Church History - Introduction

  1. PURPOSE OF CHURCH HISTORY – or, why study history?
    1. To Obey God in Studying History (Deuteronomy 32:7; Job 8:8-10; Psalm 78:2-3)
    2. To Understand and See God’s Plan for the Ages (Ephesians 1:9-10)
    3. To More Fully Understand the Bible (Daniel 8; Revelation 2-3)
    4. To Understand People: Biography (James 5:11,17)
      1. Individuals – psychology
      2. Groups – sociology
    5. To Understand Christian Experience (Hebrews 11:33,38) – Spiritual Biography or Autobiography, like Out of the Depths by John Newton or Grace Abounding by John Bunyan
    6. To Provide Illustrations and See Bible Principles Exemplified (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6-11)
    7. To See Error and How It Develops (Galatians 5:9)
    8. To See God’s Providence (Psalm 75:6-7; Isaiah 46:9-11; Daniel 2:21; Romans 8:28)
    9. To Give the Believer Stability and Roots (Psalm 11:3)
    10. To Explain Present Conditions (Deuteronomy 8:11-18; Isaiah 51:1)
    11. To Foresee Future Conditions and Events (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
    12. To Follow the Example of Christ and the Apostles (Matthew 23:35; Luke 13:1-4; Acts 7)
  2. DEFINITION OF CHURCH HISTORY
    1. Negatively
      1. Not the study of World History
      2. Not the study of Religion
      3. Not the study of the Roman Catholic Church
      4. Not the study of the Universal, Invisible Church
    2. Specifically:  the study of the true Bible-believing churches from apostolic times until now
      1. Acts 2:47; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:31; Acts 11:26; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:41; Acts 16:5; Acts 20:5; Acts 20:17, 28
      2. The Book of Acts Extended (Acts 1:1)
    3. Generally:  the study of the history of Christianity—true and false.
    4. NOTE:  This is a general study of church history with special emphasis on Bible-believing Christians and churches
  3. BRANCHES OF CHURCH HISTORY
    1. History of Revivals
    2. History of Missions
    3. History of Persecution
    4. History of Denominations
    5. History of Church Leaders
    6. History of Worship
    7. History of Christian Life
    8. History of Doctrines
    9. History of Heresies
    10. History of Bible Believers or Baptists
  4. SOURCES IN CHURCH HISTORY
    1. Ecclesiastical History
      1. By Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340)
      2. Called “the Father of Church History”
      3. A favorite of Emperor Constantine
    2. The Early Church Fathers Set
      1. Original works by early Christian authors down to about 600AD
      2. Divided into three sections called Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers
      3. Nicene refers to the Council of Nicea in 325AD
      4. Contains a total of 38 volumes
    3. Institutes of Ecclesiastical History
      1. Originally published in 1755; translated into English in 1832
      2. By Johann Mosheim, a German Lutheran (1694-1755)
      3. He is called “the father of modern ecclesiastical history”
    4. History of the Christian Church
      1. Eight volume work which ends at 1600
      2. Written by Philip Schaff (1819-1893)
        1. An American theologian and church historian
        2. A Presbyterian who advocated ecumenicalism and opposed revivalism
        3. He helped in the preparation of the English Revised Version (1881-4)
    5. A Manual of Church History
      1. Two volumes first published in 1899
      2. By Albert Henry (A. H.) Newman (1852-1933), a Baptist historian and educator
    6. A History of the Expansion of Christianity
      1. Seven volume work published 1937-1945
      2. Written by Kenneth Latourette (1884-1968), a liberal Baptist
      3. Emphasizes the missionary expansion of Christianity
    7. The History of the New Testament Church
      1. Two volumes completed in 1984
      2. By Peter S. Ruckman
    8. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge
      1. First published in 1908 in 13 volumes
      2. A two-volume supplement was published in 1955
      3. Excellent source of biographical and historical information
    9. Fox’s Book of Martyrs
      1. By John Foxe (1517-1587); notice that he was born in the same year in which Luther published his 95 theses
      2. Both the original title ( Acts and Monuments… ) and the original book were much longer than we see today.  The 1563 edition of the book contained almost 1800 pages.
      3. Along with the Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress , this was one of the three most read books by early Americans
    10. The Great Works of Christ in America
      1. In two large volumes first published in 1702
      2. Written by Cotton Mather (1663-1728) who was probably the most influential clergyman and historian in colonial America.  He is said to have written 382 books.
      3. The book gives stories and anecdotes from early colonial America and is the only source for much of its material
    11. The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church
      1. A one-volume dictionary of over 2,000 biographies of those of interest in church history
      2. Published by Moody Press in 1982
    12. A History of the Baptists
      1. A two-volume work originally published in 1890 by Thomas Armitage (1819-1896)
      2. A Baptist history beginning with Jesus Christ
    13. A General History of the Baptist Denomination
      1. A two-volume work originally published in 1813 by David Benedict (1779-1874)
      2. Although it begins in apostolic times, the majority of the work deals with the Baptists in America before 1813
    14. A Short History of the Baptists
      1. Originally written in 1907 by Henry C. Vedder
      2. Gives a concise summary of the development of the principles of Baptists and their history
    15. A History of the Baptists
      1. A two-volume work published in 1926 by John T. Christian
      2. Traces the Baptists from apostolic times to the mid-nineteenth century in America
    16. A History of Fundamentalism in America
      1. Written by George W. Dollar
      2. Published by Bob Jones University Press in 1973
      3. Great history of fundamentalism up to the time it was written
    17. In Pursuit of Purity – America Fundamentalism Since 1850
      1. Written by David O. Beale
      2. Published by Bob Jones University Press in 1986
      3. Traces the fundamental movement in all denominations.  Much broader that Dollar’s book.
  5. GENERAL OUTLINE OF CHURCH HISTORY  NOTE: The three ages of both the Ancient Period and the Modern Period could be summarized as 1) Revival; 2) Growth; 3) Apostasy.
