Christian History Made Easy

by Timothy Paul Jones (a summary by Pat Evert)


The Gospels, the apostles, then … what? (AD 64-177)
Emperor Nero – 70% of Rome burns, blamed on Christians, persecution. Paul and Peter martyred, Polycarp and Justin Martyr. Temple destroyed. Christians unaccepted for rejecting all gods but One, unpatriotic, misunderstood for the Lord’s supper, challenged the social order by welcoming lower casts, women and slaves; viewed as a new fringe group. Apologists began. Many were attracted to Christianity for moral guidelines, valued all humanity and relationship with God.

Balancing the past with the present (AD 90-250)
Gnosticism – a secret knowledge movement; physical world is corrupt. To combat this, the church leaders settled on the ‘canon’ of Scripture. The church organized overseers, central meeting places and careful training (rule of faith – the essentials). The need is for balance (Spirit lead vs. legalism, essentials vs. conscience). The leaders lead, but not control.

The church wins … and loses (AD 247-420)
Diocletian hated and cruelly persecuted them. Constantine became emperor and united church and state. Should the unfaithful, be accepted back into the church? Arius’s false teaching and Constantine’s influence brought about the Council of Nicaea, where the canon of Scripture and the church’s creed are decided. Athanasius reluctantly becomes overseer. Many go to the desert to live lives of total dedication. Jerome and Paula translate the Latin Vulgate.

Servant leaders or leaders of servants? (AD 376-664)
Church leaders assume tasks that the roman government used to do and become more powerful and a clergy/laity division begins. AD391 Christianity is declared the official religion of the Roman Empire. Augustine combats legalism. Bishop Gregory is first to attain status and title of ‘pope’. Church comes to an agreement on Christ’s two natures. Benedicts rule.

From multiplication to division (AD 496-1291)
Muhammad begins Islam and the Muslims take control of Jerusalem. There is a controversy over idols, whether to smash or kiss them. Charlemagne kills those who refuse to be baptized as Christians. The church splits in two (800AD): 1) the roman catholic and 2) the eastern orthodox. The pope excommunicates the eastern Christians. The crusaders march against Muslims and even Christians in terrible slaughters. Teaching transubstantiation and the Inquisition begin (court of beliefs).

God never stops working (AD 673-1295)
Cyril translated the Bible into common languages, rather than just the ‘holy languages.’  Many mystic flourished. By 1000AD the church had gotten away from reaching out to the poor and basked in their own wealth. About 1100 some returned to the vows of simplicity and poverty of Benedict, Francis of Assisi was among them. Mendicants, traveling preachers began to meet the needs of a more mobile people. The Waldensians, a Scripture focused group reaching out to the poor, but many were killed by the Crusaders. In late 1200’s there was a turning to more scholarly pursuits. Thomas Aquinas integrated philosophy with theology, his teachings transformed Christianity.

Everything falls apart (AD 1294-1517)
The 100 years war for France’s throne. The bubonic plague kills 24,000,000. Church positions are sold, indulgences as well. Two popes become three for a time. Wycliffe translates the Bible into English and redefines the church. Jan Hus fought for the lay people against authority abuse. Thomas A’ Kempis combines philosophy and theology. This period ends with a calm before the storm.

Wild pigs in a dirty vineyard (AD 1500-1609)
Reform was necessary – Martin Luther, a lawyer, is struck by lightning, becomes a monk plagued with guilt. He finds that righteousness is a gift from God. The selling of indulgences provokes Luther to separate from the Catholic church as a protestant. He is kidnapped to save his life and marries and nails his 95 thesis to the church door In Switzerland. Another lawyer, John Calvin, writes the Institutes of the Christian religion. He, like many, flee the catholic persecution. Zwingli learns that no government should enforce theology. Anabaptists arise, who believe in believers’ baptism (baptized again). Menno Simon (Mennonites) saves the Anabaptists. William Tyndale translates the N.T. into English. Not just the reformers saw the need for change, so many in the catholic church also saw it. Justification was somewhat agreed upon, their great debate was on 1) the pope’s authority and 2) the Lord’s supper.

