Note: This study uses many quotes from Google. Some will provide links to the Google search engine, but others will not be due to the length of the web address. You can always find the web address by pasting the quote (without the quote marks) into the Google search box and searching. This will allow you to learn more about the subject. Remember that articles change often on the internet, and some of the quotes may not match exactly.
Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire by 324 AD, thus ending the long list of brutal dictators who had declared themselves to be Divine and had brutally persecuted the Christians for many years. Constantine converted to Christianity and was baptized, thus soon bringing about the marriage of State and Church.
Constantine built a new imperial residence in the city of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople after himself. There, he established a new capital for the Roman Empire. “It subsequently became the capital of the empire for more than a thousand years, the later Eastern Roman Empire being referred to as the Byzantine Empire by modern historians” (Google). He placed Sylvester I, the bishop of Rome, in charge of the Western bloc of churches, which became “The Roman Catholic Church” – all local fellowships in Western Europe. The remaining churches of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa became the “Eastern Orthodox Church” – later called “The Orthodox Church.”
Constantine allowed the West and East people to practice whatever religion they chose. However, “in 380 CE, the emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Christianity, specifically Nicene Christianity, the Roman Empire’s official religion. Most other Christian sects were deemed heretical, lost their legal status, and had their properties confiscated by the Roman state.” (Google).
We will now focus on the history of the “Roman Catholic Church” and later discuss the “Orthodox Church” in another section.
The Bishop of Rome’s title was later changed to the “Pope.” He would eventually become the most powerful man in Western Europe. His office would assume authority that only God has, declaring who was saved and who was not, what is sin and what is not, and how to be forgiven for sins.
The doctrine of man’s priesthood was forgotten, and salvation by grace alone was also ignored. The future structured Church may have abolished the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer, but God did not. Over the next 1700 years, many God-fearing men and women dedicated their lives and lived in poverty as Monks, Nuns, and Missionaries spreading the Gospel and serving those in need. Many others probably had a close personal relationship with Jesus as they privately prayed and mediated – laity and clergy. They are all part of God’s remnant and have lived spirit-filled lives as God has individually directed them.
The Church declared that grace and baptism would obtain salvation, and keeping the holy sacraments and works would keep you saved. The church defined seven sacraments as the years went by: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), penance, extreme unction (last rites), ordination, and matrimony. Each sacrament had an implicit number of Grace Points associated with them, and an implicit number of Grace Points were required for a person to get to heaven. The Church did not consider the work completed on the cross to provide enough grace to enter heaven if we sin after baptism.
The churches had long ago abandoned the doctrine of salvation by “grace through faith alone” or “Sola Gratia.” They turned to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper (Eucharist) as essential for salvation. “With the coming of Constantine, sacramentalism shifted into high gear” (Google).
From then on, the church would be used for political purposes, and the sacraments would be how the church controlled the lives of those who lived in the Roman Empire. Salvation was no longer considered a personal relationship with God but a proper relationship with the church.
As the years went by, the church defined seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist (Lord’s Supper), penance, extreme unction (last rites), ordination, and matrimony. Baptism washed away all past sins, but keeping the other sacraments and obedience to the church was required to forgive sins committed after baptism. Each sacrament had Grace Points associated with it, and an implicit number of Grace Points were necessary for a person to get into heaven.
The Catholic Church would later look at sin in two categories. Original sin and sins committed before baptism are washed away with baptism. Sins committed after baptism or either major or venial. There would be different penitence to be paid for each. By 300 AD, the churches were praying for the dead and making signs of the cross. The veneration of Mary also begins about 300 AD by both the Western bloc of Churches and the Eastern bloc of Churches. “In the Catholic Church, the veneration of Mary, mother of Jesus, encompasses various Marian devotions, including prayer, pious acts, visual arts, poetry, and music devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Popes have encouraged it while taking steps to reform some manifestations.” (Source: Wikipedia). Over the years, many other practices would be introduced into the Roman Catholic Church.
The Doctrine of Sin and Salvation
The open summary is about the evolution of the Roman Catholic Church doctrines. As the years went by, they changed as they evolved – some believe that some doctrines evolved into heresies.
The early Catholic Church began with doctrines from the early churches and made changes as they tried to understand. Political decisions also influenced them.
We will discuss the church’s position on sin. The doctrine of salvation is to free us from the penalty of sin and allow us to go to heaven to be with God.
The Catholics believe that we are saved by grace. God keeps a record of a person’s grace, and Catholics believe you must have a certain amount of grace to enter heaven. Only God knows how much. The Catholics break grace down into two groups. Operative grace is entirely in the hands of God based upon our decision to receive him. He draws us based on a component of Operative grace called Prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is the amount required to move a person to God and bring them under conviction. We have free will and may choose to accept God or reject Him.
The Catholics believe that you demonstrate your faith through Baptism. When a person is baptized, God washes away all previous sins – imputed and personal. If you died at the time of baptism, you would go to heaven. However, all sins committed after baptism are subject to a different kind of grace – cooperative grace.
Cooperative grace is added to our account by God based on our behavior. If we sin, grace is subtracted from our grace account. We must do something to reverse this charge. This is where the Doctrine of Penitence comes in. This is also where the priest gets involved with the bookkeeping process. The sinner must confess their sins to the priest, who can require penitence on the sinner’s part.
The degree of penitence is supposed to match the degree of sin – major sins require more penitence. God adds grace back to our grace account based on the value of penitence, but the priest decides how much penitence.
Cooperative grave also comes from keeping the sacraments and for doing righteous works. Again, we don’t know how much grace each contributes. This is why the Catholics came up with the doctrine of purgatory. If you are short on grace required to enter heaven when you die, you will go to purgatory to suffer and pay for the shortage of grace. Then, after the account is satisfied, you go to heaven. Most Catholics do not fear hell because they have purgatory to make everything right.
We need some unit of measure to keep the heavenly books correct. This is where Grace points come in. I have been hesitant to use this term because I am unsure if it is a Catholic term. However, other authors on church history have used it, and I think it simplifies the teaching process. Grace points is a term used a lot today in the secular world. I checked for the word on the internet and found many places where the name is used.
Let us go through a summary explanation:
- We sin, and our grace account is reduced. We don’t know how many Grace points we need.
- When we do penitence, our grace account increases – we don’t know how many Grace points we need.
- When we keep the sacraments, our grace account increases – we don’t know how many Grace points we need.
- When we do righteous work, our grace account increases – we don’t know how many Grace points we need.
- When we die, we go to heaven if we have enough grace in our account. If not, then we go to purgatory, suffer, and gain the necessary Grace points required to get us into heaven.
