Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 




Christianity


 


Joseph Heintz
Mary Magdalene


 


see also:


THE BIBLE

*

The Bible illustrations by



Julius von Carolsfeld "Das Buch der Bucher in Bildeb"


Gustave Dore


William Blak
e "The Book of Job"

 

 



Mary Magdalene

 

 


Domenico Piola

 


Joseph Heintz

 


Henryk Siemiradzki

 


Jules Lefebvre

 


Alexander Ivanov

 


Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys

 


Jean Beraud

 


Honore Daumier

 


William Holman Hunt

 


Arnold Bocklin

 


Antonio Canova

 

 


The history of
Christianity

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Part XXX



The Christian community and the world » The relationships of Christianity » Church and minorities
The tendency to develop an identifiable Christian culture is apparent even when Christians live in an environment that has been shaped and is characterized by a non-Christian religion. This is the case with most Christian churches in Asia and Africa.

In some countries Christian minorities have had to struggle for their existence and recognition, at times in the face of persecution. In some cases, however, the situation of Christian minorities is ideally suited to demonstrate to outsiders the peculiar style of life of a Christian culture. This is particularly advantageous for the church within a caste state, in which the church itself has developed into a caste, with special extrinsic characteristics in clothing and customs (e.g., the Mar Thoma Church of South India).

A special problem presents itself through the coexistence of racially different Christian cultures in racially mixed states. The influence of the Christian black churches, especially of Baptist denominations, has been thoroughly imprinted upon the culture of North American blacks. The churches themselves were founded through the missionary work of white Baptist churches but became independent or were established as autonomous churches within the framework of the Baptist denomination. A similar situation exists in South Africa, where white congregations and separate black congregations were established within the white mission churches.

The Christian church has always urged the overcoming of racism, even though it has generally compromised with prevailing societal values. In the early church, racism was unknown; the Jewish synagogues allowed black proselytes. The first Jewish proselyte mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles was a governmental administrator from Ethiopia, who was baptized by the apostle Philip. Likewise, the early congregations in Alexandria included many black Africans. Among the evangelizing churches, the Portuguese Catholic mission in principle did not recognize differences between races—whoever was baptized became a “human being” and became a member not only of the Christian congregation but also of the Christian society and was allowed to marry another Christian of any race. In contrast to this practice, the Catholic mission of the Spaniards introduced the separation of races under the term casticismo (purity of the Castilian heritage) in the American mission regions and sometimes restricted marriage between Castilian Spanish immigrants and native Christians. Like the Portuguese in Africa and Brazil, the French Catholic mission in Canada and in the regions around the Great Lakes in North America did not prohibit marriage of whites with Indians but tolerated and even encouraged it during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Consequently, the Christian churches both led and thwarted endeavours for racial integration. An ideologically and politically founded racial theory was introduced into black churches in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. The demand for a black theology with a black Christ in its centre has been made and, just as much as a theologically and ideologically founded racial theory on the part of whites, aggravated the specifically Christian task of racial integration within the church.

The promise of late 20th-century liberation theologies such as black theology and feminist theology is that of expanding awareness of the history and praxis of Christianity beyond the history of doctrines, the ideas of the elite, and the institutions that convey these ideas. Such reflection—which arises out of lived situations—reveals roles of the poor, the oppressed, and women that have too often been ignored and suppressed. These new orientations serve the church and the world not only by recalling hitherto unnoticed aspects of the past but also by strengthening peoples’ awareness of their own causes.


The Christian community and the world » The relationships of Christianity » Church and family
The Christian understanding of sexuality, marriage, and family has been strongly influenced by the Old Testament view of marriage as an institution primarily concerned with the establishment of a family, rather than sustaining the individual happiness of the marriage partners. In spite of this, a transformation occurred from the early days of Christianity. This transformation is evident in the New Testament departure from the Hellenistic understanding of love. The classical understanding of love, expressed in the Platonic concept of eros, was opposed in the Christian community by the biblical understanding of love, agape. Although erotic love has frequently been understood primarily as sexual desire and passion, its classical religious and philosophical meaning was the idealistic desire to acquire the highest spiritual and intellectual good. The early Christian perception of eros as the most sublime form of egocentricity and self-assertion, the drive to acquire the divine itself, is reflected in the fact that the Greek New Testament does not use the word erōs but rather the relatively rare word agapē. Agapē was translated into Latin as caritas and thus appears in English as “charity” and “love.” The Christian concept of love understood human mutuality and reciprocity within the context of God’s self-giving love, which creates value in the person loved. “We love, because he first loved us. If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:19–21). Love is presented as the greatest of the virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13) as well as a commandment. The Christian community understood faith active in love primarily in terms of voluntary obedience rather than emotion and applied this understanding to every aspect of life, including sexuality, marriage, and family.

