Super-abbreviated Christian History Timeline

Don’t miss yesterday’s post. It has much more information.

Here’s a very general timeline of Christian history as I see it:

AD 33-70: Apostles/apostolic era
AD 70-325: Pre-Nicene Era.

  • Persecuted
  • The church, with exceptions unavoidable in a world of humans, consists entirely of Christians who know that Jesus expects us to forsake everything and make everything secondary to his will.
  • The church grew rapidly through this period, and the 3rd century saw many of the problems that arise with large numbers: the beginnings of division, increasing lukewarmness, growing hierarchical authority

312-383: The Arian Controversy and the influence of the emperor

  • The change in the church is dramatic. From mostly disciples the church grows to include most Roman citizens, which means disciples are the minority.
  • Since most of the citizens of Rome are in the church, the church can no longer forbid military service nor promote non-violence.
  • Since the church is now mostly nominal, the histories written about the fourth century bear no resemblance to Eusebius’ history of the first three centuries. Ecclesiastical history is replaced by a 4th century history of violence, intrigue, and intervention by the emperor.

312-1500: Middle Ages

  • The church continues along the same path. The idea that a church should consist only of disciples and that those who do not want to follow King Jesus wholeheartedly should be outside the church has been lost.
  • In the west, the hierarchy grows more and more important, more and more corrupt, makes more and more claims for itself, and adds more and more new doctrines to the apostolic faith.
  • There becomes such a separation between the hierarchy and the average Catholic that they are not allowed even to own a copy of the Scriptures, nor are they allowed to hear the Scripture in their own language. This is enforced upon penalty of death, and even men like Thomas Aquinas give reasons why the death penalty for “heretics” is not only appropriate, but necessary.

1500-present: The Protestant Era

Several streams of Protestantism develop over these five centuries.

  • The Lutherans: the first Protestants, born because the German nobles, tired of the Roman Catholic taxes upon their country, defended Martin Luther.
  • The Reformed (John Calvin): Calvin came alone 20 years after was a great writer and orator. His teachings took greater root than Martin Luther’s, and they even influenced the Church of Englaind.
  • High Church Protestant: I’m not sure this is proper terminology. The Church of England separated itself from Rome in the 1540’s (if I remember correctly, but that’s close) because the pope would not approve Henry VIII’s annulment of his marriage. The Church of England was much more open to Protestant theology than Rome, and it became mostly Reformed (Calvinist) in its theology.
  • It was the Church of England, and its Puritans and Separatists, that led to the founding of the Baptists and most of the denominations of the United States.
  • The Anabaptists were the “Radical Reformation.” Eventually, they would splinter worse than any of the other Protestant lineages, but in their early days they displayed all the fire of the pre-Nicene church. The Amish, Mennonites, and German Baptist Brethren are their descendants. I’m not sure exactly why some Baptists claim them as ancestors, but I see no indication that is true. (Feel free to correct me if you know more than I do.)
  • With rare exceptions, all of these streams of Protestantism maintained the policy that poisoned the church in the fourth century: the idea that every citizen should be a member of the church. The Anabaptists returned to a church of disciples only, and so did the Society of Friends (Quakers).

Nowadays I rarely feel that anything I write is complete, especially on this blog. Right now I am of the opinion that this is a good thing which makes more room for dialogue. I think it was a fault of mine, always trying to provide answers.

It is not just the destination; it is also the journey.

This is especially true in our King. If we don’t go through the journey under God, we may find that when we arrive, we are not equipped to handle where he has brought us.

Please feel free to comment, dispute, adjust.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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