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Renewing Your Mind


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Church History

Not All Is Good

▪- A.D. 1510 to 1767

The Reformation started out as a movement by Luther and others to revise the actions of the Church of God. Neither Luther nor anyone else involved planned on starting a new church. Theirs was not a movement toward forming a third church along with the Church at Rome and the Church in the East. The results were obviously different.

There is no doubt the church had drifted away from the doctrines of the Bible. Scripture teaches justification by faith alone.  This was the battle cry of the Reformation. It is nothing but a simple statement of God's Word. It is equally clear that the Church of the sixteenth century had moved to a position whereby works had been added to faith. The Church at Rome would keep this dual salvation path, while the Protestants would follow their own battle cry. 

However, the Reformers were not prepared for the results of their efforts. The need for change was clearly in the air as evidenced by the widespread witness of various local leaders all arriving at the same general point in faith at the same general time history. God's church needed change. At the same time, there was no game plan for the results. Luther and Zwingli's disagreement over the structural meaning of the Lord's Supper is but one example. Each of the major Reformers agreed in principle but not necessarily in practice. 

As a result, unlike the split between East and West, this split created not two churches, but multiple churches, each labeled as a Protestant group. While each group followed the tenets of the Reformation, they did not unite. There was not even peace amongst the groups, as evidenced by Calvin's and other's persecution of the Anabaptists. At the end of the beginning, post-Reformation Europe had Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Catholics, Anabaptists, and a variety of smaller groups who loosely followed one or a combination of these larger groups.

So, post-Reform Europe is a period of trials. 

The pope "sold" positions to the local leaders as a method of gaining power. For example, Francis I of France had the right to appoint 10 archbishops, 38 bishops, and 527 heads of religious houses (monasteries). Only about 10% of the priests were literate. Patronage was the game of the day. If the church fell, so did the political leaders. This helps to explain their persecution of the Protestants.

In France, the French Protestants were nicknamed "Huguenots." By 1561, the Huguenots had 2,150 churches organized in a Presbyterian form of church government. In 1572, the queen of France convinced her husband, the King, the Huguenots were plotting to overthrow his government. On St. Bartholomew's Day, the King's soldiers swept through Paris killing every Protestant they encountered.  Approximately 10,000 were killed and Protestantism was not made legal in France until the Edit of Nantes in 1598, although by then eight European wars had been fought between Catholics and Protestants.

The Lutherans spent twenty years arguing over how depraved humans were. Calvinism maintained that humans were completely depraved. This leads to the Calvinistic teaching on predestination, a position that in Calvinism essentially means that God chose before the formation of the world those who would be saved because men were so depraved they could not come to God on their own. 

This issue would also split Calvinism, although in a different form. In the late 1500s, a Dutch pastor preached against Calvin's position on predestination. Jacob Arminius, another Dutch pastor, agreed to debate the issue. Arminius began a study of Calvin's writings and Scripture.  This study convinced Arminius Calvin was wrong and the opponent was correct! Arminius would die in 1609, but his followers would split Calvinism. 

After Arminius' followers had published their position, Prince Maurice, a Dutch prince, attempted to end the conflict by calling a council or synod. The Synod of Dort met in 1618 to denounce Arminianism. This council drafted a balanced statement of Calvinism that still lives today as TULIP.

A Comparison of Arminius and Calvin
Arminius Calvin TULIP

On their own humans can do nothing good.

Humans are spiritually dead and no one will seek God

Total Depravity (absence of desire for Christ)

Before the foundation of the world, God chose to save everyone who would freely choose to trust Christ

If someone trusts Christ, it is because God chose to regenerate that person. God's choice is uncontrollable; it is not based on any human decision.

Unconditional election (unconditional choice by God)

Jesus died for everyone, but his death only redeems believers

Christ's death atoned only for those who would believe in him (chosen by God).

Limited Atonement
(Cross only for God's elect)

People can choose to reject God's attempts to save them

When God regenerates someone, that person will neither resist nor reject God's grace.

