viagens pela história da igreja

journeys through church history

 

Detail of Christian sarcophagus in ivory, scene of the Good Shepherd, Vatican Museum, Rome

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
– Words of Jesus Christ, Gospel of John, chap. 15, v. 5
 

Memory is a key element in the definition of our individual identity. One who loses his/her memory does not know who he/she is. Likewise, if we call ourselves Christians, we must know the history of Christianity. Unfortunately, we often look at the Christian faith as something new. We simply forget that we first heard the good news of the Gospel thanks to the generations of Christians who, as faithful witnesses, have spread to this day the message of salvation in Christ.

The word “tradition” sounds almost blasphemous in some protestant circles, since one of the Reformation’s mottos was “Sola Scriptura”. It is true that, as Luther wanted, we can and must have access to the Bible and interpret it directly. But in order to state the supremacy of the Sacred Scriptures, we need not put aside centuries of Christian tradition and witness. It would be plain arrogance, to say the least, to think that, after two thousand years of Christian commitment and eager reflection upon the biblical text, we will be finally able to find out, today, the true message of God’s Word. We should be at least cautious if our Bible reading happens to be different from that of our brothers and sisters throughout the centuries – but, instead, we often tend to celebrate each new wind of doctrine that comes out.

We must be careful lest we read our history selectively. As an evangelical, I grew up with the distorted notion that the trajectory of the people of God had an enormous gap from the so-called “early church”, in the first century, to the Reformation, when the true faith had been “rediscovered”. Actually, catholics and protestants share 15 centuries of common history, and the 16th century reformers were, in the first place, devout catholics. Luther and Calvin did not intend to leave the catholic church, but that came to pass to a great extent because of political circumstances. Many good things happened because of the Reformation, but the tragic schism that now divides Western Christianity is definitely not one of them. Not to mention our Orthodox brothers and sisters, from which we have been separated for an even longer time.

Statue of the Apostle Paul

Statue of the Apostle Paul

The story of the followers of Jesus Christ is rich and varied – the very birth of the Christian faith was multi-cultural. The message of the Gospel, translated from the Aramaic spoken by Jesus into the Greek of the New Testament writers and then into the Latin spoken in the Roman Empire, spread through different cultural, political and economical contexts. It is no wonder, two thousand years later, that one can find Christians of every possible shade, with usage and rites that sometimes are in sharp contrast. But that which binds us – the faith in the one and the same Lord and Savior – is much greater than that which separates us. In the New Testament, the Gospel’s distinctive mark is that Christ came to reconcile us not only with God, but also with each other. The apostle Paul states that, in Christ, there is no more difference between Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman. We are all part of the same new humanity, restored and reunited through faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, the world today looks upon Christians and, instead of the Spirit-made unity, they see us involved in division and disputes arising from our own arrogance and sin.

A Fruitful vine

A Fruitful vine

This section features articles and videos about movements and times that marked the trajectory of Christianity for the first 20 centuries. One can find here the biography of relevant characters in the story of Christianity, many of them rightfully called saints. We have already stated that, only when we know our own history, do we know our true identity. Our desire is that – no matter if we are reformed presbyterians or charismatic catholics, historical baptists or pentecostal assemblies of God – knowing church history will help us realize that our group is but one of the many branches grafted in the branchy vine that embodies the enormous diversity of the Christian tradition.

 

The History of the Waldensians
Temple of the Waldensian Church (interior decoration) at Piazza Cavour, RomeWatch the video shot in France and get to know the Protestant denomination whose history begins even before the Reformation!

 

The Czech reformer John Huss
Picture of Jan Hus, 16th centuryDiscover the story of the reformer who a hundred years before Luther already fought against the excesses of the Catholic Church in the selling of indulgences, and who paid for that with his own life.

 

Savonarola in Florence
Fra Bartolomeo, Picture of Girolamo Savonarola (detail), 1498, St Mark's Museum, FirenzeAt the height of the Italian Renaissance, in the rich and sophisticated city of Florence, a Dominican friar calls people to repentance and to a simple lifestyle, but ends up burned at the stake.

 

 

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  1. Eude Carvalho da Rocha said, on 29/08/2009 at 19:29

    “Cada geração aprende coisas novas à luz do que foi deixado pelas gerações passadas” (James Houston, A Fome da Alma, p. 26).


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