, “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 3.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Matthew 28:19 which reads: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Clement of Rome. He said: “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 3” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

During most of the fifth century, Gaul was divided between two invading groups: the Burgundians, who were Arians, and the Franks, who were still pagans. The Burgundians, however, did not persecute the Catholics, as did the Vandals in North Africa. On the contrary, they imitated their customs, and soon many Burgundians had accepted the Nicene faith of their Catholic subjects. In 516, King Sigismund [SIH-GIHS-MUND] was converted to orthodox trinitarian doctrine, and soon the rest of the kingdom followed suit.

The Franks (whose country came to be known as “France”) were at first an unruly alliance of independent tribes, until a measure of unity was brought by the Merovingian [MEH-RUH-VIN-JEE-UHN] dynasty named after its founder, Meroveus [MEH-RUH-VEE-UHS]. Clovis, Meroveus’s [MEH-RUH-VEE-UHS’s] grandson and the greatest of the Merovingian [MEH-RUH-VIN-JEE-UHN] line, was married to a Christian Burgundian princess, and on the eve of a battle promised that he would be converted if his wife’s God gave him victory. As a result, on Christmas Day, 496 ce, he was baptized, along with a number of his nobles. Shortly thereafter, most of the Franks were also baptized.

In 534, the Burgundians were conquered by the Franks, and thus the whole region was united. The later Merovingians [MEH-RUH-VIN-JEE-UHNS], however, were weak kings, and by the seventh century the actual government was in the hands of “chamberlains” who in reality were prime ministers. One of these, Charles Martel (that is, “the Hammer”) led the Frankish troops against the Muslims, who had taken Spain, crossed the Pyrenees [PIH-RUH-NEEZ], and threatened the very heart of Europe. He defeated them at the battle of Tours [TOO-WAA] (or Poitiers [PWAA-TEE-AY]) in 732. By then he was virtual king, but did not claim that title. It was his son, Pepin the Short, who decided that the time had come to rid himself of the useless King Childeric III [CHIL-DER-ICK]—known as “the Stupid.” With the consent of Pope Zacharias, he forced Childeric [CHIL-DER-ICK] to abdicate and become a monk. He was then anointed king by Bishop Boniface [BON-IH-FAYS], who was acting under papal instructions. This was of paramount importance for the subsequent history of Christianity, for Pepin’s son, Charlemagne, would be the greatest ruler of the early Middle Ages, one who sought to reform the church, and who was crowned emperor by the pope.

Throughout this process, the role of the church was often compromised. Under powerful kings such as Clovis, ecclesiastical leaders seemed to be content to support and obey the ruler. Soon it became customary for kings to decide who should occupy a vacant bishopric. This was understandable, since extensive holdings of land went with the office of bishop, and therefore a bishop was also a great lord. Shortly before anointing Pepin, Boniface [BON-IH-FAYS] complained to the pope that the Frankish church was practically in the hands of lay lords, that many of the bishops acted as lords rather than as pastors, and that the notion of a council of bishops gathered to bring order and renewal to the life of the church was unheard of in the Frankish kingdom. Such conditions would continue until the time of Charlemagne.

Great Britain had never been entirely under Roman control. Emperor Hadrian [HAY-DREE-UHN] had built a wall separating the southern portion of the island, which was part of the Roman Empire, from the north, where the Picts [PIKTS] and Scots retained their independence. When disaster threatened the Roman possessions on the continent, the legions were withdrawn from Great Britain, and many of the inhabitants left with them. Those who remained were soon conquered by the Angles and the Saxons, who eventually founded the seven kingdoms of Kent, Essex, Sussex, East Anglia [AN-GLEE-UH], Wessex, Northumbria [NAW-THUM-BREE-UH], and Mercia [MUR-SEE-UH]. These invaders were pagans, although there always remained a part of the earlier population that retained the Christian faith of Roman times.

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 2 (History of Christianity Podcast #175)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #175, titled, “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 2.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Matthew 24:14 which reads: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Origen. He said: “What good does it do me if Christ was born in Bethlehem once if He is not born again in my heart through faith?”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 2” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The Visigoths–another Germanic group and one of two main branches of the Goths mentioned above–defeated the Romans at the battle of Adrianople [AY-DRI-AN-O-PUHL] in 378, then swept through the Balkans, and took Rome in 410. By 415 they were in Spain, and they ruled that country until they were overthrown by the Muslims early in the eighth century. The political history of their kingdom was chaotic. Only fifteen of their thirty-four kings died of natural causes or in the field of battle. The rest were either murdered or deposed. They too were Arian [EH-REE-UHN], but they did not persecute the orthodox in their territories to the extent that the Vandals did in theirs. It soon became evident that the orthodox descendants of the conquered inhabitants were the guardians of ancient culture, and that their participation was necessary in order to provide the kingdom with a measure of stability. This led to the conversion of the Visigothic King Recared [RIK-AH-RED] (586-601) to Nicene Orthodoxy, which he solemnly embraced at a great assembly in Toledo [TOH-LAID-OH], in 589 CE. After the king, the vast majority of the nobles became Catholic, and Arianism [EH-REE-UHN-ISM] soon disappeared.

