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2000 years of "Christianity" - part 2 of 2

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The history of Babel ("confusion") strikingly parallels that of the professing Church.
  1. Unity (Gen. 11:1) - the Apostolic Church (Acts 4:32,33)
  2. Ambition (Gen. 11:2), using worldly, not spiritual means (Gen. 11:3), ending in man-made unity - the papacy;
  3. the confusion of tongues (Gen. 11:7) - Protestantism, with its innumerable sects.
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  It's not a Mormon who said that. It comes from the Scofield Bible, a popular Protestants text. It is commenting on Genesis chapter 11, the tower of Babel. This book, the keystone of Darbyism, is still very popular among Protestants. Note how God solved the problem of Babel in ancient times. He called a great prophet - Abraham - to restore his gospel in its purity.  
See also:

What happened to the churches in 1830
Quotations and page numbers below are from the much reprinted book "The Story of the Church" by Renwick and Harman (Leicester: Inter Varsity Press, second edition 1985), the publishing arm of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

666-800: complete domination of Europe

The Roman church continued to grow in power and prestige. In the year 666 it received news that the only serious alternative to Rome - the church in Britain - had given in. Rome was now unopposed.

In 732, Boniface became an archbishop and strengthened the Roman power, especially in Germany. There was no messing about - the Germans in Saxony were forced to be Christian, on pain of death. In 752, Pepin (the Frankish king) was crowned by a Papal legate, further demonstrating the influence of Rome in northern Europe.



800-887: the "Holy Roman Empire"

On Christmas Day in the year 800, Charlemagne was crowned "Holy Roman Emperor" over a large part of Europe. This dynasty and the Roman church strengthened each other over the following generations. Around 850, forged documents began to circulate, claiming to prove that the Pope had great political authority from the earliest times. These documents were accepted as genuine for centuries. This was a period of "incredible disorder" (p.86). Charlemagne's dynasty ended in 887, when Charles the Fat was deposed, but things did not get better.



887-1073: it gets worse

In this period the church was often controlled by warring princes. It became "a veritable synagogue of Satan. Pope followed Pope in rapid succession, and most of them ended their career in deposition, prison and murder" (p.86, quoting the historian Schaff). For example, the church was controlled for a time by three high ranking "beautiful but utterly unscrupulous women, and the vile tale of their immoralities with popes and nobles is shocking to the last degree. The facts have been frankly recognised, and not without indignation, by Roman Catholic historians of high standing" (p.87).

One of the worst leaders, Pope John XII, appealed to Otto, King of Germany, for help. When John later turned against Otto, Otto had John deposed by a synod, on charges of murder, blasphemy, and gross sensuality. And so it continued. Between 1044 and 1046 there were even three rival popes, each as bad as each other.



1073-1294: the height of the power of the medieval church

Hildebrandt (calling himself Pope Gregory VII) made vast claims for the papacy, that no-one on earth could be saved without acknowledging him as their ruler.

Crusader castle 1095 to 1270 saw the crusades, where vast numbers of Christians of all classes traveled to Palestine to liberate Jerusalem.

Left: a crusader castle

Most crusades were failures, and even those that succeeded were shameful. The first official crusade, for example, was classed a success because they liberated Jerusalem. But only one in ten of those who started the journey reached the end, and then they massacred the Saracens they found there.

The church reached its greatest political power under Innocent III (1198-1216), who was quite able to humble kings such as John of England and Philip of France.

In 1231, Gregory IX put the Dominican monks in charge of the Inquisition (designed to find heretics). This was responsible for all kinds of horrors. Its first famous use was against the Albigensians, who dared to declare that the clergy was corrupt, and tried to have a simple faith based on the Bible. In twenty years, almost every Albigensian was killed.

To be fair...

To be fair, it must be remembered that not every pope was corrupt. Many were honest and fair, allowing dissenting views, and doing their best to represent Christ. Even those remembered as tyrants often had noble motives. But this is not the issue. The real issue is that the church was in apostasy, and had been for a very long time.



1294-1417: the reaction begins

Boniface VIII (1294-1303) began the decline of the Roman church by his arrogance. He issued a bull that clarified the claim that salvation comes from accepting the Roman pope. The papacy became so unpopular that between 1309 and 1377 is based itself in Avignon, in France, for safety.

Then came the great schism - from 1378 to 1409 there were two popes. From 1409 to 1417 there were three.

Wyclif (1320-1384) was the first famous dissenter - a catholic priest who nonetheless disagreed vocally with much of what the church taught. He was the first to translate the Bible into English. John Hus (1360-1415) went further - he attacked the sins of the priests - and he was burned at the stake.



