PODCAST: Imperial Restoration & Continuing Decay, Part 4 (History of Christianity #205 with Daniel Whyte III)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #205, titled, “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay, Part 4: Theological Activity, 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 Hebrews 6:1-3 which reads: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Charles Spurgeon. He said: “Nobody can do as much damage to the church of God as the man who is within its walls, but not within its life.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay, Part 4: Theological Activity, Part 1” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The revival of learning that Charlemagne had sought bore fruit throughout the ninth century. Wherever there was a strong ruler and a measure of peace, schools flourished, manuscripts were copied, and there was a measure of theological activity. However, during all that time Western Europe produced only one systematic thinker of stature, while most theological activity centered on controversies over a single point of doctrine or worship.

The great systematic thinker during the reign of the Carolingians [KAR-OH-LIN-JE-ENs]–the dynasty of Charlemagne–was John Scotus Erigena [IH-RIJ-UH-NUH], a native of Ireland who had fallen heir to the knowledge of antiquity that had been preserved in Irish monasteries. Toward the middle of the ninth century, he settled at the court of Charles “the Bald”–one of the three heirs of Louis the Pious–and there came to enjoy great prestige for his erudition. Well versed in Greek, he translated into Latin the works of the false Dionysius [DY-UH-NIZ-EE-UHS] the Areopagite [AR-EE-OP-UH-JAHYT]. In the fifth century, someone had written these works, which were purported to be by the same Dionysius [DY-UH-NIZ-EE-UHS] who had heard Paul at the Areopagus [AR-EE-OP-UH-GUHS]. When they were introduced into Western Europe during the reign of Charles “the Bald,” no one doubted their authenticity. Erigena’s [IH-RIJ-UH-NUH’s] translation was read as the word of one whose authority was almost apostolic. Since these works expounded a form of Neoplatonic mysticism, soon this was confused with Paul’s theology, and the apostle was read as if he too had been a Neoplatonist.

Erigena’s [IH-RIJ-UH-NUH’s] great writing, On the Division of Nature, followed along the same lines, and many of his tenets can now be recognized as more Neoplatonic than Christian. However, his tone was so erudite, and his speculation so abstract, that not many read his work, fewer understood it, and no one seems to have become his follower. Later, those few who had taken from Erigena [IH-RIJ-UH-NUH] one point or another often found themselves condemned as heretics.

One of the main theological controversies of the Carolingian [KAR-OH-LIN-JE-EN] period centered on the teachings of Spanish Bishops Elipandus [EL-IH-PAN-DUHS] of Toledo and Felix of Urgel [UR-GUL]. There remained in Spain many Christians whose ancestors had not fled at the time of the Muslim conquests, and who now lived under Moorish rule. These Christians, the Mozarabs [MO-ZAH-RABS], kept their ancient traditions dating back to pre-Islamic times, including their form of worship, known as the Mozarabic [MO-ZAH-RAB-IK] liturgy–which is still celebrated in the Cathedral of Toledo. When Charlemagne began reconquering some of the lands that had previously been under Islamic rule, the Mozarabs [MO-ZAH-RABS] clung to their traditions, which the Franks sought to replace with those of France and Rome. Thus, there was tension between Franks and Mozarabs [MO-ZAH-RABS] even before the controversy broke out.

Next time, we will continue looking at “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay: Theological Activity.”

Let’s pray.


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.