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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

Russian church

Russian Orthodox Church has enjoyed a resurgence since the end of atheist Soviet Communist rule in 1991. (Reuters)

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.


UPDATE: Chapter 24: Part II – German Christians during WWII; Stalin and the Orthodox Church; the ‘Word of Faith’ and ‘Health and Wealth Gospel’ movements


German Christian Faith Movement

The faction of the “German Christian Faith Movement” (GDC, or the “German Christians”) in the church under the leadership of Joachim Hossenfelder, a pastor in Berlin, did its utmost as of 1932 to nazify the Protestant church in Prussia”, and, as of 1933, the entire Reich in the wake of the “national awakening” in keeping with the political “revolution.” They advocated racial and anti-Semitic ideas geared toward the Führerprinzip and aspired with their aims to take the lead in the Protestant church quickly. At their first “national assembly” in Berlin in early April of 1933, they called for the introduction of the “Aryan paragraph” within the Protestant church as well and for the formation of a Reich Church. In keeping with the Führerprinzip, they wanted to see a “Reich Bishop” at their head as the representative of all Protestants. This was actually translated into reality, at least nominally, at their first national synod in Wittenberg in September of 1933.


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.

New Update: Chapter 15: Russia the Third Rome – Part II: The Rise of Moscow and Ivan the Terrible

Church of St. George

Fourteen Orthodox Church patriarchs and archbishops gather in Church of St. George upon the invitation of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 6, 2014. (Photo by Erhan Elaldi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


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.



“The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine” – Christianity Today


The 160-Year Christian History Behind What's Happening in Ukraine


Here is a great article in 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.




Chapter 15: Russia: The Third Rome (900 – 1800) – Part II (1448 – 1800)


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).  


Ivan IV, aka ‘Ivan the Terrible’


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.


New Updates – Chapter 15: Russia: The Third Rome (900 – 1448) – Part 1

Russian Orthodox Ice Church

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.

Chap. 15: Russia – The Third Rome (900 – 1800) – Part I


Hi folks, next Wednesday (Feb. 26)  we will begin our journey of Orthodoxy in Russia by focusing on the first two sections of Chapter 15: “A New Threat to Christendom: Norsemen, Rus’ and Kiev (900 – 1240)” and “Tartars, Lithuania and Muscovy (1240 – 1448)”.


Cathedral of the Dormition, Kiev, Ukraine


Studying Russia’s Orthodox Church history seems appropriate with all that is happening in Russia currently with the Sochi Winter Olympics and the political unrest that is happening in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.


“Do Infants Go to Hell if They Die Before Baptism?: The Doctrine of Original Sin Re-examined” – an Orthodox Perspective

We will be covering the Orthodox Church very soon in MacCulloch’s book, so it’s good to get a glimpse of a bit of its theology and how it differs from the West, especially when it comes to the definition of “sin”.

“It is not clear by what justice humanity can share in Adam’s guilt when it existed only in potentiality in his loins at the time of the Fall.  It is also difficult to see why the children of the baptized should inherit a guilt from which their parents have been cleansed.” – Prof. Gerald Bonner, Roman Catholic theologian

It’s good to bear in mind that Augustine never intended his theology of “Original Sin” to be a world-wide, eternal church doctrine – it was the Church many years later that adopted this idea and made it into a doctrine.  Later on, Protestantism adopted this as doctrine as well and has shaped Western theology ever since.

It’s amazing how a mis-reading of the Bible that led to a mis-interpretation that led to this doctrine.  This is why it’s always critical to have good exegesis precede hermeneutics.