The Christian community and the world » The relationships of Christianity » Church and family » The tendency to spiritualize and individualize marriage
Christianity has contributed to a spiritualization of marriage and family life, to a deepening of the relations between marriage partners and between parents and children. During the first decades of the church, congregational meetings took place in the homes of Christian families. The family, indeed, became the archetype of the church. Paul called the members of his congregation in Ephesus “members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). In the early church, children were included in this fellowship. They were baptized when their parents were baptized, took part in the worship life of the congregation, and received Holy Communion with their parents. The Eastern Orthodox Church still practices as part of the eucharistic rite Jesus’ teaching, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them.”

In the early church the Christian foundation of marriage—in the participation of Christians in the body of Christ—postulated a generous interpretation of the fellowship between a Christian and a pagan marriage partner: the pagan one is saved with the Christian one “for the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband”; even the children from such a marriage in which at least one partner belongs to the body of Christ “are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14). If the pagan partner, however, does not want to sustain the marriage relationship with a Christian partner under any circumstances, the Christian partner should grant the spouse a divorce.

Jesus himself based his parables of the Kingdom of God on the idea of love between a bride and groom and frequently used parables that describe the messianic meal as a wedding feast. In Revelation the glorious finale of salvation history is depicted as the wedding of the Lamb with the bride, as the beginning of the meal of the chosen ones with the Messiah–Son of Man (Revelation 19:9: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”). The wedding character of the eucharistic meal is also expressed in the liturgy of the early church. It is deepened through the specifically Christian belief that understands the word of the creation story in Genesis “and they become one flesh” as indicative of the oneness of Christ, the head, with the congregation as his body. With this in mind the Christian demand of monogamy becomes understandable.

Christianity did not bring revolutionary social change to the position of women, but it made possible a new position in the family and congregation. In the ancient Mediterranean world, women were often held in low esteem, and this was the basis for divorce practices that put women practically at men’s complete disposal. By preaching to women and prohibiting divorce, Jesus himself did away with this low estimation of women. The decisive turning point came in connection with the understanding of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. In fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28—according to Peter in his sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:17)—the Holy Spirit was poured out over the female disciples of Jesus, as well.

This created a complete change in the position of women in the congregation: in the synagogue the women were inactive participants in the worship service and sat veiled on the women’s side, usually separated from the rest by an opaque lattice. In the Christian congregation, however, women appeared as members with full rights, who used their charismatic gifts within the congregation. In the letters of Paul, women are mentioned as Christians of full value. Paul addresses Prisca (Priscilla) in Romans 16:3 as his fellow worker. The four daughters of Philip were active as prophets in the congregation. Pagan critics of the church, such as Porphyry (c. 234–c. 305), maintained that the church was ruled by women. During the periods of Christian persecution, women as well as men showed great courage in their suffering. The fact that they were honoured as martyrs demonstrates their well-known active roles in the congregations.

The attitude toward women in the early church, however, was ambivalent at best. Paul, on the one hand, included women in his instruction, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), but, on the other hand, carried over the rule of the synagogue into the Christian congregation that “women should keep silence in the churches” (1 Corinthians 14:34). Although women were respected for their piety and could hold the office of deaconess, they were excluded from the priesthood. In the early 21st century the Roman Catholic Church still refused to ordain women as priests.

The Christian community and the world » The relationships of Christianity » Church and family » The tendency toward asceticism
The proponents of an ascetic theology demanded exclusiveness of devotion by faithful Christians to Christ and deduced from it the demand of celibacy. This is found in arguments for the monastic life and in the Roman Catholic view of the priesthood. The radical-ascetic interpretation stands in constant tension with the positive understanding of Christian marriage. This tension has led to seemingly unsolvable conflicts and to numerous compromises in the history of Christianity.

In the light of the beginning Kingdom of God, marriage was understood as an order of the passing eon, which would not exist in the approaching new age. The risen ones will “neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25). Similarly, Paul understood marriage in the light of the coming Kingdom of God: “The appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none…for the form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:29–31). In view of the proximity of the Kingdom of God, it was considered not worthwhile to marry; and marriage was seen to involve unnecessary troubles: “I want you to be free from anxieties” (1 Corinthians 7:32). Therefore, the unmarried, the widowers, and widows “do better” if they do not marry, if they remain single. But according to this point of view marriage was recommended to those who “cannot exercise self-control…for it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). With the waning of the eschatological expectation that formed the original context for the Pauline views on marriage, his writings were interpreted ascetically. While these texts have been used alone in the course of church history, however, they do not stand alone in the New Testament, which also portrays marriage feasts as joyous occasions and sexual intercourse between spouses as good and holy (Ephesians 5:25–33).

By the 3rd century various Gnostic groups and the Manichaeans (members of an Iranian dualistic religion) had come to reject sex. At the council of Elvira, in 300–303 or 309, the first decrees establishing clerical celibacy were pronounced, and in the 3rd and 4th centuries prominent Christians such as Anthony, Ambrose, and Jerome adopted chastity. The celibate lifestyle came to be regarded as a purer and more spiritual way of life. Gradually, celibacy came to be expected not only of ascetics and monks but also for all members of the clergy, as a function of their office.

