Europe: The 19th Century
Europe In the 19th Century
Christianity made a huge comeback in Europe in the early 19th Century, as measured by religious fervor. The Christian Faith aroused greater passions among greater numbers of people than in the previous century. Missionary efforts targeted not only pagans in distant lands but also the great unwashed in the industrial cities of Europe.
As the 19th Century progressed, we witness the development of many new Christian cults and sects. A profound interest in exotic religions also grew in the West, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Religious toleration was widely accepted in Western Civilization by this time. Discriminatory laws against either Catholics or Protestants in various countries had pretty much faded away. But the two million Christians in Armenia were not so fortunate.
The Armenian Christians were terribly persecuted by their Turkish Muslim rulers. 300,000 of them were murdered for refusing to renounce their Christian Faith. 600,000 more were forced to convert to Islam to save their lives. And close to a million Armenians had to flee their homeland to escape death.
The Christian Faith in 19th Century Europe
Goethe published Faust in 1806, which powerfully describes Satanic rituals that give vent to the dark forces in us and in nature. The champions of the Christian Faith were embattled by the forces of unbelief in the 19th Century. Forced to defend their religion, the Christian message was tightened up, and a resurgence of conversion took hold.
The Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople lost much of their prestige and influence in the 19th Century, as the Ottoman Empire lost control of the Balkans. The Orthodox Churches of Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Montenegro struck out on their own. The Russian Orthodox Church increased in authority. The Orthodox theologian Vladimir Soloviev believed that the "great Protestant mistake" was to substitute the teachings of Christ for the person of Christ.
All denominations, prior to the 19th Century, equated faith with the knowledge of revealed truth and assent to it. In the modern age, it was in vogue to use radical historical criticism to denigrate the most cherished human institutions, traditions, customs, ideas, beliefs, and persons—especially the belief that knowledge, faith, reason and morality were intimately connected.
For believers in the Christian Faith, the central historical event is the resurrection of Jesus Christfrom the dead. If this did not truly happen in human history, the Christian Faith is dead. At the same time, the divine origin of Christianity required acceptance of the Bible as genuine.
Christians saw a divine plan unfolding through history, a continuity of the Gospel and the faith through the centuries. Different branches of Christianity have different views of history.
Therefore, Eastern Orthodox historians see Constantine as a marvelous hero of the faith. Byzantines focused on the church history during the time of Photius. The 13th Century is seen as the "Golden Age" of the Christian Church by Roman Catholics. The 16th Century was the best in Protestant history. But all agree that the first century is uniquely deserving of reverence.
Is the Bible the inspired Word of God? Is it without error? Is the Bible true and holy? Do the authors of the New Testament merit our confidence in the narrative of facts and in their presentation of the doctrines of Christ?
If you believe in the resurrection the answers are yes, yes, yes and yes. The resurrection of Christ is quite obviously of cosmic significance. The apostles of Jesus and the early Christians believed in the resurrection and their faith is proof of the veracity of that event.
The Reality of God
God was known first as the Creator. Around the world, most people throughout history have believed in a "First Being, the Father of all things." The knowledge of the world, and the knowledge of God, came from Revelation. Salvation means to participate in the divine.
William Paley (1743-1805) stated that God has a set of divine attributes that include "omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, self-existence, necessary existence, spirituality."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge said that the "living God was a person, an existing and self-subsisting reality, a real and personal Being." He wrote that through the Incarnation of Christ it was God's "intention to form the human mind anew after the divine image." Coleridge believed that morality and monotheism were historically inseparable.
The preacher John Jamieson of Scotland (1759-1838) asserted that the monotheistic faith of Israel had a peculiar quality. "Only once in history, do I find a progressive development of morals that was also a progressive revelation of the character of God."
The Danish theologian Grundtvig had this to about the reality of God: "God is knowable but at the same time incomprehensible."
