PODCAST: The End of an Era (History of Christianity #173 with Daniel Whyte III)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #173, titled, “The End of an Era.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Romans 12:4-5 which reads: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Jerome. He said: “The world goes to ruin. Yes! But in spite of it, and to our shame, our sins shall live and even prosper. The great city, the capital of the Roman Empire, has been devoured by a great fire, and all over the earth Romans wander in exile. Churches which once were revered are now but dust and ashes.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The End of an Era” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

When Augustine died, the Vandals were laying siege to the city of Hippo. Shortly thereafter, they were masters of the northern coast of Africa, except Egypt. A few years earlier, in 410 CE, Rome had been taken and sacked by Alaric [AHL-ARE-IC] and his Goths. Even earlier, at the battle of Adrianople [AY-DRI-AN-O-PUHL] in 378, an emperor had been defeated and killed by the Goths, whose troops had reached the very walls of Constantinople before turning to the West, where the empire was more vulnerable. The ancient empire, or rather its Western half, was crumbling. For centuries, Roman legions had been able to hold the Germanic people behind their borders at the Rhine and the Danube [DAN-YUBE]. In Great Britain, a wall separated the Romanized area from that which was still in control of the barbarians. But now the floodgates were open. In a series of seemingly endless waves, sometimes invited by Roman officials who sought their military support, Germanic hordes crossed the frontiers of the empire, sacked towns and cities, and finally settled in areas that had been part of the Roman Empire. There they founded their own kingdoms, many of them supposedly subject to the Roman Empire–which theoretically continued to exist until the deposition of the last emperor in 476—but in truth independent. Their impact was such that their memory is still present in the names of many of the regions in Europe where each group settled: Germany, named after the Germanic invaders, France, England, Lombardy (named after the Franks, Angles, and Lombards) and many others. The Western Roman Empire had come to an end, even though most of its conquerors would eventually speak languages derived from the Latin of the empire, and even though various European leaders would claim to be the true successors of the ancient caesars for another fifteen centuries.

The imperial church, which Constantine had inaugurated, continued existing for another thousand years in the Byzantine [BIZ-UHN-TEEN] Empire. Not so in the West, for it would be a long time before Western Europe could once again experience the political unity and relative peace that it had known under Roman rule. It would also take centuries to rebuild much that had been destroyed, not only in terms of roads, buildings, and aqueducts, but also in terms of literature, art, and knowledge of the physical world. In all of these fields, it was the church that provided continuity with the past. It became the guardian of civilization and of order. In many ways, the church filled the vacuum left by the demise of the empire. Centuries later, when the empire was resurrected in the West, this was accomplished through the action of the church, and it was the pope who crowned its emperor.

Meanwhile, there were new challenges to be met. Many of the invaders were pagan, and therefore the conquered felt the need to teach their faith to their victors. Slowly, through the unrecorded witness of thousands of Christians, the invaders accepted the Christian faith, and eventually from their stock came new generations of leaders of the church.

Furthermore, since many of the invaders had previously been converted to Arian [EH-REE-UHN] Christianity, the issue of Arianism [EH-REE-UHN-ISM], which had been considered virtually dead for decades, once again came to the foreground in the West—where Arianism [EH-REE-UHN-ISM] had never been a real issue. Eventually, yielding to the influence of those whom they had conquered, all of these Arian [EH-REE-UHN] people would come to accept the Nicene faith. But this was not done without a great deal of struggle and suffering.

Out of all of this, a new civilization would arise, one which was heir to classical Greco-Roman antiquity as well as to Christianity and to Germanic traditions. This process took the thousand years known as the Middle Ages, to which we must now turn.

Next time, we will begin looking at “Medieval Christianity: The New Order: The Germanic Kingdoms.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.