- God is in charge of the grace account; however, later, the papacy began keeping a treasure of Grace points and even selling some of them – the doctrine of indulgence.
Church History – 324 AD – 476 AD
Now, let us look at the political climate over the following years. All the emperors after Constantine supported Christianity; however, they weakened, and Rome began to deteriorate from within and soon was overrun by other people groups.
The Eastern bloc, known as the Byzantine Empire, was strongly influenced by the Church and retained a higher level of civilization than the Western bloc of the Roman Empire. The western half soon crumbled into various feudal kingdoms. The last western emperor was Romulus Augustus, and he was replaced by a German barbarian who, in 476 AD, proclaimed himself king of Italy.
In the West, the rude forms of the Germanic tribe of barbarians overcame the highly developed systems of Roman civilization. “The invaders lacked the knowledge and skill to carry on Roman achievements in art, literature, and engineering, and the whole world.” (Google). As St. Jerome wrote, the world “is sinking into ruin.” Soon, the West would enter into what would be called “The Dark Ages.”
The following are seven reasons sometimes given for the fall of Rome.
- Invasions by Barbarian tribes.
- Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor.
- The rise of the Eastern Empire
- Overexpansion and military overspending
- Government corruption and political instability
- The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes
- Christianity and the loss of traditional values
- Weakening of the Roman legions
By the end of this period, significant changes were taking place in the local churches under the papacy.
Theology and Church Practices
During early church history, most Western churches held services in the Greek language. This began to change in the Catholic churches and move toward the Latin language – by 350 AD, all services were conducted in Latin. Their fixed order of service began to be called the Mass. The church services were standardized, and the papacy compiled and issued Sacramentarians, which contained all the forms of services to be followed in the local churches. Part of the service followed a liturgy of prayers, creeds, etc., repeated in each service. The Eucharist was always included in the service. The rite of Baptism was primarily administered to new babies or older people who were new to the faith. Standardized sermons were also available for uneducated clergy who could not write their own.
The officers of clergy in the local catholic fellowship included a bishop (in some large groups), priests, and deacons. Many of the deacons were well-educated and wealthy landowners.
Most ordinary people and slaves worked in agriculture or as servants and could not read and write. Their knowledge of the Bible, God, and moral responsibility came from the local church’s teaching. If they couldn’t understand Latin, they went home confused. If they did understand, they were often taught heresy – they were taught that their salvation was based on the accumulation of Grace points awarded based on their good works and keeping the church sacraments.
One of the heresies being taught was worshiping people or things other than the Holy Trinity – some began to worship angels and saints – at some point, they even worshiped the Virgin Mary.
The church clergy held confessions where people were required to confess their sins. The clergy would pass out appropriate or sometimes inappropriate degrees of punishment in various degrees of penance. Punishment may range from having the sinner repeat a few “Hail Mary” to excommunication from the church.
God always had a remnant that held to the faith – we find some of these men in church leadership. Some wrote their books as they helped define doctrine and practices over the years. We have three men during this period in history who made a difference. All three became doctors of the church and obtained sainthood.
Ambrose of Milan (337 AD – 397 AD) – “Ambrose was the first to formulate ideas about church-state relations, which would become the prevalent medieval Christian viewpoint on the matter. A bishop, teacher, writer, and composer” (Google). “Saint Ambrose was the Bishop of Milan, a theologian, and statesman. He expressed himself prominently as a public figure, fiercely promoting the Latin Church against Arianism and paganism. He left a substantial collection of writings, of which the best known include the ethical commentary De officiis ministrorum (377–391) and the exegetical Exameron [it] (386-390). His preaching, his actions, and his literary works, in addition to his innovative musical hymnography, made him one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century” (Wikipedia) (see Ambrose).
Ambrose is also famous for having baptized Saint Augustine and influencing his early life. “Bishop Ambrose of Milan had a major influence on Augustine’s life as he journeyed from heresy to orthodoxy and from sexual immorality to celibacy” (Goggle).
Jerome (about 345 AD – 420 AD) was a Christian priest, confessor, theologian, and historian commonly known as Saint Jerome. He helped establish the papal library in Rome and later translated the Greek Bible into the Latin Bible – the Vulgate (see Jerome).
Augustine (354 AD – 430 AD) – He was the bishop of Hippo (now Annaba, Algeria) from 396 AD to 430 AD. He is “recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He is also a preeminent Catholic Doctor of the Church and the patron of the Augustinians” (Wikipedia). Augustine is considered one of the greatest theologians of the early church.
He did a lot of work in defining the doctrine of “Original Sin” and debated Pelagius over “free will” – particularly concerning the question of the extent to which the will of fallen man is “free.” “Pelagius was a British monk and theologian; his theological system is known as Pelagianism, which emphasized human choice in salvation” (Wikipedia). Some believe that “Original Sin” results in “Total depravity;” thus, mankind cannot have free will.
Augustine also wrote a book entitled “The City of God.” “Augustine’s ecclesiology was more fully developed in The City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride” (Wikipedia). This is the same doctrine as present-day amillennialism, where they believe that the church will eventually bring in a kingdom of peace and utopia (see Augustine)
Early Middle Ages – 476 AD – 1000 AD
“The ‘Dark Ages’ is a term for the Early Middle Ages, or occasionally the entire Middle Ages, in Western Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire that characterizes it as marked by economic, intellectual and cultural decline” (Wikipedia).
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church, under the Pope’s leadership, began to assume many government roles. Very quickly, we have the marriage of state and church. Over the years, the papacy became a significant power in the political processes of Western Europe.
Gregory I ( “Pope Gregory the Great”) became pope in 590 AD and continued until 604 AD. He held “a position that demanded political and spiritual leadership in the power vacuum of the era. He provided guidance through internal problems among the people of Rome, including floods, starvation, and the plague, as well as external, combating invading armies of Germanic Lombards and territorial advancements from the Byzantine emperor.” (Google).
“Although he was politically assertive, Gregory also displayed compassion for the underprivileged. He provided food and clothing to the impoverished and defended the religious freedom of the Jewish people under his rule. After seeing Anglo-Saxon slaves for sale in the market of Rome, Gregory also became an ardent advocate for sending missionaries to England, serving as a missionary there for a time” (Google).
At the beginning of the Dark Ages, the papacy only influenced what is today the nation of Italy. However, other areas of Western Europe soon came under the church’s authority. At the beginning of the Dark Ages, ordinary people were uneducated and worked either in agriculture or as servants. Wealthy landowners who were educated controlled the poor classes. Many of these wealthy landowners served as deacons in the church.
