The Earliest Criticisms Towards Believers
The Earliest Criticisms Towards Believers Doctrinal Disputes and The Rise of Political Involvement Backlash to Worldliness--Monasticism New Voices of Dissent The European Reformation and Power Politics The Reformation in Great Britain and Power Politics Rome Responds to the Reformation After the Reformation France: Jansenism Germany: Pietism England: Methodism World Missions from England American Colonies and the United States: Denominationalism Ecumenicism Modern Catholicism Characteristics of Megachurches
Throughout the first three centuries the majority of believers were simple, humble people-- slaves, women, traders, and soldiers. Perhaps this is simply due to the fact that most in the population were in this class. At any rate, Celsus, the outspoken critic of Christianity, took note of it: "Far from us, say the Christians, be any man possessed of any culture of wisdom or judgment; their aim is to convince only worthless and contemptible people, idiots, slaves, poor women, and children... There are the only ones who they manage to turn into believers." (p. 33)
Men always view with suspicion people who are different. Conformity, not distinctiveness, is the way to a trouble-free life. So the more early Christians took their faith seriously the more they were in danger of crowd reaction. (p. 39)
"Public hatred", says Tertullian, "asks but one thing, not the investigation of the crimes charged, but simply the confession of the Christian name." (p. 41)Doctrinal Disputes and The Rise of Political Involvement
In his Apology Tertullian writes: "If the Tiber floods the city, or if the Nile refuses to rise, or if the sky withholds its rain, if there is an earthquake, a famine, a pestilence, at once the cry is raised: 'Christians to the lion.'" (p. 42)
Fourth-century Christians felt a nagging restlessness about the doctrine (the Trinity), like scholars who have a piece of unfinished research. Three in One and One in Three, each identical and yet different? With such mysteries to disagree upon, it wasn't long before everyone was calling somebody else a heretic." (p. 99)
The same believers who, while Diocletian and Galerius ruled, had been the victims of terrible persecution, were demanding now that their fellow Christians who differed from them on points of doctrine be suppressed or banished from their churches by the power of the state. (p. 100)
After Nicea, however, first Constantine and then his successors stepped in again and again to banish this churchman or exile that one. Control of church offices too often depended on control of the emperor's favor. The court was overrun by spokesmen for some Christian party. As a result, the imperial power was forever ordering bishops into banishment and almost as often bringing them back again when some new group of ecclesiastical advisors got the upper hand in the palace. (p. 103)
His defense of the Catholic church in the Donastist controversy also led Augustine to support the use of force in the suppression of the rivals. Initially he was strongly opposed to coercion. But step by step he came to another view. As he saw the Donatist resistance to the government's mounting pressure, he came to accept the use of force in a religious issue. What looks like harsh action, he said, may bring the offender to recognize its justice. Had not the Lord himself said, "compel people to come in" (Luke 14:23)? Thus, Augustine's prestige was made available to those in later ages who justified the ruthless acts of the Inquisition against Christian dissenters. (p 128).
Eventually Theodosius II surrendered to pressure and expelled Nestorius from the capital. He died around 450, an exile in Egypt. Most of his supporters, however, refused to accept his excommunication. To this day it remains unclear to what extent Nestorius' teachings were actually heretical and to what extent he suffered as a victim of misunderstanding and misrepresentations. (p. 113)Backlash to Worldliness--Monasticism
Whatever Constantine's motive for adopting the Christian faith, the result was a decline in Christian commitment. The stalwart believers whom Diocletian killed were replaced by a mixed multitude of half-converted pagans. Once Christians had laid down their lives for the truth; now they slaughtered each other to secure the prize of the church. Gregory of Nazianzus complained: "The chief seat is gained by evil doing, not by virtue, and the sees belong, not to the more worthy, but to the more powerful."
