A Short Summary on the History of Christianity

Question from a Site Viewer
Would you be able to suggest any text book, author, or writings that would give me detailed information about the history of Christianity? Much of what I have found on these subjects is specifically bent towards one bias or another. I lean very much towards the Protestant view in terms of doctrine. The problem I’m having lately is that when you’re discussing Christianity as a whole, the Catholic church claims to be the church that has existed since the time of Jesus. The fact that the Protestant Reformation didn’t occur until the middle of the last millennium raises the question: if the gates of hell will not move against the true church of God–where was the “true” church during the rise of the Catholic church?

I have heard much of Waldenses and Albigenses and other groups that appear to have moved farther north and west of the rule of the Catholic church during the early days. It’s difficult for me to define where I stand in regards to this argument. I want to say that I’m Protestant (because I do not agree with the Catholic church) but doing so infuses a certain time stamp on my belief structure that I don’t necessarily agree with. I hope this makes some sense to you.

Tim’s Answer
All books necessarily have a bias. The best information is to read the original sources. The early church fathers are available on the web or can be found through your local library. You may not want to tackle all of them at once, as there are 10 volumes of very small print. But you can find the earliest of them in the Apostolic Fathers. This is a much smaller amount of material. Nevertheless, there are some more recent books on the history of Christianity that do not have such a strong Roman Catholic slant.

As to your question about the Roman Catholic Church existing since the time of Jesus and the Protestant Church only arising in the sixteenth century, do not believe such propaganda. It simply is not true. The Roman Catholic church of today is not the church of Jesus, neither is it “catholic.” The word “catholic” means universal and it is far from being universal. In the early church, until the time of Augustine, there was basically one church, which was universal, which was not centered in Rome. When the Roman bishops began to claim supremacy about the middle of the first millenium, the rest of the church did not agree. The church in Egypt, the Coptic Church, is more ancient than the Roman church and it has never been part of the Roman church. The Nestorian Church (the Eastern Church now found primarily in Syria and Jordan) has a history that is much older than the Roman church. The Orthodox Church also has origins that predate the Roman Church. There are many Christian groups that existed before the Roman church and continue to this day. The Roman church, with a strong bishop who claimed supremacy, was a late edition to Christianity, in the time-table of the church. Most of the Christian world rejected the Roman bishop’s claim.

The so-called protestant church actually is the continuation of a long line of godly people. The Protestant Reformation was influenced by John Huss who was greatly influenced by Wycliffe who in turn was greatly influenced by a monastary that stems from the work done by Saint Patrick who hardly could be called Roman Catholic. In fact, Wycliffe was so far from being Roman Catholic that the Roman church ultimately dug up his bones and burned them. The great Gregorys of theology were never part of the Roman church. Jerome, who translated the Latin Vulgate, the Bible used by the Roman church for a 1000 years, was in sharp disagreement with Augustine. The true church of Christ never was dependent on a monolithic organization. As with the Jews, His people have always survived in a remnant and have never depended upon institutions for their authenticity. Christ was and is enough.

I do not consider myself a protestant. I am a Christian. I am a follower of the Jesus of the Bible. My salvation is not in the church, but in Jesus. My work, however, is in the church and the world. I believe that we are called by Christ into community, even as Jesus prayed in John 17. Thus, I find it essential for me to be part of a church, not for salvation, but to do His will.

I do not denigrate my Roman Catholic friends. I know some dear Christians who are Roman Catholic. I try not to accent my differences, but try to encourage all to follow Jesus. In Him is our hope.

tim

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