Tag Archive: Historical Christianity


The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

augustineAugustine of Hippo was born on November 13, 354 in the Numidian city of Tagaste (present day Souk Ahras, Algeria). As a young man prone to following his passions, Augustine famously prayed, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

After converting to Christianity and being baptized in 387, Augustine went on to become one of the most influential Church Fathers of the Western church. He is most well known for his spiritual memoir Confessions and his lengthy philosophical work, City of God.

In this well known quote from the Confessions, Augustine reveals how his perspective on desire has changed, having been made new by the love of God:

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

Download the free audiobook of Confessions here.

You can read St. Augustine’s full biography here or here.

Tim Hoiland blogs at timhoiland.com and tweets at @timhoiland. It took him months to read through City of God last year, and he pretends he understood it.

macrinaMacrina was born in 327 to a wealthy family living in Turkey. She was named after her grandmother, who had studied theology and been persecuted in the third-century. Macrina was the oldest of 10 siblings and responsible for educating her younger brothers and sisters. She was arranged to be married but he died before the wedding, at which point Macrina dedicated herself to assisting her mother before entering the monastic life.

Convincing her mother to relinquish her estate among her siblings after the death of her husband, the two women began a convent consisting of freed slaves. Their religious devotion would leave a greater impact than they could have imagined. Continue reading

David Horsey / Los Angeles Times (March 13, 2013)

There is still much to come in the tenure of Pope Francis, but already in his short time there is much that has caused the world (non-Catholics included) to take notice and consider the impact of this pontiff at this moment in history.

Let’s take a look at Five Reasons Why Pope Francis Matters… (Click to Tweet)

1. Recognition of the population shift of Christianity to the Global South

Much has already been written in missiological circles about the growing demographics of Christianity in Africa, Asia, and South America after a historical majority in Europe and North America. Despite the swelling numbers, the influence of these regions is still largely untapped.

Within World Christianity, there is no position more high-profile that Pope and few institutions wielding as much influence as the Vatican. The recent papal election was dynamic in the fact that cardinals from Africa, Canada, and the United States were considered as possible candidates (although their actual viability as candidates may be questioned).

With this appointment, Pope Francis opens the doors for other thought-leaders to emerge from the non-Western world. The perspectives that they inhabit will inevitably change the dynamics of the theological education, training, and implementation in ways that will impact our diverse and changing communities and world.

2. Pastoral experience among a growing (and practicing) Roman Catholic Church Continue reading

50 years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his poignant essay “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. A watershed moment for the American Civil Rights Movement, King’s letter continues to be an entry point for understanding Christian opposition to systemic injustice. The stark realities of churches captive to cultural notions of superiority echo from its pages and should give us reason again to acknowledge our complicity in mistreatment of our neighbor (regardless their ethnicity, gender, or creed) and resolve to change ourselves and our communities.

In his address, King is writing to white pastors who were silent or resistant to the need for social justice regarding civil rights for African-Americans, and his call resounds to  Christians who are ignorant of the histories and current realities of ethnically and historically marginalized groups. Continuing to ignore the reality (or the identity-creating history) perpetuates the cultural divides that subtly (and not-so-subtly) influence contemporary Christianity.

Below is the letter in it’s entirety.

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. Continue reading

“Que mi sangre sea semilla de libertad y la señal de que la esperanza será pronto una realidad.”

(Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.)

- Archbishop Óscar Romero

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated while he was celebrating the mass.

Romero had become an advocate and champion of the poor in El Salvador and Latin America, which brought him into opposition with the right-wing military government. Following his assassination, he has been recognized as a candidate for canonization and is currently revered as a Servant of God.

The following music video was produced as part of The Project: Martyrs Prayers. Accompanying this is a three-part podcast examining the life and message of Father Romero by Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The podcasts are available here (Part 1: Introduction, Part 2: Present Reality of Martyrdom, Part 3: Ancient/Modern Understanding of Martyrdom).

Credits:

Musician- Michael Glen Bell

Film Maker- Owen Thomas
More information on The Project: Martyrs Prayers.

“Then he (Jesus) appointed seventy others and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go… heal the sick and proclaim that the kingdom has come near.” (Luke 10:1-9)
Throughout history, God has called certain individuals or groups to become trail blazers, pioneers, explorers, discoverers, entrepreneurs, the avant garde of the march towards the future. Today, January 24, we celebrate the feast of Florence Li Tim Oi, the first woman to be ordained in the worldwide Anglican Communion. (Click to Tweet) We also read about the calling of the seventy disciples to go ahead of Jesus to announce that the kingdom of God has come near.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is best known for his accomplishments in the area of civil rights and fighting against injustice. He will always be remembered as a “drum major for justice” and as a man who had a dream of equality for all. What many do not know is that along with being an activist King was a theologian. King’s activism was rooted in a theology that was rich and deep and drew upon a variety of sources. Let’s take a look at what influenced one of the greatest Americans of all time.Martin Luther King Jr.

Continue reading

From the last decade of the 15th century, Europe would welcome the discovery of a new continent, and with it the opportunity for the expansion of empire and Christendom. Those nations most immediately suited to seize this opportunity were the naval empires of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal. Both royal houses were firmly aligned with the Roman Catholic Church and assumed an imperial mandate to expand the authority of the church along with political and economic growth. The missionary endeavors which the Roman Catholic Church would embark upon in the formative years of European global exploration would set in place the foundation for overseas evangelization strategy and reverberate in the methods of other European nations and leave an indelible impact on global Christianity. Understanding the social context for this initial push in overseas missions can put into perspective the successive waves of zealous missionaries and their understandings of Christendom, imperial authority, and the sanctified use of military force which would come to mark the interaction of the church with the newly colonized lands.