The hermit often fled, then, not so much from the world as from the world in the church. His protest of a corrupt institution led him into the dangers of a pronounced individualism. (p. 118)
Benedict was born in Nursia, about eighty-five miles northeast of Rome, late in the fifth century. His education in Rome was still in its early stages when he adopted the most extreme form of asceticism and lived as a a hermit high in a lonely cave in wild country south of Rome. He spent three years there in the study of the Scriptures and in severe self-denial, until "the monks of a neighboring monastery chose him for their abbot," the fatherly spiritual leader of a monastic group. Benedict's strict discipline proved irksome to them, however, and he narrowly escaped death when the monks tried to poison him. (p. 120-121)
As Williston Walker says, it is easy to see monasticism's faults. While the individual monk took the vow of poverty, the monasteries often grew immensely rich through gifts, especially land. Their discipline frequently became lax. Their original rigor often declined. The history of the Middle Ages shows constant efforts toward their reform and the foundation of new houses designed to eliminate the corruption of the older ones. (p. 123)
"The first key to wisdom," Abelard asserted, "is assiduous and frequent questioning.... For by doubting we come to inquiry, and by inquiry we arrive at the truth." .... Abelard again and again fell afoul of conservatives in the church, this time including Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, the most influential churchman in Christendom. Bernard pushed Abelard as devoutly as he preached the Second Crusade. "The faith of the righteous believes," he declared, "it does not dispute." At Bernard's instigation, a church council at Sens in 1140 condemned Abelard for heresy. Abelard retired to the abbey of Cluny, where he stayed in seclusion for the remaining two years of his life. (p. 197)New Voices of Dissent
The medieval poverty movement is a timeless reminder that political Christianity is only partial Christianity. The Christian faith is more than papal policy, much more. What shall it profit the church, as well as men, to gain the world and lose her soul? What advantage are canon laws, holy crusades, episcopal appointments, and scholastic disputations if common people receive a stone when asking for bread?
The gospel of voluntary poverty drew its strength from a deep and widespread resentment of a corrupt and neglectful priesthood. The back-to-the-apostles movement was often allied with political and economic restlessness in a rapidly changing and expanding society. But at its heart was the spiritual hunger of the people. (p. 205)
One of the earliest voices against the worldliness of the Catholic church was Arnold, an abbot from Brescia, a town in northern Italy. In a series of sermons at Brescia, Arnold insisted that clerical vice was a result of the church's attempt to control the world. He urged the church to surrender its property and secular dominion to the state and return to the poverty and simplicity of the early church. The true church and its ministers, he said, should shun wealth, for wealth and power nullify salvation.
By 1139 Arnold succeeded in turning the people against their bishop. For this, the pope, Innocent II, banished Arnold from Italy. He apparently fled to Paris where he studied under Abelard and aroused the wrath of Bernard of Clairvaux, just as his teacher had succeeded in doing. Another "ravening wolf in sheep's clothing" Bernard called him. (p. 207)
Waldo's unauthorized preaching soon met the stiff opposition of the Archbishop of Lyon, who ordered him to stop. Waldo refused, quoting St. Peter: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). The Archbishop proceeded to excommunicate him. (p. 208)The European Reformation and Power Politics
Wyclif's denial of transubstantiation gave his enemies their opportunity. His support dwindled to a small minority at Oxford. First, the chancellor and a small council condemned his doctrines and forbade him to lecture. Then, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtenary, followed with another council that condemned ten of Wyclif's doctrines as heretical. By 1382 the reformer was effectively silenced at Oxford. (p. 229)
Bethlehem Chapel near the university gave Hus an unrivaled opportunity to circulate Wyclif's teachings. including his criticisms of the abuses of power in the papacy. On the walls were paintings contrasting the behavior of the popes and Christ. The pope rode a horse; Christ walked barefoot. Jesus washed the disciple' feet; the pope preferred to have his kissed. The Chapel had been founded in 1391 for the express purpose of encouraging the national faith in Bohemia, so Hus's fiery sermons in the Bohemian language fanned widespread popular support. Soon there were student riots for and against Wyclif, much as today they might be for or against Karl Marx.
The Archbishop of Prague grew restless and complained to the pope about the spread of Wyclif's doctrines. Root out the heresy, replied the pope. So Archbishop Zbynek excommunicated Hus. As a result a great popular tumult erupted. Hus made matters worse when he openly attacked the pope's sale of indulgences for support of his war against Naples. This move cost Hus the support of his king Wenceslas, and when Prague fell under a papal interdict because of Hus, the reformer left for exile in southern Bohemia. During this period of retirement Hus, drawing heavily upon Wyclif, wrote his major work, On the Church.
The Council of Constance was now fast approaching, and Hus yielded to the urging of the emperor Sigismund and agreed to appear at the council. He had hopes of presenting his views to the assembled authorities, but upon his arrival he found himself instead a victim of the Inquisition.
