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...all reasoning takes place within the context of some traditional mode of thought.
Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virture, p. 222
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 301
How all-important it is that a vigorous spiritual life, in close association with the Holy Scriptures and in the midst of Christian community, be maintained as a background to theological work, and that the unformed shadows of thought always derive their life-blood from that source...
Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, p. 37
'Get all you can; save all you can; give all you can.'
John Wesley
They sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with their lips they show much love, but their heart is set on their gain.
Ezekiel 33:31
The task of the theologian, like the task of the preacher, is to write theology in such a way as to persuade modern people.
John Leith, Basic Christian Doctrine, p.9
True love does not result in obsession or possession, but in submission.
MOI
...He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and the needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 22:16
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 301
Grace is grace despite of all controversy.
Shakespeare
...there is nothing in the world sweeter for a man than having children and a wife provided he lives chastely.
John Chrysostom, from Golden Mouth, p.96
...the knowledge of God consists not in frigid speculation, but carries worship along with it...
John Calvin, The Institutes, bk 1, ch 12
...God, the Maker of the world, is manifested to us in Scripture, and his true character expounded, so as to save us from wandering up and down, as in a labyrinth, in search of some doubtful deity.
John Calvin, The Institutes, bk1, ch6
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.
G.K. Chesterton
...it is clear that man cannot have practical intelligence unless he is good.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1144a37

kimpavitagrandecongo

Introduction

Early global Christianity has been covered over.  Europe now becomes the center of the Christian world.  It is now the most significant area of its practice.  Christianity in Asia and Africa had been eclipsed altogether.  Many Christians there were now under alien rule.  As a result, Christianity became more European than it had even been before. In Ethiopia a very distinctive form of Christianity had emerged, marked deeply by conditions of African village life.  There were also Christian communities in S. Asia at this time.  But European Christians knew little of the world beyond the Muslim communities at the border of European Christendom.   They only had rumors of “Prestor John”, a Christian prince beyond Muslim lines who might help them against the Muslims, if only they could find him.

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Europe was also more Christian than had ever been before. Geographically, the last northern peoples in Finland and Scandanavia had become Christian.  In the south Spain had been recaptured with the defeat of the Kingdom of Granada in 1042.  Over next couple of decades, Spain’s Muslims will be required to convert to Christianity or leave.  Only in the Balkans was there any break in Christendom in Europe.  Europe was Christianity geographically expressed.  It was Christianity on the map.  Islam had also consolidated its position in the East.  They lived across from  Christendom, with no one else in site.  There were no other non-Christian people’s of whom the Europeans knew.  Very little was known of China and Africa at this time.  There was no knowledge of America at all.

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Europe was more Christian than ever before in the cultural sense as well. It had taken many centuries to become Christian.  But now Europe produced a literature, art, and philosophy shot through with Christian symbols.  European culture at this time is hardly intelligible without a knowledge of those Christian symbols.  In places of learning, theology was the queen of the sciences.  Theology is what unified the disciplines.

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A development took place which would change history of Christianity again.  We are not talking about the Reformation.  The Reformation was only a local difficulty related to other 16th century development.  The development of which we speak is ocean going vessels which brought Europe into contact with the non-Christian world, to live in close contact with non-Christian peoples.  It would be a time in which she would have to face the limitations of her knowledge, to stretch their theology, to think of things they hadn’t thought of before.

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Kingdom of Kongo

Portuguese sailors moved further and further down Africa to get past Muslim territories to the places where they knew there was gold (because it showed upin commercial channels).  In 1483 the Portuguese reached the mouth of the Kongo.Over the next decade other visits were made and relations developed with people of this territory.  Both parties were reasonably pleased with each other.  They exchanged gifts and hostages with one another.  There were Africans living in Lisbon.  There were Europeans living in Congo.  They agreed to trade.  Over time, the Western party wanted more.  The representatives of Christendom wanted to see that territory expanded, with the law of Christ being observed in places where it was not now being followed.  Being convinced of the power and truth of Christian doctrine, they wanted the people of Congo to accept it as well.  Reflecting the workings of their own hierarchical society, they concentrated on “the kings”, as they called them, of the countries to which they came.

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In 1491 they secured the baptism of a major chief in the Kingdom of Kongo.  After his baptism he took the name of John I.  The King of Portugal was John II.  Before long King John I became disillusioned with Christianity.  When he made the decision to to become Christian, all the charms and protective magic of his people had been burnt.   A huge wooden cross had been erected in the center of town.  But the representatives of Christendom wanted other bonfires; whenever priests found fetishes, charms, or amulets, they would burned them.  But these things were for protecting the kingdom and had done it reasonably well in past.  How could the King be sure he and his kingdom would be protected without such things?  Another problem was that they had forced him to put away all of his wives except  one.  But he needed the wives because each of them represented treaties with other peoples and thus protection.  So, John gave up Christian faith and a majority of the chiefs did as well.

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Afonso

In the part of Kongo which was known as Mbanza, Afonso, a son of the King, continued in his Christian faith.  When John died, a succession battle occurred.  Many senior chiefs backed the oldest son of John who had given up Christianity.  Others backed Afonso.  Afonso’s forces were much less in number than his rival.  But in the brief battle, for no evident reason, the majority army turned and  fled from the battle field just when victory seemed assured.  Afonso became  King.  His victory was sealed by a vision which many in the opposing army who fled said they saw, of a white cross in the sky when Afonso had called on Santiago Matamoros (fighter against Moors).

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Afonso was now king.  He reigned in Kongo for 34 years (died 1543).  His Christian faith didn’t waver in that time.  He was not a Portuguese puppet.  He often differed in policy with them.  He stood against a Portuguese trade monopoly.  The Kingdom of Kongo was not a colony in any sense.  A colony did develop later, in Angola, but that situation was different.  The Kingdom of Kongo was one of the states of Christendom.  (as France or England).  Afonso was not an oppressive ruler, a conqueror or an expansionist.  But he did desire to develop his kingdom; to improve his nation.  Afonso made rites and ceremonies in his kingdom Christian rites and ceremonies.  But the issue of protection from evil continued to loom large.

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He needed to demonstrate power of God in Christ.  How could it be revealed?  Where would it be found?  Without this power there would be no possibility of  stopping the return to fetish use.  In all the theology Afonso had been taught  the power of God was demonstrated in the Sacraments and above all in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  This is how Christ power was demonstrated in Portugal.  This is how it is sought.  But the mass depended on the presence of priests.  There were very few priests in the Kongo.  Afonso appealed to the Portuguese to send doctors, builders, teachers, but above all he asks for priests.  He didn’t get priests.