The Miracles of Jesus
The Englishman Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) posited that historical facts are credible if they pass three criteria: "That the testimony be numerous, that the agent be sufficiently powerful, and that the final cause be sufficiently great."
Coleridge believed that biblical miracles passed this test for anyone who "believes in the existence of God and his attributes." God has the attribute of going beyond the laws of nature that God himself has set down. The message of Christ contains much that contradicts the ordinary knowledge of men. Thus, Christ employed miracles to authenticate who He was.
Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was an influential German theologian who attempted to blend Protestantism, Romanticism, and the Enlightenment. He proclaimed, "True religion is a sense and taste for the infinite."
Schleiermacher taught that God is omnipresent and the source of life. God made Jesus the first perfectly attuned person to provide an exemplar for humankind.
Friedrich Schleiermacher sparked a revival of Protestantism in Germany. He argues against blind submission and superstition. He urges us to feel God first; let your reason give form and direction to your feelings about God; then life is an adventure propelled by faith.
Schleiermacher became the most influential and revered theologian since the Reformation. He said that he wrote to "convince the skeptic about the sacred mysteries of humanity."
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a Christian philosopher from Denmark. He defined religion as "obedience to God."
Kierkegaard wrote: "Science and scholarship want to teach that becoming objective is the way. Christianity teaches that the way is to become subjective, to become a subject. The scientist can learn about the world by observation but can the scientist learn about the inner workings of the spiritual world by observation? Emphatically no."
Subjectivity is truth, according to Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard held that Christ not only revealed God to man, but also man to man. "Here you see what it is to be a human being."
The Kingdom of God
In the 19th Century, there was widespread, renewed interest in the "Kingdom of God." As German theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889) noted, "The proclamation of the Kingdom of God was the dominant idea of Jesus."
To Albrecht Ritschl, the Kingdom of God exists "for the sake of preserving the truth on earth." It remains "the universal goal of the community that has been founded through the revelation of God in Christ."
Ritschl added, "The Kingdom of God expressed an activity of God directed toward humanity, but as such the kingdom was at the same time a human task, since the rule of God established itself on earth only through human obedience."
N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) emphasized that Christ had given Pilate a clear answer as to what is the Kingdom of God. It is "not of this world" (not a political structure) but a heavenly "kingdom of truth." But German theologian Johannes Weiss (1863-1914) believed that the Kingdom of God only arrives at the end of the present age.
Heresy Makes a Comeback
Arianism, Subordinationism, Socinianism, and Sabellianism (or Modalism) made comebacks in the 19th Century. These are ancient heresies that reject the Dogma (or Doctrine) of the Trinity, and, in different ways, claim that Jesus Christ is inferior to God the Father.
Socinians add the rejection of the idea that Jesus lived before he was born to the Virgin Mary, and they reject that Jesus was in any way divine. Some of these heretical groups believe the interesting twist that Jesus "became" divine through obedience to God, just as each of us also can.
The Trinity was seen by some as a flagrant Hellenization of the Gospel, which they believed was adopted at the Council of Nicea only because 315 of the 318 bishops present were Greek. In this view, the Christian message was corrupted by an "alien layer of metaphysical concepts derived from the natural philosophy of the Greeks."
Protestant professor Wilhelm Munscher (1795-1872) noted that Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386) had distinguished between dogma and practices; and that Basil of Caesarea (330-379) distinguished between dogma and proclamation.
Munscher concluded that "dogma is synonymous with the teachings of the faith." Church dogmas are "those that are recognized by an entire Christian community as normative."
Adolf Harnack weighed in on dogma: "The dogmas of the church are those Christian doctrines of faith, formulated in concepts and set down for a scientific-apologetic treatment that comprehends the knowledge of God and the world and presents the objective content of a religion. They have standing in the Christian churches as truths, which are contained in the Holy Scriptures (or perhaps also in the tradition) that circumscribe the deposit of faith, and acceptance of which is a precondition for obtaining the salvation that is promised by the religion."
