Category Archives: Christianity

Birth of Jesus of Nazareth: How it changed the world



And the angel answered and said unto her,
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,
and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:
therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God

                                                Luke 1:35 (King James Version)

Christianity is a religion spanning twenty centuries of history. Christianity started as a tiny group within Judaism and was almost inconsequential for many centuries. Such a small group transforming into a world religion spanning across all continents is nothing less than a miracle!The variety of sects within Christianity show the diversity of the religion. Many prominent groups such as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical, Anglican, Prebyterian etc. now constitute the Christian faith. It all started in Judea which was at that time ruled by Romans. In such harrowing times of Roman domination, Jesus’s miraculous birth has been described in all the gospels. He was then baptised by the John. He later went to the wilderness for praying and fasting for forty days.Jesus predicted his imminent arrest and death during the Passover seder. He then went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives where he prayed to the god and the Temple Guards then arrested him with the help of Judas Iscariot. A summary trial took place the same night but the witnesses testimonies were at great variance and thus it was not possible to convict Jesus. But on his acquiescing of being the ‘Messiah’, he was charged with the capital offence of blasphemy. When taken to Governor Pilate, he was unsure of the alleged crime and tried to free him in recognition of Passover but could not do so and instead ordered for his crucifixion which took place at Golgotha. 

Gospels describe the then rising of the Christ and his transformation.The birth of the church came after Christ’s ascension at the beginning of the feast of Shavuot or ‘Pentecost’. Though during the early years the Church was exclusively Jewish and Gentiles were not allowed to be baptised,but later with the baptizing of Cornelius,a Roman centurion by Apostle Peter the trend changed leading to a massive spurt in the number of followers. Later Paul worked tirelessly to popularize the new faith by baptising high number of Gentiles which made the new sect different from the Jews. But the Roman authorities were becoming increasingly suspicious of this new faith. Persecutions followed as the believers of the new faith were no longer having the legal immunity which the Jews had. Persecutions increased and situation deteriorated so much that following this new faith was made a capital offense. But times changed and the conversion of Constantine the Great to Christianity led to the end of this agony. This new religion was now the state religion. Christian symbol painted on Constantine the Great soldiers’ shields clearly indicated the future of this faith. ‘Edict of Milan’ was promulgated which granted Christian legal rights. The first Ecumenical Council was also conveyed during his tenure.

After this the new faith never faced any serious challenge. The religion continued to grow and more people continued to embrace the new faith. Works of Christian scholars like St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Maximus the Confessor helped the new religion tremendously. Though there was later division in the order because of certain ecclesiastical differences in the fourth Ecumenical Council (Great Council of Chalcedon) yet the disassociating Churches like the Ethiopian Church, the Syrian Jacobite Church, the Coptic Church only fuelled the further growth of this religion.Even the division of the ancient Catholic Church into Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches in the year 1054 A.D. which formally broke the communion between the sees of Constantinople and Rome and the later ‘Reformation’ did not hinder the popularity of the religion and Christianity continues to remain the world’s largest religion.


Darwinism fails to annihilate Christianity: Evangelicalism resuscitates and Pentecostalism disseminates this ubiquitous faith: History of Christianity (Part 5 of 5)

And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee,
and taught them on the sabbath days.
And they were astonished at his doctrine:
for his word was with power.

And in the synagogue there was a man,
which had a spirit of an unclean devil,
and cried out with a loud voice,

Saying, Let us alone;
what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?
art thou come to destroy us?
I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying,
Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
And when the devil had thrown him in the midst,
he came out of him, and hurt him not.

And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves,
saying, What a word is this! for with authority
and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.

And the fame of him went out
into every place of the country round about.
Luke 4: 31-37 (King James Version)

The gradual decay in the Catholic Church’s values continued unabatedly, finally culminating in the ‘Reformation’. John Wycliffe was such an early proponent. But it was Martin Luther (1483-1546), an intellectual monk of the Order of Augustinian Hermits, who is known as the Father of the Protestant Reformation. He was much pained to see the corruption of the Western Church. He preferred the Augustine’s theology. But differences with the Western Church and specially on the ‘indulgences issue’ finally led to his dissociation with the Church. His famous and provocative ‘Ninety-Five Theses’ challenged the Western Church which led to the Church excommunicating him by promulgating a papal bull. Another major reformer was John Calvin (1509-1564), a French theologian who started a system of Christian theology known as Calvinism. The Lutherans and the Calvinists thus brought about the much needed Reformation.