Irresistible Grace
(cannot fight God)

Scripture doesn't clearly state whether Christians can forfeit salvation

Every Christian will persevere in faith until the end

Perseverance of the saints (Christians will never forfeit their salvation)

Following the Synod of Dort, predestination became the symbol and center of Calvinistic theology.  It is likely that most of us really have a view of theology that is a blend of these points. To a great extent, the debate is very similar to that of Augustine and Pelagius – with one major difference. Pelagius clearly taught man helped in his own salvation.  Arminius's actual position was that men could reject God's grace rather than accept it. The ongoing issue between true Calvinists (sometimes today referred to as "super-Calvinists, i.e. RC Sproul) and others is whether acceptance of God's gift by faith is a "choice."

It is during this time period that the church also looses its position of explaining the puzzle of creation. In the mid-1500s Nicolas Copernicus of Poland concluded that the earth revolved around the Sun rather than all of the planets revolving around the earth. Copernicus was greatly concerned about the practical effects of his conclusions, so he did not release them until he was on his deathbed.  His views, when they were published, were presented as speculations to simplify math rather than as scientific theories. 

Galileo carried Copernicus' ideas into the world of science. Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition on the basis that Joshua 10:12-13 teaches that the Sun, not the earth, moves. Under this death penalty, Galileo partially repented, changing his statements from theories to speculations. Galileo would spend the balance of his life under house arrest.  In 1992, the Church would determine that the Inquisition should not have convicted Galileo. 

However, science was now a force in the world. People would forever view their world from the eyes of man rather than God. 

Politics would also become a major force during this period. While the Holy Roman Emperor ruled little real geographical territory, the Church was still strongly involved in the ruling of societies.  Then came Prague. In 1618, Bohemian Protestants and envoys of their Catholic king met to resolve complaints of the Protestants. The Catholics, essentially, refused to listen, so the Protestants threw the Catholics out the second story window. The envoys survived the fall by falling into a wagon of horse manure.

The Holy Roman Emperor immediately declared war on the Protestants. This is the start of the Thirty Years' War. The conflict began over religion but soon turned into political skirmishes. France, Denmark, and the entire Holy Roman Empire would be involved. In a sense there were three issues – Protestants versus Catholics in Germany, Emperor versus Princes in the Holy Roman Empire, and France versus the Hapsbergs for the control of Europe. In other words, most of Europe participated in this senseless battle.  Ten million citizens would die. 

The War would end with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The telling factor of this Peace was that the pope was not invited. The pope had lost his political power to the various country leaders. Europe was sickened by all of the religious conflict.  Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Catholicism were recognized as legal religions. The princes had the right to determine the religion of their individual state. The political landscape had been greatly rearranged.

While War was on the horizon, in England the movement was to cleanse the church. This group became known as the "Puritans." The Puritans goal was to make the Scriptures vital in the life of the church and to cleanse the church of any practices that did not conform to Scriptures. Their preferred Bible was the Geneva Bible.

The Puritans themselves were different. The Puritans wore dull clothes for worship in other not to be distracted by bright colors.  Their goal was to turn their thoughts away from one another and toward God. At the same time, the group enjoyed their beer, swam, skated, hunted, bowled, and clearly expected a fulfilling relationship with their spouses. 

So, in 1604 the Puritans approached King James with a request to purify the Church of England.  James disliked the fact the Geneva Bible had Calvin's study notes, so when the Puritans suggested a new translation, James agreed. It would take 47 scholars 33 months to produce what we call the King James Bible.  The first KJV rolled off the press in 1611.

Some of the Puritans could not wait to see the results of this effort and separated from the Church of England. To avoid persecution, two of these "separatist" churches fled to Holland in 1607. One group would, in turn, sail to the New World. We know them as the Pilgrims. The other group remained in Holland and would radically change their understanding of the Church. John Smyth who settled in Amsterdam led the second group. 