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So, he turned to question of building indigenous priesthood.  He sent people to Portugal for training.  Some died, some couldn’t handle Latin.  Some couldn’t handle celibacy.  Hardly any came back.  One did, a son of Afonso.  He was an effective priest, but he died young.

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Finally, Afonso gave up relying on Lisbon for training and asked for the territory of Sao Tome to build a seminary.  The Portuguese had other plans for Sao Tome.  So, he tried to get beyond the Portuguese King and appeal directly to Pope.  But all messages to the Pope had to go through him.  He made sure Pope never heard the request.

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In absence of indigenous priesthood, Afonso presided over a lay Christianity organized on African lines, through heads of tribal families.  Wealthy leading laymen committed themselves to works of prayer and charity in Portugal.  He adapted this model for his Kindom and this resulted in a steady penetration of Christian teaching during his rule.  Teaching was carried out by bands of people consisting of teachers and groups of students who worked their way through villages and towns.  These catechists asked questions and received answers….a sort of lay pastorate.  Catchism begins “By the sign of the Holy Cross, our Lord Christ God saves us from our enemies.”  The first thing they needed to know was that Christ would protect them.  The question, “What is a Christian?”  Was answered properly by saying, “One who follows the law of Christ.”  Prayers were taught to the people, the Lord’s prayer above all, as well as the Ave Maria.

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Over the next 100 years or so Christianity deepened and traveler’s to the Congo were impressed that even in rural areas everyone knew the prayers and the outline of Christian doctrine.  When teachers were not in worship, whole communities attended prayers on Saturday, led by the leading people, which including reciting the rosary.  Easter, Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany were important festivals.  All Saints Eve and All Saints Day were also important.

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All families assembled on halloween and prayed, they went to the graves of their ancestors (now mostly Christian).  In the capital the king went to graves of past rulers (in the royal chapel) and candles were placed near the graves and the rosary was said.  All through the night this goes on.  The Rosary is said again at dawn.  The next day, All Saints day, was the day for church offerings.  Gifts for church in money or in kind, were given in the name of the ancestors.  Another major festival day was St. James’ day.  This was adapted (popular cult in Spain and Portugal) to the Congo, being celebrated as the birthday of the church because of the way in which Afonso became king.

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Kongo never got a priesthood.  Afonso was himself the greatest early resource for church inKongo.  A Portuguese priest, who worked inKongo, wrote that Afonso “appears as angel sent by Lord to convert his people.”  He made it clear that Afonso preaches better than the priests do.  He knows the Bible, the saints, and our mother.  He does nothing but study, even falling asleep at the books.  He forgets dinner time.  He is so delighted at reading of Scriptures, he forgets himself.

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After Afonso’s death, the Christian kingdom of Kongo continued for many generations.  No later king had his vision or capacity.  Meanwhile the Portuguese expanded the colony of Angola, fueled by the developing Atlantic

slave trade and, in their mind, this was main focus of church activity.  Eventually Kongo was sucked in and seen as a source of slaves.  In 1665 the Kongolese and Portuguese armies battled.  The Kongolese were defeated.  They

lost many chiefs, much of their wealth and some of their towns.  In the end one can argue that the Christian kingdom of Congo was destroyed by colonization.

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After this defeat, the kingdom of Kongo fell into civil war.  But in the midst of this, a charismatic individual appeared on the scene.  This is a frequent occurrence in African history.  In turning points in history charismatic leaders arise.  This is also true of Christian expansion there as well.

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Kimpa Vita

In 1704, after 6 generations of Christianity in the Congo, a woman named Kimpa Vita (or Beatrice) was lying in bed fevered and sick from illness.  She had avision of a man standing in her room and dressed in the clothing of missionaries in the Kongo.  He said, ” I am St. Anthony.  (Anthony was an Egyptian, and thus African, saint from centuries earlier.)  “I have come to your head to bring restoration to kingdom of Kongo.” he said.  Then she felt as thought he had entered her head.  She was immediately healed of her sickness.  She entered on a career of preaching, directed to the salvation of the people as well as the kingdom.  In her preaching she called on the King to return to take his place in the now shattered capital city.  She called for national regeneration.  She called for an end to the civil wars.  She also rebuked the greed which produced these wars.  From here her theology took a radical turn.  She stood against fetish and called for their destruction.  This had been called for since the early days of Christianity in Kongo.  But she extended this message to the Christian crucifixes which, she said, were themselves being used as fetishes.  She even called for the great wooden crosses in towns and other areas to be taken down.  God, she said, was interested only in our intentions.  Crucifixes don’t mean anything to him.  She even said that saying prayers are nothing in themselves.  God considers the intention of the person praying.  But prayers without the proper intention are just more magical practice.  She became the focus of a movement challenging both church and state.  In the end church and state combined against her and she was burned as a heretic in 1706.

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Beatrice was the first real example of a radical reformer in African Christianity.  This reformation was a sign of Christianity deeply penetrating this African culture.  You only have reformation in a culture in which Christianity is the norm.  The reformers find that norm lacking and call people to a higher commitment. Her teaching reflects aKongolese appropriation of Christianity.  The mode of calling is very African; through an incurable illness which is cured on obedience to vision.  This is common in stories of non-Christians in their culture.  But here it is a Christian calling  which comes in this form.  The result of her calling and obedience is a re-interpretation of Christianity using African institutions.  As other reformers, she claimed to be loyal to Rome and the Church.  She was genuinely puzzled and distressed when her message not accepted by church authorities.  This is a story which has many analogues in years which follow in Africa.

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Conclusion

Kongo Christianity lasted more than 3 centuries in adverse conditions with minimal outside support.  While lasted it was one of the states of Christendom.

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kiev-ukraine-city-views-13.

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.I.  Holy Russia

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Russia became increasingly important to the Mediterranean world.  The growth of Islamic power and the prevalence of sea raiding made Mediterranean unsafe for trade.  Russia’s great river systems were providing an alternative channel for trade between east and west.  The Prince of Kiev rose to be the most important ruler in region.  Grand Prince Vladimir was the dominant figure from 979 until his death in 1015.  He was of Viking descent.  His grandmother Olga had become a Christian while on a visit to Constantinople.