During the latter years of the fifth century, Christianity began to lift Europe out of the Dark Ages. Clovis, the Frankish King, became a Christian in 496 AD and led his people, later to become France, into the Roman Catholic Church. When Clovis became a Roman Catholic, his people began to receive the support of the Pope. This opened the door for the Franks to participate in the Roman culture sustained by the church. The monks living in monasteries preserved Roman arts and crafts knowledge.
Pope Stephen II, in 756 AD, began creating papal or city-states throughout the Italian peninsula. The pope appointed territorial princes (or kings) over each city, who then had a direct report back to the papacy. “The Papal States were territories in central Italy that were directly governed by the papacy—not only spiritually but in a temporal, secular sense” (Google). Some of these cities were also called: “free imperial cities.” The practice would later continue in other European countries – two examples are Salzburg, Austria (late 14 century) and Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany (1274 AD to 1803 AD). Rothenberg was more of a free imperial city and exercised more freedom in self-governing.
In 786 AD, the leadership of the Franks passed to the great Charlemagne. He brought the Lombards and heathen Saxons under his dominion. By 800 AD, Charlemagne was the undisputed ruler of Western Europe. He ruled over what are now France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands and included half of present-day Italy and Germany, part of Austria, and the Spanish border.
In 800 AD, the Pope proclaimed him ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and he began to provide education for his people. He founded schools for the lower class as well as for the nobility. Under his reign, some Roman cultures were expanded in the West.
Over these years, the papacy was the ultimate authority over the various kings and political leaders. Charlemagne served at the pleasure of the Pope, and he named his kingdom “The Holy Roman Empire.” The king was controlled through the absolute authority of the church.
After the death of Charlemagne, barbaric Vikings and Hungarians invaded England and the West Coast of Europe, Hungarians drove from the east into Germany, France, and Italy. At the same time, Moors, who were from Africa and Spain, slashed into southern Europe. The weak kings of the broken Holy Roman Empire could not stand against the invaders and turned to powerful lords for protection.
This brought about a feudal system (8th century – 15th century) in which powerful lords ruled over lesser lords, and lesser lords ruled over servants. During this time, education was suppressed as ninety percent of the people were in various degrees of slavery. Again, they entered the dark ages where the Lords and the church ruled the land. Few could read and write; thus, many false teachings were imposed upon the people. The peasants did homage for protection and gave up their independence. The lord’s castles served as forts of refuge during an invasion. During this period, heavily armored Knights came upon the scene.
It should also be noted that some state leaders pushed back against the church; however, the church usually won.
Over these years, the Eastern Orthodox Church drifted away from some of the doctrines of the West. “The primary causes of the Schism were disputes over papal authority—the Pope claimed he held authority over the four Eastern Greek-speaking patriarchs, and over the insertion of the filioque clause into the Nicene Creed” “Pope Leo III unambiguously supported the current theological position in the West in his time: the filioque, that is that Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son” (Wikipedia) – the east disagreed.
Another influence on the church during this time was the founding of Islam. Mohammed disagreed with the Jews and Christians on doctrine and created the religion of Islam in 610 AD. Islam’s fierce and brutal armies swept across the Middle East and into Northern Africa, destroying and enslaving churches as they went. They moved from Northern Africa into Spain, where they ruled from 711 AD until 1492 AD. This movement reduced the influence of the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe.
Theology and Church Practices
Several practices were introduced into the Roman Catholic Church during these years.
- AD 500 – Priests began dressing differently than laymen
- AD 526 – Extreme unction – Last Rites
- AD 593 – Doctrine of purgatory introduced
- AD 607 – Prayers directed to Mary
- AD 786 – Worshiping of images and relics
- AD 850 – Use of “holy water” begun
- AD 995 – Canonization of dead saints
Let us focus on some of them. Last Rites with extreme unction became a sacrament and had Grace points associated with it. We will remember that you had to have accumulated a certain number of grace points before entering heaven.
The Catholic Church looks at sin in two categories. Original sin and sins committed before baptism are washed away with baptism. Sins committed after baptism or either major or venial. Major sins are those that directly violate the letter and spirit of the ten commandants and are mortal sins. “A serious, grave or mortal sin is the knowing, and willful violation of God’s law is a serious matter, for example, idolatry, adultery, murder, slander.” “A man who willfully desires to fornicate, steal, murder or some other grave sin has already seriously offended God by choosing interiorly what God has prohibited.” “Mortal sin is called mortal because it is the ‘spiritual’ death of the soul (separation from God). However, by turning their hearts back to Him and receiving the Sacrament of Penance, they are restored to His friendship. Catholics are not allowed to receive Communion if they have unconfessed mortal sins” (Google).
Venial sins are defined as: “Venial is used as an adjective which means denoting a sin that is not regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace. It has synonyms like pardonable, forgivable, excusable, condonable, tolerable, permissible, allowable or understandable etc” (Google).
“Venial sins are slight sins. They do not break our friendship with God, although they injure it.” “They involve disobedience of the law of God in slight (venial) matters. Gossiping and destroying a person’s reputation would be a mortal sin. However, normally gossip is about trivial matters and only venially sinful” (Google).
“Additionally, something that is otherwise a mortal sin (e.g., slander) may be, in a particular case, only a venial sin. The person may have acted without reflection or under the force of habit. Thus, not fully intending the action, their guilt before God is reduced” (Google). These are the sins of wood, stubble, and hay and will be burned at the judgment of our works (1 Cor. 3:12). The church determines if the sin is mortal or venial. Venial sins are usually resolved by the priest during confession.
As the issue of mortal sin became more defined, the papacy came up with a way to ensure people could be sure they would enter heaven. They came up with the doctrine of purgatory – not supported by Scripture.
About 607 AD, they began praying to the Virgin Mary as an intercessor and advocate before God – the Bible says that Jesus is our advocate and intercessor. Several years later, the church began worshipping images and relics. By 985 AD, they started the canonization of dead saints.
Before the 8th century, the church changed the narrative about the Virgin Mary. The church claims that Joseph was only a guardian of Mary and never his physical wife – they claim that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life. Therefore, the so-called brothers and sisters of Jesus were sons and daughters of a previous marriage and were stepbrothers and stepsisters to Jesus. This narrative is contrary to the narrative in Matthew and Luke.
The Islamic literature also gives the same facts about the Virgin Mary but with a slightly different narrative. It is assumed that Mohammed copied the story from the church and changed it.
Over the years, the church used various methods to reach the pagan masses. The following quote shows some of their compromises. “Sophisticated theologians understood the absolute difference between the saints and the Trinity, but it is doubtful whether most lay people did. In the effort to achieve mass conversions during the Christianizing of Europe, the church made ready use of festivals of pagan religion. It was easy to transfer the powerful character of pagan gods to Christian saints. Often, the pagan temples became Christian churches” (Handbook).