All of this also resulted in the Catholic Church gradually introducing various changes and ushering reforms. Council of Trent, the most important ecumenical council, was convoked by Pope Paul III in 1545. Various decrees were passed. The Council issued condemnations of ‘heresies committed by Protestantism’ and also statements and clarifications of the Church’s doctrine and teachings were issued. The Church’s liturgy and practices were also discussed in great detail.

A more interesting event transpired in England. King Henry VIII was not able to procure an annulment of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. His plans of marrying Anne Boleyn was thus getting delayed. The Pope was not granting him divorce primarily because Catherine of Aragon was the aunt of the Holy Roman Empire. Out of frustration, the king founded the Anglican Church. The Archbishop of Canterburry then declared the first marriage annulled. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterburry, through his ‘Book of Common Prayer’ introduced Protestant form of worship in the ‘Catholic Church in England’. But Queen Mary I, a Roman Catholic, executed him. Later Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) restored the Anglican Church and made it a Protestant establishment.

Europe was in the midst of various battles between the warring kingdoms. These were as much religious as political. French wars of succession, German wars as well as the Thirty Years War (17th Century) were fought with religious overtures too. But subsequently with the gradual advancement and development of natural and physical sciences, the Church started losing much of its significance. But Darwinism changed everything in the Nineteenth Century. The ‘Origin of Species’ published in 1859 and the ‘Descent of Man’ in 1871 completely shook the roots of Christianity. Darwin’s convincing ‘Theory of Natural Selection’ completely bypassed God in the evolution of Human race. Scholars like Karl Marx (1818-83) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) also contributed immensely to anti-God proposition.

Surprisingly, revival of this faith came in the form of a movement known as ‘Evangelicalism’. It’s a kind of piety with no specific denomination. Last Century’s ‘Pentecostalism’ has also hugely added to the growing number of Christian believers. The long dissociation between Western Church and the Eastern Orthodox which had continued from excommunication of 1054 was partially revoked in 1964 when Pope Paul VI met Athenagoras I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Though communion could not be reestablished, at least the excommunication of 1054 was rescinded.  Yesterday’s historic meeting of the Russian patriarch (an important part of Orthodoxy) and Pope and their joint plea for persecuted Christians has led to a renewed chance of communion.

Carolingian Renaissance blitzkrieg recalcitrant Islam; Papacy puissance in scrimmage with Byzantine sovereignty: History of Christianity (Part 4 of 5)

How doth the city sit solitary,
that was full of people!
how is she become as a widow!
she that was great among the nations,
and princess among the provinces,
how has she become tributary!

She weepeth sore in the night,
and her tears are on her cheeks:
among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her:
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Book of Lamentations 1: 1-2 (King James Version)

Christianity was totally unprepared to face the sudden rise of a new faith, Islam. After converting the indigenous Arabic polytheists, within few years of Islam’s birth, the whole of Arabian Peninsula was into its fold. The established Caliphate quickly started tremendous military expansion. Within few years of passing away of Muhammad (570-632), the Caliphate had reached as far as Tripoli in the West and Kabul in the East. Then in the 7th century, under the Ummayad dynasty, the Islamic Empire engulfed even the North of Africa. Abbassid dynasty in the 8th Century further extended the Islamic territories. Baghdad, the capital of the Caliphate, became a place of art and learning.

The serious challenge of Islam to the Christian West was valiantly faced by the Carolingian Empire. A zealous Christian, Charlemagne (742-814) waged many wars against the pagans. His rising power and strong Christian beliefs led the papacy to crown him as the emperor in 800 A.D. Such an act, in defiance of the Augustus in Constantinople, was an act of great significance. This led to the formal end of Byzantine throne’s authority over all Catholic population.

The Western and Eastern Christendom were drifting apart rapidly in the 9th Century. But this did not put a halt in the revival of Arts and learning in the Byzantine world. The western world was witnessing the ‘Carolingian Renaissance’. The continuing fight between the sees of Rome and Constantinople reached its peak in the 9th Century with both sides convoking ecumenical synods and deposing rival members. The formal division of the ancient Catholic Church into Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches was in the year 1054 A.D. This ‘Great Schism’ broke the communion between the sees of Constantinople and Rome. Later the Latin Church in the 11th Century reformed many of its questionable practices.

The rising force of the Seljuk Turks became a gigantic problem to the Byzantine Empire. With no hope remaining of being able to survive their onslaught, the Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus was forced to seek help from the Latin Church. But such asking of assistance from Western Church by the Byzantine Empire was not kindly taken by the Eastern Church which further fuelled a renewed struggle between the Churches.