Smyth adopted the doctrine that only believer's baptism was valid. Since the entire group had been baptized as children, there were no baptized believers in the group. How could they be baptized? Smyth would, ultimately, "cast water on himself." This act of self-baptism spawned the congregation of the "Brothers of the Separation of the Second English Church in Amsterdam."  That will not fit very well on the bulletin! Calvary Road Church of the Brothers of the Separation of the Second English Church in Amsterdam? No wonder people started calling them Baptists!

Smyth's Brothers of Separation embraced Arminian theology. Because this doctrinal approach includes an emphasis on universal or general atonement, the group became known as General Baptists. In 1612, Smyth had died and his best friend, Thomas Helwys took the group back to England, establishing the first English Baptist church near London.

In 1643, the British Parliament invited the Puritans to form their own church. The group met at Westminster Abbey and drafted the Westminster Catechism.

Meanwhile, in England, James' son Charles declared that every church in Britain was to follow the Anglican rituals. Dispute followed. Oliver Cromwell formed a pro-Puritan army. It took Cromwell about five years to control Britain. In the process, Cromwell's army beheaded King Charles and his archbishop. One of those drafted by Cromwell's army was 16-year-old John Bunyan.

In 1648 Bunyan married a young lady named Mary. While Bunyan built a thatched house, neither John nor Mary had any possessions other than two books owned by Mary. The books were Puritan writings. Apparently with nothing to do but read, Bunyan dove into these two works, as well as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. His life was changed. The experience of reading these works brought Christ into the life of John Bunyan. 

In 1653, Bunyan was baptized by immersion by a Baptist pastor in Bedford. It appears that this church was one of the first to return to immersion as the mode of baptism. Bunyan became a traveling Baptist preacher. 

Bunyan claims a unique position because in his travels he would share the Lord's Supper with all Christians, not just the Baptists. Most churches of the time practiced a form of closed communion. 

During this stormy time, in 1643 the English parliament commissioned the Westminster Assembly to develop the creed of the Church of England. Church of England and English Puritan ministers met daily from 1643 to 1649. The Westminster Confession of Faith, completed in 1646, affirmed a strong Calvinistic position and disavowed "the errors of Arminianism, Roman Catholicism, and sectarianism." The confession is still widely used in Anglican and Presbyterian circles.

Cromwell's reign ended in 1660 and again, all non-Anglican churches were suppressed. Bunyan was jailed in Bedford for preaching without approval or authority of the Anglican Church. It was while in prison that Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress.

England returned to the "middle road" of Queen Elizabeth in 1688 when William of Orange and King James' daughter Mary became the rulers of England. The Toleration Act was passed providing that so long as a group would conform to The Thirty-Nine Articles of doctrine the group would be allowed to worship without fear. In substance the Articles were much like the Westminster Confession. The Protestant fight in England was over.

We should make mention of one other group formed during this period of history.  George Fox of Drayton, England became an itinerant preacher in 1646. His territory included Ireland, West Indies and North America. His message emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit via revelation or an "inner light."  These revelations were viewed as equal to the words of the Bible. By 1660, the movement had expanded to the European continent, Asia, and Africa. In America, William Penn provided a heaven for members of this group in Pennsylvania. This group is the Quakers.

We have come this far in history without much discussion of events away from the European continent.  Perhaps we should remember that in 1492 Columbus landed in the Bahamas. Spain and Portugal were quick to send forces to America. The purpose of these groups was to "evangelize" the Native Americans. It appears the preferred method of evangelism was to read aloud, in Spanish, a summary of Christian beliefs, before each battle!

Sugar became the product driving the ship. It was illegal under Spanish law to enslave a native. The Spaniards created encomienda (en-KOM-ee EN-dah). Under this system, the natives were entrusted to settlers who were to teach the natives about Christ. These natives were actually treated worse than slaves for the settlers had no financial interest in the people whatsoever. Cruelties persisted, but the seeds of the future slave trade were in place.

The real killer of the native Americans was not, however, the actions of the settlers. The native Americans were not ready for the diseases of Europe. Just as AIDS from Africa has invaded an unsuspecting world today, the native Americans were devastated by the illness of the white settlers. It has been estimated that in Mexico 17 million, out of a population of 18 million, died during this period, the vast majority from imported illness.  This problem struck at the life of the settlers, for without workers, there would be no profits. The solution was to import slaves from Africa. The justification, in part, was the curse of Canaan (Gen 9:25), a declaration that the curse was dark skin.