The rule of the Inquisition was simple. If sufficient witnesses testified to the guilt of the accused, then he had to confess and renounce the errors or be burned. The reward for confession was life imprisonment, instead of the stake. In accordance with this rule, the panel of judges appointed by the council believed the witnesses against Hus and condemned him for heresies he had never taught. ...
Finally, 6 July 1415, the day for his burning came. On the way to the place of execution he passed through a churchyard and saw a bonfire of his books. He laughed, and told the bystanders not to believe the lies circulated about him. On arriving at the execution-ground, familiarly known as "the Devil's Place," Hus knelt and prayed. For the last time the marshal of the empire asked him if he would recant and save his life. Said Hus: "God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I have never thought nor preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. In the truth of the gospel I have written, taught, and preached; today I will gladly die." (p. 231-232)
In June 1520 Pope Leo X issued his bull condemning Luther and giving him 60 days to turn from his heretical course. The bonfire at Wittenberg made clear Luther's intent, so his excommunication followed. In January 1521 the pope declared him a heretic and expelled him from the "one holy, catholic and apostolic Church."The Reformation in Great Britain and Power Politics
The German problem now fell into the hands of the young emperor Charles V, who was under oath to defend the church and remove heresy from the empire. He summoned Luther to the imperial Diet (or assembly) meeting at Worms to give an account of his writings. Before the assembly Luther once again insisted that only biblical authority would sway him. "My conscience is captive to the Word of God," he told the court. "I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither honest nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."
Charles V was not impressed. He declared Luther an outlaw. "This devil in the habit of a monk," his pronouncement said, "had brought together ancient errors into one stinking puddle, and has invented new ones." (p. 242)
Grebel and Manz, both well educated men of standing in Zurich, supported Zwingli's initial reforms. But following the reformer's lead-- the study of the Bible-- they came to see the obvious differences in the apostolic churches and those of their day.
In Zurich's city-state, as in the rest of the Christian world, every newborn child was baptized and considered a member of the church. As a result, church and society were identical. The church was simply everybody's church. In the New Testament, however, the church was a fellowship of the few, a company of true believers committed to live and die for their Lord.
That is the kind of church Grebel and Manz wanted in Zurich, a church free from the state, composed of true disciples. The baptism of believers was merely the most striking feature of this new kind of church. Zwingli, however, would have no part of this revolution. He needed the support of the city fathers.
In the Fall of 1524, when Grebel's wife gave birth to a son, all the theologies faced the test of action. Would the baby be baptized? The Grebels refused and other parents followed their example.
To deal with the crisis, the City Council of Zurich arranged a public debate on the question for 17 January 1525. After heading arguments on both sides of the issue representatives of the people declared Zwingli and his disciples the winners. As a result the council warned all parents who had neglected to have their children baptized to do so within a week of face banishment from Zurich. ...
On 7 March 1526, it (the Zurich council) decided that anyone found rebaptizing would be put to death by drowning. Apparently, their thought was, "If the heretics want water, let them have it." Within a year, on 5 January 1527, Felix Manz became the first Anabaptist martyr. The Zurich authorities drowned him in the Limmat, which flows through the city. Within four years the radical movement in and around Zurich was practically eradicated.
Many of the persecuted fled to Germany and Austria, but their prospects were no brighter there. In 1529 the imperial Diet of Speyer proclaimed Anabaptism a heresy and every court in Christendom was obliged to condemn the heretics to death. During the Reformation years, between four and five thousand Anabaptists were executed by fire, water, and sword.
To us the Anabaptists seem to have made a simple demand: a person's right to his own beliefs. But in the sixteenth century the heretics seemed to be destroying the very fabric of society. This is why the voice of conscience was so often silenced by martyrdom. (p. 250-251)
During one low point in Calvin's influence, in 1553, the brilliant but erratic Spanish physician Michael Servetus sought refuge in Geneva. Servetus was fleeing Catholic persecution for his heresy of denying the doctrine of the Trinity. He arrived in Geneva just as Calvin's enemies were challenging his authority. While Calvin wanted a more merciful death than burning for the heretic, he did support the silencing of the ill-balanced thinker. Servetus was burned at the stake and many in later generations remembered Calvin primarily as "the man who burned Servetus." (p. 260)
The church, said Calvin, is not subject to secular government except in obviously secular matters. On the other hand, the church has the obligation under the sovereign God, to guide the secular authorities in spiritual matters. Such a vision sent Calvin's followers throughout Europe as a spiritual conspiracy seeking the overthrow of false religion and restrictive governments.