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Many in Russia were attracted to Christianity at this time.  The number of Christian families in Russia was growing.  At first Vladimir did not look with favor on this.  (hand out)  Most of Russia’s neighbors had aligned with one or another of world religion.  But Russia was still holding to the old primal religions.  Some countries were Muslim,  some Jewish (whole tribes Jewish by conversion), some were Latin Christians, some Greek Christians.  It was still the patristic era in Greek Christianity (they did not have a Middle Ages and you can’t have a reformation like Western Christianity without a Middle Ages)  Instead the patristic period for the Greek church extends right down to 15th century).  As the rising power while Constantinople and the Roman Empire were declining, the Russians looked to the liturgies and worship of the countries around them and the worship of patristic constantinople hugely impressed them.  Russia chose to follow Constantinople.

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Vladimir was also looking at the political implications of such a decision.  His relations with Constantinople were strained.  He was laying siege against them.  So, in their negotiations Vladimir agreed to become a Christian in Constantinople but demands a seal by marriage to the Princess (sister) of Constantinian leader.  Once this took place, the Russians destroyed all their cult objects and ridiculed them in the city streets.  It was a very public repudiation of the old gods.  He was then baptized in the church followed by all of the people who are baptized in the river.  This included young children in the arms of parents.  This spread across Russia.  Churches were to be build in every place where there had once been a pagan shrine.  They built wooden church immediately in these sights with a nicer one later because they did not want a waiting period between the old and the new faiths.

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Russia had entered Christendom.  This was a Christendom with a great deal in common with the Western one, even while warning its people about the “vicious tendencies” of the church in the West.  The liturgy was in Slavonic at that time, as this was vernacular of many.  Schools set up for the training of an indigenous priesthood.  And the new church began with built-in suspicion of the Western church.  This Christendom was parallel with Western one.

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The Church in Russia was part of nation’s social cement which tied the people together.  Thus, the church in Russia was essentially pastoral; focused on teaching, inspiring, comforting in sorrow, supporting in adversity.  The responsibility of the leadership was to maintain worship. to keep God before their eyes, and to lead people to heaven.  Mt 28:19ff, which we call The Great Commission, undergirds their responsibility to make disciples of the nation of Russia by baptizing its people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Only when the nation expands and incorporates non-Christians will any other dimension of Mt 28:19 come to mind. At that time, the national duty is to make its non-Christian people Christian.  Making them Christian is part of making them Russians.  Until they become Christian they aren’t really Russians.

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Eastern and Western Christendom realized their own deficiencies in trying to be a people of God.  In both forms of Christianity, the sense of sin and failure build.  Anxious, burdened souls who desire to be true disciples of Christ seek refuge in the monastic life. In the Eastern monastic tradition, they sought not only to imitate Christ as in Western monasteries, but to identify with Christ by being taken up into divine reality.  There was intense concentration on the relation between divine and human.  Christ became what we are in order that we might become what he is.  The goal of the Christian life is to  become partakers of divine nature.  The worship of the church is meant to bring you into a position so that the worshipper doesn’t know if they are in earth or in heaven.  It is to take people up into what the angels are doing all the time.  The divine service is a reflection of that heavenly adoration of God and the lamb.

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Vladimir took Christianity seriously after his conversion.  He fed the poor from his own table.  And his two youngest sons showed their devotion, after death of Vladimir.  When they heard that their elder brother was going to attack them in order to seal his succession to the throne, one of them, Boris, refused to allow his army to fight.  He said he had the right to defend the country against outside attack, but that it was not right to kill over rivalry with own brother.  As a result, both brothers were murdered, submitting to death rather than break law of God.  Don’t know of any in the story of European royalty who behaved like this.

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II.  Muslims and Mongols

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Over time, the Eastern Roman Empire lost the provinces which were least Greek  (Coptic and Syriac provinces went to Arabs, for example).  What was left was most Greek parts of the Empire.  As a result, the Greek language and culture became more of a part of the Eastern Roman Empire.  The church became more homogeneous.

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Meanwhile, Arabs from North Africa went into Spain and France.  They were only turned back in central France in 732.  The prospect of a Muslim Europe was a very real possibility at this time.  Even after retreat from Tour, most of Spain remained in Muslim hands.  Gradually, Christian leaders took it back though Andalucia was held by Muslims until 1492.  (Columbus saw surrender of Muslim king before leaving on his journey).

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Muslim population remained in these areas once they were retaken by Christians.  They existed side by side with Christians and with a large Jewish population.

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The Greek Roman Empire continued to feel Muslim pressure.  The Arabs gradually took over territories, getting nearer and nearer to Constantinople and the gateway to Europe.

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The growth of Muslim-Christian relations must be seen in terms of the contest for land.  At this point in history they were not about Crusades.  They were not about Jihad.  The war of expansion and the defense of your land occurred on both sides.  Battles were fought over ownership of territories.

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The Crusades began in 1066 following the preaching of Pope Urban VI.  His stated purpose was two-fold.  1)  To reclaim holy places of Bible  2) to make it safe for those who were on pilgrimage to those places.  There was a huge response.  The motives were quite mixed.  Military adventurers and elites (as with Clovis and Edwin) are looking to carve out territory for themselves.  There is an expectation of worldly reward.  In time some succeeded in gaining territory.

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But the gains are short term.  The main casualty of the Crusades was really the Eastern empire.  It was destroyed by the Crusades.  The  Christian kingdom of Nubia was also a casualty of the Crusades.  Each gain by Westerners weakened Eastern empire and made resistance to Muslims weaker.

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Initially, there was a desire to heal break between East and West.  This was pursued in the hopes of strengthening the East.  They said they would forget 1054, that they would be Christians together, that they would unite in common interest.  But as they met with each other they found little fellowship.  Western Christians found it difficult to recognize the Eastern faith as being theirs.  When they took territory in the Crusades, they slaughtered Christians as well as Muslims.  They could hardly ever resist lure of taking territory, even if belonged to the Christian empire.

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One of most shameful episode of Christian history is in the 4th Crusade.  This Crusade was diverted from attacking a Muslim army to attacking the city of Constantinople.  Western fighters entered on Good Friday in 1204 and in 3 days of murder, destruction, rape and looting laid the city to waste and all its glories.  In the Hagia Sophia, a prostitute sang bawdy songs from the chancel while soldier hacked the high alter to pieces.  This was a blow from which Constantinople never recovered.

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In the 12th century we find the unannounced arrival of new nation.  The Mongols had been a dispersed and divided people.  But they were brought together under a great genius…In Central Asia in 1206, close to the date of the sack of Constantinople, he was elected great Khan, or Emperor of the nation he had brought into being.  He took the name of Ghengis Khan.  Between 1211 and 1215 his armies took command of the Chinese Empire.  He then moved with his huge mounted army westward and occupied all of Central Asia; including Afghanistan, Iran and the Caucuses.  He, too, had religious inspiration.  Khan had Shamanistic visions in which he was called by the Supreme God of the Eternal Blue Sky to establish universal peace.  He was able to incorporate Shamanists, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians under this Supreme God.  The Mongols  made peace by making a desert.  No city could resist them.  They destroyed like locusts wherever they went.  They broke military rules of the day.    His massive army had two horses for every rider.  The riders developed the ability to sleep in the saddle.  No army had moved so quickly.

