Brief summary of Christianity
Consolidation of Christianity
and its later fragmentation
1st to 4th century CE: Consolidation of Christianity:
As noted elsewhere, Jewish Christians -- the
original group within the primitive Christian movement -- was almost wiped out by the Roman Army in
its attack on Jerusalem in 70 CE. The survivors were scattered.
Pauline Christianity, and its successor Proto-Christianity, flourished throughout the Roman Empire in spite of
intermittent persecutions. The attacks were primarily triggered by the refusal
Christians to contribute sacrifices at the state Pagan temples. The Empire regarded
this activity as
an important civic duty for every citizen, but was viewed as the ultimate
sacrilege by many Christians.
With the issuance of the Edict of Toleration at Milan in 313 CE, the
Roman Empire recognized Pauline Christianity as a valid religion. Persecution
ceased and Christianity became tolerated. Three generations later, circa 387 CE, Christianity became the official religion of the
Empire. Persecutions began again; this time Christians were the perpetrators and
Pagans the victims.
The new state religion, with the help of the
Roman Empire, persecuted the remnants of
Gnostic Christianity. The Gnostics' many Gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas,
and many dozens of other writings were suppressed. Gnostic Christianity was
driven underground and almost wiped out. A few survived the prosecution. At the present time
it is experiencing rapid growth.
With the disappearance of Jewish Christianity and Gnostic Christianity, Christianity was once more consolidated into a single group. Church authority became concentrated among the five bishops or patriarchs
located in Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome.
Subsequent fragmentation of Christianity:
A unified Christianity continued for a few centuries, but then gradually
||7th century CE: Islam: With the expansion of Islam throughout the Middle East, church power became concentrated in Constantinople and Rome. These two
Christian centers gradually drifted apart from each other in their beliefs and practices.|
|11th century CE: Christian schism: In 1054 CE, a formal split
occurred between the Roman Catholic and
Eastern Orthodox churches. Their leaders excommunicated each other. The split remains in effect
today, although the mutual excommunication has been revoked. Efforts are being made to heal the divide,
but little progress has resulted.|
||16th Century: Protestant
Reformation: This was a time of great turmoil within Christianity. In
Europe, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli broke from the
Roman Catholic Church
to form separate Protestant Christian faith groups. They promoted the concepts
|Salvation by the grace of God, rather than
through church sacraments.|
|Greater individual freedom of belief.
|The priesthood of all believers; no priest or other intermediary was
needed between believers and God.
|Close integration of church and state.
|Reliance on the Bible alone, with much
less attention paid to church tradition.|
Radical Reformation: Some additional religious reformers took these
beliefs to a logical conclusion; they preached that the believers should form
"free churches." These were quite different from both the Catholic
Church and the highly organized Protestant state churches. Members met
in each other's homes, much like the early Jesus Movement. Because they
believed that baptism should be restricted to adults, they were called
Church of England: Also during the 16th century, the Church of
England split from the Roman Catholic Church. The schism is
often blamed on the pope's refusal to give the king a divorce, and the king's
incessant drive to produce a male heir. His various wives produced only girls
and one sickly male child. Medical science was in a primitive state at the
time, and doctors did not realize that the gender of a child is determined by
the sex of the male's sperm. That is, the king himself was responsible for a string of
In reality, the split was caused more by various English political trends, religious changes, and dissatisfaction with the Papal Curia than by the lack of a divorce decree. Over time, the Church of England
grew to become the worldwide Anglican Communion.
||17th century to now: Protestant denominations experienced
further schisms in later centuries to produce the
over 1,000 Christian denominations and sects in the
U.S. and Canada today. Some of these schisms was caused by disagreement over
the morality of human slavery. One example was the Southern Baptist Conference. They separated from the national body because of the former's desire to accept
slave owners as members. |
Starting in the late 19th century, many splits were triggered by a conflict
between modernist interpretation of the Bible and fundamentalist beliefs. In
recent years, the main stressor involves homosexuals as members, the
ordination of gay clergy, and ordination of women.
Many of these faith groups believe that their group, alone, is the true
successor to Jesus' teachings and the faith that was "... once delivered unto
the saints." (Jude 1:3). This presents a logical dilemma. Since the demoninations teach a range of beliefs, only a maximum of one denomination can be free of error.
Copyrighted © 2009 & 2010 by Ontario Consultants on
First posted: 2009-MAR-24
Last updated 2010-JUL-07
Author: B.A. Robinson