Many zealous disciples considered Geneva a beachhead established by God. It was a promise that the kingdom would some day be organized. When they left Geneva they returned to their own countries to establish Calvinist principles there. As a result, Calvinism rapidly assumed international dimensions.
In France Calvinism remained a minority but, thanks to influential converts among the nobility, the movement gained an importance out of all proportion to its numbers. Known as Huguenots, French Calvinists were threatening to seize leadership of the country when thousands of them were ruthlessly massacred on St. Bartholomew's Day in 1572. They remained a significant minority but never again a serious challenge to the Catholic throne.
In the Netherlands Calvinism offered a rallying point for opposition to the oppressive rule of Catholic Spain. Calvinist ministers were among the earliest leaders of resistance groups. Today we would call them freedom fighters or perhaps guerillas. The liberation leader of the national party in the northern province of the Netherlands was William the Silent. He joined the reformed church in 1573 and during the next decade helped to fashion a Dutch republic. Today's national anthem of the Netherlands, "The Song of the Prince," was written for William's followers.
In Scotland the Calvinists created something unique in sixteenth-century Europe: a land of one religion ruled by a monarch of another.
The monarch was Mary Queen of Scots, an eighteen-year-old girl living abroad. She married into the French royal family, and the Scots as well as many Englishmen feared that she might deliver Scotland to the French. One man, however, preached everywhere the notion that the people of Scotland could challenge the rule of their queen. That man was John Knox.
Knox was a restless activist who had tried earlier to point England in the direction of Calvinism. Like many others, however, he was forced to flee England overnight when, in 1553, the country returned to the Catholic faith under Henry VIII's daughter, Mary I. The queen's persecution of Protestant leaders earned her the title "Bloody Mary."
Knox escaped to the Continent, where he developed the theory that Protestants had the right to resist, by force if necessary, any Roman Catholic ruler who tried to prevent their worship and mission. That was farther than Calvin himself was willing to go, but many of the nobles in Scotland found this idea attractive.
When civil was broke out in Scotland in 1559, Knox rushed home. By the summer of 1560 the Calvinists were in control of Edinburgh. Knox drafted the articles of religion that parliament accepted for the country, thereby abolishing Roman Catholicism.
Next year, when Mary Queen of Scots, now a nineteen-year-old widow, decided to return to her kingdom, she found it in the lap of Protestant "heresy." Over the next few years Knox, the passionate preacher of Calvinism, and Mary, the young queen of Scotland, came to symbolize the Reformation conflict: Protestant against Catholic, but also the democratic claims of Calvinism against the monarchy's power to appoint bishops. Events in Scotland moved in Knox's direction. Even though Mary's descendants tried to turn back the clock, Scotland remained the most devoutly Calvinist country in the world. (p. 261-263).
Henry intended no break with the old faith. He considered himself, in fact, a guardian of Catholic dogma. In 1521, in answer to Luther's attack upon the seven sacraments, the king had written a Defense of the Seven Sacraments. In it he had castigated Luther as a "poisonous serpent" and a "wolf of hell." In gratitude, the pope had bestowed on Henry the title "Defender of the Faith" -- a title still carried by English monarchs. (p. 267)Rome Responds to the Reformation
A pioneer in the translation of the English Bible was William Tyndale. A zeal to place the English Scripture into the hands of the common man burned in Tyndale's soul. After receiving his ordination, he once expressed his frank amazement at the ignorance of the clergy. When a fellow priest resented this observation, Tyndale hotly replied, "If God spares my life, before many years pass I will make it possible for a boy behind the plow to know more Scripture than you do."
Tyndale soon learned, however, that such an undertaking was not welcome in England. After study at Oxford and Cambridge he was forced to flee to the Continent to live, labor and print the New Testament. Early in 1526 he began smuggling the first copies of his work into his homeland.
