When I was preparing my twenty three part podcast series on church history called Triumphs and Tragedies I discerned a pattern in church history. I realize we often impose patterns that aren’t there and this is only a very general idea of the flow of church history, but it seemed to me that the 2000 year history of our church could be broken down into 500 year segments.
The first five hundred years is the Roman period–when the church is growing, enduring persecution, formulating her doctrines, being established and developing an infrastructure and authority system.
The second five hundred years from 600 – 1000 is a dark age. The papacy becomes corrupted by power struggles, the Roman Empire breaks down into fragments, there is societal chaos and the church seems mired in ignorance, incompetence and corruption. There are, of course, bright lights even then–especially in the monastic movement.
The third segment – 1000 – 1500 is the great flowering of Christendom: the high Middle Ages–the age of Gothic cathedrals, flourishing and powerful monasteries and the growth of learning, philosophy, universities and the greatest of Catholic culture.
The fourth segment I call the Age of Revolution. This begins with the Protestant revolution, the Wars of Religion, the French Revolution, the New World and the American revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Italian, Russian and Spanish Revolutions, Two World Wars, the Sexual revolution, the technological Revolution. This brings us where we are today…at the cusp of something new.
Whenever we get to this kind of place in history the symptoms are just what we are experiencing, chaos, societal breakdown, uncertainty, heresy, schism, anarchy, confusion and fear. For these last 500 years the church has been wrestling with modernity. She has been struggling with the spirit of revolution and gone back and forth sometimes with success and often with failure in the great struggle.
To understand where we are today and why we are here and where we are going I am launching what I believe to be a very important six week course. It is called, The Church in an Age of Revolution. Each week we will look at the history of one century from the 1500s on through the present time. In each session I will help to put together the pieces of the puzzle: politics, philosophy, theology, church and state, morality and meaning. Through this course you will see that our present struggles are not simply “the result of Vatican II” or some other easy answer. The problems are much deeper and reach into the very foundations of our society and worldview.
If you would like to participate in this course, the sessions will be conducted via Zoom meeting. They will be live and consist of a lecture for 45 – 60 minutes followed by a time for questions. The way to access this is through the “Promotion” level (or above) of my Donor Subscriber program. In effect the course lasts for six weeks, so you are expected to sign up for at least two months’ subscription to be part of the course. Membership at that level brings you lots of other access benefits to content behind the paywall.
The course starts on Tuesday evening, September 15 at 8:30 EST. Lectures will be recorded and will be available on the new video section of the blog which will open later this week. To subscribe at the Promotion level or above go here