The Reformation rejected clerical celibacy because it contravened the divine order of marriage and the family, and denied the goodness of sexuality. Luther viewed marriage as not merely the legitimation of sexual fulfillment but as above all the context for creating a new awareness of human community through the mutuality and companionship of spouses and family. The demand that priests observe celibacy was not fully accepted in the East. The early church, and following it the Eastern Orthodox Church, decided on a compromise at the Council of Nicaea (325): the lower clergy, including the archimandrite, would be allowed to enter matrimony before receiving the higher degrees of ordination; of the higher clergy—i.e., bishops—celibacy would be demanded. This solution has saved the Eastern Orthodox from a permanent fight for the demand of celibacy for all clergymen, but it has resulted in a grave separation of the clergy into a white (celibate) and a black (married) clergy, which led to severe disagreements in times of crisis within Orthodoxy.

The early Christian community’s attitude to birth control was formed partly in reaction against sexual exploitation and infanticide and partly against the Gnostic denigration of the material world and consequent hostility to procreation. In upholding its faith in the goodness of creation, sexuality, marriage, and family, the early church was also influenced by the prevalent Stoic philosophy, which emphasized procreation as the rational purpose in marriage.

In the 20th century the question of birth control entered a new phase with the invention and mass distribution of mechanical contraceptive devices on the one hand and through the appearance of a new attitude toward sexual questions on the other. The various Christian churches responded to this development in different ways: with a few exceptions—e.g., the Mormons—the Protestant churches accepted birth control in terms of a Christian social ethic. In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church, in the encyclical of Pius XI Casti Connubii (1930; “On Christian Marriage”) and in the encyclical of Paul VI Humanae Vitae (1968; “On Human Life”), completely rejected any kind of contraception, a position confirmed by Paul’s successors as pope in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Modern economic and population concerns in connection with improved medical care and social and technological progress have once again confronted the Christian community with the issue of contraception.


The Christian community and the world » The relationships of Christianity » Church and the individual » Love as the basis for Christian ethics
The main commandment of the Christian ethic was derived from the Old Testament: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), but Jesus filled this commandment with a new, twofold meaning. First, he closely connected the commandment “love your neighbour” with the commandment to love God. In the dispute with the scribes described in Matthew, chapter 22, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” He spoke of the commandment of love for neighbour, however, as being equal to it. With that he lifted it to the same level as the highest and greatest commandment, the commandment to love God. In The Gospel According to Luke, both commandments have grown together into one single pronouncement with the addition: “Do this, and you will live.” Second, the commandment received a new content in view of God and in view of the neighbour through the relationship of the believer with Christ. Love of God and love of the neighbour is possible because the Son proclaims the Gospel of the Father and brings to it reality and credibility through his life, death, and Resurrection. Based on this connection of the Christian commandment of love with the understanding of Christ’s person and work, the demand of love for the neighbour appears as a new commandment: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). The love for each other is supposed to characterize the disciples: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

This is based on an understanding and treatment of human beings as created in the image of God. Furthermore, the ethic does not deal with humanity in an abstract sense but with the actual neighbour. The Christian ethic understands the individual always as a neighbour in Christ.

The new element of the Christian ethic is the founding of the individual ethic in a corporate ethic, in the understanding of the fellowship of Christians as the body of Christ. The individual believer is not understood as a separate individual who has found a new spiritual and moral relationship with God but as a “living stone” (1 Peter 2:4), as a living cell in the body of Christ in which the powers of the Kingdom of God are already working.

Christian love leads to the peculiar exchange of gifts and suffering, of exaltation and humiliations, of defeat and victory; the individual is able through personal sacrifice and suffering to contribute to the development of the whole. All forms of ecclesiastical, political, and social communities of Christianity are founded on this basic idea of the fellowship of believers as the body of Christ. It also has influenced numerous secularized forms of Christian society, even among those that have forgotten or denied their Christian origins.

From the beginning, the commandment contains a certain tension concerning the answer to the question: Does it refer only to fellow Christians or to “all”? The practice of love of neighbour within the inner circle of the disciples was a conspicuous characteristic of the young church. In Christian congregations and, above all, in small fellowships and sects throughout the centuries, love of the neighbour was highly developed in terms of personal pastoral care, social welfare, and help in all situations of life.

The Christian commandment of love, however, has never been limited to fellow Christians. On the contrary, the Christian ethic crossed all social and religious barriers and saw a neighbour in every suffering human being. Characteristically, Jesus himself explicated his understanding of the commandment of love in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who followed the commandment of love and helped a person in need whom a priest and a Levite had chosen to ignore (Luke 10:29–37). A demand in the Letter of James, that the “royal law” of neighbourly love has to be fulfilled without “partiality” (James 2:9), points to its universal validity.

The universalism of the Christian command to love is most strongly expressed in its demand to love one’s enemies. Jesus himself emphasized this with these words: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44–45). According to this understanding, love of the enemy is the immediate emission of God’s love, which includes God’s friends and God’s enemies.