An examination of this history can shed light onto a region still affected by these actions as well as insight into the colonial political power structure still affecting the life of the global Church.

Continue reading

“…from that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.  You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve.” – John 6:66-67

From time to time, Jesus said and did some things that were rather strange.  He broke every social taboo he encountered while on the way to Jerusalem.  He elevated the status of women in a patriarchial world.  He spoke of a Kingdom that inverts this world’s paradigm of power, authority and what it looks like to be “blessed”.  He is the High King of Heaven that conquered his enemy by dying on the cross.  He rose from the dead.  In the context of these verses Jesus just finished telling his disciples that one day they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood.   Several of his disciples had said that was a little too strange for them and left him right then and there.  The Twelve’s response to Jesus’ rather vulnerable questions was the polar opposite, “Lord, to whom else would be go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.”

The strange-ness of Jesus both alienates and attracts those who come near enough to hear what he has to say. Continue reading

Scot McKnight, a NT professor, recently published a small book, it is more like an article, regarding the subject of women in ministry.  I found a very brief summary of the article this morning on his blog, and I am re-posting it here for some questions and discussion.  His argument is as follows:

The complementarians [those opposed to women in ministry]  like to shift their footings when it comes to Junia. They want to find some argument on which they can stand to diminish the significance of the woman [Junia].

First, they argued she wasn’t a woman (Junia) but a man (Junias). The evidence disproved them so thoroughly even they gave in (or most of them gave in) and so they shifted to another footing to stand their argument on… Continue reading

I came across this cartoon today that sums up pretty well how I have been feeling about church and theology lately.

This is a cartoon is from a man named Saji at St. Thomas the Doubter Church in Dallas, TX.

When I look at the board in the picture, it makes sense to me, despite its multiplicity. From the initial inception of the church, there have been factions and divisions along ethnic, cultural, and leadership fault-lines. This is perpetuated in every generation as the church grows and expands. As a Euro-american in Church History classes, the basic projection that I learned was the split of the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church, then the Reformation, then the further splintering into Protestant Denominations, until the advent of our particular religious movement which desired to re-introduce a church structure based on Acts 2 (we called ourselves The Restoration Movement, which has since devolved back into a de facto denomination).

The anthropological term to describe the attitude of the student in the cartoon is ethnocentrism, or to believe that one’s own particular group is superior and their ways are normative. This has obvious dangers in hardening prejudices or mistreating others. What is more subtle, however, is the influence that this assumption of normative understanding is applied to theology and Biblical interpretation. Continue reading

In 635, a Syrian monk named Alopen arrived in the Chinese capital.  A monument was placed in 781, called the Nestorian  Stele was a nine-foot limestone covered with inscription. It details the teachings of the Christian community as well as describes Alopen and his students. Nearly 150 years after his arrival, it is impossible to know what was originally in Alopen’s message and what was elaborated by the Chinese who became Christians. These inscriptions present a fairly orthodox understanding of Jesus, yet express that orthodoxy in distinctive ways that would resonate with the religious plurality of Asia at this time. Besides the text, there is the imagery of a cross emerging from a lotus blossom, demonstrating how the Christian message can grow from the existence of ancient Eastern religions. Continue reading

Rock, Paper, and Scissor

Jesus said, “I am the rock, the paper, and the scissors.” -Unvirtuous Abbey (via Twitter)

The twitter-group describe themselves as “Digital monks praying for people with first world problems. From our keyboard to God’s ears.” They take humorous (and hopeful) jabs at life and faith that can be at-times both illuminating and scathing.

The quote I pulled from my tweed (twitter feed, I have abbreviated) stood out to me as an example of using contemporary formulations to breath new life into a Biblical interpretation.

When I read the tweet, I imagined the totality of Christ– fully encompassing all aspects of creation. (Okay, that was a bit of a departure from what may have been simply an off-hand quip.)

Paul describes Christ to the Colossians saying… Continue reading

There was an article published recently by John Thorton and Linda Heywood, both of Boston University, on The Root about the conversion of the king and the kingdom of Kongo to Catholicism in the 1400s. It is an excellent historical reminder of the varied cultural expressions of Christianity throughout history. Espcecially poignant to me are the implications to the Christianity expressed within the African-American community that would find its ancestry (partially) within these brothers and sisters.

About 1 in 5 Americans of African descent come from Kongolese stock, with the greatest percentages being concentrated in South Carolina and Louisiana. They carried their religion with them, as well; the Stono Rebellion in 1739, the largest slave uprising in the U.S. before independence, was led by Kongolese Catholics anxious to escape slavery in Protestant South Carolina to freedom in Catholic Florida.

In some parts of the Americas, Kongolese actually created their own missionary activity. George Christian Andreas Oldendorp, a Moravian missionary, reported that Kongolese slaves in the Virgin Islands baptized and catechized incoming slaves from non-Christian Africa; the Brazilian Inquisition examined the activities of Pedro Congo, who dressed in priestly garb and said Mass to a congregation drawn mostly from non-Christian parts of Africa.

This complex story reveals an important aspect of the African-American past: that 20 percent of African Americans descend from Africans who came to these shores from a region that had sustained its own version of Christianity for four generations before the first Africans arrived in Virginia.

Follow this link for the full article…