From the early days of the church, special people isolated themselves for prayer, meditation, and special services – they were called monks. They lived in groups in monasteries created for their living quarters. The monks translated parts of the Bible and other Christian writings. This practice continued in both the Roman Church and the Orthodox Church throughout the church years. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and philosophies.
The Late Middle Ages – 1000 AD – 1300 AD
By the middle of the 10th century, the Frankish kingdom was divided into the East and West. The West Kingdom was composed of today’s France, and the East Kingdom was Germanic. The Germanic group also controlled what is now England. During this time, the Holy Roman Empire moved to the Germanic group.
“The Holy Roman Empire was a political entity in Western, Central, and Southern Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. From the accession of Otto I in 962 until the twelfth century, the Empire was the most powerful monarchy in Europe” (Wikipedia).
The Muslim nations were another prominent group that impacted the Middle Ages. Followers of Mohammed began the Holy Wars and gained control of the Middle East during the sixth and seventh centuries. Forging across Western Asia and Southern Europe, they reached as far as Spain by 711 AD. The Muslim Arabs invaded Spain from North Africa and controlled the nation until 1492 AD.
In 1096 AD, Pope Urban II sent the first Christian Crusaders eastward to fight against the Muslims. The Pope was motivated by the fact that all of Europe would be lost to the Muslims if they were not stopped. He also received a request for help from the Byzantine Empire leaders fighting for their lives in Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Also, the Muslims were preventing Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Jerusalem.
Five military expeditions, known as Holy Wars, were launched between 1096 AD and 1221 AD. The first expedition reached the Holy Land and controlled it for several years, but after some time, the Crusaders lost control of the area to the Muslims. After that, the Popes continued to send military expeditions to reclaim it. Pope Urban II initially launched the military campaign with the idea that if the Kings and Lords of Europe had a joint military goal, they would consolidate their efforts and stop fighting. His strategy worked; however, the expeditions became more commercial than military after many years.
The crusades opened the door for commercial trade beyond Europe and increased the control of the church over the people. Late in the thirteenth century AD, Marco Polo began exploring the Far East and opened the door to trade with China, Japan, and the East Indies. His writings later led to other exploration efforts, such as those by Columbus and others following him.
Between 1000 AD and 1200 AD, the church, which the Pope ruled, made a political comeback.
“The medieval papacy attained the peak of its authority and influence under Innocent [Pope Innocent III], who was pope 1198 -1216. He had a unique ability to apply abstract concepts to concrete situations…Innocent’s diplomatic skills enabled him to wield papal authority to a remarkable degree throughout Christendom, although not always with the success he desired” (Handbook).
“Because he believed the pope had unique authority as the ‘Vicar of Christ’ and as the successor of Peter, Innocent claimed the right to set aside any human actions since these were contaminated by sin and therefore came within his competence” (Handbook).
“The Fourth Lateran Council, called by Innocent in 1215, was the fitting climax to his career. This general council symbolized the mastery of the papacy over every feature of Latin Christendom” (Handbook).
By the 13th century, the church was the most decisive influence in Europe. Almost everyone in Eastern and Western Europe except Jews, Arabs, and the people in the Byzantine Empire belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and fell under its authority. The Pope had more power and wealth than the combined wealth of lords and nobles.
The Pope’s subordinate officials, the archbishops, bishops, and others, were usually great feudal lords with rich possessions and military strength. The church also administered many of the people’s legal affairs and sometimes used its authority in excommunication. Once excommunicated, a person was expelled from the church, and all Christians, even his family members, were forbidden to associate with him.
The church mainly provided education to the barons and clergy, leaving the masses largely uneducated. The universal language, Latin, was maintained as the standard learning language. The Monks’ service was to produce manuscripts of classical learning, thus providing us with much history.
By this time, France, England, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and Italy had become sovereign nations and major European powers. However, as time progressed, the king of France, the king of England, and the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire struggled to regain power from the papacy.
Theology and Church Practices
Several practices were introduced into the Roman Catholic Church during these years.
- AD 1079 – Celibacy of the priesthood
- AD 1090 – Prayer beads
- AD 1184 – The Inquisition
- AD 1190 – Sale of Indulgences
- AD 1215 – Transubstantiation
- AD 1220 – Adoration of the wafer (Host)
“In the early 11th century, Pope Benedict VIII responded to the decline in priestly morality by issuing a rule prohibiting the children of priests from inheriting property” (historynewsnetwork.org). A few decades later, Pope Gregory VII issued a decree against clerical marriages. Thus, the church began the practice of Celibacy of the priesthood. “Clerical celibacy is the discipline within the Catholic Church by which only unmarried men are ordained to the episcopate, to the priesthood (with individual exceptions) in some autonomous particular Churches, and similarly to the diaconate (with exceptions for certain categories of people). In other autonomous particular Churches, the discipline applies only to the episcopate.” “The Catholic Church considers the law of clerical celibacy to be not a doctrine, but a discipline.” “Theologically, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that priesthood is a ministry conformed to the life and work of Jesus Christ” (Wikipedia).
“The growth of popular devotion in the twelfth century greatly advanced the role of the Virgin Mary. She became the ‘universal mother,’ the great intercessor with her divine son, almost his rival. The universal authority of the Virgin was heightened by the belief that she was taken up body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. This belief made it impossible to confine her cult in time and space in the same way as that of other saints. The introduction from the East of rosary with its prayers to the Virgin gave additional support to her cult in the west” (Handbook).” At some point, the Catholic church declared her also to be of a virgin birth without sin. Just like Jesus, they believed that she lived her life without sin.
During the eleventh century, the church began building universities – The first university was in Bologna, Italy, late in the 11th century. It became a widely respected school of canon and civil law. This was followed by the University of Paris (c. 1150–70). In 1425 AD, the University of Leuven was built in Leuven, Belgium. “The University of Leuven ‘Initially comprised four faculties: humanities (‘Artes’), canon law, civil law, and medicine.’ In 1432, the Pope permitted theology to be added to the list” (Google).
The church started holding trials for people or groups charged with heresy in the late twelfth century. The papacy had the authority to sentence a person to prison or execute them. The following is a statement about these trials. “The inquisitions were judicial institutions or tribunals that the Roman Catholic Church established to seek out, try, and sentence people that the Roman Catholic Church believed to be guilty of heresy. The purpose of the inquisitions was to secure and maintain religious and doctoral unity in the Roman Catholic Church and throughout the Roman Empire through either the conversion or persecution of alleged heretics. Historians generally categorize or distinguish the inquisitions based on four different time frames and areas that they took place in. These are: The Medieval or Episcopal Inquisition, The Spanish Inquisition, The Portuguese Inquisition, and the Roman Inquisition” (gotquestions.org).
