A Survey of Church History

In this series of 31 audio lectures, Brian Watts presents a survey of church history to the present time. We learn to appreciate the heritage we have in the heroes of the faith who have gone before. And we realize that we face very few new issues that our forefathers have not faced before. So we seek to learn from them as we address the concerns of our day in light of the way they dealt with the issues in their day.

This material was first prepared as a course for Grade 11 and 12 students in The King’s School in Langley.

Church History – Audio Lectures

Part 1. The Church Wins the World (up to AD 400)
The physical battle: persecution
The mental battle: heresy

Part 2. The World Captures the Church (up to AD 1500)
Changes in the life and organization of the church
Protests against the trends - Montanism
Protest against the trends - Monasticism
The Dark Ages - Augustine, Roman Empire, Papalism, Islam
The Middle Ages: Crusades, Inquisitions, Beginnings of change

Part 3. The Reformation (16th Century)
The Reformation in Germany - Luther
The Reformation in Switzerland & France
The Reformation in England & Scotland
The Counter Reformation
The Radicals

Part 4. The Modern Church
The 17th century: Puritans & Pilgrim Fathers
The 18th century: Reason, Revival & Revivalism
The 19th Century: Missionaries & Modernism
The 20th Century: Restoration or Retrogression?

Church History: A Glossary of Terms

To accompany this series of lectures we are providing a glossary of terms so that you will be able to understand the various movements and issues that we cover. With each lecture we include a list of terms that you should familiarize yourself with in order to appreciate the significance of the events we are dealing with.

Anabaptists Radical protestants believing in believers baptism by immersion, but also wanting separation of church and state, with tendencies toward independence, pacifism, as well as being the forefathers of much modern evangelicalism.

Apollinarianism The teaching of Apollinarius that Jesus had a human body and a divine soul - so he wasn't really a man in the true sense

Arminianism Followers of Arminius who emphasized free will in opposition to Calvin's views of God's sovereignty.

Asceticism The practice of severe self-discipline as a means of attaining spirituality (Often rooted in a dualistic view of the evil of the body in contrast with the spirit)

Adoptionism The idea that Jesus was a man who was adopted into the Godhead by the descent of the Holy Spirit at his baptism.

Apologies Logical presentations in defence of the gospel against heresy

Antinomianism [nomos = law] A rejection of the requirements of God's law

Arianism The heresy of Arius that Jesus is not fully God (created, but not begotten; like God, but not the same as God)

Calvinism See "Reformed Theology". The theology of Calvin, Augustine (and Paul!)

Canon [= rod, ruler] The books of the Bible by which alone all is to be measured

Counter-Reformation The attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to halt the Reformation by reforming the church from within (Protestants believed the R.C. church was beyond reformation, so they pulled out and started new churches)

Crusades Armed attempts to capture Jerusalem from Islamic control

Deism Belief in God - as a Prime Cause of the world, but not as being involved in the running of the world (Compare with "Theism")

Docetism [Dokeo = to seem] The idea that Jesus as Son of God was really a spirit who only appeared to have a physical body. He was divine, but only seemed to be human.

Donatists Those who believed that the validity of a sacrament depends on the worthiness of the minister rather than the authority of his office.

Dualism Setting two principles in opposition to one another (usually spirit vs. matter)

Eastern Orthodoxy The segment of the church based in Constantinople which broke away from the rest of the church in the 11th century after centuries of disputing that the Bishop of Rome (as Peter's successor and Pope) had ultimate authority in the church.

Ebionism A sect with Jewish roots having an "adoptionist" view of the person of Christ

Evangelical Faith based on the foundational teachings of Scripture - particularly emphasizing the inerrancy of Scripture and the Reformation doctrines of salvation by grace. (contra "Evangelism" which is the act of proclaiming those truths).

Gnosticism [Gnosis = knowledge] A speculative philosophy with a dualistic view of the superiority of the mind /spirit, as distinct from the inferior material realm. Such matters could only be understood by special revelation (gnosis).

