This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #174, titled, “Medieval Christianity: The New Order: The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 1.”
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 1 Corinthians 1:10 which reads: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Paulus Orosius [OR-OH-SHE-US]. He said: “If only to this end have the barbarians been sent within Roman borders, . . . that the church of Christ might be filled with Huns and Suevi [SWEH-VEE], with Vandals and Burgundians [BUR-GUN-DEE-UHNS], with diverse and innumerable peoples of believers, then let God’s mercy be praised . . . even if this has taken place through our own destruction.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Medieval Christianity: The New Order: The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 1” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
The Fall of the Western Roman Empire created a number of independent kingdoms, each of which was of great significance for the subsequent history of the church in its territory. It also gave new functions and power to two institutions that had begun to develop earlier: monasticism and the papacy. Finally, new invasions, this time from the southeast, posed new challenges for Christianity. Each of these developments merits separate consideration.
Although the “barbarians” appeared to the Romans as looters with their minds set on destruction, most of them really aspired to settle within the borders of the Roman Empire, and there to enjoy some of the benefits of a civilization that until then they had only known from afar. Thus, after a period of wandering, each of the major invading bodies settled in a portion of the empire—some because that was the territory they fancied, and others simply because they had been pushed into that land by other invaders.
It is not necessary for our purposes here to follow the wanderings and eventual settling down of each Germanic group. However, in order to give an idea of such wanderings, and of the Germanic impact on various parts of the former Roman Empire, it may be well to consider some of the larger and most influential groups.
The Vandals, who crossed the Rhine in 407, wandered across France and Spain, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar [JI-BRAL-TAR] in 429, and took Carthage [CAR-THAJ] in 439. By then they were virtual masters of all the northern coast of Africa from the Straits to the borders of Egypt. They then took to the sea and occupied Sicily [SIS-IH-LEE], Corsica [KORS-IH-KAH], and Sardinia [SAR-DIN-EE-AH]. In 455, they sacked the city of Rome, and the destruction they wrought was even greater than that of the Goths forty-five years earlier. Their rule in North Africa was disastrous for the church. They were Arians [EH-REE-UHNS]—that is, they rejected the essential and eternal divinity of Jesus—and under their rule repeated persecutions broke out against both Catholics and Donatists [DAA-NUH-TUHSTS]—who were still debating the issues discussed in chapter 16.
Finally, after almost a century of Vandal rule, the area was conquered by General Belisarius [BEL-IH-SAR-EE-US], of the Byzantine [BIZ-UHN-TEEN] Empire. That empire, with its capital in Constantinople, was enjoying a brief renaissance under the leadership of Emperor Justinian [JUS-TIN-EE-UHN], whose dream was to restore the ancient glories of the Roman Empire. The Eastern invaders from Constantinople, whom North Africans called “Greeks,” brought in still another form of Christianity which, although agreeing in doctrine with that of the Western Catholics, showed marked differences in terms of culture and daily practices. The net result was that, when North Africa was conquered by the Muslims late in the seventh century, they found Christianity badly divided, and it eventually disappeared.
Next time, we will continue looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms.”
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.