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Tag Archives: Historical Christianity

“Listen, Smith of Heaven!” | An Ancient Icelandic Hymn

In 1208, an Icelandic poet named Kolbeinn Tumason wrote Heyr Himna Smiður, which would become a stalwart piece of Icelandic Christian tradition. Its imagery is dynamic to these northern peoples, using  the terms “Smith of the Heavens” to convey the craftsmanship and attention that God shows to creation; “mild one” which is a play on the word that means the generous tribal leader, or king; and “King of the suns”, capturing the spiritual significance of solar seasonality to the island just south of the Arctic Circle.

Listen to the poem sung in it’s original language with an English translation, performed by Ellen Kristjánsdóttir. (more…)

How the East Sees the West

The presence of multiple perspectives within the Christian faith is not a new invention of the 20th century. The split between the Western (Roman Catholic, then Protestant) church and the Eastern Orthodox church is well traveled by Christian historians, yet an understanding of the churches which grew from this cultural differentiation is not as common. In the infograph below, several theologians who are considered to be pillars of Western Christian thought are examined through an Eastern Orthodox perspective. (One of these three pillars is so esteemed, he even garnered an entry in our recent World Cup of Theologians – Augustine of Hippo!)UnsungInTheEast1-514x1024This infographic originally appeared at www.russianchristianclassics.org, a blog exploring Russian church history, the relationship between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, and introducing Russian Christian leaders to an English-speaking audience.

For more information about a leader in the Orthodox church, see our post on an interview with Thelophilus III, the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine.

World Cup of Theologians: Algeria – Augustine of Hippo

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.

Macrina: The Woman Responsible for the Trinity?

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. (more…)

The Impact of Pope Francis

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 (more…)

Listening to Jailed Justice

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. (more…)

Romero: A Seed of Freedom

“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.