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UPDATE: Chapter 25: Culture Wars (1960 – Present) – Part II: Doctrine of Hell in 20th century and the Orthodox Church after the Soviet Union
This will be our next to last submissions on MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years: two essays on the relevancy of the doctrine of hell in churches today and how the Orthodox Church has changed after the collapse of communism in Russia after 1991.
In our last entry for this series, coming next month, we will reflect on how a knowledge of Church history has impacted our understanding of the Christian faith.
It has been a long journey that dated back almost two years ago in April of 2013 when we first started reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. And now we have come to its conclusion.
Please read the remainder of Chapter 25, the last chapter of the book, where we will cover: A Cultural Revolution from the Sixties, Old-Time Affirmations, and Freedom: Prospects and Fears.
UPDATE: Chapter 24: Part II – German Christians during WWII; Stalin and the Orthodox Church; the ‘Word of Faith’ and ‘Health and Wealth Gospel’ movements
We were finally able to meet this past Wednesday and submit our essays and finish Chapter 24. Just one more chapter to go!
Also, this site has reached over 10,200 hits as of today. Amazing. Thank you all for visiting and contributing to this site.
Reading Church history as we’ve been doing for the past year and a half has been quite sobering, to say the least, for all of us as we go through MacCulloch’s book. In this chapter, we thought about the reasons why so many Christians might ally themselves with blatantly evil forces such as the Nazi Party during World War II. At times, during extreme circumstances you have to go into a form of ‘survival mode’ and defer to the powers at be in order to stay alive or not get yourself killed. Yes, this is a very watered-down reasoning on why the German (both Protestant and Catholic) Churches supported the Nazis (there are other more complex factors involved for sure), but it was, dare I say, understandable. If faced with a life and death situation, there will be some who will become martyrs for the faith in defiance towards the powers at be, and others who will compromise and capitulate to the domineering powers. Though many will make quick, knee-jerk reactions and snap judgements that they were cowards and perhaps not real Christians, in reality it’s not an easy decision to make. When you factor in personal economic and family considerations, you count how much you can lose and base your decisions on that. We cannot be quite sure how we’d respond during extreme circumstances where our faiths are tested to its furthest extent.
Also, a couple of us in the group (Michael and I) have been part of Pentecostal and charismatic churches in the past, and it was interesting to learn and read about the history of the development of its theology over the years, and why it has such a high appeal to so many people that it is the fastest growing Church movement in history.
Here are our essays.
We will finish up the rest of Chapter 24 and discuss the impact World War II had upon Christendom.
Please read the last three sections: The Churches and Nazism: The Second World War, World Christianity Realigned: Ecumenical Beginnings, and World Christianity Realigned: Pentecostals and New Churches.
Happy New Year!
For our first meeting of 2015 for next week, please read the first three sections of Chapter 24: A War That Killed Christendom (1914-18); Great Britain: The Last Years of Christian Empire; Catholics and Christ the King: The Second Age of Catholic Missions.
Please answer one of the following questions:
We’re still alive! Trust me.
We were on hiatus because everyone’s schedule seemed quite packed last month, but we’re itching to come back.
Next Wednesday, we’ll finish up with the last three sections of Chapter 22: British Protestantism and the Oxford Movement, Orthodoxy: Russia and Ottoman Decay, Masters of Suspicion: Geology, Biblical Criticism and Atheism.
Please write a one page summary of one of the following questions:
- Describe the aims of the ‘Oxford Movement’ during the 1830s in England. What were its aims? Who were the Tractarians? What was the relationship between the Church of England and the State like at this time? What was John Henry Newman’s role during this period? And what were their fears about the Roman Catholic Church?
- Discuss the relations between the Ottoman Empire and the Orthodox Church (especially the Russian Orthodox Church) after the Russo-Turkish War of 1768 – 74. Why did the Russian Church tolerate the tsar’s tight control over the Church? How did Jews and Greek Catholics fair during the ‘Holy Alliance’ formed by Tsar Alexander in 1815? Why was the ‘Holy Alliance’ formed in the first place?
- Describe the role the Russian Orthodox Church played in the independence of Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. How was the Ottoman Empire affected afterwards, especially the Ottoman rulers’ pursuit of Tanzimat?
- Discuss the impact of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection. How did his books, On the Orgin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), change how humankind was looked upon versus the biblical view of humankind? How are Darwin and his theory tied with his role in the anti-slavery/abolitionist movement? How did the relatively new science of geology change the perception of the Bible?
- Describe the rise of biblical criticism during the 19th century. Discuss the works of pastors and missionaries, like David Strauss and Albert Schweitzer, in their quests for the ‘historical Jesus’. How did perceptions of the Bible change because of higher criticism?
- Discuss the development of ‘Fundamentalism’ during the 1870s. What was it a reaction against? How and why did it form? How did it get its name? Discuss the roles Ira Sankey and D. L. Moody played in its rise. What are the central tenets of Fundamentalism?
- Discuss the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Describe his ‘God is dead’ philosophy. Discuss how his Lutheran upbringing molded some aspects of his anti-Christian rhetoric.
Hope to see everyone next Wednesday.
Sorry for the delay, but here are the new entries.
This concludes our studies into the Orthodox Church for now, but through this I think we all gained tremendous insight into the history of the Orthodox faith as a whole.
In relation to the history of the Orthodox faith, we are living in interesting times right now as “the Twelve heads of autonomous Orthodox churches, the second-largest family of Christian churches, agreed to hold a summit of bishops, or ecumenical council, in 2016, which will be the first in over 1,200 years” recently.
It will be interesting how the Orthodox Church will respond to what is happening in Russia and the Ukraine right now as well.
In regards to reading MacCulloch, what I personally want to investigate is to see “God’s hand” in the major events of history. Of course, this isn’t MacCulloch’s main concern in this book, however, it’s just a personal spiritual question I have as I study Church history. So far, I’m a bit conflicted as to it being so clear that God is in a sense “micro-managing” everything that happens in history. We can so easily say “The Lord is the Lord of history!” in sermons and books, but I believe that it’s such a naive statement. History is rich and complex, with so many variables and moving parts, that it’s kind of hard to pinpoint and say, “Aha! You see, God was working here” etc.
Here is a great article in christianitytoday.com about the history of Crimea and the Crimean War (1853 – 56) – great background to what is happening in that region and the Ukraine today.
After reading about the history of the Orthodox faith in Russia for the past couple of months, when you read this article, things will seem more familiar even though we haven’t delved into this later part of Russian Orthodox Church history yet.
Next Wednesday, March 12, 2014, we will finish up Chapter 15 and our journey into the history of the Orthodox Church and specifically the Russian Orthodox Church by covering the sections: Muscovy Triumphant (1448 – 1547), Ivan the Terrible and the New Patriarchate (1547 – 98), and From Muscovy to Russia (1598 – 1800).
With these readings, and with all the tensions that has been going on in Kiev, Ukraine currently, I hope we’ve gained a better understanding of its complex history and geopolitical importance throughout Russian history.
Hi everyone, here is the update for Chapter 15 that you can read here.
Topics on the Tartars, Mongols, Kiev, Vikings, and how the Rus’ adopted and accommodated Byzantine culture and the Orthodox faith into their own.