In the following years Tyndale translated portions of the Old Testament and brought out an improved edition of the New. Church officials continued to hound him, however, and in 1536 he fell into their hands. After seventeen months in prison Tyndale went to his death-- at the stake. His dying prayer was, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes." (p. 268)
By 1545 Rome was under the spell of a new austerity. Reform was on the rise. The immoralities of (Pope, III) Paul's younger days were no longer acceptable behavior. The pope's new vigor was apparent in the institution of the Roman Inquisition and in the Index of prohibited books-- works that any Catholic risked damnation by reading. All the books of the Reformers were listed, as well as Protestant Bibles. For a long time merely to possess one of these banned books in Spain was punishable by death. The Index was kept up to date until 1959 (ed. note-- that's right, the list was kept for more than 400 years!) and was finally abolished by Pope Paul VI. (p. 274)After the Reformation
The Age of Reformation proved again that faith and power are a potent brew. As long as Christians had access to power, they used it to compel conformity to the truth: Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed. So men died for their faith, tens of thousands of them. (p. 311)As we continue examining movements and criticisms from this point in time, it is interesting to notice the widespread prominence of college campuses, young people and small groups in the pages of history; proving that these have played a highly significant role in Christian movements for several centuries, and have also been the targets of criticism as well.
In 1643 Antoine Arnauld leveled his theological guns at the Jesuits. Without naming them he blasted the idea that frequent confession could compensate for frequent sinning.Germany: Pietism
The Jesuits could scarcely sidestep the charge. They turned to the pope and impressed upon his the dangers of Jansenism. Calvinism, they called it, in Catholic garb. In 1653 the pope condemned five propositions allegedly taken from Augustinus (ed. note-- written by Cornelius Jansen, after whom the movement was named).
Arnauld, however, continued his attack on the Jesuits. He published two Letters to a Duke and Peer attacking what he claimed were Jesuit methods in the confessional. The Sorbonne (ed. note-- the theological faculty at the University of Paris) now considered a move to expel him from the faculty. (p. 322-323)
Any religion that becomes the religion of the majority and slowly turns into a social habit tends to grow humdrum and flat, regardless of its original glow of enthusiasm. So it proved in many areas of Lutheran Germany.England: Methodism
On the heels of the vigorous, creative movement called the Reformation, came a cautious period called Protestant scholasticism or confessionalism. Out of the depths of his own experience, Luther had proclaimed a robust doctrine of justifying faith. In the seventeenth century, however, his dedicated followers, under the spell of the intellect, turned faith into a mental exercise. No longer an act of surrender to the mercy of God revealed in Christ, faith was now a formal assent to doctrinal truths set forth by scholars.
The Christian life was less a personal relation to Christ and more a matter of membership in the state church. Faithful attendance at public worship and reception of the sacraments offered by orthodox ministers were the essential marks of a good Christian.
Pietism arose as a reaction to this ossification of the Reformation. Just as Jansenism opposed the cheap grace of the French Jesuits, so the Pietists challenged the nominal faith of German Lutheranism. (p. 325-326)
[In Frankfort Germany], Philip Spener gathered a little company of dedicated believers in his house twice weekly for reading of Scripture and religious conversation. These meetings were soon called in scorn the "gatherings of the pious," and "pietism" was born.
... But because of his uncompromising preaching, he was often in trouble with the authorities... (p. 326-327)
Pietism made an enormous contribution not only to the German people but to Christianity worldwide. It shifted emphasis in eighteenth-century churches from avid controversy to the care of souls. It made the preaching and pastoral visitation central concerns of the Protestant ministry. It enriched Christian music enormously. And it underscored the importance of a spiritual laity for a revived church. (p. 329)
Signs of reason's deadening influence upon the churches appeared in a large group within the Church of England called the Latitudinarians. The eloquent John Tillotson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was among them. He vigorously denounced what he called religious "enthusiasm." This included any emotional expression encouraged by fervent preachers. He and his fellow Latitudinarians stressed instead proper behavior. Men should reform their conduct; they should be generous, humane and tolerant, and avoid bigotry and fanaticism. (p. 333)World Missions from England
When John Wesley resumed his duties at Oxford, he found that his brother, Charles, alarmed at the spread of deism at the University, had assembled a little band of students determined to take their religion seriously. John proved to be just the leader they needed. Under his direction they drew up a plan of study and rule of life that stressed prayer, Bible reading, and frequent attendance at Holy Communion.