We will now discuss the “Portuguese Inquisition” against the Jews, and later, we will discuss the details of the “Roman Inquisition” with charges against the Protestant Reformation leaders.
“Over the previous centuries, many Jews were converted to Christianity – many were forced to by the church because the church believed that the Jews crucified Jesus – many were forced to be baptized. Thousands of the Jews were forced into exile in Spain and then moved westward in the peninsula to Portugal.”
“The institution of the Inquisition had been established in Rome at the turn of the 13th century and was intended to root out heresy within the Church. It was not by definition directed specifically at Jews but into store countries where Jews had converted to Christianity in large numbers; it did largely focus on those who were suspected of continuing to practice Judaism in secret. Most of those interrogated by the Inquisition were not executed. That was reserved for those who refused to confess and repent. Others were subjected to lesser punishments, in addition to the torture they may have undergone in order to extract a confession from them” (haaretz.com/jewish).
By the end of the twelfth century, the doctrine of Grace points took on a different dimension. Whereas, before Grace, points were earned for work done within the church. Now, the papacy established a treasury or bank to store grace points. Certain people were most righteous and earned more Grace points than needed – these were held in the grace treasury. People who required additional Grace points could obtain them from the papacy.
This became known as the doctrine of indulgences and would later lead to Martin Luther rebelling against the Roman Catholic Church. The following statement provides more detail. “In Latin Catholic theology, the salvation made possible by Jesus allows the faithful sinner eventual admittance to Heaven. Baptism forgives all of the baptized person’s existing sins; any sin committed after baptism incurs guilt and a penalty that must be addressed. These are the sins addressed in reconciliation. After reconciliation, the temporal punishment for sin remains. This punishment may be remitted in Purgatory or by indulgence. The granting of an indulgence is the spiritual reassignment, as it were, of existing merit to an individual requiring that merit” (Catholic Encyclopedia).
“Indulgences occur when the Church, acting by virtue of its authority, applies existing merit from the Church’s treasury to an individual. The individual gains the indulgence by participating in certain activities, most often the recitation of prayers. By decree of Pope Pius V in 1567, following the Council of Trent, it is forbidden to attach the receipt of an indulgence to any financial act, including the giving of alms. In addition, the only punishment remitted by an indulgence is existing punishment, that is, for sins already committed. Indulgences do not remit punishment for future sins, as those sins have yet to be committed. Thus, indulgences are not a “license to sin” or a “get-out-of-Hell-free” card; they are a means for the sinner to ‘pay’ the ‘wages’ of sin’” (Catholic Encyclopedia).
The next step was the sale of Indulgences by the papacy.
At the beginning of the thirteenth century, there was a change in the interpretation of the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper). This change became known as “Transubstantiation” – they believe that there was a conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at the consecration, only the appearances of bread and wine remaining. This new doctrine was based on John 6:53-58, where Jesus said to His followers: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” The Eucharist was administered to newborns to earn Grace points – children and adults were required to take the Eucharist at each Mass.
At this point, we need to make some observations. First, the Roman Catholic Church was the primary Christian influence in all Western European countries. Second, many laity could not read or write – they only had personal prayer and meditation for quiet times. Third, the Mass in church services was spoken in Latin. Fourth, many people living outside of Italy could not speak Latin. Fifth, the only Bible available was the Latin version. So how did they get any religious education other than what the church told them – they were told to confess their sins before a priest, do penance, keep the sacraments, obey the church, and they could go to heaven.
I have selected three writing church fathers who wrote during those years. They were recognized as doctors of the church and canonized as saints by the church. The following are statements about their work.
Bernard of Clairvaux (1080-1153) – “He bridged two worlds: the ages of feudal values and of the rise of town and universities. He was the first of the great Medieval (Middle Age) mystics, and a leader of a new spirit of ascetics simplicity and personal devotion” (Handbook). He is best known for his teaching of the Virgin Mary.
“Three central elements of Bernard’s Mariology (the theological study of Mary, the mother of Jesus) are how he explained the Virginity of Mary, the “Star of the Sea”, how the faithful should pray on the Virgin Mary, and how he relied on the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix (refers to the role of the Virgin Mary as a mediator in the salvation process)” (Wikipedia) (see Bernard of Clairvaux).
Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) – Francis was one of many that I consider part of the church’s remnant. He dedicated his life to reaching the unsaved for Christ. He was the father of the Franciscan third order that resulted in sending missionaries around the world – including the coast of California. He lived a life of poverty.
He may be considered a forerunner of the Protestant movement. He was missionary minded and traveled to spread the word of God to the heathen, especially the Muslims in what is today Israel. We are also aware of the Franciscan missions here in America and elsewhere. “He read and quoted the Bible and preached boldly and powerfully from it. He emphasized personal repentance, the personal relationship with Jesus as Lord, and gratitude for the blessings of life and the sacrifice of Christ by which our salvation is obtained” (pathguy.com/francisc.htm). We also know him for his prayer, which has been displayed and memorized worldwide. Francis also taught that the sacraments were just symbolic.
The following is a quote from his prayer:
Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love with all my soul.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
I believe this prayer reflects the heart of this man (see Francis of Assisi).
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) – For many years during the dark ages, education was suppressed, and the laity was not permitted to study the Scriptures. During this period, most of the theological studies were done in the monasteries, following a standard of interpretation that had been used for centuries.
Thomas Aquinas was an original thinker and developed a whole new system of Biblical interpretation based on Aristotle’s philosophy of logic and reasoning. He was a prolific writer, and his works filled eighteen large volumes containing commentaries on most Bible books. His best-known work was the Summa which was uncompleted at his death. Unlike Francis, he believed that the sacraments had more than symbolic meaning (see Thomas Aquinas).
Early Modern Age – 1300 AD – 1600 AD
The Bubonic plague killed about 25 million people in Europe in the 14th century. “The plague that caused the Black Death originated in China in the early to mid-1300s and spread along trade routes westward to the Mediterranean and northern Africa. It reached southern England in 1348 and northern Britain and Scandinavia by 1350” (britannica.com). “Some believed it was a punishment from God; some believed that foreigners or those who followed a different religion had poisoned the wells; some thought that bad air was responsible; some thought the position of the planets had caused the plague” (Google).
Before 1400 AD, the age of the Renaissance swept out of Florence, Italy, and across Western Europe. The people began to pull out of the bondage of the Kings, Lords, and the Church. It is considered one of the rare periods of genius in world history. It began in the 14th Century in Italy and reached its height in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries as it spread across Europe.
