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The Phenomenon of Persecution in the History of Christianity

An Essay in Development of Christianity HGEU @crazytomato (twitter)

Let us study your topic again. What would be the logical questions for someone who has no idea about the topic and hears it all for the for the first time?

What do you think about that one? @foreverben

  1. A. Introduction
    1. I. Why the question?
    2. II. What is persecution --different appearances in all kinds of religions 1.) 2.) 3.)
  2. B. Main Part
    1. I. What is Christianity? --characteristics/overview 1.) 2.) 3.)
    2. II. How does Christianity's history look like? --different times/overview 1.) 2.) 3.)
    3. III. Which typical persecution did/does Christianity suffer from? --different types 1.) 2.) 3.)
  3. C. Conclusion
    1. I. Reasons --different cases 1.) 2.) 3.)
    2. II. Stereotypes that repeat --different cases 1.) 2.) 3.)

Persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians is religious persecution that Christians sometimes undergo as a consequence of professing their faith, both historically and in the current era. In the two thousand years of the Christian faith, about 70 million believers have been killed for their faith, of whom 45.5 million or 65% were in the twentieth century according to "The New Persecuted" ("I Nuovi Perseguitati"). Currently, persecution of Christians is most severe in North Korea. In India, attacks by Hindu extremist against Christians occurs, especially in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa. According to a report by the Center for Religious Freedom the attacks include the murder of missionaries and priests, the sexual assault of nuns, the ransacking of churches, convents and other Christian institutions. Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, and his 2 children were burnt to death by a group of Hindu activists led by Dara Singh. In 2007 Orissa Violence, attacks were targeted by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Hindutva groups at Christian community and at least 70 churches and 600 houses were attacked and torched by Hindu extremists due to conversion initiated by certain Christian evangelist churches and insulting of Hindu Gods. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses by Muslims and led to emmigration of Christians overseas.

What is the persecution The first great persecution for religious opinion of which we have any record was that which broke out against the worshippers of God among the Jews in the days of Ahab, when that king, at the instigation of his wife Jezebel, "a woman in whom, with the reckless and licentious habits of an Oriental queen, were united the fiercest and sternest qualities inherent in the old Semitic race", sought in the most relentless manner to extirpate the worship of Jehovah and substitute in its place the worship of Ashtoreth and Baal. Ahab's example in this respect was followed by Manasseh, who "shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another" (2 Kings 21:16; comp. 24:4). In all ages, in one form or another, the people of God have had to suffer persecution. In its earliest history the Christian church passed through many bloody persecutions. Of subsequent centuries in our own and in other lands the same sad record may be made. Christians are forbidden to seek the propagation of the gospel by force (Matt. 7:1; Luke 9:54-56; Rom. 14:4; James 4:11, 12). The words of Ps. 7:13, "He ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors," ought rather to be, as in the Revised Version, "He maketh his arrows fiery [shafts]."

There has been a ridiculously long discussion on a post from a while back on persecution, specifically on whether or not Christians in the West should be considered as a persecuted group. This opens up the question what it is that really constitutes persecution. Is persecution just any curtailment of our ability as Christians to do whatever we want in a given society? And what is the relationship between persecution and the lack of impingement upon our freedoms? Is impingement of freedom the same thing as persecution? What, other than a preoccupation with Enlightenment notions of freedom would even lead us to equate the two? And what sort of compulsion is it that leads us to equate marginalization or disestablishment with persecution? What is it that drives the evangelical desire to be able to say “I am persecuted”?

I for one am wary of equating persecution with the sort of inconveniences that Christians face in the West regarding how they are allowed to influence public policy, what sort of on-campus groups they can sponsor in public schools, and the like. I do not think that we can disentangle the discourse of persecution in the New Testament from the early Christian experience of martyrdom. It seems to me that a lot of the rhetoric of persecution that obtains in conservative evangelical circles often functions as a way to name ourselves among the persecuted without ever having to contemplate or face the realities of martyrdom that attend the daily existence of truly persecuted Christians throughout the world. This is not to say that its no big deal when Christians in contemporary liberal societies find it hard to get things done, or find an intellectual climate that is not friendly to the Christian faith. However, lets not cheapen the language of persecution to satiate our angst about feeling disestablished in the West. Being disestablished as the church is hardly the same thing as persecution; frankly I see no reason to view it as anything other than an opportunity for the church to rediscover herself as a distinctive body within the world. Recovering a healthy sense of ecclesial homelessness within the realities of the Western empire represents the opening up of a space in which great faithfulness and authentic witness is again become possible for the church in a way that was stifled under the sort of cultural Constantinianism that has been part of the whole ethos of America specifically, and the West more generally. The sort of evangelical paranoia that attends the way in which the conservative discourse of persecution takes shape today seems to be based on little more than the a longing to live in control rather than out of control. This sort of desperation for legitimization and influence cannot be a good thing for the church. Indeed, only when the church rejects this sort of compulsiveness of purpose can she rest securely in the gospel of the resurrection which promises us that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God. Freedom from desperation based on fear allows us to name persecution truthfully. We are no longer driven to self-legitimation by nominating ourselves among the persecuted. Rather we are freed to find our identity as Christians and as the church outside ourselves in the crucified and resurrected Christ who de-possesses us from our frenzied desire to be validated, to have control, and to be in charge.

