Archive for the 'Church History' Category

Church History (In 4 Minutes)

by Stephen Rodgers

So I stumbled upon this little gem over at the Biblical Christianity blog the other day. It occurred to me that a quick survey through the song would not be a bad use of time. I hope that this proves at least entertaining, but hopefully gives you a brief look at the history of Christianity for the last 2,000 years.

And yes, I’m being somewhat lazy and mostly using Wikipedia and BibleGateway for the links. If something sparks your interest, I’m sure you could do a much deeper study. I’ve also added year markers for each verse of the song…those might be a tad rough. Also, there were a few words that either I couldn’t think of an appropriate link (left blank), or I couldn’t understand the word in question (marked by a ‘?’). If you figure any of them out, let me know!

And by the way…just because something is written on Wikipedia, doesn’t make it unbiased. *winks*

[33AD – 95AD]

Pentecost, Palestine, Barbarians, Paul Gets A Sign
Neglected Widows, Martyred Stephen, Gentile vs. Jew
New Testament, Getting Tribal, Gnostic Gospels, Holy Bible
Jamnia, Revelation, Word Of God Is True

[64AD – 380AD]

Martyrs, Diocletian, Polycarp, Domitian
Church Learns, Nero Burns, Christians Underground
Chi-Rho, Basilica, Vita Evangelica
Nicea, Who Is Jesus, Christians Start To Rebound

[387AD – 735AD]

Saint Patrick, Monestaries, Visigoths Are Pretty Scary
Pope Leo, St. Jerome, Forgetting How To Read
Mohammed Writes The Koran, Convert Or Die To Islam
Hard To Cope, Where’s The Pope, Venerable Bede

[476AD – 802AD]

Dark Ages, Knights And Pages, East And West Both Split In Stages
Monks Skulls, Cathedrals, Charlemagne Starts To Reign
Methodias, Constantinople, Peasants, Clergy, Serfs, And Nobles
Augustine, Irene, Everything Goes Byzantine

[634AD – 1346AD]

Cluny, Bubonic Plague, Vikings, Saracens Invade
William Conquers, Monks Pray, And Jerusalem Gets Sacked
Flying Buttress, Saint Claire, Celibacy, Worship Mary
Knights Templar, Stained Glass, Sultan Saladin Gets Whacked

[1135AD – 1280AD]

Mendicants, Avignon, Albertus Magnus, Genghis Khan
Aquinus, Maimonides, Gentle Francis Of Assisi
Summa De Bono, Faith And Reason, Say “God Bless You” When You’re Sneezing
Just War, Crusades Galore, But Who Are We Fighting For

[1378AD – 1648AD]

Competing Popes, Not Much Hope, Joan of Arc Makes Her Mark
John Wycliff, Thomas A Kempis, Canterbury Tales
Michelangelo, Siena, Leonardo And Vienna
Reformation, Printing Press, Gutenburg Prevails

[1484AD – 1564AD]

John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, Indulgences For The Kingly
Martin Luther Pounds The Door, “Here I Stand, I’ll Do No More

[1510AD – 1789AD]

King James Bible, John Locke, Galileo, JS Bach
Anabaptists, Guy Fawkes, Blaise Pascal, John Knox
Puritans Preach Denial, Salem Witches Go On Trial
Enlightenment and Transcendence, We Declare Our Independence

[1714AD – Present]

Whitefield Makes Us All Awakened, Pentecostals Get Us Shaken
Darwin Teaches Evolution, Marx Preaches Revolution
Jesus Freaks, Immigration, Nuclear Annilation
Overwhelmed By Information, Who Will Save This Generation?

 

Update: Apparently the video originated from here. I’ve updated a couple of the lyrics and links.

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David Brainerd: Long-Term Missionary Who Lived a Short Life

By Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

The life of a missionary is always a challenge for us to look at, especially one who resolves to be devoted to honoring God in all that they do. Lives spent to live solely for Christ and to see His Name proclaimed to all people discomforts us to think hard and reflect on whether we live with that same desire, knowing what we have been taught from the Scriptures on a constant, weekly basis. That becomes the danger of reading biographies about certain believers in history, and yet we’ve all been called to remember the saints from the past (Hebrews 11:1-12:3). David Brainerd is an example of a flawed saint used greatly by God to further His cause for His glory.

