This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #176, titled, “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 3.”
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 Matthew 28:19 which reads: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Clement of Rome. He said: “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 3” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
During most of the fifth century, Gaul was divided between two invading groups: the Burgundians, who were Arians, and the Franks, who were still pagans. The Burgundians, however, did not persecute the Catholics, as did the Vandals in North Africa. On the contrary, they imitated their customs, and soon many Burgundians had accepted the Nicene faith of their Catholic subjects. In 516, King Sigismund [SIH-GIHS-MUND] was converted to orthodox trinitarian doctrine, and soon the rest of the kingdom followed suit.
The Franks (whose country came to be known as “France”) were at first an unruly alliance of independent tribes, until a measure of unity was brought by the Merovingian [MEH-RUH-VIN-JEE-UHN] dynasty named after its founder, Meroveus [MEH-RUH-VEE-UHS]. Clovis, Meroveus’s [MEH-RUH-VEE-UHS’s] grandson and the greatest of the Merovingian [MEH-RUH-VIN-JEE-UHN] line, was married to a Christian Burgundian princess, and on the eve of a battle promised that he would be converted if his wife’s God gave him victory. As a result, on Christmas Day, 496 ce, he was baptized, along with a number of his nobles. Shortly thereafter, most of the Franks were also baptized.
In 534, the Burgundians were conquered by the Franks, and thus the whole region was united. The later Merovingians [MEH-RUH-VIN-JEE-UHNS], however, were weak kings, and by the seventh century the actual government was in the hands of “chamberlains” who in reality were prime ministers. One of these, Charles Martel (that is, “the Hammer”) led the Frankish troops against the Muslims, who had taken Spain, crossed the Pyrenees [PIH-RUH-NEEZ], and threatened the very heart of Europe. He defeated them at the battle of Tours [TOO-WAA] (or Poitiers [PWAA-TEE-AY]) in 732. By then he was virtual king, but did not claim that title. It was his son, Pepin the Short, who decided that the time had come to rid himself of the useless King Childeric III [CHIL-DER-ICK]—known as “the Stupid.” With the consent of Pope Zacharias, he forced Childeric [CHIL-DER-ICK] to abdicate and become a monk. He was then anointed king by Bishop Boniface [BON-IH-FAYS], who was acting under papal instructions. This was of paramount importance for the subsequent history of Christianity, for Pepin’s son, Charlemagne, would be the greatest ruler of the early Middle Ages, one who sought to reform the church, and who was crowned emperor by the pope.
Throughout this process, the role of the church was often compromised. Under powerful kings such as Clovis, ecclesiastical leaders seemed to be content to support and obey the ruler. Soon it became customary for kings to decide who should occupy a vacant bishopric. This was understandable, since extensive holdings of land went with the office of bishop, and therefore a bishop was also a great lord. Shortly before anointing Pepin, Boniface [BON-IH-FAYS] complained to the pope that the Frankish church was practically in the hands of lay lords, that many of the bishops acted as lords rather than as pastors, and that the notion of a council of bishops gathered to bring order and renewal to the life of the church was unheard of in the Frankish kingdom. Such conditions would continue until the time of Charlemagne.
Great Britain had never been entirely under Roman control. Emperor Hadrian [HAY-DREE-UHN] had built a wall separating the southern portion of the island, which was part of the Roman Empire, from the north, where the Picts [PIKTS] and Scots retained their independence. When disaster threatened the Roman possessions on the continent, the legions were withdrawn from Great Britain, and many of the inhabitants left with them. Those who remained were soon conquered by the Angles and the Saxons, who eventually founded the seven kingdoms of Kent, Essex, Sussex, East Anglia [AN-GLEE-UH], Wessex, Northumbria [NAW-THUM-BREE-UH], and Mercia [MUR-SEE-UH]. These invaders were pagans, although there always remained a part of the earlier population that retained the Christian faith of Roman times.
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.