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The Spread of the Gospel in Hindsight: The Church’s First 1452 Years

The last issue is the relationship between Christianity and the civil authority. The “city” or “community” of God is not best seen in its participation in whatever political system there is; neither is it best seen in its separation from the political order in either an “Anabaptist model” or “a separation of church and state” model. The church is best recognized as those individuals who by their existence within the social and political matrix infuse into that matrix a way of living which influences the whole social order with its love and concern for those who live within society. So it did within late antiquity and within the so-called “medieval world” by the creation of hostels for the traveler, the hospitals for the infirmed, critically injured and sick. It was the church who cared enough to rescue abandoned children, give haven to abused women, and elevated the slave. In fact, Pope Callistis, who died in A.D. 236, had previously been a common slave.

What is more, there never was such a “medieval” or “middle ages.” Neither was there a so-called “Dark Ages.” Those descriptions were the inventions of the Italians and French during the years of the Renaissance and the later Enlightenment of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to describe what transpired before them. It was good that “Rome fell” as it did. Never having crossed the Danube or even the Rhine, it was self-contained along the coastal waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic west coast of Africa and got no further than the Upper Mesopotamian. In the meanwhile, the church, through the monasteries, the parish system, and the emerging peoples of Europe, ushered in the age of progress in agriculture, technology, higher education, and the introduction of capitalism. If one wants a good thorough study, this author recommends the reader to tolle lege –“take up and read.” I am referring to Dr. Rodney Stark’s very thoroughgoing study The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. It was published in 2005 by Random House. It is highly recommended by this writer.

 

It was the church

Consider the life-style of Jesus. The Christian life-style has to do with character and quality, not rules and behaviors. Behavior patterns can be programmed according to surroundings. Love, as society sees it, is an emotion. There may be affection in love but Christian love is volitional, not emotional, an act but not necessarily an action. It is pro-active and neither reactive or retro-active.

Christ meets us where we are at but does not leave us there. He does not accept as we are but raises us up – to all that we can be. We do not have to clean ourselves up to be acceptable to Him, Christ Jesus does the cleansing. We recognize ourselves as undone and recognize Jesus as saying “Done.” Christian faith is not about we do but what Jesus has done.

The Holy Spirit does not have anything to do with what most call spirituality. The Hebrew term, “Ruach haQodesh,” translated as Holy Spirit, refers to that which gives breath and life, and allows us to breathe and have life that is abundant in quality of life. The spiritualities of Hindu, Buddhism, and Taoism are all introspective and centered in self. The Christian’s devotion is outward, inward and geared toward the imitation of Christ and to His way of living.

In an effort to combat the inroads of Severan syncretism, eastern spiritualities, and religiosity, councils were called into being in order to face the critics, the heresies of Gnosticism and spiritualism, and the cultural attractions. The Council of Nicaea in northwest Turkey in A.D. 315 was a meeting of Christian leaders from York, England, Carthage and Cyrene in Libya, Alexandria in Egypt, and bishops from the Persian Gulf area. What resulted from it was the Nicene Creed which set forth the basics of the Christian faith for all time. It was re-affirmed in Constantinople in A.D. 385. It remains to the very present as the unifying document of all Christians be they Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant.

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Category: Church History, Fall 2017

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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