All Christian dogmas and rituals came under critical scrutiny—attack by skeptics—in the late 19th Century. The various branches of the Christian Faith had to decide how to handle schism, sect, heresy, and error. The New Testament had declared that "there must be heresies."
Heresies had greatly contributed to the development of orthodoxy by forcing the church to clarify its teachings. The enforcement of truth and the disavowal of error were expressed primarily through creeds and confessions. Some sort of statement of faith is absolutely necessary.
The Nicene Creed was universally defended as an "homage to the Bible, not an offense to it," as it expresses the "faith that overcomes the world." The Nicene Creed is "the full and complete confession of the church, which, with the Ten Commandments, is the essential content of the Christian Faith."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge made the observation that it is "the sum of church history that in times of peace the church may dilate more and build as it were into breadth, but in times of trouble it arises more in height, and in depth."
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was the son of a Reformed pastor from the Netherlands. In his youth, Abraham Kuyper was repelled by the Church. When he attended university he was caught up in its atmosphere of Modernism—the exaltation of human reason over divine revelation.
Kuyper had a change of heart after reading a romantic novel given to him by his fiancé, which was written by the Christian author Charlotte Yonge and entitled The Heir of Redclyffe. This novel outsold Dickens and Thackeray in the 19th century and became the best-selling work of fiction of its age. Kuyper identified with the proud hero of the story to the point that when the hero knelt and wept before God with a broken and contrite heart, Kuyper did the same.
Abraham Kuyper became a pastor, and the Lord called him to a church with a membership of people with a low socioeconomic standing. Though he had been through a prestigious divinity school, he soon learned that the people in the pews knew the Bible far better than he. His first flock would convince him of the truth and beauty of God's sovereign grace. These simple people were both wise and full of faith. He envied them!
In 1880, Kuyper founded the Free University of Amsterdam, dedicated to Reformed Theology, which has over 20,000 students enrolled today. Kuyper also taught theology there. In 1886, he founded the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands.
He pastored major churches in Utrecht and Amsterdam. He also wrote books, and somehow found the time to edit a daily newspaper for which he wrote 16,800 editorials over the years. Some of his most famous books are the Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology (1898), Calvinism (1899), and The Work of the Holy Spirit (1900).
Because of his interest in education, Kuyper formed the Anti-Revolutionary Party of the Netherlands to oppose those who wanted to remove God from the schools. He ended up making orthodox Calvinism a political force in his country. Abraham Kuyper would serve in the legislature for decades, and serve as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1904.
David Strauss (1808-1874) of Germany scandalized Europe with his book The Life of Jesus in 1835. Strauss applied German literary criticism to the New Testament and concluded that the writers made up all the miracles Jesus performed, and that the Virgin Birth was also fabricated. To David Strauss, Jesus was just a great man.
An even worse desecrator was the French defrocked priest, Ernest Renan (1823-1892). Renan also wrote a shocking and best-selling Life of Jesus that insisted Jesus was nothing more than an ordinary man. Revelation and faith were bunk, according to Ernest Renan. Science would eventually make all religion (and philosophy) obsolete.
Albrecht Ritschl did not agree. He argued that the New Testament revealed the truth about Jesus: "Christ was to be seen as both sacrifice and priest." Ritschl believed that Jesus was the perfect human being, but that the Christian Faith had been corrupted with Greek Philosophy by the ancient Church Fathers.
The German historian Adolf Harnack (1851-1930) believed it the duty of Protestants to reject all dogma of the Catholic Church and return to the faith of the Apostolic Church through the study of history. In the view of Harnack, Christianity should be understood not theologically but historically, because the essence of the Christian Faith would be found in its history or it would not be found.
This is the application of German higher criticism to matters that had previously been defined as spiritual. History is "the world's memory of itself." But religious faith is self-awareness.