The little group soon attracted attention and some derision from the lax undergraduates. "Enthusiasm" at Oxford? Holy Club, they called them; and Bible moths, Methodists, and Reforming Club. The Methodist label is the one that stuck. (p. 334)
Wesley visited the Moravians in their Saxon homeland. He wanted to see firsthand the power of the piety he had witnessed aboard ship and in Georgia. His impressions of Herrnhut were mixed. On the one hand, he met many remarkable people who exemplified "the full assurance of Christian faith." On the other hand, he was quick to spot the signs of self-righteousness among them. He was especially repelled by the cult of personality that had brown up around their leader, Count von Zinzendorf. "Isn't the Count all in all?" Wesley asked. (p. 336)
In Wesley's early years of itinerating, the crowds were not always friendly. Rocks and stones or other missiles would come flying at the preacher. Sometimes he was mobbed and beaten by gangs incited by a hostile squire or parson. But Wesley feared no man. By a strange personal magnetism he often awed turbulent crowds, and in time the violence subsided. Before his death, statuettes in China and mementos of his likeness were produced in large numbers to satisfy public demand. (p. 338)
The British East India Company, which had been the virtual ruler of India since 1763, was exercising its full r at that time. It was not enthusiastic about missions. Its interest was in profits. Most of its representatives, living free and easy lives and enjoying to the full their sense of racial superiority, considered "the sending out of missionaries into our Eastern possessions to be the maddest, most extravagant, most costly, most indefensible project which has ever been suggested by a moonstruck fanatic. Such a scheme is pernicious, imprudent, useless, harmful, dangerous, profitless, fantastic."American Colonies and The United States: Denominationalism
The company refused [William] Carey to live in Calcutta, so he settled instead in Serampore, under the Danish flag. (p. 375)
After the first generation of settlers a wide variety of national and religious strains made an established church impossible in all but a few colonies. By 1646, for example eighteen languages echoes from the banks of the Hudson River alone. Probably all the Christian groups were unanimous on one thing: each wanted the complete freedom to proclaim its own view. It soon became obvious that the only way each group could get such freedom for themselves was to grant it to all the others. (p. 342-343)Ecumenicism
In a little school, dubbed a "Log College" by more bookish clergymen, a Pennsylvania preacher named William Tennent started turning out a large number of ministers with "evangelistic zeal." His alumni soon had the winds of revival whipping through a number of churches, particularly in New Jersey. In a short time a controversy arose over the question of "educated" versus "converted" ministers and the whole Presbyterian church divided into "New Side" men, favoring the revival, and "Old Side" men opposing it. (p. 345)
By 1741, all the elements of the revival were in play-- the visitors in the pulpits, the threats of perdition, the traveling spellbinders, the prayer meetings, and the rush of members-- and also the controversies and church splits.
The dramatic changes the Great Awakening brought to Puritan New England are evident in the life of a Connecticut farm boy. In a one-room schoolhouse young Isaac Backus learned that the good order of Connecticut society was safeguarded by the religious training of the churches and the laws of the colony.
The Great Awakening, however, rolled through peaceful Norwich in 1741 and seventeen-year-old Isaac's mother was converted. Soon he realized "the appointed time" for him to repent had come. He was "born again" without the usual emotion and ecstasy as he was mowing alone in the field. "I was enabled by divine light," he said, "to see the perfect righteousness of Christ and the freeness and riches of his grace, with such clearness, that my soul was drawn forth to trust him for salvation."
This "new light" or "inward witness" was the key to the revival in New England. The revivalists pointed out that their fathers had left the Church of England to come to America precisely because they believed it was contrary to the Word of God to permit the unconverted to enter the church. The Awakening, they felt, was a call from God to begin a "new Reformation" in New England.