The Christian community and the world » The relationships of Christianity » Church and the individual » Freedom and responsibility
The Reformation revitalized a personal sense of Christian responsibility by anchoring it in the free forgiveness of sins. Luther summarized this in “The Freedom of a Christian Man” (1520): “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” The second sentence expressed the theme of Christian vocation developed by Luther and Calvin, which they applied to all Christians and to everyday responsibility for the neighbour and for the world. The Reformers emphasized that Christian service is not limited to a narrow religious sphere of life but extends to the everyday relationships of family, marriage, work, and politics.

Later Protestantism under the influence of Pietism and Romanticism restricted the social and communal orientation of the Reformers to a more individualistic orientation. This met, however, with an energetic counterattack from the circles of the Free churches (e.g., Baptists and Methodists) who supported the social task of Christian ethic (mainly through the Social Gospel of the American theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, who attempted to change social institutions and bring about a Kingdom of God), which spread through the whole church, penetrating the area of Christian mission. Love rooted in faith played an important role in the 20th century in the struggle between Christianity and ideologies such as Fascism, Communism, and jingoistic nationalisms.

Ernst Wilhelm Benz
Carter H. Lindberg

 


The Christian community and the world » Christian missions
In the early 21st century, about one-third of the world’s people claimed the Christian faith. Christians thus constituted the world’s largest religious community and embraced remarkable diversity, with churches in every nation. Christianity’s demographic and dynamic centre had shifted from its Western base to Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific region, where more than half the world’s Christians lived. This trend steadily accelerated as the church declined in Europe. The global extent of Christianity represented a new phenomenon in the history of religions. This was the fruit of mission.


The Christian community and the world » Christian missions » Biblical foundations
The word mission (Latin: missio), as a translation of the Greek apostolē, “a sending,” appears only once in the English New Testament (Galatians 2:8). An apostle (apostolos) is one commissioned and sent to fulfill a special purpose. The roots of mission, Christians have believed, lie in God’s active outreach to humanity in history—as a call to those able to fulfill the divine purpose, among them Abraham, Moses, Jonah, and Paul. The New Testament designated Jesus as God’s apostle (Hebrews 3:1). Jesus’ prayer in The Gospel According to John includes the words “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.… [I pray also] for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one…so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:18, 20–21). Moreover, the “Great Commission” of Jesus declares: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20; compare Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:21–22, and Acts 1:8).


The Christian community and the world » Ecumenism » The history of ecumenism
While unity is given in Christ, two diametric forces appear in the history of the church. One is the tendency toward sectarianism and division; the other is the conviction toward catholicity and unity. Ecumenism represents the struggle between them. Some of the schisms were theological conflicts foreshadowed in the apostolic church; others were internal quarrels related to liturgical differences, power politics between different patriarchates or church centres, problems of discipline and piety, or social and cultural conflicts. Nevertheless, according to the American historian John T. McNeill, “the history of the Christian Church from the first century to the 20th might be written in terms of its struggle to realize ecumenical unity.”

The Christian community and the world » Ecumenism » The history of ecumenism » Early controversies
A long and continuing trail of broken relations among Christians began in the 2nd century when the Gnostics presented a serious doctrinal error and broke fellowship. Quartodecimanism, a dispute over the date of Easter, pitted Christians from Asia Minor against those from Rome. Montanism—which taught a radical enthusiasm, the imminent Second Coming of Christ, and a severe perfection, including abstinence from marriage—split the church. The Novatians broke fellowship with Christians who offered sacrifices to pagan gods during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Decius in ad 250. In the early 4th century the Donatists, Christians in North Africa who prided themselves as the church of the martyrs, refused to share communion with those who had lapsed (i.e., who had denied the faith under threat of death during the great persecutions of Diocletian and Galerius). They remained a powerful force in Africa into the 5th century and survived into the 7th despite opposition from church and state. This schism—like many since—reflected regional, national, cultural, and economic differences between the poor, rural North African Christians and the sophisticated, urban Romans.

In each century leaders and churches sought to reconcile these divisions and to manifest the visible unity of Christ’s church. But in the 5th century a severe break in the unity of the church took place. The public issues were doctrinal consensus and heresy, yet in the midst of doctrinal controversy alienation was prompted by political, cultural, philosophical, and linguistic differences. Tensions increased as the church began to define the relationship between God the Father and God the Son and later the relation between the divine and human elements in the nature and person of Jesus Christ. The first four ecumenical councils—at Nicaea (ad 325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451)—defined the consensus to be taught and believed, articulating this faith in the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Definition, which stated that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, true man, and true God, one person in “two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” Two groups deviated doctrinally from the consensus developed in the councils. The Nestorians taught that there are two distinct persons in the incarnate Christ and two natures conjoined as one; Monophysites taught that there is one single nature, primarily divine. Several churches refused to accept the doctrinal and disciplinary decisions of Ephesus and Chalcedon and formed their own communities. These churches, called pre-Chalcedonian or Oriental Orthodox, became great missionary churches and spread to Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, Persia, and the Malabar coast of India in isolation from other churches.