1417-1517: the effects of the Renaissance

During the great Schism, the church started a series of reforming councils (meeting between 1409 and 1449), but little was achieved. However, events were overtaking the church.

The printing press was being developed, and in 1453 Constantinople fell, bringing in a new wave of scholars from the east. There was a new generation of "Christian humanists" who were devoted to "the New Learning" - looking back to Greek and Roman ideas, and questioning the status quo.



1517-1685: the battles of the Reformation

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the church doors. These listed ninety five ways that the church was going against the Bible. The big issue of the day that provoked him was the sale of indulgences - rich people could pay to have their sins forgiven.

At this time and soon after came the Anabaptists (who rejected infant baptism) and more reformers like Zwingli and Calvin. In 1531, in order to divorce one of his wives, Henry VIII broke with Rome. Many nations embraced Protestantism, some (like Britain, under the murderous "bloody Mary") tried to back to Catholicism for a time. There were religious wars in Europe such as the "thirty years war" (1618-1648), and persecutions, such as when 400 000 Protestant Huguenots were expelled from France in 1685.



1685-1830: the rise of skepticism

To the outside observer, the reformed Catholic church (after its "counter reformation") was not worse than some of the new Protestants - there were strengths and weaknesses in equal measure on both sides. But worse, both sides were beginning to look a little irrelevant to the common people.

New ideas were gaining popularity - such as Deism (the idea that God set the universe in motion long ago, then left it alone), or rationalism (the idea that an individual's own ideas are the ultimate source of truth). Then there was textual criticism, used by many to doubt parts of the Bible. In the churches, "the full deity of our Lord was widely denied and spiritual deadness invaded congregations" (p.165).

In reaction against this, there was the golden age of hymn writing, and the rise of movements such as Methodism (began 1736-38), and great missionaries such as William Cary (1761-1834). But the churches were on the defenses. People were questioning and criticizing them, they had lost all pretence of unity, they no longer controlled the world, and they knew it.

 


The state of the church in 1830

For scholars and churches that knew something amazing was happening, click here

In general, in 1830 the Christian church was in the same state as the Jewish church in the first century: it was under great pressure from the sophisticated ideas of the day (in the Jews' case, Hellenism, in our case, Rationalism). Its ultimate source of authority is in interpreting the written word (the job of the Scribes in Jesus' day)

Like first century Judaism, the church was divided. Broadly, it fell into two camps - the traditional "moderates", the people who went to church on Sunday and minded their own business, and others who were more fundamentalist in their views. Each camp suspected the other. More specifically, the Jewish church had splintered into many parts - Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Nazarenes, Herodians, Zealots, and so on. Similarly the modern church is divided into Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Evangelical, and so on.



Christians and Jews compared

The big problem of course is that the first century Jews had been without prophets to lead them for 400 years. The Christians in 1830 had been in the same state for much longer. And both groups have responded in similar ways.

The Jewish answer was the development of the Talmud - after five hundred years without prophets, they decided that tradition (the oral law) was of equal value. The synagogue replaced the temple as the source of truth, and rabbis became a full time career. The Christian answer was the same - after 500 years without prophets, the church decided that traditions had equal value with the scriptures. The role of minister becomes a full time profession. Even today, when it is not fashionable to admit that a church is based on tradition, the churches still base their faith on creeds developed in the fourth to sixth centuries.

The churches are lost without living prophets.



The church of Jesus Christ from 1830 to the present.

As prophesied in the Bible, the church has not stayed in the wilderness. The authority was restored from heaven. Once again there are prophets and apostles to lead the church. Once again there is new revelation, new scripture, miracles, and missionaries going to all the world.

As Daniel foresaw, the stone that was cut without hands is rolling foreword to fill the world.



The traditional churches from 1830 to the present

The traditional churches respond to the restored church in the same way that the Jews responded to the Christian Church in the first century. They reject it because it seems different. They use the same arguments (blasphemy, following a mortal, no need for more scripture, etc.) and persecute it. But largely they ignore it. They have their own agenda - they are too busy becoming divided, irrelevant to most people, or extreme. The divisions have to be sen to be believed (I was just looking at a web site that accuses evangelicals - including Christianity Today - of being unbelievers, at http://www.whidbey.net/~dcloud/fbns/evangelicalunbelievers.htm

They have their own Hellenisers (the liberal churches), Scribes (theologians), Pharisees (populists), and Zealots (fundamentalists). And they definitely do NOT want new prophets and new scripture.

Back then they said they were awaiting the First Coming of the Messiah. Today they say they are waiting for the Second Coming. They were not prepared then, and they are not prepared now. Nothing has changed in 2000 years!



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