David Brainerd was born April 20, 1718 in Haddam, CT and died October 9, 1747 at the age of 29. Born to a CT state legislator, and mother, as the sixth of nine children, he lived to see his father die when he was five and his mother when he was 14. Living with his married sister, Jerusha, Brainerd soon inherited a farm and tried at it for a year, yet couldn’t find himself doing that kind of hard labor for long. He soon returned to prepare for Yale to enter the ministry at the age of 20, later admitting he was not converted at the time. He struggled with the truth that nothing could be done to merit a place at the table of God’s presence. His conversion occurred at the age of 21, he was awakened to see God’s weighty glory that led him to no longer live for his own but all and entirely God’s. This day was July 12, 1739, a couple months before entering Yale. His stay did not last long due to a case of the measles, along with the spiritual immaturity that many of the students, and even teachers, had. His life soon began to consist of a constant spitting up of blood that would be a recurring problem for him throughout the rest of his life.

Upon returning to Yale the next year, things had changed. This was the time of the Great Awakening. George Whitefield, from his visit, had helped awaken students to the seriousness and reality of true religion, wanting to live wholeheartedly for Christ, which was not a helpful environment for the faculty of Yale to be part of, given their lack of seriousness with the Word of God. Not too long after, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon that explained what was a true work of the Spirit of God, in opposition to what wasn’t but was claimed to be. Knowing the staff were wary of the Great Awakening as being a work of God, Edwards argued that it was, knowing there were elements that people were engaging in that would be legitimate grounds to call “excess.” The college trustees then voted that anyone who would say anyone on staff were “hypocrites, carnal or unconverted men,” would have to make public confession and then would be expelled. Brainerd described one of the tutors as having “no more grace than a chair,” which led to him being expelled.

In those times, to be a minister in Connecticut, you had to have graduated from either Harvard, Yale, or a European university. This was a wound that deeply affected Brainerd’s desire for ministry. However, God’s sovereignty was displayed in the licensing of Brainerd to be a missionary under the Commissioners of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge in 1742. He preached for one year in 1743 to the Housatonic Indians at Kaunaumeek, not far from Stockbridge, MA, starting a school for the Indian children there. He then went to Delaware to preach to the Indians in that area, soon becoming ordained into the ministry in 1744. After another year, Brainerd preached through the area of Crossweeksung, NJ, bringing about a congregation of 130 people, later moving to Cranberry a little over a year after he started. He quickly became sick, left Cranberry to recuperate, but was able to visit one last time before his death in the house of Jonathan Edwards in 1747.

All his life, Brainerd suffered from great physical pain, leaving behind a number of entries in his own diary concerning daily struggles to stay joyful in God while coughing up blood throughout his life. He suffered from tuberculosis, as well as depression, stemming from a godly sorrow that knew he was unworthy to even enter into Gospel ministry. He led a life of deep introspection that flowed out of his vulnerable writings that weren’t intended to be published.

His life and ministry has led to a renewed calling for those of similar age to rise up and reawaken to God’s call to disciple the nations for His glory. His painful life should call into question our lazy and slumbered lives droning away at work, school, while untold numbers are not being told the Gospel. His pain helped strengthen him, knowing that through his own weakness, Christ would display His strength in using weak sinners saved by grace to reach many with His beautiful message of a crucified Savior from sin and death. This personally has confronted me to not be too sure of my own plans, but to trust in His for His good purposes. May our hearts be ignited to fight for missions and for His Name to be displayed among people we never thought we had intended to reach.

Francis Schaeffer

Written by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Francis Schaeffer has been known throughout the end of his life and afterwards as an apologist who stood out from the more academic defenders of the faith, such as Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and others. His trilogy of books (The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent) catapulted him to fame within the evangelical world as one who was able to explain Christianity in terms that were understandable to the lay Christian. His home in Switzerland was opened to many who were in the drug culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in the hopes that their questions about the meaning of life could truly be answered by what the Scriptures taught.

Schaeffer, however, considered himself first an evangelist who was saved by grace from the God who was truly there and who expresses True Truth in the Word of God written. Born in 1912, Schaeffer grew up in Pennsylvania, where at the age of 18, he was awakened to see that the Bible, and not philosophy, had the real answers to life’s ultimate questions, confessing faith in Christ and offering up the “empty hands of faith” as he would often say, trusting solely in Him.

Within five years, he met Edith Seville, his future wife, literally in the frontlines of battle for the truth at a church event that had a Unification pastor give his reasoning for why he didn’t believe in the deity of Christ and the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. At different times, Francis and Edith spoke in defense of Christ and the true Gospel, thus bringing together a new friendship that eventually led to a nearly 50 year marriage.

