The History of Christianity
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Christianity was founded about 2000 years in Judea. At that time, Israel (Judea) was a cross-cultural hub of Christians that was under the leadership of Rome. Some Jews conformed to the polytheistic beliefs of Rome while the others stood against Rome. Jesus was the first evangelist who evangelized to Jews about the New Covenant and the will of God. Christianity seemed to be a plethora of competitive and mutually exclusive church bodies, denominations and confessions by the 18th century. There was a significant harmony in the Protestants’ evangelism but no consensus existed between the Catholic faith, Protestantism and eastern Orthodoxy. Protestants disagreed with Catholics about Papal infallibility and the doctrine of Purgatory. Protestants disputed the fact that Peter was the “Rock”, upon whom the Church of Christ was built. Catholicism claimed to have set the Canon of Bible, whereas Protestants believed that the Holy Spirit set the Canon of the Bible. Protestants spread the gospel with an emphasis on confession of sins or repentance i.e. salvation.
Christians put more focus on evangelizing the gospel in the 18th century; they focused on salvation and the new birth (baptism). There was a shift from public devotion to private worship. Protestants encouraged people to study the Bible personally. The Unitarian denomination was established in 1773. The Moravians (descendants of Jan Hus) were the first protest denomination to send out missionaries. Americans transformed the Church of England into the Episcopal Church after the US independence. Baptist churches in England rose from 25 to about 270 from 1740 to 1790. Baptists protested against infant baptism; they formed the first modern missionary society by 1792. In 1795, the Congregationalists also set up missionary societies. Mission churches, schools and hospitals started to be established around the world. Baptists and Congregationalists’ main goal was to preach gospel to people who had not heard about it.
Evangelism of the Catholics and Calvinists
The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest church. Catholicism spread the gospel with a key focus on the church doctrines. A wave of reformation in evangelism started in the 16th century due to abuses of the Roman Catholicism. Issues that led to the reformation include papal abuses, elevation of monasticism, captivity of the word, Papal Pretentiousness, usurped mediation and the role of good works (Beeke, n.d.). The reformers spread the good news with a strong believe in the Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone and Glory to God alone. On the other hand, Catholicism evangelism was characterized by strong believes in: the scripture and tradition; a belief in Christ, Mary and the Intercession of the Saints; glory to God, saints and the church doctrine/hierarchy; faith and works and a belief in Grace and Merit.
After evangelical reformation, Protestantism could not agree on the nature of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. This led to the split of Protestantism into Lutheranism and Calvinism. Lutherans differed from Calvinist in the understanding of worship, the prime function of law, the understanding of predestination and in their approach to salvation. Calvinism stood the test of time since most protestant denominations have their root in the Calvinistic faith. Such denominations include Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists. Reformation theology was quite significant until the 19th century when it was diluted due to enlightenment in Europe and America. Calvinism declined drastically by mid-20th century. Currently, Calvinism is being revived despite the fct that the world is becoming wicked day by day. Consequently, there is a steady increase in the number of Calvinistic churches and denominations (Beeke, n.d.). Nowadays, reformed churches are found in places such as Netherlands, Poland, UK, North America, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Brazil, Philippines, some African countries and some Asian countries. Calvinistic conferences are constantly increasing in many regions.
Followers of Martin Luther were mainly centered in Scandinavia (Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden). Lutherans began to migrate to the USA in the 17th century leading to establishment of church bodies. The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America merged in 1988 to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). ELCA later (1997) declared full communion with the Reformed Church of America, Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ.
The earlier German Pietism is the root of evangelism. The Pietism movement was very significant in the evangelical history of the modern church; it focused on personal commitment and spiritual growth. Pietism led to start of the protestant missionary movement. The source of Evangelism differed according to different regions. In Britain, Evangelical revival came through Wesley and Whitefield, the growth of Methodism and the establishment of the Evangelical party. The Evangelical party was held in the Church of England. Jonathan Edwards was an outstanding leader of Evangelism in the US. Evangelical awakening led to the start of voluntary movements, societies and organizations that preached the word of Christ (Meinardus, 1999). Missionary societies sent out many evangelists to the different regions of the globe in the 19th century. Missionary movement was also affected by other factors like the fight for equality, liberty and fraternity. The French revolution had a great impact on missionary movement by 1789.