Since the Reformation, there had been discussion about the biblical canon, but now the canon came under historical criticism. Adolf Harnack not only believed biblical miracles were illusions; he rejected the Gospel of John altogether. Critics of the New Testament soon made the Gospel of John the battlefield, claiming it was not written by John "the disciple Jesus loved."
Pantheism gained a growing number of adherents in the later part of the 19th Century. Pantheism "identifies the Creator with the creation," in such a way as to claim "that there is no supreme, all-wise, all-provident Divine Power that is distinct from this universe of things."
Defenders of orthodoxy acknowledged that "the strength of pantheistic systems lies in that craving both of the intellect and of the heart for union with the Absolute Being, which is the most legitimate and the noblest instinct of our nature."
But pantheism denies the "personality of God," and does not give a proper account of the divine in Christ, which had to be based on "a restriction in favor of a single personality," not on an identification of the divine with the all.
Satanic Forces of Darkness
Auguste Comte (1798-1857) laid the foundation on which Marxism and Secular Humanism were built. Comte is the founder of Sociology—a word he coined. His philosophy is known as Positivism.
Comte rejected metaphysics and the existence of the supernatural. Science, he believed, would explain everything, given enough time. Social Science would teach us how best to organize societies.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) wrote The Descent of Man, which postulated that human beings were not the masterpiece of God's Creation but mere animals with opposing thumbs who accidently and randomly evolved from apes.
The Genesis Creation Story was not true, according to Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Adam and Eve were reassigned the same position in folklore as Hansel and Gretel.
German philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883) put forth his ideology of Socialism and Atheism. He convinced many people that religion had been invented to hold down the working man. Religion was the "sigh of the oppressed creature" and the "opium of the people." Marx predicted that "Religion is only the illusionary sun around which man revolves, until he begins to revolve around himself."
Karl Marx descended from a long line of distinguished Jewish scholars. His father was an attorney. Karl Marx was a poet as a young man. His poems are filled with savagery, hatred, and suicidal thoughts. His heart was devoid of love but filled with bitterness. Karl Marx also wrote about a pact he had made with Satan.
Marx smoke and drank heavily; seldom washed or bathed; and stunk to high heaven. He never tried to get a job, preferring to live off a substantial inheritance that provided an annual income three times the earnings of a skilled workman. Because Marx and his wife loved to shop, he also borrowed heavily from family and friends but never paid anyone back. One of his daughters died in a suicide pact and another overdosed on opium.
While Marx is often regarded as a champion of the working class, he personally only knew one working class person: his maid of 45 years, "Lenchen." She was in fact the only evidence Marx ever found of an underpaid worker. All those years, Lenchen never received a penny from Karl Marx, as she worked for room and board.
He also gave her a son, Freddy, whom he denied publicly. He talked his protégé Friedrich Engels into claiming the boy as his, so as not to upset Mrs. Marx. Karl Marx only met his son once. Freddy never knew Marx was his father.
Isn't it amazing how many people chose to follow a man like this instead of Jesus of Nazareth?
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) followed up on Darwin's Survival of the Fittest doctrine by ridiculing the entire Judeo-Christian ethos. He hated the Christian idea that God loved the weak, the sick, and the suffering while rewarding submission, self-denial, forgiveness, and compassion. Nietzsche thought the "bungled and the botched" of humanity should be exterminated.
These Atheistic ideas were complete with the rise of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) as the 20th Century dawned. Freud explained away the belief in angels and demons influencing human affairs—or even existing—with his theories about the subconscious mind. Freud called himself a Jew, because his forefathers had been Jews, but he knew little about and completely rejected Judaism, as well as all religions, which he considered to be mere fantasies.
Made in the Image of God
After scientists had decided that the earth could not have been created in six days, and that it was far, far older than Christians believed, some people jumped at the chance to use these theories to deny that God created the world at all. They claimed that God was a myth, and that the world and the human race simply appeared all by themselves, by random accident. Obviously, this means that man is not made in God's image.