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There are many accounts of their devastation.  The Papal ambassador to the Mongols wrote of going through the Russian plains which had once been densely populated and seeing no population except for the bleached bones of the dead.

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The Khan died suddenly.  His successors continued to work by bursting into Russia, the Middle East, Syria, Iraq and Palestine.  They even moved into Europe and were threatening the city of Venice.  Europe was stunned by them.  Who were they?  Where did they come from?  In Russia the success of the Mongols was seen as God’s punishment for the sins of his people.

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Western Christians were uncertain how to respond to the Mongols.  They were over running Muslim territory.  Should they make an alliance with them or were they a greater threat than the Muslims themselves?  The Crusading armies were also confused.  The Pope tried to reason with the great Khan but he could not understand his argument.  As far as the Khan was concerned, the Great God gave him victory and would continue to do so.  It was best for the Pope and the Western Christians to submit to him and pay tribute.

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The Mongol armies reached Hungry and the Adriatic in 1242.  There was nothing to interfere with their total conquest of Europe.  In 8th century Europe might have become Muslim.  In the 13th Europe might have become Mongol.  But the death of the Great Khan brought about the withdrawal of the Mongol armies to Central Asia so they could be present for the election of the next Great Khan.  As things turned out, there was no second opportunity to invade.  Europe was saved.  But Russian remained under Mongol rule.

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They did not greatly interfere with the Russians.  The Mongols protected the Russian church as worshippers of the God of heaven.  They allowed bishops to travel freely as well.   So church and nation in Russia recovered from great wounds of first invasion.  Under Mongol rule the center of the church became Moscow.  In 1380 the Prince of Moscow inflicted the first significant defeat on a Muslim army.  This was the sign of future of Mongol rule as well.

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The Mongols gave the Eastern Roman Empire and the Eastern Church a respite from Muslim pressure on Constantinople.  But in Central Asia the church suffered terribly.  This was the sphere of the old Nestorian church.  Here Christianity had become at home among the nomadic peoples of Asia (the Uigers and the Turkic people’s for example).  This church had brought the gospel to China in 7th century.  The great but terrible Mongol ruler, Tamarlane, destroyed the greater part of this church before his death in 1405.  Meanwhile, other Turkic people were making their way Westward from central Asia.  The Ottoman Turks will displace the Arabs as Islamic leaders.  They will carry on a revival of Islamic endeavors toward Constantinople after the Mongol threat was removed.  They brought about fall of Constantinople in 1453.  With this the Eastern Roman Empire comes to an end.  Constantine’s second rule moves into eclipse.  The Hagia Sophia, wrecked by the Crusaders 250 years earlier, had been repaired.  But now it became a Mosque.  This was the end of the dominating Christian power in the east.

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And so, we have seen the serial nature of the Christian faith.  In the West a center of the Christian faith had fallen only to rise again among the Barbarians.  In the East the once vibrant center has fallen but a third Rome will rise to take its place.  The third Rome is Holy Russia with Moscow as its capital.

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cyril-and-methodius

I.  Divisions

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When Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to a city bearing his name (Constantinople, today Istanbul in Turkey) the Turks had not yet arrived in Turkey. This huge area was Greek speaking and one of the strongest Chrsitian areas of the world. The move was a sound one, as the capital was now closer to the center of gravity of the Roman Empire. It was nearer to the areas of highest population density and of the riches and resources of the Empire. Greek culture was strong here; a Greek culture that was deeply influenced by Christianity. The downside of the move was that it emphasized the structural weakness of the Empire; the Latin speaking West and the Greek speaking East. The Empire developed in a way in which these two sides threatened to split. The Christian church in the Empire developed the same tendency.

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This move coincides with beginning of Rome as a Christian empire. Christianity had already spread widely in the only power which could challenge Rome in that day. Christianity spread in the Persian Empire from Iraq, all the way across Asia, even reaching China with the first preaching of the gospel in China in the years 635-638ad. (This was about the same time that King Edwin of Northumberland and his officer core agreed to follow the “new doctrine” of Christianity. Global Christianity at this time spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Siberia to Sri Lanka. And now, in the Roman Empire, the altars in the pagan temples were thrown down one by one as Christian community realized their faith had triumphed.

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The church in the Roman Empire, however, was divided by linguistic, cultural,and theological issues.

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1) Theological issues: All agreed that Christ was fully divine and fully

human. The two natures were found in the one Christ. Over the years “experimental thinking” on this issue had been exposed as inadequate. Still,some wanted to emphasis distinction between human and divine. Others wanted to emphasize the unity of the two natures. The problems developed, however, when Christians did their thinking in the different language of the faith at this time; Greek, Latin, Coptic and Syriac. When thinking in one language was translated into another language it would sometimes seem shocking. It would seem, in translation, as though the author had confused the divine and human. It would seem that a thinker had confused the unity of the two natures. The patience and goodwill which would have worked out these issues was some times lacking. Especially when the linguistic factors were influenced by other issues.

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2) Political issues: No Emperor of the Empire wanted theologians arguing. They wanted to keep the unity of the Empire. They wanted the problems to be solved. The Council of Chalcedon, called by the Emperor, produced a formula which laid out a safe area for theological activity on this subject. It greatly oversimplified things but brought consensus among those working in Greek and Latin. However, it left those working in Coptics (Egypt) and Syriac (including Iraq) very unhappy.

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One of the problems of theological thinkings is the “shibboleth”; that you mustsay something in a particular way or we cannot be in fellowship. Out of theseshibboleths theological swear words are developed. The most important swearwords of this time are Nestorian and Monophysite. “Nestorian” was developed from Nestorius, the patriarch of Antioch. This term was thrown at people who held that the divine and human nature of Christ are separate. (We now know that Nestorius was not a Nestorian. He was condemned, not for what he believed, but for what other people said he believed.) “Monophysite” was a term thrown at people who were accused of believing that there Christ had only one nature.

