Friday, December 5, 2008

The History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff

The History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff

This is an extremely valuable eight-volume set for those studying church history. It contains footnotes, charts, maps and each volume has an alphabetical index. At this writing, I am working on a study of the Gospel of John; one of the books of the New Testament with the strongest external evidence supporting its canonicity and authorship. This set was invaluable in assembling this material. I bought the set on the recommendation of Dr. Clyde Woods, one of my professors at Freed-Hardeman University, over fifteen years ago. I have not once regretted my purchase. Sadly there are those uninterested in church history. But it is critical for us to keep the facts of history in our minds. I believe that one of the rises to skepticism in the form of post modernism is traceable to the ignorance of church history. For example, the fiction/nonfiction work The DaVinci Code generated much excitement driven by a conspiracy theorist mentality; which grows in the fertile grounds of ignorance. Dr. Schaff breaks down the periods of church history as the following:

· THE MIDDLE AGES (1049 – 1517 A.D.)—in two volumes

Some unfamiliar with the periods of church history may find the following overview helpful. Generally, the Apostolic Period is recognized from the times of Christ to the death of the last apostle, John around 100 A. D. The Latin preposition ante means “before” so the Ante-Nicaea period is between the death of the apostle John but before the Nicaean Council. Much persecution of Christians occurred during this period. This period was brought to a close when Constantine put an end to Christian persecution and recognized Christianity as a state religion with the Edit of Milan in 313 AD. Constantine convened the Nicaea Council in 325 A.D.; which began the period of creeds and legislative decisions for Christianity. Out of this period began the rise of the papacy concluding with the rise of Pope Gregory I in 590 A.D. The Medieval Period is when the church continued to insert itself into the civil government. It is also when the Roman Catholic Church of the West became distinct from the Orthodox Church in the East. The Medieval Period closed with the death of Pope Boniface VIII in 1303. After the Medieval Period arose the Renaissance and Reformation Era, which would last until the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War in 1648. The Thirty Years War is an important event to remember since it was a bloody war between Catholics and Protestants. There were two major Reformation Movements during this period with Luther in Germany and the other under Zwingli in Switzerland. Also during this period the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized the world, especially Christianity, since it placed the Bible back into the hands of the people. Subsequent movements would arise from John Calvin, Menno Simons, Henry VIII and others. This period would be the rise of Protestantism, which would continue to last into the Modern Era until the momentum of those seeking to go back before Luther, the Popes & Councils, and back to the New Testament pattern—the Restoration Movement grew. The goal of the Restorers was (and is still) simple but formidable—to call men out of Protestantism, Catholicism, and a host of other “isms” to join in what Alexander Campbell called New Testament-ism.

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) was a German Reformed church historian. He was educated at Tubingen, Halle, and Berlin, and later took a position as Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Schaff taught church history at German Reformed Seminary in Mercersburg, PA and Union Theological Seminary in New York.

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