Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

A History of Christianity

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An abridged history of the Christian church from its founding. This series will look into the history, not of the Christian faith but of the Christian church, starting from before its inception.

I do not pretend that this is an unbiased work, no work can be totally unbiased because we all carry biases with us, no matter how hard we try to ignore them. I offer here a background on myself so you can get a feel of who I am, and how I got to this point. From that you can deduce for yourself where my biases enter this treatise, and if you feel they are valid or not.

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I am from a semi-mixed heritage, all of my family is from what is known as Eastern Europe, from the map to the right we are speaking of the countries shaded in purple. They arrived in America during the era when East met West in what was knows as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, (very) shortly before the First World War. By “mixed heritage” I am speaking not just of nationality but of Christianity as well. My father’s family were pure Roman Catholic, while my mother’s was a mixture of Byzantine Catholic (mother) and Eastern Orthodox (father), I was fortunate enough to experience all three religions.

They settled here in a community that was predominantly American Protestant, who made up the majority of my friends, classmates, and teachers. This was a time in America (50’s-80’s) when if you were anything other than Protestant you were not considered Christian. Freedom of Religion did not extend to us, and it was clearly made known. As with women and blacks in our society, there was a glass ceiling that prevented non-Protestants from advancing in the corporate or academic worlds. Jobs were limited to the hard, physical tasks (steel mills, railroad, mines), or low paying jobs (bars, store clerks). My high school guidance counselor assumed “my people” would be headed for work in the mills, so no counseling was necessary. Fortunately, one of my teachers had other plans and got me into the Chemistry major in university. I remember my first post-college interview where the head of the department welcomed me onboard, then informed me that (because of my religion) my future would be limited to non-managerial positions. It wasn’t a threat, he felt bad about saying it, he was just letting me know about the corporate climate – and he was right, I had to leave the company to advance my career.

My interest in Christianity (history and theology) began in my last year of high school, and continued into my college years (like many people). My faith never wavered, but I questioned much of what I had been taught, and started examining just in what direction my faith would take me. I examined everything – Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism (Episcopal, Baptist, Mormon, etc.). It was during these years that I discovered that there are more flavors of Christianity than I had ever been exposed to (Oriental, Quakers (our president was a Quaker), Amish, etc). I started questioning the very history of Christianity that I had been taught both in public school and religion classes at church, and found that not everything was as it was taught.

Over the decades since then I have immersed myself in discovering actual church history, both the history of the church and the history of the faith as most know it. You now have an idea of who I am and where I come from, in the following posts I will tell what I have learned (and continue to learn). As a scientist I know that nothing is written in stone, all learning is fluid, changing as we learn more about the subject. As I write, if something new is discovered after posted I will update the post, and include a note in the outline. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow for notifications when posts are changed so, if you are interested, check the outline (occasionally) for notices of updates.

I hope you enjoy this journey, and learn a little something.

Mike – the Modern Theologian

Comments on: "A History of Christianity" (2)

  1. Hello, Mike – I look forward to reading your posts in this series. You introduced yourself a tiny bit, but not really very much. I’d like to know more about who you are, your age, your location, your family, your current career, church fellowship, etc. I have to disagree with one statement you made about America in the 1950’s-80’s: “…anything other than Protestant you were not considered Christian.” I was born in 1943 in Florence, SC and have lived here all my life. I assure you that statement was not correct here. In your studies, did you include pentecostalism or the charismatic movement? I have been part of Baptist, fundamental (Brethren assembly), pentecostal, charismatic, and Presbyterian churches in my lifetime. Each had much to offer. Thanks for anything further you’d be willing to share. Blessings from Florence, SC.

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    • Well, let me see how I can answer your questions. I was born in the early 50’s near Pittsburgh, Pa. I am currently retired (4 years now), so my carrer can best be described as a professional volunteer. As to my church fellowship, I mostly attend Eastern Orthodox churches, though I do attend others as the will and Spirit move me, though lately that hasn’t been possible because of CV.

      With regards to pentecostal and charismatic movenents, I was involved with both, but didn’t really feel comfortable in either. Pittsburgh, via Duquesne University, was the beginning of the movements in the RCC, and is still a center for them. I have been invite to attend the annual colloquium there for the past decade and find it interesting.

      With regards to Protestant America, I speak through personal, family/friends, and historical experience. I see your list of churches, but all are witihin the “Protestant” arm of Christianity. Historically, the creation of Catholic schools was necessary because in 1839 the American Bible Society was able to push through a mandate that Christianity be taught in all public schools, only the KJV was to be used and, “a general Protestant understanding of Scripture and devotional life within the schools was central to the curriculum and to normal education.”

      In 1928 Catholic Alfred Smith ran for president and was attacked because of his faith. According to the U.S. Department of State writings, “Anti-Catholic prejudice, the fear that a Catholic president would ‘take orders’ from the Pope, insured Smith’s defeat. Methodist Bishop Adna Leonard declared: ‘No Governor can kiss the papal ring and get within gunshot of the White House.’

      When Kennedy ran he had to assure the SBC that “no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be a Catholic) how to act”. No Protestant ever had to make such assurances, even the anti-war Quaker president Nixon was not forced to deny his faith to take office.

      Then there was N.V. Peale and Billy Graham: The book also told of a secret meeting of influential allies around that time, as revealed through a letter from Peale’s wife, Ruth, to a friend. “Norman had a conference yesterday at Montreux, Switzerland, with Billy Graham and about 25 church leaders from the United States,” she wrote. “They were unanimous in feeling that the Protestants in America must be aroused in some way, or the solid block Catholic voting will take this election.”

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