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Chalcedon caused problems. Translated into Coptic, it sounded Nestorian.  Translated into Syriac it sounded monophysite. This fed into the feelings of local resentment in the Coptic and Syriac speaking parts of the world. A new curse word was developed here: “Melkite”. This term, meaning following the King, was the name they gave to people who followed the Council of Chalcedon. This word even found use within the struggles of the Coptic church herself.  Egypt (speaking Coptic) had a bicultural church. Part of the Coptic church was looking to Roman Empire. Coptic speaking rural people, however, the part of the church which brought us true spiritual athletes like St. Antony and the true home of monasticism, looked away. These two parts of the Egyptian church stopped meeting together. A division grew between city versus rural, between “Melkite” and “Monophysite.”

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3) Results of Divisions: In 619 Egypt was invaded by the Persians. There wasvery little resistance by the population because, in their minds, the Roman Empire not worth fighting for. Monophysite Christians of rural Egypt said, through the Persians God has delivered them to the nations because of their sins.

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II.  The Easter Roman Empire and the Arabs

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Great changes were afoot in the world.  The beasts of Daniel 7 were moving; some nearer to the entrance of history and others nearer to the exit.  International affairs dominated by two super powers, the Roman Empire and Persia.  But two new superpowers were about to burst onto the scene.  China was emerging.  And also another rising power no one had thought of; the desert Arabs.  Under the religious reformer Mohammed, they became a world power while no one was looking.  Mohammed called the Arabs from polytheistic worship to the worship of the one God; Allah.  The Arabs had been in and around Arabia for centuries.  They existed in tribal groups as local states.  Sometimes they developed into kingdoms.  But never before had they come together as a nation.  Now they must, for the first time, be taken seriously as such.  Their Christian neighbors called them children of Ishmael, a title the Arabs gladly accepted.

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It would have been easy for them to stay limited to the Arab peoples.  But Islam was not just a call to Arabs, but to all of humanity.  They invited those of any people who surrendered to God and recognized revelation in the Quran to share in their Empire.  The Quran defined that community and brought strong Arab features into Islam.  Above all this applied to language.  The Quran is fixed in Arabic forever.  Public prayers and anyone aspiring to go beyond the early stages of the religion must learn Arabic.

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Islam came close to dissolution soon after its birth.  When Muhammed died in 631 he left no successor or structure for the future.  The Umma, or Muslim community, was a league of two independent towns, Mecca and Medina, together with equally independent tribes linked with Muhammed.  At the death of prophet, Medina set out to establish a leader for Medina.  The desert tribes broke away.  But the companions of the prophet stood together and Abu Bakar was named deputy prophet of the caliphate. Hamid al Walid led an army agains the tribes who had broken away.  This was called the war of apostasy according to Muslim scholars.  Walid was entirely successful.  He also kept the Umma together.  The Quran was closed to further development.  When Abu Bakar died there was no further break up.

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The tribes of the Arabs raided further north until they were at the very borders of the Roman Empire.  The Roman Empire, now controlled from new Rome and centered in what is now Turkey, had been locked in 26 years of battle with Persia.  Arab armies came into contact with superpowers just at point when they had worn each other out.  The long war had drained resources, money and manpower.

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The Roman empire wanted to save money and manpower.  They had paid their client states to keep the border between them and the Arabs safe.  Emperor Heraclitus cut off the subsidies to the border states in order to save money.  This left them open to approach by the Arabs.  Fighting in way of God for them was a privilege.  Iraq, Palestine and Syria were taken by the Arabs (from Persian and Roman Empires) at same time.

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The Quran is clear on dealing with pagan peoples.  But with Jews and Christians it is less clear.  When Jewish groups surrendered to Muhammed, they had not been required to accept Islam, just to pay tribute.  The other people of book, as Christians were called by Muslims, were given treaties at the beginning.  The Arab armies would give them security for themselves and their churches as long as they pay the poll tax.  Some treaties also say no new churches, no cross shown publicly, no great Easter celebrations with processions.  Others required them to assist Muslims or not to assist non-Muslims in battles against Muslims.  In Nubia they did not require the poll tax, only certain payments.  The treaty expressly guarantees no Muslim invasion of Nubia.  There would be separate  Nubian and Muslim territories, but there was to be a mosque in Nubia which was kept clean for visitors.

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The poll tax was seen as payment for protection because only Muslims could fight for Allah.  Regulations against propaganda, discrimination or conversion of Muslims applied at varying degrees in different times and different places.  Only much later does the active persecution of Christians develop.  At this time the main population of these areas was Christian.  Further, they needed them as civil servants and for their learning. The focus of their policy was constriction and containment.

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As a result, the Christian communities to became ingrown and inward looking.  They shrank in size over time because becoming Muslim could bring advancement and position in the community.  It could also bring freedom from taxes.  Slowly, over the centuries, Arabic took over Syrian and Coptic as the language of the area.  Those that remained Christian were by necessity survivors.

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For several hundred years the Monophysites and Nestorians did not see Arab conquest as burdensome, but as a release from the oppression of Romans who were enforcing uniformity and Chalcedon on them.

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Arab expansion continued.  After taking over Egypt they moved along North African coast, completing the disintegration of Christian communities in this area.  The community disappeared in tumult and chaos.  Berbers did not convert easily but eventually they did.    Muslim armies at gates of Gibraltar and start crossing into Spain.

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III.  The North Side of the Mediterranean

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The Christian faith made its way among people of the North and the West.  In the Western Roman empire the language had long been Latin.  In the church both the Scriptures and the liturgy were in Latin.  This language and liturgy spread to the newly converted peoples of this area, along with a diluted form of Roman culture.  Christians heard the liturgy in Latin (but not the sermon) and all learned both books and theology which were in Latin.  By the time this process was complete Latin was everyones mother tongue.  The new languages of the area were based upon Latin in combination with tribal vernaculars; Spanish and French for example.  Latin was the Christian language of the area and the language of the educated people.

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At this point in history, the city of Rome had no special significance since it was no longer the hub of the world empire.  But it was still the See of Peter.  That significance grew and grew.  Christians began to look to Rome for the authority of the church.  In 800 AD the most powerful of the barbarian rulers, Charlemagne, was crowned by the Pope as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  His empire was based outside of Rome, but he saw himself as the heir of the Christian empire.  They began using Latin and owing spiritual allegiance to the one apostolic see which Europe knew, that of Rome.

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Constantinople saw itself representing the “real” Roman empire and the real Christian empire.  They were still dividing the world according to who was Greek and who was Barbarian.  Charlemagne, in their mind, was a barbarian.  Strains between east and west began to grow with the widening culture gap.  All sorts of issues increased the strain.  The East had an unbroken tradition of scholarship.