The word Renaissance means “rebirth” and refers to the rediscovery of writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was a period of discovering the arts and literature, mathematics, new scientific laws, and new religious ideas. The Monks carefully preserved the old documents as they copied ancient manuscripts through the ages.
The transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Ages increased the number of new towns. The Roman Empire had encouraged building villages, but the German barbarians refused to live in confinement. The new cities aided the establishment of trade, commerce, and manufacturing.
Between 1337 AD and 1453 AD, history recorded the longest war ever to be recorded. The war was fought between France and England. The war started as a dispute over the legitimate succession to the French crown.
The English claimed rights by way of marriage. Over the years, the reason for the fighting changed several times, as the two nations had become bitter enemies. By the war’s end, England had lost all of its territories on the main continent of Europe. The war lasted through the reign of five English kings and ended feudalism.
Two of our best-known artists during this period are Leonardo da Vinci (15 April 1452 AD – 1519 AD) and Michelangelo (1498 AD –1499 AD). Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance. In 1473, the Sistine Chapel was built in Rome, and Michelangelo painted the ceiling.
Early scientists of this period were Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 AD – 1543), Galileo Galilei (1564 AD – 1642 AD), Johannes Kepler (1571 AD – 1630 AD), and Isaac Newton (1642 -1727 AD). Copernicus was the first man to argue that the earth revolved around the sun – up to this time, the church taught that the earth was the center of the universe. These men began the scientific studies that have taken us to the present age. They were all men of faith in God.
In 1492 AD, Christopher Columbus opened the way to world exploration when he sailed westward from Spain in search of a route by sea to the East Indies. On the morning of October 12, 1492, he stepped ashore on an island that is part of the land known today as America, thus discovering a new continent. His discoveries opened the door for fierce competition among the European countries as they explored and colonized the new territories.
“Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and gaining control over more territory for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire would expand across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, and most of Central America” (Wikipedia). They would also control the land in Florida. St. Augustine, an early Spanish city on the northeast coast of Florida, is the oldest city in the United States.
A significant change took place in new religious ideas as the reform movement broke the bond of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther broke the yoke of the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 AD when he disagreed with the church over doctrine. This led to a permanent church division, bringing the great Protestant Reformation to Germany and later throughout Europe. We will discuss the Protestant Church in another section.
The Roman Catholics would charge him with heresy, excommunicate him, and try to put him to death, but he hid away and escaped death. We will discuss the spread of the Protestant movement in a separate section.
In 1534 AD, King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church. This event became the most far-reaching event in English history. During the Reformation, the King replaced the Pope as England’s Head of the Church, causing a bitter divide between Catholics and Protestants. Henry VIII became the supreme head of the Church of England.
Johannes Guttenberg, in 1450 AD, invented the printing press, which soon revolutionized communication and education, allowing the development of newspapers and reasonably priced books. The first product of the press was the Guttenberg Bible – printed in Latin. This opened the door for those who could read Latin to study the bible.
“The Roman Inquisition, an agency established in 1542, was designed chiefly to combat Protestantism, which was conceived and defined as heresy in Catholic territories. It was more successful in controlling doctrine and practice than similar inquisitions in those countries where Protestant princes had more power than the Roman Catholic Church. Political and military involvement directed against Protestant growth is most clearly reflected in the policies of Emperor Charles V [Holy Roman Emperor] and in those of his son Philip II, who was associated with the infamously brutal Spanish Inquisition” (britannica.com).
“In 1541, John Calvin, a French Protestant who had spent the previous decade in exile writing his “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” was invited to settle in Geneva and put his Reformed doctrine – which stressed God’s power and humanity’s predestined fate – into practice” (History.com).
By 1555 AD, some of the churches in France began to break with the catholic church and became Protestant. “The Reformation movement then gained rapidly in France until 1562, when a long series of civil wars began in France and the Huguenots (French Protestants) alternately gained and lost” (britannica.com).
John Calvin would become the leader of the reformed movement of the Protestant Church – the last of the three branches: Lutheran, Church of England, and the Reformed Movement.
In 1553 AD, Queen Mary I reversed the decision of King Henry VIII making Roman Catholicism the official religion of England. She reinstated the Pope as the supreme leader of the Catholic Church. Protestant bishops in England were arrested, and Catholic bishops were restored. Parliament revived laws against heresy, and many who disagreed with Queen Mary’s decision were burned at the stake.
This decision was short-lived as her successor, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1559 AD, reversed her decision and returned the Church of England to the Protestant Church.
By this time in history, England, Scotland, Southern Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Brussels, Switzerland, and Northern Germany had become Protestant – the other Western European Countries remained Catholic.
In 1562, the king of France ordered an attack on a group of 300 Protestant Huguenots holding religious services in a barn outside the town wall of Vassy, France. More than 60 Huguenots were killed and over 100 wounded during the Massacre of Vassy. The others escaped to Holland and England.
Theology and Church Practices
- 1508 AD – The Ave Maria approved
- 1534 AD – Jesuit order founded
- 1546 AD – Tradition granted equal authority with the Bible
- 1546 AD – Apocryphal books put into the Bible
- 1563 AD – Doctrine of purgatory decreed
- 1563 AD – Doctrine of seven sacraments affirmed
By 1300 AD, the papacy was selling Grace points to those who needed them to allow them access to heaven. The papacy maintained a treasury of Grace points available for use. Righteous people earned more Grace points than required, and the excess Grace points went into the treasury.
The first known use of plenary indulgences was in 1095 AD when Pope Urban II remitted all penance of persons who participated in the Crusades and confessed their sins. “By the late Middle Ages, indulgences were used to support charities for the public good including hospitals. However, the abuse of indulgences, mainly through commercialization, had become a serious problem which the church recognized but was unable to restrain effectively. From the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, indulgences were a target of attacks by Martin Luther and other Protestant theologians. Eventually, the Catholic Counter-Reformation curbed the excesses, but indulgences continued to play a role in modern Catholic religious life. Reforms in the 20th century largely abolished the quantification of indulgences, which had been expressed in terms of days or years. These days or years were meant to represent the equivalent of time spent in penance, although it was widely taken to mean time spent in Purgatory. The reforms also greatly reduced the number of indulgences granted for visiting particular churches and other locations” (Wikipedia).
“By the time of the Middle Ages, the Church had an established a hierarchy of the clergy within the Church: Pope – the head of the Church. Cardinals – advisors to the Pope; administrators of the Church. Bishops/Archbishops – ecclesiastical superiors over a cathedral or region” (worldhistory.org). As pointed out before, this structure put the laity a long way from God – the doctrine of the believer’s priesthood was long gone – the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer was suppressed.