He went to Westminster Theological Seminary and had pastored three different churches before moving to Switzerland to do international missions, starting a children’s ministry, which required both him and Edith to write the material themselves. Ministry seemed to be going well, until three or four years into his new life there that Francis Schaeffer began to have grave spiritual doubts about whether he was a Christian, since many around him were also in the fight for doctrinal purity, but not for a pure life. Zeal for what many of his co-laborers were not had distressed Schaeffer very much, wondering what any of them were actually for. Yet, through his study of the Scriptures, he had a renewed trust in God’s Word to answer the most important questions of life that would lead to his future ministry at L’Abri (French for “shelter”).

The opening of L’Abri brought many young men and women to the home of two evangelists on fire for the God of Scripture, who have been in awe and transformed by this sovereign God who has opened their lives to be a blessing to so many people who have come and gone through this special work (including Jerram Barrs, Os Guiness, Nancy Pearcey and Douglas Groothuis). Many of his talks led to the formation of his infamous trilogy (mentioned above), and also True Spirituality, which is concerned with the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life to be both true and spiritual.

His love for others was both driven by a kindled desire to see God’s Word vindicated in actual daily life and also for a heart warmth to those made in the image of God who must be given the Gospel that they may believe. He had a continual passion for people, in how he would engage with non-believers by being very fervent to listen to their concerns and then lovingly show them the folly of their choices, that Christ would be displayed as beautiful and glorious not just in his patience for them, but also for his love for other believers as well. He was engaged with cultural ideas not to be cultured, but to show he desired to understand where many were coming from that he would, through his own life as a redeemed sinner, as one who hopes to be more like Christ in sacrificially loving others who he might not see as important to him. Francis Schaeffer gave us an example to follow, that love was to be seen as the final apologetic in the life of the Christian, and that in our day of rejection of biblical truth, lives changed and flourishing Spirit-filled people would extend an act of love that would put all other forms of “love” to shame, and that Christ would be made great among those around us, wherever we’re at. Is that our desire today?

The Life of John Calvin

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

The life of Frenchman John Calvin has generated words of thankfulness to God from some but also words of criticism from others. He was born in Noyon, France July 10, 1509 to a family of which his father was an attorney. Sent to the University of Paris at 14 years of age to study medieval theology, he became deeply entrenched in Catholicism in addition to works by Aristotle and Euclid, with studies ranging from Latin, to the arts, to philosophy, developing the skill of disputation. Yet, from his father’s conflict with the Catholic church, he had his son removed from the school to pursue law instead, and received a law degree in 1532. Things changed, however, after the death of his father (1531), which allowed Calvin to study the classics, writing his first book on Seneca, Roman Stoic and advisor to Nero.

Remembering that the Protestant Reformation occurred in 1517 with the nailing of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, Calvin, who around the time began studying Seneca, had known a man named Nicholas Cop. Cop preached a sermon on Matthew 5:2 at the University of Paris, which included Lutheran doctrine, that awoke the authorities. They had Cop and Calvin leave the city and, soon, France altogether, to Basel, Switzerland, bringing about The Institutes of the Christian Religion:
But lo! while I lay hidden at Basel, and known only to few people, many faithful and holy persons were burnt alive in France. . . . It appeared to me, that unless I opposed [the perpetrators] to the utmost of my ability, my silence could not be vindicated from the charge of cowardice and treachery. This was the consideration which induced me to publish my Institutes of the Christian Religion. . . . It was published with no other design than that men might know what was the faith held by those whom I saw basely and wickedly defamed.

Three years later, in 1536, Calvin was able to return to France, preaching in Geneva for two years, then was in Strasbourg from 1538-41, preaching to 500 French refugees and finally returned to Geneva to preach there until his death in 1564 at the age of 54.

This was a life that was dedicated to seeing the Word of God preached expositionally, writing everything with pastoral care to his flock, from commentaries, to tracts, to letters to believers in prison. Calvin “preached on a New Testament book on Sunday mornings and afternoons (although for a period on the Psalms in the afternoon) and on an Old Testament book on weekday mornings” (publisher intro, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians). Although he is known mainly for his work The Institutes, Calvin had an insatiable desire to draw out the meaning of Scripture in a verse-by-verse fashion, preaching 89 sermons in Acts, 174 on Ezekiel, 159 on Job, 200 on Deuteronomy, 353 on Isaiah, 123 on Genesis, and much more throughout his preaching ministry, emphasizing the glory of God as the goal of all of life, including exposition.

The zeal Calvin had to preach the Word of God in his own life was the battle that he fought in his own life to live out sola scriptura, the Scriptures being the sole and infallible rule of faith for the church in opposition to Rome’s unauthorized “infallibility.” The glory of God fueled him to see what was truly at stake when disputing with those who were defenders of Rome.