The Christian community and the world » Ecumenism » The history of ecumenism » The schism of 1054
The greatest schism in church history occurred between the church of Constantinople and the church of Rome. While 1054 is the symbolic date of the separation, the agonizing division was six centuries in the making and the result of several different issues. The Eastern Church sharply disagreed when the Western Church introduced into the Nicene Creed the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father alone—as earlier Church Fathers taught—but from the Father and the Son (Latin: Filioque). When the Roman Empire was divided into two zones, Latin-speaking Rome began to claim superiority over Greek-speaking Constantinople; disputes arose over church boundaries and control (for example, in Illyricum and Bulgaria). Rivalry developed in Slavic regions between Latin missionaries from the West and Byzantine missionaries from the East, who considered this territory to be Orthodox. Disputes over authority became even more heated in the 11th century as Rome asserted its primacy over all churches. Lesser matters related to worship and church discipline—for example, married clergy (Orthodox) versus celibacy (Roman Catholic) and rules of fasting and tonsure—strained ecclesial relations. The tensions became a schism in 1054, when the uncompromising patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and the uncompromising envoys of Pope Leo IX excommunicated each other. No act of separation was at this time considered final by either side. Total alienation came a century and a half later, as a result of the Crusades, when Christian knights made military campaigns to save Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims. In 1204 the Fourth Crusade was diverted to attack and capture Constantinople brutally. Thousands of Orthodox Christians were murdered; churches and icons were desecrated and undying hostility developed between East and West.

Even so, certain leaders and theologians on both sides tried to heal the breach and reunite East and West. In 1274, at the second Council of Lyon, agreement was reached between the two churches over several key issues—Orthodox acceptance of papal primacy and the acceptance of the Nicene Creed with the Filioque clause. But the agreements were only a rushed action conditioned by political intrigue. As a result, reunion on these terms was fiercely rejected by the clergy and laity in Constantinople and other Orthodox provinces. A second attempt at reunion came at the Council of Ferrara-Florence that met in Italy in 1438 and 1439. A formula of union was approved by both delegations, but later it was rejected by rank-and-file Orthodox Christians.

The Christian community and the world » Ecumenism » The history of ecumenism » The Reformation
The next dramatic church division took place during the Reformation in the West in the 16th century. Like other schisms, this one does not yield to simple analysis or explanation. The Reformation was a mixture of theology, ecclesiology, politics, and nationalism, all of which led to breaks in fellowship and created institutional alienation between Christians throughout Western Christendom. In one sense it was a separation, especially a reaction against the rigid juridical structures of medieval Roman Catholicism and its claim to universal truth and jurisdiction. In another sense, however, the Reformation was an evangelical and ecumenical renewal of the church as the Body of Christ, an attempt to return to the apostolic and patristic sources in order, according to Calvin, “to recover the face of the ancient Catholic Church.” All the continental Reformers sought to preserve and reclaim the unity of the church.

Once the separation between the Roman Catholic and new Protestant churches was complete, people on both sides tried to restore unity. Roman Catholics such as Georg Witzel and George Cassander developed proposals for unity, which all parties rejected. Martin Bucer, celebrated promoter of church unity among the 16th-century leaders, brought Martin Luther and his colleague Philipp Melanchthon into dialogue with the Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli at Marburg, Germany, in 1529. In 1541 John Calvin (who never ceased to view the church in its catholicity), Bucer, and Melanchthon met with Cardinal Gasparo Contarini and other Roman Catholics at Ratisbon (now Regensburg, Germany) to reconcile their differences on justification by faith, the Lord’s Supper, and the papacy. Another attempt was made in 1559, when Melanchthon and Patriarch Joasaph II of Constantinople corresponded, with the intention of using the Augsburg Confession as the basis of dialogue between Lutheran and Orthodox Christians. On the eve of the French wars of religions (1561), Roman Catholics and Protestants conferred without success in the Colloquy of Poissy. It would seem that the ecumenical projects of theologians and princes in 16th-century Europe failed unequivocally, but they kept alive the vision and the hope.

The Christian community and the world » Ecumenism » The history of ecumenism » Ecumenism in the 17th and 18th centuries
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries storms of contention and division continued to plague the churches of Europe. During these two centuries there was an eclipse of official, church-to-church attempts at unity. Instead, ecumenical witness was made by individuals who courageously spoke and acted against all odds to propose Christian unity.

In England, John Dury, a Scots Presbyterian and (later) an Anglican minister, “a peacemaker without partiality,” traveled more extensively than any other ecumenist before the 19th century. He negotiated for church unity in his own country and in Sweden, Holland, France, Switzerland, and Germany. Richard Baxter, a Presbyterian Puritan, developed proposals for union, including his Worcestershire Association, a local ecumenical venture uniting Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Anglicans.

Efforts were undertaken in Germany and Central Europe as well. The German Lutheran George Calixtus called for a united church between Lutherans and Reformed based on the “simplified dogmas,” such as the Apostles’ Creed and the agreements of the church in the first five centuries. Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf applied his Moravian piety to the practical ways that unity might come to Christians of all persuasions. The philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz worked tirelessly for union between Protestants and Roman Catholics, writing an apologia interpreting Roman Catholic doctrines for Protestants. John Amos Comenius, a Czech Brethren educator and advocate of union, produced a plan of union for Protestants based upon the adoption of a scriptural basis for all doctrine and polity and the integration of all human culture.