“Sacerdotal systems serve much more to cast the ministry of the layman into deep shadow, elevating the hierarchy and diminishing the masses. Less gets done, fewer people know God, and fewer still serve Him. It is an institution imposed by man for his own glory, wherein he may be glorified while God is made to seem less capable of dealing with the ‘mere’ layman. That must be left to the wisdom of the clergy” (Handbook).
At the council of Trent 1546 AD: “With this dogmatic statement, Trent affirmed that the Gospel (i.e., revelation) is contained in both Scripture and Tradition, in contradistinction to the Protestant claim that it is contained in Scripture alone (i.e., sola scriptura). Yet, the decree remained rather ambiguous on exactly how revelation is contained in both of them, begging the question of what the Council affirmed, if anything, about the nature of the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. As a result of this ambiguity, this topic has become a focal point of theological debate among Catholic scholars” (Google – University of Thomas).
Using tradition and Scripture together has proven to be a dangerous practice. This was a practice of the Pharisees during Jesus’ earthly ministry, and Jesus condemned them for it. Following tradition can lead to many errors and heresy. The history of the Church is full of this practice. We should always verify tradition against Scripture. Interpretation is often based upon certain assumptions. If the assumptions later prove invalid, practices in tradition are not always changed.
In 1563 AD, “at the Council of Trent that Catholic doctrine on purgatory was defined. The Council, in its decree, affirms the existence of purgatory and the great value of praying for the deceased. Yet at the same time, it sternly instructs that preachers not distract, confuse, and mislead the faithful with unnecessary speculations concerning the nature and duration of purgatorial punishments” (Google – crossroadsinitiative.com).
“At the Council of Trent (1545–63), the Roman Catholic Church formally fixed the number of sacraments at seven: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, holy orders, matrimony, and anointing of the sick” (britannica.com).
John Wycliffe (about 1329 AD -1384 AD) – He “was an English theologian, lay preacher, translator, reformist and university teacher who was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. His followers are known as Lollards, a somewhat rebellious movement which preached a legalistic Gospel. He is considered the founder of the Lollard movement, a precursor (forerunner) to the Protestant Reformation (for this reason, he is sometimes called ‘The Morning Star of the Reformation’). He was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority influencing secular power“ (Wikipedia). He opposed the doctrine of transubstantiation, which taught that the elements of bread and wine of the Eucharist (communion) were turned into the body and blood of Christ (see John 6:53-58). He also believed that the Bible should be translated into different languages so the laity could read for themselves. He translated the Latin Bible into English. He also attacked indulgences and the immoral behavior of the clergy. After his death, the church burned his writings (see Wycliffe).
Jan Hus (1374 AD – 1415 AD) “He is famed for having been burned at stake by civil authorities for what the Catholic Church considered to be his heretical views on ecclesiology (theological doctrine relating to the church), as the civil authorities saw heresy as a criminal offense. Hus was a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the 16th century, and his teachings had a strong influence on the states of Europe, most immediately in the approval for the existence of a reformist Bohemian religious denomination and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself” (Wikipedia). “In his writing and public preaching, Hus emphasized personal piety and purity of life. He was heavily indebted to the work of John Wyclif. He stressed the role of Scripture as an authority in the church and, consequently, lifted preaching to an important status in church services” (Handbook). “On 6 July 1415, he was burned at stake for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church” (Wikipedia) (see Hus).
Late Modern Age – 1600 AD – Present
In 1618 war broke out between the Catholics and Protestants. Hostility had been increasing between the Catholics and Protestants. The war known as the “Thirty Year War” was one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history, lasting until 1648. “Beginning as a local conflict in Bohemia, it eventually involved all of Europe, influencing the development of the modern era” (Google).
“It was the last major European conflict informed by religious divisions and one of the most devastating in European history resulting in a death toll of approximately 8 million” (Google).
Fought mostly in Central Europe the war involved the countries of England, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Poland-Lithuania,
“The war was traditionally viewed as a continuation of the religious conflict initiated by the 16th-century Reformation within the Holy Roman Empire. The 1555 Peace of Augsburg attempted to resolve this by dividing the Empire into Lutheran and Catholic states, but over the next 50 years the expansion of Protestantism beyond these boundaries destabilized the settlement. However, while differences over religion and Imperial authority were important factors in causing the war, most modern commentators suggest its scope and extent were driven by the contest for European dominance between Habsburg-ruled Spain and Austria, and the French House of Bourbon” (Google).
“There was no winner as the war was concluded in 1648 by the Peace of Westphalia (which also ended the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands) a document essentially just restating the same terms as the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 regarding religion” (Google).
The colonization of the North American continent began with the Spanish in 1565 AD in St. Augustine, Florida. “In 1607, 104 English men and boys arrived in North America to start a settlement. On May 13, they picked Jamestown, Virginia, for their settlement, which was named after their King, James I. The settlement became the first permanent English settlement in North America” (https://www.nps.gov).
The “Mayflower arrived in New England on November 11, 1620, after a voyage of 66 days. Although the Pilgrims had initially been intended to settle near the Hudson River in New York, dangerous shoals and poor winds forced the ship to seek shelter at Cape Cod” (https://plimoth.org). The Pilgrims (Protestants) sought religious freedom from the Church of England.
Between 1756 AD and 1763 AD, the English and the French fought battles to determine who would control the colonies in North America. The English won, and England controlled the thirteen colonies and the western territories of Canada. France controlled the land west of the Mississippi River and the eastern parts of Canada. Those colonies under English rule were mainly protestant, and those territories under the French became primarily catholic.
By 1775 AD, the English settlements in the United States had spread to thirteen colonies on the east coast. Over the years, suppression from the Kings of England became more severe, and the colonies declared independence and war on England. By 1784 AD, the colonies had won the war, gained independence, and became the United States of America.
“In the summer of 1789, the most powerful monarchy in Europe was overthrown by a popular revolution in favor of constitutional rule. There followed ten years of political turmoil as moderate parliamentarians and radical republicans fought over the political future of France. The many different ideals represented by the revolution were impossible to reconcile, and in 1799 a new era of authoritarian rule began under the dashing revolutionary general, Napoleon Bonaparte” (source: The Times Complete History of the World). Many members of royalty, political leaders, educators, and aristocrats were executed during this time.” ”By the end of the decade, approximately thirty thousand priests had been forced to leave France, and several hundred who did not leave were executed. Most French parishes were left without the services of a priest and deprived of the sacraments” (Wikipedia).