Saturday, November 29, 2008 What is persecution?

A helpful place to begin when trying to define persecution is to see how the term is used in the Scriptures themselves. The Greek and Hebrew words often translated as "persecute" typically carry a sense of serious violence, aggression and hostility or the threat of such. There is an intent to injure and is carried out in a hostile, antagonistic spirit. In such passages as Jer.29:18 and Ps. 71:11-13 to “persecute” carries with it the idea of "to follow after or pursue." The Greek word dioko and its derivatives used in the New Testament (e.g. Matt. 5:12; Acts 22:4; 1 Thess. 2:15) has virtually the identical meaning of "pursuing or driving away." The term thilipis, means to "oppress or afflict" (Matt. 24: 9; Acts 3:14; 2 Cor. 1:5; 4:10). Word studies, however, serve best as a basis for further study rather than as the foundation for defining what persecution is. A large part of the problem of defining persecution has to do with a common misunderstanding as what exactly it is. To many, persecution conjures up images of extreme violence, martyrdoms, imprisonments and torture. They think of what they imagine the early church went through or the church in the former Soviet Union. Immigrants to Canada think back to their own experience in their homeland and while they may have faced societal discrimination and the like, they took it in stride as everyone else did and saw it is just a part of life; unpleasant perhaps, maybe even annoying or slightly humiliating, but hardly persecution. Two points need to be made:

First, it is worth remembering that persecution on a country-wide scale has been rare both now and throughout history. In most countries, violent persecution tends to be focused in specific, often remote, areas where religious tensions have been enflamed for one reason or another. Hence, believers in one city may never experience violence for their faith, while in another location Christians are being beaten and driven from their homes.

Second, persecution as a term needs to be understood in its biblical sense. Persecution in the Bible manifests itself within a broad spectrum ranging from mildly hostile to intensely hostile actions. These actions range from ridicule, restriction, certain kinds of harassment, or discrimination on one end of the spectrum to torture, imprisonment, ostracism, or killing on the other (see Matthew 6:11-12, Luke 6:22; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29; James 1:2 and others.

Persecution, hence, from a biblical perspective, must be understood to encompass actions spanning the full range of hostility whether they are violent, physical, psychological, or social. We cannot define persecution strictly on the basis of the level of harm it might cause or the level of hostility in which it occurs. To do so would be inconsistent with Scripture. The issue that missions like The Voice of the Martyrs must consider is at what point on this spectrum do we see our involvement as necessary? To summarize, we need to see persecution as the Bible sees it, within a wide spectrum of hostility. It need not involve violence, although it may. This is not to say that all persecution should be treated as equally grievous. Nor is all persecution a violation of our basic rights as a human being. To be despised, hated, and ridiculed is not a violation of one's rights, as unpleasant and unjust as these things are.

Significantly, understanding persecution in a biblical sense helps to include the Western Christian's experience in what it means to follow Jesus. Understanding persecution as only including violent acts often leads us to conclude that Western Christians are never persecuted, only those in the two-thirds world. Understanding persecution to include a wider spectrum of hostility makes it obvious that even Western Christians can and will experience persecution if they faithfully follow Christ, even if it is of a milder degree. The biblical passages on persecution then can become more meaningful for us and we can properly apply them to our present situation. For example, the various biblical texts that speak of rewards to those who were faithful in the face of persecution may seem out of reach to us if we understand persecution primarily as suffering violence for Jesus. With little opportunity to suffer in this way, how are we to ever receive these rewards? Understanding persecution in a broader sense makes these promises more applicable to us and should motivate us to greater faithfulness to God in the midst of our own situation. Such an understanding of persecution should do nothing to cheapen the suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world. It should, however, help us to see the Body of Christ as one Body; not a Persecuted Church and a Free Church. We are all the Persecuted Church and our calling is to reach out and minister to those who are suffering violence and loss for Christ's sake since we are one Family. There is no need to prayer as to whether we should help our persecuted brothers and sisters. The question, if we are to be true to scripture, is not if we should help but how. If we are not suffering together, we are standing together with those who are suffering (Hebrews 10:32-34). Hence, persecution might be best defined, from a scriptural perspective, as any unjust action by authorities, individuals, or crowds of varying levels of hostility perpetrated primarily on the basis of religion and directed at Christians, resulting in varying levels of harm (ranging from ridicule, restriction, certain kinds of harassment, or discrimination to torture, imprisonment, ostracism, murder, and execution) as it is considered from the victim’s perspective. (see Charles Tieszen, “Towards redefining persecution” International Journal for Religious Freedom Vol 1:1 2008: 76)