Change doesn’t always do you good (AD 1510-1767)
Post-reformation Europe was divided among Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Calvinists, and Anabaptists – able to follow their individual conscience. Being a protestant was illegal for many years one day in France 10,000 were slaughtered. Divide over whether man is partly or fully depraved. Predestination – what does it depend on?

1) Man can do nothing good vs. no one naturally seeks God, 2) we are free to choose and trust Christ vs. if someone trusts Christ it is because God previously unconditionally chose him for salvation, 3) Jesus died for everyone vs. Christ’s death atoned only for those who believe, 4) people can reject God’s attempts to save them vs. a regenerated person can neither resist nor reject God’s grace, 5) Scripture is unclear if a Christian can forfeit his salvation vs. every true believer will persevere in faith to the end.

Puritans, in England, seek to purify the church of all practices not required by Scripture. Two ‘separatist’ groups leave the Anglican church, ‘pilgrims’ to the new world and the ‘Baptists’ to the Netherlands. John Bunyan, Christopher Columbus, evangelistic slaughter of the Americas, the slave trade.

Talking about some revolutions (AD 1620-1814)
Even the pilgrims did not want freedom of religion, they wanted their religion to rule the country. Roger Williams and William Penn wanted religious freedom as stated in the 3rd article of the Bill of rights “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Before the reformation, Christians viewed their world thru church traditions. Later Protestants discarded many church traditions, and in its place they stressed human reason – this was known as the ‘Enlightenment.’ From such came the Deists, which do not believe in miracles or mysteries of God (Trinity). He is not a personal redemptive God, but rather the laws of nature. The Moravians of Germany prayed 24hrs for 100 years, from which sprang the ‘great awakening’ in New England. Jonathan Edwards, John & Charles Wesley, George Whitefield brought a great revival. After the war of independence the Anglican church in America became known as the Episcopal church (bishop-guided).

Optimism has its limits (AD 1780-1914)
An era of great advances in industry, transportation, farming, medical discoveries, etc. ; an age of optimism. William Carey, a life of little outward success, yet tremendous ground-breaking for missions. Second and third great awakenings. The restorationists for awhile sought non-denominational unity. Seeking to avoid religious tradition the Mormons began. Many wanted more feeling to fuel their faith. Charles Spurgeon was raised up in a time of social reform – African slavery and the Civil war. Seventh day Adventists begin. Immaculate conception is started by Pope Pius IX. Dwight Moody. Five fundamentals of the fundamentalists: 1) Divinity of Jesus, 2) virgin birth, 3) sacrificial death for sin, 4) Christ’s return and 5) the inerrancy of Scripture.

From modern to post-modern and beyond (AD 1900-1999)
Communism arises to oppress Christians. WWI and WWII came and went. A divide between the liberals and fundamentalists, each goes to an extreme. Evolution vs. creation was a hot topic. A group known as evangelicals split off from fundamentalists; this was the beginning for Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth for Christ and Intervarsity, etc. God raises up Billy Graham and CS Lewis. Pentecostalism brings in another division. The ecumenical movement was to unify the many splintered Christian church, and the world council of churches is founded. Dietrich Bonheoffer, one of the few to stand against Hitler. Under Pope Paul VI the Orthodox and Roman Catholics start to work together, along with many protestant churches. Postmodern thought vs. modern: 1) one logical viewpoint or many possible, 2) words and reason or personal experience, 3) the individual mind or the whole self in community w/ others, 4) progress toward the future or satisfaction here and now.

Final reflections
The Church combats persecution and later false teaching. The Lord is very patient in straightening out our theology, because He wants to fill our hearts with His love. When God changes direction, which traditions do we maintain and which do we cease – we need know the significance of the traditions.
The Church strives so hard to preserve and make the unity of the faith that it does great harm. Stand for the essentials, but leave room for conscience and diversity. The Lord alone can have control on the church. Diversity is needed in the church, and a division from government is also healthy.
The church grew exponentially by 1) relationship evangelism and 2) charitable acts to the outcasts (adopted children).
The Church gets its holiness from the One who indwells it.
Gnostics- Mystical, special knowledge, God could not become flesh (evil)
Arians – Jesus was not God, rather the first and greatest of creation.
Muslims – surrender and devotion to a demanding God