What can we learn from the life of Calvin? Passion for God’s Word must be fostered in His church. Calvin truly believed the Word of God must be preached, since it is an application of Christ’s words, “My sheep hear My voice” (John 10:27). Are we listening to the preaching of the Word? Do we pray for our pastors to never compromise in preaching the Word? Are we just as passionate to study the Word day in, day out, during the school year and while we’re on “break” as our leaders should be? We may celebrate Calvin’s 500th birthday next year, but we should be celebrating God’s Word every day as the beacon of light that enlightens our path and keeps us faithful to Him and His perfect and authoritative Word.

Augustine

by Kevin Au

Few figures stand taller among even the most prominent men in the halls of church history than Augustine. The man’s influence emerges from a time even when world history threatens to drown it out with the momentous fall of the Roman Empire. His writings and teachings have shaped history to an unimaginable extent. Before Luther, before Zwingli, before Calvin, Augustine’s influence predates and sets a foundation for them all. The impact of the reformers and men after the 5th century all owe something to this man’s testimony and work, as his work has oft shaped the thoughts and works of later theologians.

Augustine lived in the tumultuous time in the dying days of the Roman Empire. Born in Thagaste, North Africa in 354 to a middle income farming family, he was bred to pursue worldly pursuits by cultivating his talents as an orator and teacher. His father was an unbeliever, but his mother exemplified a woman of prayer, with her well-documented persistence in praying for her worldly son.

His mother’s prayers would prove fruitful, but not without much persistence, as Augustine did not come to faith until relatively late and after much inner struggle and turmoil. By his own confession, Augustine was a man inflamed with the pleasures of this world and ignorant of the pleasures in heaven. He took a mistress in his youth and had a son by her at the age of 16. After his childhood he took off for Carthage to study and soon after began teaching. Eventually, his teaching took him to Rome and Milan, where he encountered the philosophy of the Manicheists which taught perversions of true Christian doctrine. Augustine was heavily influenced by these worldly philosophies, but later in his life, he became dissatisfied with them as he found them unfulfilling. He encountered Bishop Ambrose in Milan, and after his re-exposure to true Christianity turned away from the worldly philosophies and began to pursue the truth and stop running away from God. He soon came to conversion in Milan.

Augustine, a new man, stripped of the traces of his old life as he parted ways with his mistress and lost his son, would soon receive his ordination as priest and became the bishop of Hippo, a region in Northern Africa. It was here where he began the work that would define his life. It was during this time that Augustine wrote Confessions. He also wrote The City of God, a work written in response to the sacking of Rome, addressing politics and society from a Christian standpoint. He also completed a host of other major works during this time, contributing much of early Christian thought and doctrine.

Many have posited as to why Augustine is such an influential figure in Church history. Much it owes to his place in history, politically and ecclesiastically. With the exception of the Apostles themselves, his work came much earlier than anyone comparable to his stature in church history, so his influence is immeasurable. He also came at a crucial turning point as the world turned over into the medieval ages, also near the beginning of the established Roman Catholic Church, which ironically hails him as a prominent figure in Catholicism as well. Some point to the humanity and breadth of his appeal as the reason for his influence. The details of Augustine’s coming to faith are well known through his most famous work Confessions, a theological yet personal autobiography of his journey wrestling with truth and philosophy, experience and God.

The genuine humanity that readers can see in his Confessions, theologically and personally tells the story of every believer and their struggles with the truth. The philosophical struggles appeal to the intellectual, the earthly passions appeal to even the least of men. The story of a man running from God is one that we all share.

The greatest reason, theories and propositions aside, lies simply in the fact that he had a voice. He did not keep the thoughts and truths in his brilliant mind to himself. He stood against the heresies of his day, and behind it was a man who could not deny that he had been saved from the pitfall of early desires, transformed into a heavenly minded man, who lived and loved God.

Thomas À Kempis

by Stephanie Shin

“For were the works of God readily understandable by human reason, they would neither be wonderful nor unspeakable.”
-Thomas À Kempis

As I read up on Thomas À Kempis (much of the following thoughts taken from Pages from Church History) one of the forerunners of the mysticism movement and author of the well-known work, The Imitation of Christ, it became a challenge to find a happy medium between many of the ideas espoused by the mystics and a faithfulness to the living Word of God. In the end, a growing appreciation for Thomas À Kempis and his teachings found its way in God’s sovereignty. But let’s start at the beginning.

À Kempis was believed to have lived from 1380-1471. Some of À Kempis’s earlier contemporaries were sizeable figures such as John Wycliffe, who championed the then-heretical teachings on the sole authority of Scripture in the church life, and Jan Hus, Wycliffe’s counterpart in the Czech Republic. While the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th and 15th centuries had grown in size and wealth, the pope struggled to maintain its hold on Britain and Germany. This is the era that prefaced the Reformation and the context that À Kempis lived.