Persecution typically arises because of a difference that comes from being a Christian that the persecutor will not tolerate. When faced with situations where is difficult to determine whether this is a situation of persecution or general suffering, it is often helpful to ask, "If a person had other religious beliefs or would change their religion to the majority religion of the country, would things get better for them? Is this persecution or group specifically suffering because they are Christians?" If the answer is "yes," then it seems that this would be a situation where persecution is taking place. If the answer is “no” and that they would be suffering regardless of what they believe in, then the situation is likely one where persecution is not taking place.

2 Why was the question?

Since God is a being of infinite love, goodness and power, the question naturally arises: why does evil exist? If we look at ourselves, it is apparent that we live with two conflicting desires: one which tells us to lift other people up and care for them, and another which tells us to take care of our own comforts first, regardless of everyone else. Where does this conflict originate? Did God, after creating a beautiful and ecologically balanced system of life, somehow slip and design His highest creation with an inherent contradiction, like a cup with a hole in it? Of course not. There is no historic record of events that explains how evil came into this world. However, the Bible offers a significant insight in the book of Genesis, where the story is told of the first human ancestors, whom the Bible calls Adam and Eve, committing the first sin. The story is shrouded in symbolism, however, and therefore lacks clarity to what precisely Adam and Eve did. Certainly, the sin of the first human ancestors had awesome consequences, as all their descendants have been affected by it. Different scriptural texts offer variations of the fall theme. The Principle presents a profound explanation of the root cause of evil, which has been embedded in symbols in all the great religions. The Genesis story, on which the Principle explanation focuses, is perhaps the most widely known and profoundly revelatory.

What Happened in the Garden of Eden? As told in the story of the fall of man, there was a Garden of Eden, and in the center of the garden there were two trees: a tree of life, and a tree of knowledge bearing a forbidden fruit. In this garden lived Adam, Eve, and a serpent who spoke to them and tricked them. God gave the two people a commandment: do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, or you will die that day. Then a serpent appeared and tempted Eve into eating the fruit despite God's order, and Eve, in turn shared the fruit with Adam. At that point the man and woman felt fear and guilt; they covered their sexual parts and hid from God. God then blocked their way to the tree of life and sent them out of the garden. Is this story is to be taken literally or symbolically? To interpret the Genesis story, the Principle employs the following criteria: 1) common sense based on our general knowledge of history and the human experience; 2) the Bible as a whole; and 3) the Principle of Creation (as introduced in Part One). Based on these criteria, we concluded that the story is full of symbols. If they are interpreted correctly, we discover that the story portrays an actual event in the lives of our first human ancestors. They acted in a way to corrupt themselves and degrade their spiritual natures. Furthermore, these events are repeated in the lives of ordinary people every day. The fruit which the first human ancestors ate could not have been a literal fruit. As Jesus explained: "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." (Matt. 15:11) Moreover, the death that resulted from eating the fruit was not physical death (Adam and Eve continued to live after the fall) but spiritual death, meaning the separation between man and God. Eating a literal fruit cannot cause spiritual death. One common explanation is that the fruit itself is not important, but it was Adam and Eve's act of disobedience which was the root cause of all the historical evil and sins of humankind. However, this analysis does not explain why Adam and Eve would disobey God over a mere piece of fruit. We cannot believe that God would implant in them a desire to rebel against Him, or to destroy themselves for the sake of a piece of fruit. Therefore, the fruit that Adam and Eve ate must signify something far more important to man's happiness than a tasty apple or pear.

Fallen Nature

Since the fall, all human beings are born with a selfish fallen nature in addition to their good original nature.

The first aspect of this fallen nature is that we have a tendency to see things from our own, self-centered perspectives rather than from God's point of view. This resembles Lucifer's failure to see Adam from God's viewpoint. So many prophets and righteous people in history were persecuted and even killed because their contemporaries failed to see them from God's perspective.

