Trust you are enjoying the weekend.
Here is another long read
Why so many churches/denominations and different beliefs if you worship the same God? Why are there new churches coming up every year, can’t they just worship with others? This a question many people ask or quietly wonder about the Church. That’s why we should study church history from the first day Christianity started 2000 years ago.
When Christianity became the official state religion and financed/controlled by Government, redefining her identity, it backfired as Church later controlled the State as we saw in the last episodes. What a marriage! In the last part we saw the church replacing the fallen Roman Empire (western Europe) as the new political power, becoming a kingdom, king Christ on earth if you wish. God was too slow in bringing ‘the city of God’ to earth!
The Third 500 years [Year 1001 to 1500 AD]
For centuries the Church functioned as one organism-organisation though as different teams. Paul calls it a Body with many members i.e. specialised functions or formations as a human body has feet, hands, lungs, ears all serving the person e.g in the 1st century Paul disagreed with Barnabas and they sailed differently but remained same family (Acts 15v36-41). It was not until 1054 AD that the Church officially split into western (Catholic) and eastern (Orthodox).
The divorce was long coming. Earlier when Rome fell to Barbarians, Constantinople the eastern capital became the surviving headquarters of the wounded empire known today as Byzantine Empire. Naturally that church became geographically, culturally, linguistically distant from Rome and theologically in protest of the western church’s compromise and corruption. Doctrines such as the vicar of Christ which practically meant whatever the bishop says is what Jesus Christ is saying. Not to mention veneration of images, vestments (garments) and many practices which were unknown to the early church nor could be justified in the New Testament.
We focus on the western Church which centuries later influenced Africa, America and the world although the orthodox church went into comparable doctrines.
Ever heard of Crusades? Not the modern ones but the original protester armies of the 11th to 13th centuries. Recruited and commissioned by the Church, thousands of people marched across Europe to Palestine to save Jerusalem from violent invaders. They ‘fought for Jesus’ yet Jesus told Peter to tuck away his sword after he struck off the aggressor’s ear (John 18v10). His Kingdom was to come by love, he seemed to be saying. But not in the 1200s when several times the Church invaded the middle east through hired criminals i.e. convicted prisoners were promised forgiveness of they join the crusades and saints who were persuaded to join the cause of Christ.
At some point hundreds of young children marched from Europe and not one of them arrived.
You may be wondering how people become so gullible. It’s happening even among today’s enlightened especially when done by role models in the name of Christ and combined with people’s blind loyalty it usually succeeds.
But that corrupted path was not without resistance. Men and women rose to oppose such appalling doctrines like Prayers TO the dead, Prayers FOR the dead (there is no repentance after death no matter how many #RIP hashtags). Or against purgatory a teaching claiming an intermediate state after death in which people undergo purification for holiness to enter heaven … or against indulgences i.e. ‘remission of already forgiven sins by the church’ which at the time equated to selling of forgiveness so as to reduce the amount of punishment after death. Sow-a-seed for a prophecy?
Those who resisted were ‘silenced’. Some tried to reform the Church but eventually fell to one or more of the opposing extremes. Francis of Assisi sought and found Christ, gathered colleagues to preach the Gospel and became one of the first missionary to the Muslims. He didn’t go with an army but unaided with love. He reacted to the opulence by caring for the poor but ended up a ‘professional beggar’.
Bernard of Clairvaux had some success, setting back the reformation by 200 years.
Bold saints like the Waldensians reacted to this institutional church corruption by shunning it and meeting in their homes similar to the house churches of the earliest Church (Acts 2v46, 5v42, 20v20; Rom 6v3; Col 4v15 etc). The rebel saints were tracked down and you can guess what happened to them.
John Wycliffe [lived 1320 to 1384 AD] rediscovered the true church teachings from the Bible and decided to translate the Bible from Latin (used only by priests) to the common languages e.g English into the hands of ordinary people as he protested against papal abuses through speaking and writing.
A man called John Hus picked his tracts, and spoke against indulgences and asserted that the pope or bishop had no right to take up the Sword in the name of the Church; he should pray for his enemies and bless those that curse him; man obtains forgiveness of sins by true repentance, not money. His writings were banned, three of his supporters were beheaded. In 1415 AD Hus was burned at the stake “for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic church”.
The whole situation was crying out for someone who would stand and boldly say the truth so well that everybody will understand. Would you be that person?
…to be continued
This is part 5 of #ThisGospel a Church history series by Talent Mbedzi to bridge the knowledge gap. Get the next and previous parts by Whatsapp +27624740015 .