The outstanding Christian leader of the entire history of the Visigothic kingdom was Isidore [EE-ZEE-DAWR] of Seville [SE-VEE-YA]. He was a scholar who sought to preserve as much as possible of ancient culture. His book Etymologies is a veritable encyclopedia that shows the state of knowledge at his time, not only in religious matters, but also in astronomy, medicine, agriculture, and practically every other field of knowledge. Although one of the best, it is typical of the writings of the time, for all Isidore [EE-ZEE-DAWR] could do was to collect and classify the wisdom of the past, with very little by way of original thought. Yet, it was through the works of scholars such as Isidore that the Middle Ages learned of the glories and the wisdom of antiquity.

After the conversion of Recared [RIK-AH-RED], the church played the role of legislator for the Visigothic kingdom. In this it provided a measure of order, although in reading the decrees of its councils one cannot but cringe at the injustice and the inequalities that reigned. For instance, a council gathered at Toledo [TOH-LAID-OH] in 633 decreed that priests could only marry with their bishops’ permission, and that if any disobeyed, the priest was to be condemned to “do penance for some time,” while his wife was to be taken away and sold by the bishop.

The legislation regarding Jews was similar. The same council–whose president was Isidore of Seville [SE-VEE-YA], the most enlightened man of his time–decreed that Jews should not be forced to convert to Christianity, but that those who had been forcibly converted earlier would not be allowed to return to the faith of their ancestors, for this would be blasphemy. Furthermore, such converts were forbidden any dealings with Jews who retained their ancient faith, even if they were their closest relatives. And if any of them were found to be observing some of their traditional practices, particularly “the abominable circumcisions,” their children were to be taken away from them. Furthermore, any Jew who was found to be married to a Christian woman had to choose between conversion and leaving his wife and children. If the case was reversed, and the wife was Jewish and refused conversion, the marriage was void, and she had to leave the children with the father.

Even after the conversion of Recared [RIK-AH-RED], and in spite of the efforts of the church, the Visigothic kingdom continued to be politically unstable and plagued with violence and arbitrariness. King Recesvinth [RE-SES-VINTH] (649-672), for instance, killed seven hundred of his enemies, and distributed their wives and children among his friends. Finally, under King Roderick [ROD-ER-ICK] (710-711), the Muslims invaded Spain and put an end to Visigothic rule. By then, however, Christianity had become so rooted in the country, that it became the rallying point in the long struggle to re-conquer the peninsula from the Muslim Moors.

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

Medieval Christianity: The New Order: The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 1 (History of Christianity #174)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #174, titled, “Medieval Christianity: The New Order: The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 1.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is 1 Corinthians 1:10 which reads: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Paulus Orosius [OR-OH-SHE-US]. He said: “If only to this end have the barbarians been sent within Roman borders, . . . that the church of Christ might be filled with Huns and Suevi [SWEH-VEE], with Vandals and Burgundians [BUR-GUN-DEE-UHNS], with diverse and innumerable peoples of believers, then let God’s mercy be praised . . . even if this has taken place through our own destruction.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Medieval Christianity: The New Order: The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 1” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire created a number of independent kingdoms, each of which was of great significance for the subsequent history of the church in its territory. It also gave new functions and power to two institutions that had begun to develop earlier: monasticism and the papacy. Finally, new invasions, this time from the southeast, posed new challenges for Christianity. Each of these developments merits separate consideration.

Although the “barbarians” appeared to the Romans as looters with their minds set on destruction, most of them really aspired to settle within the borders of the Roman Empire, and there to enjoy some of the benefits of a civilization that until then they had only known from afar. Thus, after a period of wandering, each of the major invading bodies settled in a portion of the empire—some because that was the territory they fancied, and others simply because they had been pushed into that land by other invaders.

It is not necessary for our purposes here to follow the wanderings and eventual settling down of each Germanic group. However, in order to give an idea of such wanderings, and of the Germanic impact on various parts of the former Roman Empire, it may be well to consider some of the larger and most influential groups.

The Vandals, who crossed the Rhine in 407, wandered across France and Spain, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar [JI-BRAL-TAR] in 429, and took Carthage [CAR-THAJ] in 439. By then they were virtual masters of all the northern coast of Africa from the Straits to the borders of Egypt. They then took to the sea and occupied Sicily [SIS-IH-LEE], Corsica [KORS-IH-KAH], and Sardinia [SAR-DIN-EE-AH]. In 455, they sacked the city of Rome, and the destruction they wrought was even greater than that of the Goths forty-five years earlier. Their rule in North Africa was disastrous for the church. They were Arians [EH-REE-UHNS]—that is, they rejected the essential and eternal divinity of Jesus—and under their rule repeated persecutions broke out against both Catholics and Donatists [DAA-NUH-TUHSTS]—who were still debating the issues discussed in chapter 16.