Hermits Individuals who, in their asceticism, isolated themselves from the world

Huguenots French Protestants

Independents Protestants who had no hope for the established church, who separated to form other denominations

Indulgences Certificates promising release from purgatory, sold by the Pope's representatives

Inquisition The use of force to compel compliance to a creed

Jesuits A monastic order ("The Society of Jesus") founded by Ignatius Loyola to ruthlessly resist the spread of Protestantism by any means

Judaism The religion of the Jews which had developed by the time of Christ as a distortion of the true teachings of the Old Testament.

Judaizers A Jewish Christian sect requiring that Gentiles conform to the Jewish ceremonial law (particularly circumcision) in order to be Christians.

Lapsed Those who denied the faith during persecution and then later repented when persecution was over.

Legalism Either a dependence on earning salvation by keeping the law, or a reliance on man-made laws in addition to Scripture. To require obedience to God's word is not legalism so long as it is understood that obedience does not merit salvation and is only possible by grace.

Liberalism The view that theological truths cannot be accepted on the basis of authority alone (e.g. the inerrancy if the Bible), but must be subject to reason and experience. It tends to accommodate scientific theories like evolution and deny the supernatural dimension of the Bible.

License A disregard for moral law (sometimes from gnostic roots believing that actions in the body are irrelevant to spirituality)

Lollards Street preachers [Lollard = mumbler] sent out by John Wycliffe (14th c.)

Marcionism Separation between the inferior God of wrath in the OT and the God of love revealed in Jesus in the NT. This resulted in a dualistic view of law / grace

Mass The Roman Catholic practise of communion in which the bread and wine are believed to again become the body and blood of Christ ("Transubstantiation"): a repeat sacrifice rather than a memorial of a prior sacrifice.

Methodists Followers of John Wesley - named after the group at Oxford University who earned that nickname for their methodical approach to religious duties.

Monarchianism [monarchia = unity] Attempts to defend the unity of God against views of the Trinity which seemed to suggest that there are three Gods.

  • a) Dynamic monarchianism (or adoptionism). Taught by Theodotus and Paul of Samosata. As there can only be one God, Jesus must be a mere man.
  • b) Modalistic monarchianism. Taught by Sabellius. The view that there is only one God who appears in various modes (as a man in Jesus - so God died for a while on the cross).

Monasticism Organized communities established to pursue asceticism in isolation from the world

Montanism A group of followers of Montanus who emphasized the charismatic dimension to excess.

Nestorianism The teaching of Nestorius that the human and divine natures of Christ were somehow separate and distinct, where orthodox theology maintained that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine in an essential union

Novatianism The teaching of Novatian that the lapsed and others who had committed mortal sins had no place in the true church.

Pelagianism The teachings of Pelagius denying original sin and advocating that man has sufficient goodness in himself to choose what is right and the free will to make that choice

  • [Semi-Pelagianism acknowledges that man needs grace in order to be saved, but denies that this grace is irresistible or prior to man making an initial decision]

Pietism A mystical group formed under the influence of Spener, later developed by Count von Zinzendorf and the Moravians, emphasizing the Christian life in its inner experiential dimension. The subjective predominates over the objective or the institutional.

Pilgrim Fathers A mixture of Puritans and Independents who left Europe under persecution in the 1620's, with a vision to establish a pure church in the religious freedom in the New World.

Puritans Members of the Anglican Church striving for purity in the church - doctrinal, ecclesiastical and behaviourial.

Reformation The Protestant breach with the Roman Catholic Church, following Luther's lead in restoring biblical truth (particularly "justification by faith") as the foundation of the true church. The crucial questions were: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church?

Reformed theology The view that salvation is all of grace: given the truth of man's depravity, salvation is only possible on the basis of God's sovereignty.

Renaissance The rediscovery of the culture of the ancients (particularly the Greeks)

Sabellianism See Sabellius under "Monarchianism"

Sacrament A religious ceremony believed to be an outward symbol of an inward means of grace.

Syncretism The attempt to combine and blend features of different religions

Theism The belief that God both created and controls the world (Compare with "Deism")

Waldensians Followers of Peter Waldo (12th c.) who taught and worshipped in their own language (not Latin, Greek or Hebrew).

Brian Watts is Pastor of The King's Community Church and lives in Langley with his wife Rosalind.
© 1994-2006 THE KING'S Community Church