The Discipline of Church History
The discipline of church history, or ecclesiastical history, deals with the origins of the Christian religion and the development of the Christian Church. The discipline is divided into four basic areas: Chronology, Periods, Sources, and Approach. Listed below are some key terms to remember as you study the subject. Choosing a good textbook is critical to the success of your assignment. However, before you begin reading, take a look at these points to guide your research.
Chronology of Church History is a collection of events and people that shaped the Christian faith over the centuries. These lists provide direction and context, and can be found online. The Chronology of Church History is often written from a Christian perspective, so writers from other denominations will often highlight relevant events and people. For example, a Protestant historian may focus on the Protestant Reformation and Great Awakenings, while an Anglican historian may write about the apostolic era.
The Gospel of John and Gospel of Thomas are written, and the apostle James takes charge of the Jerusalem church. The Roman emperor Nero blames the Christians for the fire, and Jewish factions begin to fight in the region. Early Christian apologists, such as Justin Martyr, begin defending Christianity as a "philosophy" and the only legitimate heir to the Israelite scriptures. The early church is characterized by its leaders' vigilance and their willingness to share their faith with others.
Christianity's growth was marked by persecution. During the early years, it spread into the provinces of the Roman Empire, including the Hellenistic world. Early Christian writers produced apologetic works based on the sacred scriptures and reason. These writers are known as Church Fathers and the study of their works is called patristics. Some notable examples of early Christian writers are Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin Martyr.
The Crusades begin, dividing the Western Church from the Eastern. The first Crusade to the Holy Land follows, and western European forces try to retake Jerusalem from Muslim rule. This religious war was the first major division in church history since the Council of Chalcedon. The translation of the Bible into English was first completed by John Wycliffe, who died of a stroke in 1384. Then, the Pope becomes the "ruler" of the church. In the fourteenth century, the protestant movement begins, led by Martin Luther.
The Council of Chalcedon, in 843, reaffirms the apostolic doctrine of two natures of Christ. The Great Church of Constantinople is consecrated. In 864, Prince Boris of Bulgaria is baptized. In 864, the Orthodox faith is established in the Slavic world. Sts. Cyril and Methodius spread the Orthodox faith among the Slavs. Later, the Emperor Leo the Isaurian begins his campaign against the veneration of icons.
One of the main components of the history of Christianity is the Church. The Church has changed drastically over the centuries and faced a number of challenges, including the rise of secularism and disbelief. In this course, you will take a survey of early church history in Europe, including the Protestant Reformation, the counter-reformation, and the missionary expansion of the Church. Your study will also focus on internal theological issues and Church-State quarrels.
The fourth century is one of the pivotal turning points in church history. At this time, the church is being persecuted by the Roman Empire, and Diocletian's Great Persecution of 305 is intended to destroy the church. Thankfully, Constantine, the emperor, came to the rescue and professed Christianity, giving the church favored treatment and legal status in the process. A new era of Christianity is underway.
The Reformation marked a turning point in the Church's history. While some movements were more prevalent during one period, other currents of thought prevailed in both. By 1648, the Counter Reformation and the Reformation had ceased to gain large numbers of new adherents. Further, there were a variety of changes within the Church, resulting in a new understanding of the faith and the Church as a whole.
The reformation caused changes to many institutions, including the papacy and the old orders. This resulted in the creation of new congregations, such as the strict Camaldolese Benedictines. In addition to these reformers, Girolamo seripando and Giles of Viterbo were notable Augustinian reformers. However, the franciscans also suffered from satirical commentary during this period. They already had two branches before the Reformation, and thus their reputation was at risk.
The Middle Ages were a turbulent period in the history of the Church. Many people mistake this period as a time of division and defeat. However, Weidenkopf presents it as a time of great spiritual and religious significance. He explains the importance of these saints and the importance of their lives, while dispelling nine common myths about this period of church history. A review of this new book can be found at www.christendom.com/periods in church history
The study of church history requires careful referencing of primary records, known as "sources." Similar to other kinds of history, the Bible itself is a source, and writings of ancient historians are grist for the mill. Unfortunately, most of these documents are written in languages other than English. To avoid confusion, here are some helpful tips:
First, determine which periods of church history are relevant to your topic. Churches go through periods of growth and decline. For example, the Great Depression and World War II often make up an era in church history. Additionally, every church has a founding period, which means that historians must be sensitive to this "pre-history."
The critical school of Christianity has stressed careful use of sources, and the critical process has produced both good and bad sources. In the early Middle Ages, critics exposed the falsity of the Donation of Constantine and the pseudo-Isidorian decretals. The critical school has also cloned numerous valuable works. Socrates' sources are not as reliable as they were in the past. Socrates and Eusebius also contributed to the scholarly debate over Church History.
Once you have identified the primary sources, the next step is to assess the authenticity of those sources. Beware of fake documents and self-proclaimed eyewitnesses. Some documents may have been doctored or portions removed, and many sources have a viewpoint that influences their reporting. In order to assess the reliability of a historical source, consult standard texts on historical method. There are many good books out there and you should choose one according to your needs.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid making your criticisms too critical. It is a very tricky business to evaluate church history. You must be sensitive to the opinions of others, and you must be able to balance your criticisms with the positive points. As you write your Church History essay, be sure to be fair. Don't make your critiques too partisan or too judgmental, and remain respectful. In short, be balanced!
In Approach to Church History, John Daughrity argues that it is important to understand people's thought processes in order to truly understand Christian history. He outlines several major approaches to the study of church history. He starts by offering a chronological approach, dividing church history into seven conventional spans of time. Next, he relates the history of Orthodox Christianity and other denominations. Finally, he offers a sociological approach to religion, which emphasizes statistical growth and decline in Christian history.
In a historical approach to church history, historical theology must take into account doctrinal developments in the church. This approach to church history has numerous applications. Among these are the development of the church's theology and its sacramental practices. While focusing on selective materials, Al Puntrel also emphasizes the necessity of including women in church history. Moreover, she argues that the development of church theology and practice must be a part of the historical process, and church history should reflect the diversity of people within the church.
To get an idea of the church's history, one should begin by reading Matthew 28.18-20. This is a classic text for interpreting Christ's relationship to the church. Christ promises to be with the church always. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the relationship between Christ and the church. In Matthew 28:18-20, the church and Christ are described as one and the same. If we can understand this relationship, we can better understand the church's history.
In contrast to the golden age approach, a historicist should avoid the use of historical methods based on the Golden Age. A golden age approach is theology in disguise. It involves theological judgments on the time and the theologian's interpretation. While good historical theologians try to remain objective, they should not attempt to make such judgments. An objective account of events is a more valuable approach to church history than the golden age approach.
In the Reformed Church tradition, the early church began as a kerygmatic movement. The message itself was dynamic and the church was at different times. This kerygmatic movement continues in the patriarchal family line. The earliest church can be considered the very first "church." In this sense, the early church was a dynamic community of believers who worshipped God. The patriarchs continue this tradition and are part of the family's history.