Finally, after almost a century of Vandal rule, the area was conquered by General Belisarius [BEL-IH-SAR-EE-US], of the Byzantine [BIZ-UHN-TEEN] Empire. That empire, with its capital in Constantinople, was enjoying a brief renaissance under the leadership of Emperor Justinian [JUS-TIN-EE-UHN], whose dream was to restore the ancient glories of the Roman Empire. The Eastern invaders from Constantinople, whom North Africans called “Greeks,” brought in still another form of Christianity which, although agreeing in doctrine with that of the Western Catholics, showed marked differences in terms of culture and daily practices. The net result was that, when North Africa was conquered by the Muslims late in the seventh century, they found Christianity badly divided, and it eventually disappeared.

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.

The End of an Era (History of Christianity #173)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #173, titled, “The End of an Era.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Romans 12:4-5 which reads: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Jerome. He said: “The world goes to ruin. Yes! But in spite of it, and to our shame, our sins shall live and even prosper. The great city, the capital of the Roman Empire, has been devoured by a great fire, and all over the earth Romans wander in exile. Churches which once were revered are now but dust and ashes.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The End of an Era” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

When Augustine died, the Vandals were laying siege to the city of Hippo. Shortly thereafter, they were masters of the northern coast of Africa, except Egypt. A few years earlier, in 410 CE, Rome had been taken and sacked by Alaric [AHL-ARE-IC] and his Goths. Even earlier, at the battle of Adrianople [AY-DRI-AN-O-PUHL] in 378, an emperor had been defeated and killed by the Goths, whose troops had reached the very walls of Constantinople before turning to the West, where the empire was more vulnerable. The ancient empire, or rather its Western half, was crumbling. For centuries, Roman legions had been able to hold the Germanic people behind their borders at the Rhine and the Danube [DAN-YUBE]. In Great Britain, a wall separated the Romanized area from that which was still in control of the barbarians. But now the floodgates were open. In a series of seemingly endless waves, sometimes invited by Roman officials who sought their military support, Germanic hordes crossed the frontiers of the empire, sacked towns and cities, and finally settled in areas that had been part of the Roman Empire. There they founded their own kingdoms, many of them supposedly subject to the Roman Empire–which theoretically continued to exist until the deposition of the last emperor in 476—but in truth independent. Their impact was such that their memory is still present in the names of many of the regions in Europe where each group settled: Germany, named after the Germanic invaders, France, England, Lombardy (named after the Franks, Angles, and Lombards) and many others. The Western Roman Empire had come to an end, even though most of its conquerors would eventually speak languages derived from the Latin of the empire, and even though various European leaders would claim to be the true successors of the ancient caesars for another fifteen centuries.

The imperial church, which Constantine had inaugurated, continued existing for another thousand years in the Byzantine [BIZ-UHN-TEEN] Empire. Not so in the West, for it would be a long time before Western Europe could once again experience the political unity and relative peace that it had known under Roman rule. It would also take centuries to rebuild much that had been destroyed, not only in terms of roads, buildings, and aqueducts, but also in terms of literature, art, and knowledge of the physical world. In all of these fields, it was the church that provided continuity with the past. It became the guardian of civilization and of order. In many ways, the church filled the vacuum left by the demise of the empire. Centuries later, when the empire was resurrected in the West, this was accomplished through the action of the church, and it was the pope who crowned its emperor.

Meanwhile, there were new challenges to be met. Many of the invaders were pagan, and therefore the conquered felt the need to teach their faith to their victors. Slowly, through the unrecorded witness of thousands of Christians, the invaders accepted the Christian faith, and eventually from their stock came new generations of leaders of the church.

Furthermore, since many of the invaders had previously been converted to Arian [EH-REE-UHN] Christianity, the issue of Arianism [EH-REE-UHN-ISM], which had been considered virtually dead for decades, once again came to the foreground in the West—where Arianism [EH-REE-UHN-ISM] had never been a real issue. Eventually, yielding to the influence of those whom they had conquered, all of these Arian [EH-REE-UHN] people would come to accept the Nicene faith. But this was not done without a great deal of struggle and suffering.

Out of all of this, a new civilization would arise, one which was heir to classical Greco-Roman antiquity as well as to Christianity and to Germanic traditions. This process took the thousand years known as the Middle Ages, to which we must now turn.

Next time, we will begin looking at “Medieval Christianity: The New Order: The Germanic Kingdoms.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.