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The West had been disturbed and much of her heritage of early Christianity was lost.  Latin and Greek churches had used the same creed for centuries.  (called the Nicene creed, though it was developed a long time after the council of Nicea).  The clause in this creed about the Holy Spirit was that it proceeds from Father.  In the East they knew this was the wording of the creed.  But in the West they had inserted “proceeds from the Father and the Son because of the Arian belief that the Holy Spirit was different from Father and son.  The West then forgot that they had added the clause.  They accused the Eastern Christians of changing the creed.

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Eastern and Western Christian mission differed in a key point; the use of the vernacular.  The Latin church taught converts Latin.  The Greek church translated the Scriptures into the language the converts could understand.  This became apparent in the evangelization of the Slavic peoples who lived in a huge area of central Europe, including Russia.

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The Slavs were the main unevangelized peoples of this area.  Christianity was attractive to them, partially because of the cultural effects.  But they did not want to be swallowed up by Empire.  The Moravians, for example, were interested, but they did not want to be dominated by their German neighbors so they did not want Latin Christianity.  Instead, they applied to Constantinople.  In 863 Constantinople sent Cyril and Methodius as missionaries.  The brothers were Greek, but grew up in an area with many Slavic peoples and had learned to speak the language well.  They made translation of the Scriptures into Slavonic and took it with them to Moravia.  There was a great response, with the great mass Mass of people and their leaders being baptized.  Slavonic liturgy and language in Christianity took off.

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The response of the Latin church was to call this Slavonic liturgy heresy.  They justified arguing that only three languages were valid for Christian worship; the three languages on the cross of Christ:  Greek, Latin and Hebrew.  This resulted in the imprisonment of Methodius for a time.  After the death of Cyril and Methodius, they suppressed Slavonic and enforced the use of Latin in Slavonic churches.

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(But this wasn’t the end of the use of their Slavonic scriptures.  The language of Methodius and Cyril was later used to work with other slavic peoples such as the Bulgars, the Serbs and eventually the Russians.)

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This story illustrates the deteriorating relationships between Western and Eastern Christianity.  The issues, spoken of earlier, which had developed over the councils and creeds gained more and more importance until, in 1054, a breach between East and West occurred along cultural and linguistic lines.  This was a repeat of what had happened in the 6th century when the church divided between Greek and Latin and Syriac and Coptic.  This first break had opened the way for the second division between the Greek and the Latin speaking churches.  But the Slavonic scriptures take us beyond this division and to the door of the birth of Holy Russia.

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The Conversion of Europe

Monday, November 15, 2010


van_gogh_starry_night.jpgMany Western scholars have assumed that Christianity is a European religion. Many
Western Christians have assumed that the form of Christianity which they know is the way it has always been.  Andrew Walls’ first lecture corrects both views by placing European Christianity within the wider story of God’s work in the world.

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The Roman Empire Becomes Christian

The Roman Empire was a globalizing force in Europe and beyond. It was a pluralistic society consisting of a variety of peoples from lands they had conquered. Romans citizens were Greek, Iranian, Babylonian, Assyrian among others. But the empire was held together by the Greek language, literary tradition and philosophy as well as a free market for religion and ideas.

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Jews were an unusual part of this society. They had a hard-edged exclusivity in their religion. This exclusivity was ethnically based which kept other people’s out of their religious expression. But Julius Caesar released them from military service in the Empire. Their observance of the Sabbath and their exclusive worship which did not allow worship of the imperial cult did not make them good soldier material.

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Within this plural setting, Christianity viewed in many ways. Some, for example, saw it as a secret society with loathsome even cannibalistic tendencies. Others saw it as one among many philosophical schools. It had some of hard edged exclusivity of Jews, including rejecting any recognition of gods save one. But Christianity was not ethnically based. Therefore, it did not gain the status of licensed exception as Judaism. This meant that they could get in trouble with the government in ways in which the Jews could not.

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Christianity was repressed in fits and starts in the Pax Romana. Repression was used to curb the growth of Christianity. It was also used to break the leadership of the church. But it was not meant to eliminate it all together until Diocletian in the fourth century. By then it was too late. Christianity had already spread throughout the empire.

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Constantine was a prudent politician as emperor of Rome. He did not, indeed he could not, establish the church as a state religion. Rome was too committed to plurality. But the peace between church and state which he instituted was a prudent and realistic measure. He set up the conditions for the rapid spread of Christianity by removing all the cultural barriers to the faith as well as rewarding Christianity with marks of favor. The later Emperor’s of Rome were uniformly Christian.

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The last Roman institution to resist Christianity was the old aristocracy of Romans in the form of the senate. They saw Christianity as an intrusive influence from non-Roman cultures. Nevertheless, their legislative action followed popular demonstration. So the Christian community gained strength and threw down the altars of the old Roman gods. Christian theologians and preachers celebrated this downfall. There was no single, decisive event that marks the fall of classical paganism. Instead it was a process which moved through towns and cities while having less of an impact on the rural peoples of the Empire.

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The Church and the Christian Empire of Rome

Though the Empire was now Christian its goal remained the same; to maintain the empire and to protect the frontier. The threat to the unity of this Empire came, not from the resurgence of paganism, but from divisions within the church. This was especially true when the divisions stemmed from the development of Christianity in different contexts. The good of the Empire required that there be an authentic form of Christianity which would be promoted by church and state. Councils were called when disputes among Christians grew loud. The church had to decide which side of the dispute was authoritative. Once the decision was made Constantine added the punishment of banishment to the traditional punishments meted out by the church.

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The theological quest to establish the truth of the person of Christ and the political quest to keep empire from strife and division were regular sources of dispute in the Empire. Constantine would call a council. The theologians were slow to deliver a consensus on the issue at hand. Many of these councils did not recognize Christian communities outside of the Empire, such as the Armenians, the Persians and the Ethiopians. The decisions by the councils did not end the controversy within the Empire, much less in Christianity. The council of Nicea did not end the Arian controversy. The Council of Chalcedon did not bring an end to the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies. They simply reinforced the localism of Christianity in the Empire and ruptured the relationship between the Syriac and Coptic Christians on the one hand and the Greek and Roman Christians on the other.

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Europe beyond the Roman Empire:

Beyond the frontier of the Roman Empire were northern people’s known in Rome as “barbarians”. These were pre-literate people who were outside the sphere of Roman civilization. Their villages did not have the trademark bathhouse, gymnasium and library of Roman civilization. Their language sounded to the Romans like it was all “ba-ba”; thus the name barbarian. Christians in Rome shared the low view of barbarians in the society as a whole. Tertullian even associated the coming collapse of Rome to the barbarian hordes with the tribulation of the Bible.