Priests came with the settlers. Bartolome de Las Casas performed the first Mass in the New World in 1510. Bartolome himself acquired an encomienda to help him live. Then for unexplained reasons, Bartolome had a rebirth. In 1514, he released all of his slaves, returned to Spain, and lobbied for protection for the Native Americans. His pleas were partially answered when, in 1519, the Holy Roman Emperor passed a law code that limited Spain's rights and power over the natives. But the settlers were a large ocean away.  The code was mostly ignored.

The Jesuits attempted to save the day. Jesuits such as Pedro Claver built communities to help the slaves. Claver came to Columbia in 1622 declaring himself to be a "slave of the Africans" or, if you will, a "slave of the slaves." Claver convinced the Order to obtain Africans to teach him the language and help him in his work. As each boatload of slaves arrived, Claver would group the people by language, give them water, and give them the Gospel message.

Claver himself suffered a humiliating death. No one among his fellow settlers liked him. Disease crippled him. The settlers provided a slave to take care of him. The slave hated the white and, thus, left Claver alone. Near his death, the settlers, convinced that he would be made a saint, raided his hunt and took all of his possessions, including his clothes, assuming they would become valuable. Claver died naked and alone in 1654, poisoned by his own filth. He was declared a saint, but not for 200 years!

Jesuits worked in many other regions as well. As indicated above, they would build settlements for the Native Americans to keep them from slavery. In 1628 the plantation owners attacked some of these missions and enslaved the natives.  The Jesuits moved farther inland and rebuilt. The settlers followed so the Jesuits armed the natives in 1640. This strategy worked for a while. By 1731, 150,000 Native Americans were living in Jesuit communities. The slave owners' greed would eventually win the day. With superior weapons, they forced the Jesuits out of the New World in 1767. The missions were all destroyed by 1800 by slavery, disease, and greed.

Those who know me know that I basically believe the movies are the product of the devil. I go to very few movies and watch only a handful on DVD. I understand, however, that not all share my perspective. For those who like the movies, the movie The Mission is a fictional account of this period in the lives of the Jesuits.

In the 17th Century, an Aztec native claimed to have seen a vision of a Native American Virgin Mary. The politics of the time compelled a bishop to build a shrine at the site of the vision.  This shrine is the Virgin of Guadalupe.  It became the symbol of Mexican self-rule. 

For informational purposes, other cults arose during this era.

Swedenborgianism, the New Jerusalem Church, claimed to be able to commune with spirits and angels, thus, learning the secrets of the universe. Swedenborg denied the Trinity, original sin, the atonement, and the bodily resurrection. There seems to be a great deal of emphasis upon "free love" in a sexual context. He spiritualized the Bible. While there are still followers of Swedenborg in today's society, his lasting effect upon the church are the assimilation of his doctrines into other groups.

Jansenism was a cult of the Roman Catholic Church. Pietism was a movement within the Lutheran church, while Socinianism was founded in Italy. This group taught that Christ was an exemplary man. The movement died but left behind seeds of liberal influence.  Indeed, this is the issue with many of these cults. You will find remnants within these groups of false doctrines from the second and third centuries, just as today various cults have picked these remnants from groups of this period.

Other nationalities beside the English had influences upon American religion. The Spaniards land in St. Augustine, Florida about 1512. From there they would spread west to Texas, New Mexico and California, leaving beyond the teachings of Spanish and Portuguese priests. They also expanded into Latin America.

The French moved into Canada and the US, establishing a permanent colony in Quebec in 1608. They left little influence of any type except in Quebec and Louisiana. 

The Germans landed mostly in Pennsylvania while the Dutch are responsible for Delaware.

Seventeenth Century Events

• The Protestant Reformation begun in the last century continues to affect the religious and political life of Europe.

• In England the Puritan Revolution removes King Charles and executes him while attempting to establish a Puritan Commonwealth.

