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4.3 A History of Christianity

4.3 A History of Christianity. Back to the Future. Fertile Question.

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4.3 A History of Christianity

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  1. 4.3 A History of Christianity Back to the Future

  2. Fertile Question • Can Christianity respond with one (or any) authoritative voice to any of the great issues facing the world, such as nuclear annihilation; global warming; environmental Armageddon; terrorism; the rise of militant Islam; overpopulation; extremes of wealth and poverty; global epidemics and natural disasters?

  3. The Church in the 20th Century • By the end of the 20th century, Christianity could no longer claim to speak for the world’s population: only 30% of the world nominate as Christian (circa 2 billion) • In Europe, churches lie empty and Church leaders are calling for a new evangelisation of Europe. The majority of Christians now live south of the Equator and belong to the third and fourth world economically. As in Roman times, to be Christian is considered by many in the West to be lacking in credibility, laughable, irrational, out of date and locked in past superstition .

  4. Modernism • In 1907, deeply conservative Pope Pius X condemned Modern thought as dangerous and heretical. • His encyclical "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" decried so-called "modernists" in the Church who looked to new discoveries and theories about human experience and desire to explain religious belief. • The ensuing purge of Catholic thinkers did not relent until Paul VI ended the mandated "Anti-Modernist Oath" in 1967. • In order to “protect” the church, he instituted a secret Council of Vigilance in every Diocese to keep check on publications and teachings to ensure that Modernism did not taint the teaching of the Church. • The works of liberal priests and theologians were placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.

  5. Fundamentalism • In Protestantism too, there was a belief that the modern world was deeply threatening to ordinary people. • There grew a belief that there was less and less a place for God in peoples lives. • In Big Tent Crusades in the United States, revival meetings and evangelists called for a return to the beginnings of the church: a streamlined message of belief in Jesus, and a belief in the literal and factual truth of the bible.

  6. Pentecostalism • The new and modern and sophisticated world of the twentieth century left “ordinary folk” without a voice. • In the Catholic tradition, complex theology and dogma was reinforced. Religious services were in Latin. • In Protestant churches, people yearned for relevant religion that gave meaning to the horrors of World Wars and rampant capitalism. • Pentecostalism, with speaking in tongues and miraculous cures gave people the emotional belonging and a “voice” in society and religion again.

  7. Christianity, Creation and Evolution • The trial and conviction of biology teacher John Scopes in 1925 in Tennessee for teaching Darwin’s theory of Evolution in a public school brought to a head the religion/science debate. • Though overturned on a technicality, the verdict resulted in fundamentalist Christianity being mocked and humiliated. • The Church was forced to come to terms with Biblical interpretation and Truth. • Later in the century, space travel and theories of the origin of the universe again plunged Christians into crises of faith and interpretation.

  8. Tele-Evangelism • While Fundamentalist Christianity rejected the values of 20th century life, it was quick, in the United States at least, to embrace the media inventions of age. • In 1924, Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, began broadcasting sermons from her church owned radio station. • Evangelical Christians owned their own broadcasting, their own Bible publications firms and ran their own schools.

  9. Healers and Entertainers • Televangelism brought a Christian message back to the masses, first via radio and then television. • Some countries legislated for commercial television channels to provide free time for religious broadcasts. This still exists in Australia today. • Stirring music, choirs, orchestras, speaking in tongues, dramatic preaching, healings, simple messages linked to the reality of peoples’ lives and large donations meant large worldwide audiences and riches for this “modern” brand of Christianity.

  10. Billy Graham • The most famous evangelist to make use of television was Rev Billy Graham who became known worldwide for his broadcasts. • It is said that Graham has preached the Gospel in person to more people than any other person in history. • According to his staff, as of 1993 more than 2.5 million people have "stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior“. • As of 2008, Graham's lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. • Graham has been personal advisor to every US president from Truman to Obama.

  11. Ecumenism • Ecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice. The term ecumenism refers to the idea of a Christian unity in the literal meaning: that there should be a single Christian Church. • The contemporary ecumenical movement for Protestants is often said to have started with the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference. • Eventually, formal organizations were formed, including the World Council of Churches in 1948. • Dialogue between Protestant and catholic churches continues, with agreements being reached in some areas of belief arising from the Reformation.

  12. The Second Vatican Council • The "Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican" (called Vatican II), was called by Pope John XXIII and was in session from 1962 to 1965. • It dramatically modernized and transformed church policies, with major changes to official theology and liturgy. • This was the Catholic Church’s true Reformation, this time called by the Pope himself to “fling open the windows of the Church and let the Holy Spirit in”.

  13. Vatican II • Liturgical changes included the introduction Mass in local languages instead of Latin. • Theologically, the council de-emphasized the centrality of Mary while also adding a new emphasis on individual and personal holiness. • It asserted the Church's support for freedom of religion, declared that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus and recognized the possibility of salvation for Jews, Muslims, and Protestants. • Other Christian churches were now in different stages of communion with Rome, rather than excommunicated.

  14. Catholics Divided • Reactions among Catholics to Vatican II fall into three camps. "Liberal" Catholics,, see Vatican II and the new period that it marked in Catholic history as representing a significant advancement in humanity’s understanding of history and evolution, which requires changes in Catholic belief and practice- that is reading the “signs of the times” and responding positively to them.

  15. Reaction • "Conservative" Catholics (including the most recent popes) hold that the decrees of the Council, properly understood, are wholly in line with the historic Catholic faith, and that they should not be used as an excuse for unwarranted innovations. • Traditional" (or "traditionalist") Catholics regard the teachings of Vatican II as problematic, or even as heretical. Some created churches which use the old liturgies.

  16. East and West • The mutual anathemas (excommunications) of 1054, marking the Great Schism between Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) branches of Christianity, a process spanning several centuries, were revoked in 1965 by Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. • Vatican II saw the Catholic Church use terminology of “degrees of communion” rather than Christian communities being “in” or not in” communion. • The Roman Catholic/Orthodox relationship is described as being in “close communion”. The Catholic tradition recognises the validity of Orthodox ordination and sacraments.

  17. The Future • Given its history, it is difficult to imagine what form Christianity will take in the future. • Within Christianity, the future seems to revolve more around the challenge of keeping fundamentalists and liberals together in the same “Christian” church rather than uniting different denominations. • Worldwide interest in Spirituality rather than religious doctrine and belief has already had impact on the way Christians pray and celebrate Christian rituals. • The rise in interest and membership of other religions- Buddhism and Islam has put the Christian Church on notice. • There is optimism that the bitterness and religious warfare among Christians can be eradicated and that the church can be truly “catholic” and ecumenical which together mean embracing the whole world of those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. • And that maybe the best Christians can and should ever have hoped for.

  18. End of Section 4 Part 3.You may wish to add notes from this PowerPoint to the Course Worksheet.

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