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Christian History in 6 Minutes
Christian history is a two-sided history. One side of it, are human mistakes; and the other side belongs to an overseeing God correcting those mistakes. It was a long journey of over 2000 years. Few groups or empires have lasted that long. The Christian church went through various stages of its life. Here's a quick overview of the past 20 centuries.
It all began with one man. God had an idea to send His Son to restore order on this planet. His Son attracted crowds by the thousands. During the 3.5 years of His activity, He became so popular, the religious powers of the time began to see Him as a real political threat, and killed Him. When He was killed, He only had 12 followers. Make that 11, one of them was involved in the killing plot. And the rest of them, were either hated tax collectors, or poor fishermen. But after He resurrected, these 11 followers became so energized, they were unstoppable. Over the next 30 years, they spread their news all over the Roman Empire. Their numbers could grew exponentially. City after city, they raised so much controversy, that the inhabitants either joined them or wanted to kill them. So passed the first century.
All these events were taking place in the Roman Empire, which conquered a large portion of the world. Actually, the Roman Empire was strategically the best place to start a religion. The roads built by Romans really aided the spread of ideas. The common language really aided cross-cultural communication. At first, the Roman government protected the disciples of Jesus, from the persecution of opposing group of Jews. But soon, their emperors began to really dislike the fact that these Christians would consider some Jesus above the Roman ruler. The inhabitants of the Roman Empire could not understand them. They found it strange how Christians could worship some invisible god, never putting any idols to him, or seeing any of his images. But what surprised them, was the love they had for one another, and how they could go to death for their religion... singing. The more the Roman government tried to instil public hatred towards them and to destroy them, the more people joined them. So passed another two centuries. Half this time, the Roman government devised all sorts of persecutions to conquer this group of people. Yet, after three centuries, it was this group that conquered the Roman Empire. No, they did not use a single shot to do so, nor did they employ any concentrated strategies.
Emperor Constantine came to power, and made this organization the official religion of his empire. Did he do that because he was one of the Christians? Not likely. He was a good politician. And he needed a new force which would hold his decaying empire together. It was no longer dangerous to be a Christian. On the contrary, it became beneficial. In a very short span of time, the Christian population of the empire grew from 10% to 90%. Obviously, a great percentage of the new converts did not join to commit themselves to Jesus Christ. They just followed the crowd. Many Christians began to feel like the Church became as corrupt as the Roman Empire. So many of them, left everything behind and went to the deserts to seek spiritual purity, trying to get closer to God. In the pursuit of holiness, they invented various tortures for their bodies. Great multitudes came to see these people for advice and healing. Later on, the monasteries formed by them, became centres for preservation of literature and beginning of Western music. So passed another three centuries.
The Roman Empire was destroyed by barbarians from Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic tribes. But this organization conquered the minds of those tribes too. Soon, people in those lands accepted Christianity as well. Again, we can't say the conversion was full, but Christianity became the official religion of these people. So our planet entered the Middle Ages. Not much happened during that period. But the system developed during the Middle Ages was one of the most stable systems to run a society, unless you were in the lower classes of the society. Although, it's never good to be in the lower class of any society.
In the 11th century, a major conflict arose, with the rise of a new religion. The followers of Mohammed claimed to have right over the city of Jerusalem. They managed to take away the holy city from Christendom, along with other lands. The war raged for 200 years, until the two religions settled their boundaries.
During the 13-15th centuries, many Christians felt the leadership of the Church became too corrupt and that the whole system had to be revived. This organization divides into two conflicting regions, sadly continuing with more and more divisions over time. In addition to that, modern movements sprang up against the authority of the Church, also lowering God's authority below the human mind.
In the 17th century, it spreads to South and North America. In the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, it spreads across the entire planet. And here we are, in the 21st century. This organization has representatives in every country of the world. It is integrated into the primitive cultures of the African jungle, as well as into the super-civilized Western world. And it remains to be the only organization capable of solving many of the social and moral problems of the modern society.
Was it's history perfect? Far from perfect. Why? Because of the first part of the equation, the human mistakes. Yet, Christianity continues to grow strong; because of the second part of the equation, the corrective hand of God. What do we do with history? We learn from it. People who don't know their history, are bound to repeat its mistakes. To move into the future, we need to know our past.
Let us conclude with a quote from a book, "The History of the Christian Church, Vol. I", by Philip Schaff.
Christianity has thus passed through many stages of its earthly life, and yet has hardly reached the period of full manhood in Christ Jesus. During this long succession of centuries it has outlived the destruction of Jerusalem, the dissolution of the Roman empire, fierce persecutions from without, and heretical corruptions from within, the barbarian invasion, the confusion of the dark ages, the papal tyranny, the shock of infidelity, the ravages of revolution, the attacks of enemies and the errors of friends, the rise and fall of proud kingdoms, empires, and republics, philosophical systems, and social organizations without number. And, behold, it still lives, and lives in greater strength and wider extent than ever; controlling the progress of civilization, and the destinies of the world; marching over the ruins of human wisdom and folly, ever forward and onward; spreading silently its heavenly blessings from generation to generation, and from country to country, to the ends of the earth. It can never die; it will never see the decrepitude of old age; but, like its divine founder, it will live in the unfading freshness of self-renewing youth and the unbroken vigor of manhood to the end of time, and will outlive time itself. (p. 17)
More information on Christian history, including free history ebooks, can be found at history.intellichristian.com.