Orthodox Christians also participated in the search for union. Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox theologian Aleksey S. Khomyakov expressed enthusiasm for ecumenism. Cyrillus Lukaris, Orthodox patriarch of Alexandria and later of Constantinople, took initiatives to reconcile a divided Christendom. People throughout Europe held tenaciously to the dream of ecumenism, although no attempt at union was successful.

The Christian community and the world » Ecumenism » The history of ecumenism » 19th-century efforts
A worldwide movement of evangelical fervour and renewal, noted for its emphasis on personal conversion and missionary expansion, stirred new impulses for Christian unity in the 19th century. The rise of missionary societies and volunteer movements in Germany, Great Britain, The Netherlands, and the United States expressed a zeal that fed the need for church unity. Enduring the harmful results of Christian divisions in different countries, Protestant missionaries in India, Japan, China, Africa, Latin America, and the United States began to cooperate.

In 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society, an interdenominational Protestant organization, came into existence to translate the Scriptures into the world’s vernaculars and distribute the translations throughout the world. This was followed, 40 years later, by the founding of two important Christian organizations in England: the Young Men’s Christian Association (1844) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (1855). Their international bodies, the World Alliance of YMCAs and the World YWCA, were established in 1855 and 1894, respectively. The Evangelical Alliance, possibly the most significant agent of Christian unity in the 19th century, held a unique place among the volunteer associations of the age. Founded in London in 1846 (the American section was established in 1867), the alliance sought to draw individual Christians into fellowship and cooperation in prayer for unity, Christian education, the struggle for human rights, and mission.

Also pivotal in the 19th century were advocates for the visible unity of the church. In the United States, where the most articulate 19th-century unity movements were heard, the witness to the unity and union was led by three traditions. The Lutherans Samuel Simon Schmucker and Philip Schaff pleaded for “catholic union on apostolic principles.” Among Episcopalians, the visionaries for unity included Thomas Hubbard Vail, William Augustus Muhlenberg, and William Reed Huntington, who proposed the historic “Quadrilateral” of the Scriptures, the creeds, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and episcopacy as the keystone of unity. Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander, and Barton Warren Stone, members of the church of the Disciples of Christ, taught that “the Church of Christ on earth is essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one.” Ecumenism was enflamed in the hearts of 19th-century Christians and in the next century shaped the churches as never before.

The Christian community and the world » Ecumenism » The history of ecumenism » Ecumenism since the start of the 20th century
The 20th century experienced a flowering of ecumenism. Four different strands—the international Christian movement, cooperation in world mission, Life and Work, and Faith and Order—developed in the early decades and, though distinctive in their emphases, later converged to form one ecumenical movement.

The modern ecumenical era began with a worldwide movement of Christian students, who formed national movements in Great Britain, the United States, Germany, Scandinavia, and Asia. In 1895 the World Student Christian Federation, the vision of American Methodist John R. Mott, was established “to lead students to accept the Christian faith” and to pioneer in Christian unity. The World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh (1910) inaugurated another aspect of ecumenism by dramatizing the necessity of unity and international cooperation in fulfilling the world mission of the church. In 1921 the International Missionary Council (IMC) emerged, bringing together missionary agencies of the West and of the new Christian councils in Asia, Africa, and Latin America for joint consultation, planning, and theological reflection. The Life and Work movement was pledged to practical Christianity and common action by focusing the Christian conscience on international relations and social, industrial, and economic problems. Nathan Söderblom, Lutheran archbishop of Uppsala, inspired world conferences on Life and Work at Stockholm (1925) and Oxford (1937). The Faith and Order movement, which originated in the United States, confronted the doctrinal divisions and sought to overcome them. Charles H. Brent, an Episcopal missionary bishop in the Philippines, was chiefly responsible for this movement, although Peter Ainslie, of the Disciples of Christ, shared the same vision and gave significant leadership. World conferences on Faith and Order at Lausanne (Switzerland; 1925), Edinburgh (1937), Lund (Sweden; 1952), and Montreal (1963) guided the process of theological consensus building among Protestants, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, which led to approval by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches of the historic convergence text Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (1982).

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a privileged instrument of the ecumenical movement. Constituted at Amsterdam in 1948, the conciliar body includes more than 300 churches—Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox—which “confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Its general secretaries have been among the architects of modern ecumenism: Willem Adolph Visser ’t Hooft (The Netherlands), Eugene Carson Blake (United States), Philip Potter (Dominica), Emilio Castro (Uruguay), Konrad Raiser (Germany), and Samuel Kobia (Kenya). The witness and programs of the WCC include faith and order, mission and evangelism, refugee and relief work, interfaith dialogue, justice and peace, theological education, and solidarity with women and the poor. What distinguishes the WCC constituency is the forceful involvement of Orthodox churches and churches from the developing world. Through their active presence the WCC, and the wider ecumenical movement, has become a genuinely international community.