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As the Roman frontier weakened, Constantine moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople. Italy fell to the Barbarians and in the 6th century Spain fell. But Christianity did not end with the Roman Empire.

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Christianity had already begun to influence the barbarians beyond the frontier. Christian slaves from the empire had maintained and spread their faith to their captors. Wulfila, for example, was descended from slaves and emerged as a Christian leader among the barbarians. He translated the Bible into Gothic (minus the book of Samuel because his people already knew enough about fighting.).

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The Christian faith of the empire was an urban faith with a literary tradition. Christianity had taken over the Greek academy for their own purposes. But the barbarians were pre-literate peoples who spent half the year farming and half the year raiding. The lived harsh lives where disaster was never far away. The boundary between the natural and the supernatural worlds were narrow and crossed on a regular basis. Power and protection were key requirements in their lives and were at the heart of their religion. They were key issues in the Christianity that took root among them as well.

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Examples of European Christianity among the Barbarians:

1) The beginnings of Christianity in Ireland

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Raiders from Ireland landed on coast of Britain (England and Wales). Britain had been part of Roman empire for a short time, during which Christianty established. Patrick was on of those abducted as a slave and taken to Northern Ireland. In captivity his nominal Christianity became vivid. As a shepherd he had much time for prayer. Dreams and visions were also a regular part of his religious experience. A voice in one dream told him in that is was time to leave his slavery and go home. He found a ship ready to take him back to Britain, just as the dream told him. After a series of adventures recounted in his autobiography, he safely reached home. Once home he had another dream in which he was told to return to Ireland, not as a slave, but as a missionary.

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2) Christianity in Gaul
Gaul was part of Roman empire. Its Celtic, barbarian population had become Roman and Christian. But in the 5th century it was over run by the Franks under the leadership of Clovis. Roman law and administration quickly broke down in Gaul. Only the church’s leadership was left to negotiated with Clovis. Clovis took a Christian wife from the subject people. She sought his conversion. But Clovis rejected his wife’s God. After all, if he was as powerful as she said, his own conquest of Gaul would never have succeeded. Clearly his gods were more powerful than hers’. This view was confirmed in Clovis’ mind when his son died in his baptismal robe.

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Clovis later found himself in a desperate military situation where it seemed his forces would be overwhelmed. As a last ditch effort, he prayed to his wife’s God. Beyond all reasonable expectation, the enemy army retired from the field just before they were to win. Clovis and his leaders impressed by military deliverance. Together they decided that there was no harm in worshipping such a powerful divinity. The King and 3,000 military followers were baptized. (for more see Gregory of Tours’ account)

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3) Christianity in Northumberland

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The kingdom of Northumberland was the result of various invasions by Germanic raiders. Here too, Christian people were overwhelmed by invaders who then have to be converted as well. Edwin, the King of Northumbria, had a Christian wife. He was well disposed to Christianity. He liked what heard from his wife’s chaplain. But he needed the support of the leading men of the kingdom. He called council to discuss the “new doctrine” and “new worship”. A priest of old religion stood in favor of Christianity. His reasoning was as follows: (1) He had applied his life to the old gods. (2) He had not found favor in the eyes of Edwin and others had been promoted ahead of him. (3) If his gods were any good this would not have happened. Therefore, he urged the king to choose Christianity if he too sees them as better than the old gods and more efficacious. Edwin decided to receive faith and be baptized. (for more see Bede’s work)

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4) Lessons from the conversion of Northern Europe

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Conversion in Northern Europe was not an individual affair. Instead it was corporate and consensual. Baptism into the new faith was a sign that one had literally entered new community. Whole groups were baptized together. The old community was reconstituted with new symbols and standards. The customary law of the converted people took in Christianity and made it the basis for their legal system.

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5) The conversion of Iceland
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Iceland did not become Christian until 1000. Northern European communities converted by decision of the warrior cast and the King. Iceland was more of a democratic society ruled by the heads of each household in the community. A confrontation regarding Christianity was averted by the heads of household giving a respected leader of the community the power to decide for or against Christianity on behalf of the community as a whole. After a long period of consideration underneath a cloak, this person threw the cloak aside and said that they would become Christian. He said that the days and feasts of the community would change to reflect this new commitment. He said that exposure of female babies would end. He said that horse flesh would no longer be eaten. And the shrines of the old gods would stay open for a while longer before being closed forever. Though there was some grumbling, the community as a whole abided by the decision. They were, after all, a single peole with a single code of conduct.

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Summary:

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It took Europe many centuries to become Christian. Overtime, however a symbiosis did develop so that literature, art and music of Europe were deeply penetrated by Christianity. Theology was developed to answer questions arising from European history.

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European Culture and Christian Theology

1) A new mode of organizing theology developed in Europe. Using cultural methods of organizing law, Christian systematic theology developed.

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2) The theology of the atonement developed in Europe

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Theology comes out of the need to make decisions. When Christainty crosses cultural frontiers new theological issues arise. Theology typically answers one of two questions: what should I do or what should I think?

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“What should I do?” We see this issue in play in the development of Hellenistic theology in 1 Corinthians. Issues which had no precedence in Jerusalem became live questions in the new Hellenistic setting. James and Andrew never thought about food sacrificed to idols because they were never asked to dinner by pagans. But after Peter and Paul began to eat at non-Jewish tables issues of what meat could be eaten by Christians became critical. Thus, Paul deals with the issue in his first letter to the Corinthians.

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“What should I think?” The Roman who has become a Christian says “I realize Jesus is divine Lord and worship him as such.” “But you also tell me he is one God.” “What is relationship between the divine Lord and the creator Yahweh?” Again, ask a Jew this question and he would say something like “Jesus is at the right hand of God” (which, by the way, Stephen said to a group of Jews. They understood him so well that they lynched him.) But such language is confusing for citizens of the Roman Empire. “Does God have a right hand when you have told me he is invisible?” They want to know what they are to think about the nature and being of God. This was critical in their world because plenty of stories were circulating about god’s begetting humans by a human mother. Is Jesus like Hercules; that is, half god? Such a question is not answered by saying, “Jesus is Messiah” or by saying “Don’t ask irreverent questions”. Instead, in the Greek language of the day, an answer has to be developed for the new context of Christianity. After a very painful process, the Nicene creed is the result.

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Now the theology developed in the Roman setting Greek gives us a doctrine of trinity and incarnation. But very little is said about atonement. Even today it is not a very big subject in Greek church.