A significant force in Europe during the latter part of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century was the short administration of Napoleon Bonaparte of France. He was a great reformer who wanted to restore Charlemagne’s Western Empire. For sixteen years, he was the master of most of Europe, defeating one country after another. He can be compared to Adolph Hitler, who tried the same thing two centuries later. Napoleon met his end in defeat with the Battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18, 1815 AD.
The eighteenth century brought about “The Industrial Revolution.” “The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840” (Wikipedia). It changed agriculture, trade, and industry as people became more productive and raised their standard of living. For many, it lifted them out of poverty.
In the late 19th century, England began colonizing territories on other continents. In 1858 AD, the British started colonizing India – they would influence and control India until 1947 AD. “Britain had some small colonial holdings in Africa by the early 1800s but did not begin taking territory in earnest until the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the late 1800” (Source: pacificu.libguides.com).
The scramble for Africa refers to when other European countries began colonizing Africa. Each country took its church affiliation with them – Catholic or Protestant. They then started the process of evangelizing their subjects.
In 1859, the theory of evolution by natural selection was first formulated in Charles Darwin’s book, “Origin of Species.” His teachings soon led many to doubt the universe’s origin, a Creator’s existence, and a sovereign God’s existence. This led to the “Solid State Theory,” which states that the universe has always existed. Living matter slowly evolved over a long period. Beginning at this time, many people turned to atheism, which influenced religion, philosophy, science, and government for the remainder of history.
In the late eighteenth century, German theologians began to teach “Higher Criticism,” which argued that the Bible was unreliable. This theology blossomed in English-speaking academies during the nineteenth century. It faded out in the twentieth century but left a lasting effect on theology in the later Modern Age and ushered in the teaching of liberal theology.
During the 20th century, philosophers such as Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) and others began to teach that there was no God. Scientists began to teach that evolution was true; therefore, God could not exist. Courts began to declare that scientists had proven evolution accurate and that schools should teach it in classrooms.
Political systems started to show that authority should be in the state and not in a supposed God of the universe – political systems such as communism and fascism stated that the state has absolute control over its citizens and, therefore, suppressed individual freedoms.
With the turn of the 20th century, Europe entered world wars. During World War I, most of Europe fought against the Germans and the Turks of Asia. After the defeat of the Germans, colonization by European countries increased worldwide. It was once said that the “sun never sets on the British Empire.”
During World War I, the British drove the Turks out of the Middle East. For the next 20 years, they controlled Palestine under the British Mandate. In 1948, Israel declared its independence and became a new Jewish state.
In 1922 AD, Russia became a communist state and declared that there was no God. The Russian people lost their freedom and suffered greatly under the communist dictators for the next seventy years.
On February 11, 1929 AD, “The Lateran Treaty was signed between Pope Pius XI and Italian leader Benito Mussolini declaring Vatican City as an independent state that became the world’s smallest country” (thevaticantickets.com). A few years later, the fascist Benito Mussolini joined Adolph Hitler in bringing World War II to Italy surrounding Vatican City.
Peace was short-lived; about twenty years later, the world had to fight the Germans again under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler – a fascist. Since World War II, the independence many countries gained has practically ended European colonization.
The world has experienced very little peace during the 20th century as the United Nations and the United States have tried to police the world. Russia and China enslaved millions under communism after the war.
As we moved through the twentieth century, socialism increased in Western Europe, and the power and influence of the church declined. Today, many great protestant and catholic cathedrals of Western Europe have been turned into museums. Few attend church regularly.
Today, the battle is between liberalism and conservatism in our government and churches. We live in an age of situation ethics – the situation other than the word of God dictates moral values – the liberals war against the conservates, and the conservates war against the liberals.
The prophet Isaiah said many years ago: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20, NIV).
However, the Catholic churches have remained more conservative than the Protestant churches – yet the Vatican has become more liberal. Today, the Vatican seems to have lost authority over many Catholics. There are many spirit-filled laymen and clergy in the Catholic Church. Most are well-educated, have the word of God, and can think for themselves. However, it appears that they still cling to the seven sacraments.
There is a remnant of the Church, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, who still believe in God and try to obey and keep His commandants, but the Universal Church is still alive after all these years. All three groups have Churches all over the world.
Today, many say we need a one-world government under one leader to bring peace to the World. This is what the Bible says will happen under the future satanic Antichrist. Yet, there is hope; Jesus is returning to get His Church.
Theology and Church Practices
AD 1854 – Immaculate Conception of Mary
AD 1864 – Syllabus of Errors proclaimed
AD 1870 – The infallibility of the Pope declared
AD 1950 – Assumption of the Virgin Mary
“The Immaculate Conception is the belief that the Virgin Mary was free of original sin from the moment of her conception. First debated by medieval theologians, it proved so controversial that it did not become part of official Catholic teaching until 1854 when Pius IX gave it the status of dogma in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus” (Wikipedia).
“In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin’” (franciscanmedia.org). “According to the apocryphal Gospel of James, Mary was the daughter of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne” (Google).
“The Syllabus of Errors (Latin: Syllabus Errorum) is a document issued by the Holy See under Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1864, as an appendix to the Quanta cura encyclical. It condemns a total of 80 errors or heresies, articulating Catholic Church teaching on a number of philosophical and political questions” (Wikipedia).
Pope Pius condemned various doctrines and trends characteristic of modern times, including pantheism, socialism, civil marriage, secular education, and religious indifferentism.
“The First Vatican Council (Latin: Concilium Vaticanum Primum) was convoked by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1868, after a period of planning and preparation that … Papal infallibility” (Wikipedia). “In its decree ‘Pastor Aeternus’ (1870) declared that the pope was infallible when he spoke ‘ex Cathedra’ (‘from the Chair’) on matters of faith and morals” (Google).
“In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church teaches that the Virgin Mary ‘having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Google) – she did not die. “The encyclical Mystici corporis Christi from Pope Pius XII (1943) holds that Mary was also sinless personally, ‘free from all sin, original or personal.’ The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that by the grace of God ‘Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long’” (vatican.va/).
“The Second Vatican Council (or Vatican II) was the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. It was convened by Saint John XXIII and lasted for four sessions from 1962 through 1965. It produced a series of documents to direct the life of the Church in the twentieth century and beyond” (Google).
“Saint John XXIII stated that the purpose of the Council was the ‘modernization of the Church after 20 centuries of life.’ This refreshening of the Church’s traditions is commonly referred to as aggiornamento (‘bringing up to date’ in Italian)” (Google).
“Vatican II also made profound changes in the liturgical practices of the Roman rite. It approved the translation of the liturgy into vernacular languages to permit greater participation in the worship service and to make the sacraments more intelligible to the vast majority of the laity (Google).
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® 2011 by Zondervan Corporation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Used with permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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