Roman Catholic ecumenism received definitions and momentum at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II; 1962–65), under the ministries of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, and through the ecumenical diplomacy of Augustin Cardinal Bea, the first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. The church gave the ecumenical movement new hope and language in the “Decree on Ecumenism” (1964), one of the classic ecumenical teaching documents. Another result of Vatican II was the establishment of a wide variety of international theological dialogues, commonly known as bilateral conversations. These included Roman Catholic bilaterals with Lutherans (1965), Orthodox (1967), Anglicans (1967), Methodists (1967), Reformed (1970), and the Disciples of Christ (1977). Topics identified for reconciling discussions include baptism, the Eucharist, episcopacy and papacy, authority in the church, and mixed marriage.

Critical to modern ecumenism is the birth of united churches, which have reconciled formerly divided churches in a given place. In Asia and Africa the first united churches were organized in China (1927), Thailand (1934), Japan (1941), and the Philippines (1944). The most heralded examples of this ecumenism are the United Church of Canada (1925), the Church of South India (1947), and the Church of North India (1970). Statistics of other united churches are revealing. Between 1948 and 1965, 23 churches were formed. In the period from 1965 to 1970, unions involving two or more churches occurred in the West Indies (in Jamaica and Grand Cayman), Ecuador, Zambia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Pakistan, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Belgium. Strategic union conversations were undertaken in the United States by the nine-church Consultation on Church Union (1960) and by such uniting churches as the United Church of Christ (1957), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (1983), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1988).

Spiritual disciplines play a key role in ecumenism, a movement steeped in prayer for unity. During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated every year (January 18–25), Christians from many traditions engage in prayer, Bible study, worship, and fellowship in anticipation of the unity that Christ wills.

Paul A. Crow, Jr.



The Christian community and the world » Christianity and world religions
The global spread of Christianity through the activity of European and American churches in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries has brought it into contact with all other existing religions. Meanwhile, since the beginning of the 19th century, the close connection between Christian world missions and political, economic, technical, and cultural expansion has, at the same time, been loosened.

After World War II, the former mission churches were transformed into independent churches in the newly autonomous Asian and African states. The concern for a responsible cooperation of the members of Christian minority churches and its non-Christian fellow citizens became the more urgent with a renaissance of the Asian higher religions in numerous Asian states.

Missionaries of Asian world religions have moved into Europe, the Americas, and Australia. Numerous Vedanta centres have been established to introduce Hindu teachings within the framework of the Ramakrishna and Vivekananda missions. In 1965, the Hare Krishna movement was founded in the United States, attracting followers to its version of Vaishnava Hinduism. South Asian Theravada (Way of the Elders) Buddhism and the Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) Buddhism of Japan (mainly Zen Buddhism, an intuitive-meditative sect) began world missionary activities under the influence of a Buddhist renaissance. This influence has penetrated Europe and North America not so much in the form of a directly organized mission as in the form of a spontaneously received flow of religious ideas and methods of meditation through literature, philosophy, psychology, and psychotherapy. As a result, Christianity in the latter part of the 20th century found itself forced to enter into a factual discussion with non-Christian religions.

There has also been a general transformation of religious consciousness in the West since the middle of the 19th century. Until about 1900, knowledge of non-Christian world religions was still the privilege of a few specialists. During the 20th century, however, a wide range of people studied translations of source materials from the non-Christian religions. The dissemination of the religious art of India and East Asia through touring exhibitions and the prominence of the Dalai Lama as a political and religious figure have created a new attitude toward the other religions in the broad public of Europe and North America. In recognition of this fact, numerous Christian institutions for the study of non-Christian religions have been founded: e.g., in Bangalore, India; in Rangoon, Burma; in Bangkok, Thailand; in Kyōto, Japan; and in Hong Kong, China.

The readiness of encounter or even cooperation of Christianity with non-Christian religions is a phenomenon of modern times. Until the 18th century, Christians showed little inclination to engage in a serious study of other religions. Even though contacts with Islam had existed since its founding, the first translation of the Qurʾan (the Islamic scriptures) was issued only in 1141 in Toledo by Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny. Four hundred years later, in 1542/43, Theodor Bibliander, a theologian and successor of the Swiss Reformer Zwingli, edited the translation of the Qurʾan by Peter the Venerable. He was subsequently arrested, and he and his publisher could be freed only through the intervention of Luther.

Christian exposure to Asian religions also was delayed. Although the name Buddha is mentioned for the first time in Christian literature—and there only once—by Clement of Alexandria about ad 200, it did not appear again for some 1,300 years. Pali, the language of the Buddhist canon, remained unknown in the West until the early 19th century, when the modern Western study of Buddhism began.