The theology of the atonement comes into Western theology by asking questions from the Western context. The first great atonement thinker is Anselm. He ponders Western law as it applies to Christianity. Western law is concerned with things like, “How far are kin responsible for offenses of their kinsmen?” Such thinking connects with Paul’s words about first and second Adam. But it must be devleoped further. “How far does issue of compensation come into the Christian understanding of sin?” “In Germanic law you must pay for the damage you have done. Problems really develop when you cannot pay. This causes Western theology to think more and more about atonement and develop theories of atonement not thought in previous contexts.

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Conclusion

This history illustrates the theme of the serial nature of Christianity. World

Christianity is not a progressive expansion, as perhaps Islam can claim, but a

serial progression. It is a movement of ups and downs; of the places of

greatest strength falling into decline while rising in to new life in quite

different places. In the Western half of the Roman Empire one of the world's

greatest civilizations with deep penetration by Christian thinking collapsed.

Her Christians thought her demise was the beginning of the great tribulation.

But a new church was rising among the people of the North and West; the very

people who overran the Roman Empire. Christianity among these people developed

into the Christendom of Europe; a territorial expression of the Christian faith.

A geographical area defined by its adherence to the Christian faith. The mass

conversion of these people followed the decision of military elites to follow

Christ. Within Christendom all were baptized in their infancy, not for the

purpose of mission, but to keep their territory unified. The theology of the

atonement developed and deepened. A two-tiered system of Christianity was

shaped. The secular Christians in the churches with their priests struggled

with the many compromises of Christianity in the world. This developed into a

deep sense of sin and failure in trying to follow Christ as a Christian people.

The monastic movement, which began in Egypt, was redeveloped to enable people to

go deeper in their faith. This is the origins of Western Christendom. But

there is another story of the Christian faith developing out of the Roman Empire

to be told. The story of Eastern Christianity.


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Adoration of the Lamb     Van Eyck

Adoration of the Lamb Van Eyck

Introduction:

Dr. Walls began as a scholar in Patristics under F.L. Cross.  He was focused on the reconstruction of the Greek original of a pre-Nicene body of work.  He had translations of the work in Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic and even the Goths, but none in the original.   What he, and other patristics scholars missed in this was what they did have.  They had examples of the way in which the original text had been read, altered and adapted by a number of early Chrsitian communities in a number of regions.  Surely this history of the transmission of the text was far more exciting and revealing than the reconstruction of the Greek original.

This focus on Western Christianity, and it accompanied dismissal of other non-Western expressions of Christianity, was also expressed in the teaching of Christian history in the West and in the non-West.  This reinforced the idea in Africa and Asia that Christianity was a later comer to these countries arriving from the West.  It supported the idea that Christianity was a Western religion.

Today, however, we recognize Christianity as a global religion.  Christians are found across the globe and this is seen as a relatively recent phenomenon.  But the 21st century is not the first time that Christianity has become global.  In the 6th century, for example, Christianity covered vast areas of Europe, Africa and Asia.  As a matter of fact, Christianity has been global before.  It is a not a recent phenomenon.  Global Christianity today is simply a return to what it has “normally” been.  After all, the governing vision of Christianity is one of people gathered together around Christ from every people, tribe and tongue.

Move:

Christianity began as a Jewish movement.  Yet in the 1st century it was crossing boundaries in Jewish society,  In Acts 6 the cracks between groups within Jewish society became visible in the church’s ministry to widows.  The Apostles took quick steps to deal with it.   This church, entered in Jerusalem, boldly proclaimed the Messiah to fellow Jews.  It wasn’t until persecution pushed them out of Jewish territory that they began to speak to non-Jews about the faith.

It was in Antioch that some Jews began to speak to non-Jews of Jesus.  Instead of using the Jewish term Messiah, however, they used a term familiar to Jews and to non-Jews, “Lord”.  As non-Jews and Jews joined together in worshipping Jesus the bi-cultural fellowship came to be called Christians.  The term Christian itself speaks of  themulticultural nature of the faith.

The Jerusalem council in Acts 15 enshrined the principle of bi-culturalism in Christianity.  The Jews would continue to be circumcised and follow the laws while the non-Jews would not.  Instead, they would use a converted form of Hellenistic culture in following Jesus.  Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, shows both Jew and non-Jew to be equally necessary in building the church.

The Hellenistic church grew and became the majority of the Christian church.  When problems hit the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem the Gentiles gave generously to them.

But overtime, the bi-cultural church gave way to Christian lifestyle as a converted form of Greek culture.

Move:

The eclipse of the original bi-cultural church was the beginning of a new multicultural model of Christianity.  Over the next 6 centuries Christianity grew to the West, the story we are most familiar with, to the East, from Persia to China, and to the South into the Nile Valley, the horn of Africa, into south Arabia to south India.

The Acts of the Apostles reflects the Western expansion of the church.  But in chapter 8, Luke takes the story in a different direction.  In the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. he points to the spread of the faith in other directions; specifically south into the heart of Africa.

We have covered a number of key areas and moments of this expansion south and East in previous lectures.  But by the 7th century Christianity has become, not just bi-cultural, but multi-cultural and global.  At about this time both the King of Northumbria and the Emperor of China were taking their first look at the Christian gospel.

At the same time, however, between the 5th and the 7th century, there were a series of developments which helped turn back the advance.  These include the collapse of the Roman Empire and the East-West split of the church,

We are perhaps less familiar with the latter development.  When Constantine called together the Nicene council, he understood the global nature of Christianity and called some bishops from Christian communities outside of the Empire.  Future Emperors, however, did not.  The council at Chalcedon, for example, did not have representation outside othe Empire.  As a result, their decisions on doctrine which were satisfactory to those who did their theological thinking in Greek and Latin did not fit with those who were theologizing in Syriac and Coptic.

As the decisions of Chalcedon were pushed upon them and their “Nestorian” and “Monophysite” views became anathema, the break-up of the 6th century global church was underway.  The Christians of the Empire were cut off from the Christians of Africa and Asia.  And over time it became easier to take the divisions in the church for granted.

Once the Arab Empire arose with its new found Islamic faith, Christianity in its European and Western form became the only form, if not the only authentic form.  This was to last through Christendom until the present day.

Conclusion:

Now, however, we find ourselves in a new age of global Christianity.   Christianity  is even larger and more diverse than it was in the 6th century.  It is multi-centric, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic.

The question is, will this new global expression be able to heal the divisions of the 6th century?  Will each expression of Christianity in different regions around the world be able to produce a convincing sight of converted reality?  And will each expression understand itself and be understood as building block in the common church of Jesus Christ?  Will we  share together in the body of Christ?

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