What did "made in God's image" mean? John of Damascus (645-749) emphasized "intelligence," "free will," and "virtue." He added that these qualities found their fullest expression in the archetype for humanity—Jesus Christ.
At a time when Darwinist scientists were claiming that different races of people must have had different ancestral parents, Christianity stuck to the biblical Truth that all humanity had one set of original parents, Adam and Eve. At the same time, Darwinist scientists were pooh-poohing the Creation story while insisting that the universe was eternal, and therefore never had a beginning. Both of these scientific theories were proved to be wrong by the mid-20th Century.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge astutely observed that the words "And man became a living soul," made clear that man "did not merely possess it, he became it. It was his proper being, his truest self."
The theme of the 19th Century was Progress. This can be seen in the literature, philosophy, history, and natural science of the time.
Christians were also excited about the progress they saw in the "astonishing sight of the triumph of the Christian religion" through huge numbers of new converts at home and around the world. Missionaries proclaiming the Word of God with "indefatigable zeal" had penetrated into distant places, abolishing barbaric customs and correcting native vices.
Evolutionary philosophy soon not only threatened the Christian worldview in regard to the origins of the universe and of humanity, but evolutionists had a mission to destroy Christian eschatology and teleology. Darwin rejected all teleology (that the world has a design and purpose) and thereby banished God among his adherents.
There arose Christian philosophers who sought to harmonize evolution with faith in God. They would assert that evolution was a method of divine working.
But Grundtvig affirmed that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, "the schoolmaster of Christendom by which the biblical writers not only were preserved from error but were moved to write only the things that God willed." The first three chapters of the Bible (in Genesis) are not "allegory" as some liberals now claim; they are not mythological; they are history.
Social Darwinism & Eugenics
Darwin's concept about life being "the survival of the fittest" led to Social Darwinism, which expanded Darwin's idea to "only the fittest should survive." Weeding out the weak ones would improve the gene pool of humankind, thereby improving the human race, thereby improving societies, countries, and the world.
It is from Darwin's theories that the ideas of forced sterilization and promoting abortion became popular. The concept being that since—according to Darwin—we are nothing more than highly evolved animals, and we breed animals to obtain desired characteristics, we should carefully breed people as well.
It had been widely observed that highly intelligent people nearly always had highly intelligent children, and doofuses usually breed more doofuses. The book Hereditary Genius: Its Laws and Consequences, by Francis Galton, was published in 1869. It was a study that showed not only intelligence but also talent and moral character runs in families.
So the 'eugenics' movement posited that the world would be a better place if less people who are not so smart had children, but intelligent people bred together and often.
If you had pick a place where a conflagration would break out that would spill such an enormous amount of blood, and cause such a gargantuan amount of human suffering, and destroy 1,000 years worth of wealth—a horror that would make all wars ever fought in the history of this planet worldwide rolled into one look like small potatoes—Europe in the 1900s, the most civilized society to ever appear in this world, would have been the most unlikely choice.
But as the 19th Century came to a close, many Europeans no longer had firm convictions about the Christian Faith. Therefore, many began to see human beings in a new light—not as spiritual images of God but as animals not much different from the ones we routinely slaughter for food.
Doubt had crept in for millions of people. There were also many who threw off religion because they simply wanted to be "emancipated from external authority."
As one European author observed, "The historical dogma has lost its power; it is a time that is characterized by negation of dogma, tradition, and authority." Another European writer wrote: "The great and essential truths of our religion . . . are no longer accepted [in Europe]."
Thus we see in the second half of the 19th Century a slow but steady exodus away from orthodox Christianity in Europe. In the 20th Century, those magnificent cathedrals would become museums. And the new godless society in Europe would turn on itself in two great wars that—along with a horrifically murderous regime in Russia that was officially Atheist and Socialist—would leave hundreds of millions of souls enslaved to the State; and hundreds of millions of people dead.