Growth of Christianity

Date: Oct 25, 2018

Introduction

Christianity is a term that was borrowed from the Greek word Christos, which means the “anointed one”. The word also includes the Latin suffixes –ian and –itas. Generally, Christianity means monotheistic religion that is founded on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, which are presented in the New Testament. Various facts about Christianity abound. For instance, Christianity appears to be the world’s largest religion with more than 2.2 billion adherents. The followers of this religion are known as Christians. However, in order to be considered as a Christian, a person is required to believe in the son of God that is presented by Jesus. Additionally, a person should believe that Jesus is the savior of humanity, and that he is fully divine and fully human. Thus, the Christians consider Jesus as the Messiah. Just like the other religions, Christianity also has its foundational teachings., These teachings are found in the Bible that is considered as the Holy Book by Christians. The Bible comprises both the New and the Old Testament. Despite the variety of Christian denominations that exist currently, they all accept the foundations of Christian theology expressed in ecumenical creeds. It is believed that Jesus suffered, died, was buried and was resurrected from the dead. Additionally, his body ascended to heaven. He is also believed to return and judge all human beings whether dead or alive (Kennedy).

Early Church and Christological Councils

Christianity traces its roots back to the 1st century, when it was just a Jewish sect in the Middle East (Bainton). Its early development was boosted by the 12 Apostles that were led by Paul the Apostle and Saint Peter. Christians believe that the bishops were the successors of the Apostles. However, the beginning of Christianity was not an easy period for its believers because of the persecution by the Jewish authorities. These persecutions happened due to the fact that the Jewish authorities disagreed with the teachings of the Apostles. Thus, early Christians and the Apostles were subjected to punishments and sometimes even death. Two examples of Christians that were subjected to death include James son of Zebedee and Stephen. According to Gibson, larger persecutions that took place in 64 BC were at the hands of the Roman. They were orchestrated by Emperor Nero’s, who blamed Christians for the great fire that happened in Rome. As a result, two early Church leaders, namely Paul of Tarsus and Peter, were martyered. This was not the end of Christian persecutions since nine other emperors also continued with the trend. This prompted Christian teachers to create theological and apologetic works that were aimed at defending their faith. The authors of the book are referred to as the Church Fathers, and they are represented by Ignatius of Antioch, Origen, Plycarp, Irenaeus and Justin Martyr.

An interesting fact is that Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity, and this took place in 301 AD. This marked the beginning of the end of Roman persecutions, which was promoted by Constantine who issued an edict of toleration in 313. As a result, Christianity played a critical role in shaping the Western civilization. Egypt was the first African country to embrace Christianity. This occured in the 1st century, and by the 2nd century some powerful Africans started influencing the growth and development of Christianity. Some of these Africans inlcude Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Athanasius and Tertullian. However, at that time, the further growth of Christianity was hindered by the rise of Islam in West Africa (Bainton).

Protestant Reformation and Counter Reformation

The period of Renaissance that started in the 15th century caused a renewed interest in the early teachings of the Church. This, in its turn, caused another large schism (the first one was the Great Schism of the 11th century) known as the Reformation. The Western Christendom split into several Christian denominations at that time. This schism was started by Martin Luther’s protestation against the sale of indulgences, which led to the refutation of some key points of the Roman Catholic doctrine. During the Reformation, other people challenged the teaching and worship of the Catholic church. This was what promoted the growth of Protestantism. Protentatism rejected pope’s domination. Additionally, the followers of Protestantism rejected other doctrines and teachings, seven sacraments and the role of tradition. The Catholic church tried to counter this movement of the Protestants through engaging in a reform process termed as the Counter-Reformation, which was aimed at clarifying and reasserting the Roman Catholic doctrine. As these Reformation and Counter-Reformation became more entangled with political struggles among European states, a new wave of missionary activity appeared. This was caused by Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America (Penney).

Post-Elightenment

Post-Enlightment followed the Reformation that had led to religious violence outbreak in European churches. Post-Enlightenment was popularized by the Scientific Revolution of that time, which led to the rise of such political ideologies as Liberalism and Socialism. During this era, there was a number of violent outbreaks against Christianity. One of the remarkable events of this time is the Dechristianization that occurred during the French Revolution (Gibson). Such situation led to the drop in Christian commitment in Europe as modernity and secularism became popular in Europe. In the 20th century, there was a shift of Christian adherence to the Southern hemisphere and the Third World as Western civilization dropped its chief Christian standards.

Principal Christian Denominations

Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodox are considered as the three principal denominations of Christianity since other groups do not fit neatly into these categories. However, the Nicene Creed is considered as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and the major Protestant churches. Diversity of doctrines and practices also abounds amongst Christian denominations. This resulted in the categorization of the Christian Churches under denominations, even though many groups do not support such categorization. Still, most groups distibguish Western and Eastern Christianity denominations (Kennedy).

In conclusion, Christianity as a religion appeared in the 1st century. The early persecutions that occurred in the Roman Empire did not hinder the development of Christianity as some scholars consider, but only fuelled its development and spread. Reformation and Counter-Reformation are known as two main events that happened in the history of Christianity and played a critical role in shaping the current Christian denomination. During Post-Enlightenment, there were many violent outbreaks against Christianity. Currently, three main denominations of Christianity are identified despite the existence of many others that people do not recognize. These denominations include Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism.

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