At the Council of Clermont, in 1095 A.D., Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade. It was mainly for protecting the Eastern Christians from the invading Turks. The crusader armies recovered Nicaea and other places but also massacred numerous people. Subsequently the Second Crusade was undertaken in 1145 A.D., but this time the Seljuq Turks routed them. Saladin led the Muslim opposition to the European Crusaders. His army defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin in 1187, and thereafter wrested control of Palestine from the Crusaders. The fall of Jerusalem led the Pope to call for the Third Crusade.  The Holy Roman Emperor and the Kings of France and England jointly organised the forces. But they were unsuccessful in taking back the Holy Land and could only negotiate a treaty with Saladin.

Gradually during the 12th Century, the Eastern Christians started resisting the growing presence and influence of the Western Christians in their land. This situation aggravated continuously finally culminating in the Fourth Crusade. This Crusade was called by Pope Innocent III in 1198. And it involved primarily with the Byzantine Empire. In early 13th Century, the Crusader Army attacked and sacked the City of Constantinople.  Subsequent Crusades were not serious military campaigns and thus came the end of the age of Crusades. The Western Christian’s hope of ruling the Holy Land thus remained unfulfilled

Catechumen Constantine revives the fledgling faith but the Ecumenical Councils flounder leading to ecclesiastical differences splitting the communion: History of Christianity (Part 3 of 5)

And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh;
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

And also upon the servants and
upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and
in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

The sun shall be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood,
before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

And it shall come to pass,
that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered:
for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance,
as the LORD hath said,
and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

                                                               JOEL 2: 28-32 (King James Version)

It was the conversion of Constantine the Great (who became the Caesar of the West and subsequently the Augustus) that changed the direction of the nascent religion. His going into a battle with a Christian symbol painted on his soldiers’ shields was truly a watershed moment in Christianity’s history. Subsequently he granted the Christians legal rights by promulgating the ‘Edict of Milan’. With a view to bring clarity on the various doctrines which the Church was following, he also conveyed the first ever ‘ecumenical’ council. His setting up of a new capital ‘Constantinople’, a truly Christian Capital, was the height of his evangelism. But later rulers like ‘Julian the Apostate’ were inimical to this new faith, though his pagan beliefs could not do much damage as he shortly died after assuming office.

Then came the Golden age of Christian thoughts. Famous ‘Apostolic Fathers’ such as Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna are still revered. Though there were a number of leading theologians during that period, it was St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) whose intellectual ingenuity has a continuing profound influence on Christianity. Gradually Augustinian Christianity became Western Christianity. Among his many ideas, ‘predestination’ i.e. God from eternity elects some to save is now well accepted. Gradually the theologians started analysing the relation of Christ’s divinity to his humanity which is known as Christology. St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662) can be considered as the greatest ‘Christologian’ whose famous ‘Trinitarian theology’ has greatly added to Christian theology. It was the beginning of the Christian scholasticism.

In the mean time, the might of the Western Roman Empire was gradually wearing down. With increasing raids by ‘barbarian tribes’, the Empire was continually shrinking and the later emperors were mere titular heads controlled by all powerful barbarian lords. But gradually these Germanic Tribes were also evangelized.

There continued to be many significant disagreements regarding the basic elements of Christian faith.  Divinity of Jesus or the relation of the Father to the Son was a dominating one. To resolve this serious dispute, Constantine on assuming control of the Eastern Christian World convened the first ‘Ecumenical Council’ at Nicaea. The ‘Nicene Creed’ described the Son as ‘consubstantial’ with the Father. But there were ‘homoeans’ (who considered the Son of being of similar substance with the Father) as well as ‘anomoeans’ (who considered the Son as very different from the Father). Finally it was the ‘Cappadocian Fathers’ (St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil of Caesarea and St. Gregory of Nazianzus) who in the second Ecumenical Council (381) held that the eternal God had entered into the human history in the form of Christ.

But differences continued to haunt this new faith. In fifth century A.D., in Constantinople, disagreements over the ‘Mother of God’ raised to such proportions that a council was convened in Ephesus (431) to resolve the issue. The raging battle over the doctrinal aspects were continuing in Alexandria too. ‘Monophysitism’ (in the Incarnation, Christ’s humanity was assumed into his divinity) divided Alexandria and Constantinople. To resolve this dispute, the fourth Ecumenical Council (the Great Council of Chalcedon) was convened in 451 A.D. Rejecting ‘Monophysitism’, it reaffirmed ‘dyophysite’ position. But such outright rejection also led to the division of the order. The Ethiopian Church, the Syrian Jacobite Church, the Coptic Church and other Monophysite communions separated from Rome. The ecclesiastical differences were the precursor to the East-West Schism.