• In France, the Protestant Huguenots rebel against King Louis XIII.

• 1618-1648 -- In central Europe, the Thirty Years& War brings destruction as Protestants and Catholics vie for power.

• England begins to establish colonies in North America, many with the purpose of spreading Christianity or establishing more Biblical Christian governments -- Jamestown begins in 1607, Pilgrims land in 1620, Massachusetts Bay Colony established by Puritans in 1630.

• "King James Version" translation of the English Bible released in 1611; will shape and mold the English language for over three centuries.

• 1633 - Galileo forced by the Inquisition to abjure Copernicus& theories. New scientific studies often pursued by men seeking to learn the ways of their Creator - Johann Kepler, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle.

• 1634 -- the first Oberammergau Passion Play

• Classic works of Christian literature are written: 1667 - John Milton&s Paradise Lost; 1670 - Blaise Pascal&s Pensees; 1678 - John Bunyan&s Pilgrim&s Progress.

• "Enlightenment" writers question Christianity and seek to base knowledge on human reason--Leibnitz, Hobbes, and Descartes.


Source: David Barrett.

One Hundred Key Events in Church History


Part 3: From Calvin to Adoniram Judson

Year and event


John Calvin publishes The Institutes of the Christian Religion, the most substantial theological work of the Reformation.


The Society of Jesus is approved by the Vatican. Founded by Ignatius Loyola, the Jesuit order places its services entirely at the disposal of the pope.


The Council of Trent opens. Called by the Roman Catholic Church, it addresses abuses and serves the Catholic Counter-Reformation.


Cranmer produces the beloved Book of Common Prayer for the Church of England.


John Knox returns to Scotland to lead reformation there after a period of exile in Calvin&s Geneva.


The Saint Bartholomew&s Day Massacre in France witnesses the killing of tens of thousands of Protestant Huguenots by Catholics.


Anglican preacher turned Separatist, John Smith, baptizes the first "Baptists."


Publication of the Authorized or King James translation of the Bible in the English language. Fifty-four scholars worked for four years on the project.


Pilgrims coming to America sign the Mayflower Compact and commit themselves to seek the public good, uphold group solidarity and forsake self-seeking.


Jan Amos Comenius is driven from his homeland in Moravia and wanders the rest of his life spreading educational reform and pleading for Christian reconciliation.


The Westminster Confession is drafted in the Jerusalem Room at Westminster Abbey.


George Fox founds the Society of Friends, more commonly known as "Quakers." Seeking to live simple lives, opposed to warfare and avoiding formal worship, they had an influence far exceeding their numbers.


Rembrandt completes his masterful painting the Return of the Prodigal Son.


German Lutheran minister Philip Jacob Spener publishes Pia Desideria which becomes a manifesto for "Pietism."


John Bunyan&s The Pilgrim&s Progress is published. It becomes second in international circulation, exceeded only by the Bible.


Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel born. These two will go on to become musical giants illustrating the central place of Biblical subjects in the masterpieces of Western art.


Publication of Isaac Watt&s Hymns and Spiritual Songs marks a new development in the kind of music sung in churches.


Awakening at Herrnhut launches Moravian Brethren as the forerunner of modern Protestant missionary movements.


Great Awakening under Jonathan Edwards stirs the American colonies with many conversions and individual returns to heartfelt faith.


John Wesley&s conversion eventually leads to the founding of a branch of the Methodist Church although he had no intention of forming a separate denomination.


Newspaperman Robert Raikes begins Sunday schools to reach poor and uneducated children in England. It rapidly becomes a vital international movement.

1793 William Carey sails as a missionary to India and oversees more Bible translations than had previously been produced in all Christian history.


The British Parliament votes to abolish the slave trade. Its decision is owing in large part to the tireless efforts of the Christian politician William Wilberforce.


The Campbells begin the Disciples of Christ, an element within what became known as the "Restoration Movement" of American Christianity.


Adoniram and Ann Judson sail for India. These first missionaries to be sent from America evangelize Burma and translate the scriptures into Burmese.




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