Thus, New Lights began separating from parish churches and organizing their own congregations using the methods of the founding fathers of New England. They heard testimonies of conversion experiences and then signed a covenant agreeing to walk together in the ways of the Lord as a church of visible saints. (p. 347)
Not everyone, of course, favored revivals. Many Lutherans and Presbyterians felt they slighted sound doctrine. Roman Catholics and Episcopalians considered them emotional eruptions, not true worship. (p. 387)
World War I delayed the outbreak of the "modernist-fundamentalist" controversy in the Protestant denominations. But shortly after the doughboys came home from Europe, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and the Disciples of Christ launched their own war of words over the values and the dangers of liberal theology in the churches. (p. 433)
The Presbyterian champion of orthodoxy was Professor J. Gresham Machen of Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1929 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church authorized a reorganization of the seminary. Machen and a small retinue of distinguished professors at the school felt that a merger of boards strengthened the liberal influence in the school. They withdrew from Princeton in protest and founded Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
When Machen refused to break his ties with the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions, he was brought to trial in his church's court and found guilty of rebellion against superiors. As a result conservatives in the denomination founded the Orthodox Presbyterian and the Bible Presbyterian churches. (p. 434)
Through all these years the most persistent critics of counciliar ecumenicism were conservative Evangelicals. Holding staunchly to the authority of the Bible, Evangelicals know that Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, but they question federation form of Christian unity.Modern Catholicism
They challenge the inadequate doctrinal basis of the World Council and its commitment to evangelism. They are especially troubled by the increasing involvement of the World Council in political activities in developing nations. (p. 448)
In the early 1940s American Evangelicals created two organizations: the National Association of Evangelicals and the American Council of Christian Churches. Both were loyal to orthodox Christianity but differed in their structure and in their attitude toward counciliar ecumenicism. The American Council was especially critical not only of the National Council and World Council of Churches but of all who were in any way associated with them. (p. 449)
In many ways, Angelo Roncalli (ed. note-- later became Pope John XXIII) was uniquely prepared for his moment in history. He was almost an intuitive judge of human hopes and needs. As a young priest he spent a year teaching the life and though of the early church fathers at the Pontifical Lateran Seminary in Rome before his superiors concluded that he was not quite safe. He dared to propose such unthinkable ideas as that mixed marriages might be allowed in certain circumstances. (p. 452)
His [Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani] critics said he felt everything new is wrong. But he actually said everything new is not necessarily right. (p. 455)
The progressive clerics had no single leader but gathered around an able group of cardinals from Germany, France, Austria and the Low Countries. Typical of them was Jan Cardinal Alfrink, the tall and athletic leader of the church in Holland. Alfrink had so many contacts with the Protestant "separated brethren" in Holland that one Italian newspaper branded him "anti-Roman." (p. 455)
In light of the new understanding of the Church projected by the [Vatican] Council [II], many Catholics found these authoritarian structures intolerable and began to agitate for democratic reforms. They dissented, demonstrated, engaged in church sit-ins, and made use of the press.
The Church of Rome reached a state of extreme tension in 1968 when Pope Paul issues his encyclical Humanae Vitae, condemning the use of artificial methods of contraception. He put his authority on the line-- making his decision against the overwhelming majority of his birth control commission. The whole affair precipitated the most serious crisis for papal authority since Luther.
Gradually a strong body of opinion emerged critical of the pope for not acting in cooperation with the bishops in issuing his encyclical. The outstanding spokesman for this point of view was Cardinal Suenens, archbishop of Malines, Belgium, and one of the architects of Vatican II. In speeches, press conferences, and writings, Suenens called for an end to the medieval papacy and never tired of reiterating his theme: The pope should no longer act as though he were outside the Church or above the Church. (p. 458)
The appeal to popular taste was revealed in several common characteristics:
First, these congregations seldom carried a denominational label. They much preferred "chapel," "center," or "community" on the sign out front. The name was a symbol of their openness to people with diverse backgrounds and problems:divorce, addictions and depression.
Second, the worship in these large congregations was marked by fast-paced and enthusiastic, popular, religious music. From black gospel to rock 'n' roll to jazz, music was a major element in the warm-up for worship and, on occasion, for sheer entertainment.
Third, they were built around the attractive ministry of a magnetic preacher who possessed a winsome personality. The sermons stressed the Bible's application to day-to-day life. Loyalty, what there was to be found in the gathering, was usually to the pastor, rather than to the denomination or the congregation.
Fourth, these large churches seemed to have the best money could buy. Buildings were often new, the staff of ministries were well-trained and effective, services were available for every imaginable need.
Historians tended to view this development as another example of Americans' privitization of faith. Even in the excitement of a large crowd, attenders of a megachurch were looking for faith that served the private life: help on child rearing, family unity, and personal emotions. (p. 480-481)