    1. Ancient Period (1-590AD)
      1. Age of Apostles (1-150AD) –see Joshua 24:31
      2. Age of Martyrs (150-325AD) –also called Ante-Nicean Age
      3. Age of Unification (325-590AD) –also called Post-Nicean Age
    2. Medieval Period (590-1517AD)
      1. Age of Seclusion (590-1216AD) –true churches went underground
      2. Age of Preparation (1216-1517AD)
    3. Modern Period (1517AD-present)
      1. Age of Reformation (1517-1689AD) –Luther’s theses to the Act of Toleration
      2. Age of Evangelism (1689-1881AD) –Act of Toleration to Revised Version
      3. Age of Ecumenicalism (1881AD-present)
  6. IMPORTANT DATES IN CHURCH HISTORY
    1. Council of Nicea - 325
    2. Fall of Rome – 476
    3. Birth of Mohammed – 570
    4. Gregory I – 590 (becomes first absolute pope)
    5. Charlemagne – 800 (crowned emperor)
    6. Innocent III – 1198-1216 (most powerful pope)
    7. Birth of John Wycliffe – 1324
    8. Ninety-five theses of Luther – 1517
    9. Council of Trent – 1546
    10. King James Bible – 1611
    11. Act of Toleration in England – 1689
    12. Revised Version – 1881
  7. TRENDS IN CHURCH HISTORY
    1. Direction
      1. History always follows a natural line of degeneration (Ecclesiastes 10:18)
      2. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all systems have a tendency to degenerate from a level of higher energy to a level of lower energy and from order to disorder (Ecclesiastes 1:14-15; Ecclesiastes 2:11; Ecclesiastes 3:20)
      3. Apostasy is a falling away from the faith by those who are in the faith (Galatians 3:3; Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:7-9; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 4:1)
    2. Three Lines
      1. Biblical Line – grows by:
        1. Revival
        2. Evangelism
      2. Compromising Line
        1. Led by good-hearted people who want to get along with everyone
        2. Leads to anti-biblical line
        3. Individual believers and churches will pull back to the Biblical line
      3. Anti-Biblical Line – grows by:
        1. Apostasy (by way of the compromising line)
        2. Assimilation
          1. Heathenism (becoming more and more like the world)
          2. Humanism
        3. Aggression (politics, force)
    3. Dangers
      1. Traditionalism (Colossians 2:8)
        1. Traditions become more important than the clear teachings of God’s word (Matthew 15:3,6,9)
        2. Formalism takes place of the leadership of God
        3. “We’ve always done it this way” becomes the authority
      2. Emotionalism
        1. Orients everything toward feelings
        2. A continual seeking for an experience
        3. “I saw/felt it happen” becomes the authority
      3. Intellectualism
        1. Puts the emphasis on man’s mind
        2. Leads to rationalism (putting all things under logical analysis) and philosophy (love of wisdom)
        3. “Does it make sense to man’s intellect?” becomes the authority
      4. Materialism
        1. Puts the emphasis on worldly possessions
        2. “How much does it cost?” becomes the authority
      5. Worldliness
        1. A compromising position that makes the church like the world
        2. “Everyone else is doing it” becomes the authority
      6. Ecumenicalism
        1. Puts the emphasis on removing or ignoring differences
        2. “Can’t we all be friends?” becomes the authority
      7. Denominationalism
        1. Puts the emphasis on denominational headquarters
        2. “Let’s see what they say” becomes the authority
    4. Cycle of Church History
      1. Separation
      2. Preaching and Prayer
      3. Revival
      4. Evangelism
      5. Education
      6. Culture
      7. Apostasy
      8. Ecumenicalism (towards Rome)
      9. Unification (with government)
      10. Paganism
    5. Five Stages of a Religious Movement
      1. A Man – preaching
      2. A Movement – teaching
      3. A Machine – culture
      4. A monument – apostasy
      5. Materialism – paganism
  8. QUOTES ON HISTORY
    1. J Frank Norris (1877-1952) – Said that there are three things every preacher needs to know: the English language, the English Bible and history
    2. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) – “What are all histories but God manifesting himself, shaking down and trampling under foot whatsoever he hath not planted?”
    3. Clemens Metternich (1773-1859) – “The men who make history, have not time to write it.”
    4. Joseph Anderson (1836-1916) – “There is nothing that solidifies and strengthens a nation like reading the nation’s history.”
    5. Cicero (106-43BC) – “Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child.”
    6. Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) – “History maketh a young man to be old, without wrinkles or gray hairs, privileging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof.”
    7. “The only thing man learns from history is that man never learns form history”
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 30:28

The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.