A heavy influence on the writings of Thomas À Kempis developed from the monastic order that he was a part of—the Brethren of the Common Life founded by Gerard Groote. The heart of this monastery was the idea of being a “true disciple,” an imitator of Christ. At the time, the scholastic movement had penetrated Christianity. Many criticized the scholastics for the heavy emphasis placed on intellectual examination and rationale. This movement ignited the reactionary mysticism movement of which À Kempis himself was a proponent. The mysticism movement, as a rejoinder, described the knowledge of God as personal and transcendent; God was not to be found in books but experience. Unfortunately, this often came at the expense of Scripture.

Many of Kempis’s own convictions took shape in his most renowned book, an organized meditation named The Imitation of Christ. His book was split into four sections: Counsels on the Spiritual Life, Counsels on the Inner Life, Counsels on Inward Consolation, and On the Blessed Sacrament. A brief look at the three points in the first section is a good indicator of his ideals that:

    1. We must follow Christ’s way of life if we are to attain true enlightenment and freedom from the blindness of the heart.

    2. There must be humility in learning of the Trinity. Lofty words attain nothing, but a good life is pleasing to the Lord.

    3. There must be a withdrawal from the love of visible things and an affection to things invisible.

À Kempis wrote much of his treatise with the context and practice of monastic life in mind, but he acknowledged that spiritual health does not stem from the monastery in and of itself, but from the transformation of one’s life.

Coming from a fairly sparse knowledge of À Kempis and the mysticism movement, it was interesting to see how God used men like À Kempis and Groote to impact the coming Reformation. They gave voice to the dissatisfaction that was rising against the Roman Catholic Church and the need for moral and reform restructuring was identified.

While À Kempis was unable to bring about any extensive change because his teachings lacked the biblical foundation, a relatively new focus on the “suffering servant” and the idea that the Scripture was to be lived out in real life and not just intellectually known surfaced. While faith and Bible knowledge standing on their own do not depict the full picture of the Christian, it was soon made clear through revolutionaries like Martin Luther that Christ demanded full obedience in both areas. How awesome to know we are enabled because we are controlled by His love!

John Wycliffe

by Jennifer Shin

Even before Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, there was another man who opposed the Roman Catholic Church and challenged its teaching and its authority – John Wycliffe. Wycliffe is considered to be the main precursor of the Reformation and is thus called “The Morning Star of the Reformation.” It was through his own Bible studies that he first began to question the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.

Wycliffe challenged several views that were held by the Catholic Church including transubstantiation – the idea that there is a change of substance from the bread and wine to the actual body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist – and also submitted the view of the priesthood of all true believers. But the foundation of his desire for reform in the Roman Catholic Church laid in the authority of Scripture. He believed in the sole and absolute authority of Scripture in the life of the Church but much of what he saw in the Church was Papal supremacy. The papacy did not adhere to the will of God according to Holy Scripture. Wycliffe stated, “Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every Christian and the standard of faith and of all human perfection.”

Because he believed the Word of God to be the absolute and only authority for the Christian, he also believed that the Bible needed to be made available to all men. At the time, England only possessed Bibles in Latin Vulgate. Church services were conducted in a language the people could not understand. Complete Bibles were only found in monasteries, college halls, the largest abbeys, and in the homes of the elite. Wycliffe thus conducted a translation of the entire Bible into the English vernacular from the Latin Vulgate. Though parts of Scripture were already translated into English prior to his involvement, Wycliffe was the first to oversee the process of translating the entirety of Scripture and to produce the first fully translated English Bible.

Many opposed the idea of the “average man” having a Bible in his hands and attacked Wycliffe and those who shared his vision, stating that those who could read English “did not know enough theology to understand the Bible.” The Church also took action and burned the English Bible wherever they found it.

The Bible was hard to obtain, even after it was translated into English, because of its monetary value. One Bible cost as much as two hogs, which fed an entire family for a year. It’s quite unfortunate to see how the majority of the copies of Scripture today are sitting on our bookshelves, full of truth, yet unable to transform our lives – not because it is powerless, but because we do not care to know what God says. We would rather choose to be swayed by the influences of the world and live under its authority, rather than allow God to govern our lives through His Word.

“Above everything else Wycliffe placed the Word of God, which was to him a beacon and a shining light in a world of gross spiritual darkness.” There is no greater authority than God, Himself. And knowing what this world is like and how it so easily manipulates us and tells us how to live, we ought to be constantly running to His Word for wisdom and protection from its ways.


About

The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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