The reasons for such reticence toward contact with foreign religions were twofold: (1) The ancient church was significantly influenced by the Jewish attitude toward contemporary pagan religions. Like Judaism, it viewed the pagan gods as “nothings” next to the true God; they were offsprings of human error that were considered to be identical with the wooden, stone, or bronze images that were made by humans. (2) Besides this, there was the tendency to identify the pagan gods as evil demonic forces engaged in combat with the true God. The conclusion of the history of salvation, according to the Christian understanding, was to be a final struggle between Christ and his church on one side and Antichrist and his minions on the other, culminating with the victory of Christ.


The Christian community and the world » Christianity and world religions » Conflicting Christian attitudes
The history of religion, however, continued even after Christ. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, a new world religion appeared in the form of Manichaeanism, which asserted itself as a superior form of Christianity with a new universal claim of validity. The Christian Church never acknowledged the claims of Manichaeanism but considered the religion a Christian heresy and opposed it as such.

Christianity faced greater challenges when it encountered Islam and the religions of East Asia. When Islam was founded in the 7th century, it considered the revelations of the Prophet Muhammad to be superior to those of the Old and New Testaments. Christianity also fought Islam as a Christian heresy and saw it as the fulfillment of the eschatological prophecies of the Apocalypse concerning the coming of the “false prophet” (Revelation to John). The religious and political competition between Christianity and Islam led to the Crusades, which influenced the self-consciousness of Western Christianity in the Middle Ages and later centuries. In China and Japan, however, missionaries saw themselves forced into an argument with indigenous religions that could be carried on only with intellectual weapons. The old Logos theory prevailed in a new form founded on natural law, particularly among the Jesuit theologians who worked at the Chinese emperor’s court in Peking (now Beijing). The Jesuits also sought to adapt indigenous religious traditions to Christian rituals but were forbidden from doing so by the pope during the Chinese Rites Controversy.

Philosophical and cultural developments during the Enlightenment brought changes in the understanding of Christianity and other world religions. During the Enlightenment, the existence of the plurality of world religions was recognized by the educated in Europe, partly—as in the case of the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz—in immediate connection with the theories of natural law of the Jesuit missionaries in China. Only in the philosophy of the Enlightenment was the demand of tolerance, which thus far in Christian Europe had been applied solely to the followers of another Christian denomination, extended to include the followers of different religions.

Some missionaries of the late 18th and the 19th centuries, however, ignored this knowledge or consciously fought against it. Simple lay Christianity of revivalist congregations demanded that a missionary denounce all pagan “idolatry.” The spiritual and intellectual argument with non-Christian world religions simply did not exist for this simplified theology, and in this view a real encounter of Christianity with world religions did not, on the whole, occur in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Ernst Wilhelm Benz
John Hick


The Christian community and the world » Christianity and world religions » Modern views
The 20th century experienced an explosion of publicly available information concerning the wider religious life of humanity, as a result of which the older Western assumption of the manifest superiority of Christianity ceased to be plausible for many Christians. Early 20th-century thinkers such as Rudolf Otto, who saw religion throughout the world as a response to the Holy, and Ernst Troeltsch, who showed that, socioculturally, Christianity is one of a number of comparable traditions, opened up new ways of regarding the other major religions.

During the 20th century, most Christians adopted one of three main points of view. According to exclusivism, there is salvation only for Christians. This theology underlay much of the history outlined above, expressed both in the Roman Catholic dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the church no salvation”) and in the assumption of the 18th- and 19th-century Protestant missionary movements. The exclusivist outlook was eroded within advanced Roman Catholic thinking in the decades leading up to the Second Vatican Council and was finally abandoned in the council’s pronouncements. Pope John Paul II’s outreach to the world’s religions may be seen as the practical application of the decisions of Vatican II. Within Protestant Christianity there is no comparable central authority, but most Protestant theologians, except within the extreme Fundamentalist constituencies, have also moved away from the exclusivist position.

In the 20th century many Roman Catholics and Protestants moved toward inclusivism, the view that, although salvation is by definition Christian, brought about by the atoning work of Christ, it is nevertheless available in principle to all human beings, whether Christian or not. The Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner expressed the inclusivist view by saying that good and devout people of other faiths may, even without knowing it, be regarded as “anonymous Christians.” Others have expressed in different ways the thought that non-Christians also are included within the universal scope of Christ’s salvific work and their religions fulfilled in Christianity.

The third position, which appealed to a number of individual theologians, was pluralism. According to this view, the great world faiths, including Christianity, are valid spheres of a salvation that takes characteristically different forms within each—though consisting in each case in the transformation of human existence from self-centredness to a new orientation toward the Divine Reality. The other religions are not secondary contexts of Christian redemption but independent paths of salvation. The pluralist position is controversial in Christian theology, because it affects the ways in which the doctrines of the person of Christ, atonement, and the Trinity are formulated.

Christians engage in dialogue with the other major religions through the World Council of Churches’ organization on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies and through the Vatican’s Secretariat for Non-Christians, as well as through a variety of extra-ecclesiastical associations, such as the World Congress of Faiths. A multitude of interreligious encounters have taken place throughout the world, many initiated by Christian and others by non-Christian individuals and groups.

John Hick

 

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 

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