Separation of the church and missionary work occurred in the 19th century (Justo, 2010). This separation was brought about by the disrespect of denominational and religious lines; its focus was on the salvation of nations. Evangelicals goal was to unit all those who had been ‘washed in the blood of Christ’. Mission and church separation had a negative impact. This prompted Bishop Reginald Stephen to think about the uniting the church and missionaries in 1876. He devoted himself to restructure the missionaries work and the other activities of the church. An unprecedented degree of unity was realized among Armenians, Calvinists, Churchmen and Dissenters after much resistance. After destroying denominational bigotry, evangelists co-operated in spreading the Gospel to the heathen. Evangelicals started to worship together. In 1795, Christians from different denominations formed the London Missionary Society. In the west, the missionary societies considered the unity and co-operation because they were afraid of the high growth of ‘younger churches’ (Meinardus, 1999). Towards the end of the 19th century, churches started to focus on the principle of sanctification and speaking in tongues.
After the holiness movement in the 19th century, evangelism turned to elaborate praise and worship crusades in the 20th century. Tent revivals also occurred over this time. Evangelists started to use the radio to preach the Gospel. The Calvary Episcopal Church did the first radio preaching on January 2, 1921 in Pennsylvania (Thomas, 1776). More than 50 religious groups were having their own broadcast stations for evangelism by 1927. Televisions facilitated missionary acttivities from 1950s. Christian novels were also published and used as a means of evangelism. Evangelistic websites started to be developed in 1990s. Nowadays, there are sophisticated websites that can offer multi-media presentations, written words, movies and video graphics (Thomas, 1776). Such sites also offer online training forums.
Christianity and Pluralism
Criticism has been made on normative religious pluralism for being neo-colonial movement that attacks Christianity externally and endeavors to quash its unique nature. Pluralism emanates from tradition. Pluralism makes use of external resources in continuity with venerable and long practices in Christianity for the reason of realizing ambitions of Christianity fundamentally (Henry, 1984). Pluralism deconstructs the tradition of Christianity. All the same, it does not mean that it is a destructive or external act. Deconstruction is an internal process to the system that is deconstructed of thought and consequently wants to be constructive instead of being entirely destructive. Basically, Christian pluralism has deconstructive inclinations emanating from Christian convention tensions.
Evangelical Renewal and Secularism
Towards the end of the 20th American evangelicals became pluralistic, diverse culture. A lot of ideas got allegiance and attention. Such philosophies, ideas and world perceptions are products of cultural and philosophical changes. Changes of this nature have been used to define culture. Pluralism can imply that all world perceptions rules; completely have stooped to exist; facts can merely be stated in the science world and not essentially religion. Evangelical Christianity has ended up being nothing more than a bothersome funny habit in the midst of diversity Shelley, (2008).
Secularism is another concept that affected the development, evolution and growth of Christianity. Secularists denounced values of Christianity as being prejudiced religiously and extremely conservative since the conclusions founded in Christianity are not logical. Secularization avoids making focus entirely on one aspect of a matter. It is believed that the bible itself started the secularization process. The idea is that, when creation was sacred, the account by genesis does not tell of this. Creation is very good since it was made by God and not sacred. As a result, both Christianity and the Gospel is not an enemy to the concept of secularism. Secularism is a way pertinent to human life, based on the considerations entirely human and meant for people who see theology as inadequate or indefinite and that cannot be relied upon or believed (Jacoby, 2004). Secularism inclines to materialism and science and that it is good to do things that are good. For Christianity, it calls for more than just being good but showing total dependence on one deity.
Christians believe in death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, Christians have varied evangelism norms. Catholics and Protestants are the main groups that form Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church evangelism has not undergone a significant change for very many years. More and more denominations of Protestants have come up since the 16th century to spread the message of salvation. There have been other forces of secularism and pluralism that have affected the development of Christianity. Again, computer technology has been quite helpful in the preaching of the Gospel. Preachers and missionaries can reach a large number of people without having to move from one place to another. The history of Christian evangelism tends to repeat itself as the faith of Protestantism and Catholicism remains the same.
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