Second, fallen people will perform actions that violate the responsibility of their proper position. When Lucifer felt less love from God, he left his position as servant and sought an illicit relationship with Eve. When a man is dissatisfied with his marriage, he will seek to have an affair with another man's wife. Third, fallen people will not hesitate to undermine or attack others in order to gain more power and higher positions themselves, and will use any means to achieve their goals. This resembles Lucifer, who, after refusing to serve Adam and Eve, reversed the hierarchy by making them serve his interests. This is the root of violence and murder. Finally, people acting out of fallen nature will try to induce others to sin, in order to justify themselves. Fallen people feel a false sense of security when they observe others acting as they do, and ridicule anyone who would strive to a higher standard of righteousness. Every religion teaches people to overcome fallen nature, through precepts of humility, self-denial and unselfish service. Philosophy does the same, by teaching people to control their passions and work for the larger purpose, as dictated by reason. But the human struggle to defeat the fallen nature will have no end until the problem of the original sin is solved and humanity can be restored to a pure, God-centered lineage. For this, the world has long awaited the Messiah, a new Adam who, with a new Eve, can establish the position of True Parents and a family of perfect love.

2.1 WHAT IS Christianity

Christianity (from the word Xριστός "Christ") is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the New Testament. Adherents of Christianity, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God and the Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (the part of scripture common to Christianity and Judaism). Christian theology claims that Jesus Christ is a teacher, the model of a virtuous life, the revealer of God, as well as an incarnation of God, and most importantly the savior of humanity who suffered, died, and was resurrected to bring about salvation from sin.Christians maintain that Jesus ascended into heaven, and most denominations teach that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, granting everlasting life to his followers. Christians call the message of Jesus Christ the Gospel ("good news") and hence label the earliest written accounts of his ministry as gospels.

Like Judaism and Islam, Christianity is classified as an Abrahamic religion. Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the eastern Mediterranean, quickly grew in size and influence over a few decades, and by the 4th century had become the dominant religion within the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, most of the remainder of Europe was christianized, with Christians also being a (sometimes large) religious minority in the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of India. Following the Age of Discovery, through missionary work and colonization, Christianity spread to the Americas and the rest of the world. Christianity has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization at least since the 4th century.As of the early 21st century, Christianity has between 1.5 billion and 2.1 billion adherents, representing about a quarter to a third of the world's population.Contents

In spite of important differences of interpretation and opinion, Christians share a set of beliefs that they hold as essential to their faith.

Creeds Creeds (from Latin credo meaning "I believe") are concise doctrinal statements or confessions, usually of religious beliefs. They began as baptismal formulas and were later expanded during the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries to become statements of faith. The Apostles Creed (Symbolum Apostolorum) was developed between the second and ninth centuries. It is the most popular creed used in worship by Western Christians. Its central doctrines are those of the Trinity and God the Creator. Each of the doctrines found in this creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period. The creed was apparently used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. Since the Apostles Creed is still unaffected by the later Christological divisions, its statement of the articles of Christian faith remain largely acceptable to most Christian denominations: belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Holy Spirit the death, descent into hell, resurrection, and ascension of Christ the holiness of the Church and the communion of saints Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful.

The Nicene Creed, largely a response to Arianism, was formulated at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in 325 and 381 respectively and ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Chalcedonian Creed, developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, though rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Churches, taught Christ "to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably": one divine and one human, and that both natures are perfect but are nevertheless perfectly united into one person.

The Athanasian Creed, received in the western Church as having the same status as the Nicene and Chalcedonian, says: "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance."

Most Christians (Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants alike) accept the use of creeds, and subscribe to at least one of the creeds mentioned above. A minority of Protestants, notably Restorationists, a movement formed in the wake of the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century United States, oppose the use of creeds.

Jesus Christ

The central tenet of Christianity is the belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah (Christ). The title "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (māšiáħ) meaning anointed one. The Greek translation Χριστός (Christos) is the source of the English word "Christ"

A depiction of Jesus as a child with his mother,  Mary, the Theotokos of Vladimir (12th century).

Christians believe that, as the Messiah, Jesus was anointed by God as ruler and savior of humanity, and hold that Jesus' coming was the fulfillment of messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The Christian concept of the Messiah differs significantly from the contemporary Jewish concept. The core Christian belief is that, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.

While there have been many theological disputes over the nature of Jesus over the first centuries of Christian history, Christians generally believe that Jesus is God incarnate and "true God and true man" (or both fully divine and fully human). Jesus, having become fully human, suffered the pains and temptations of a mortal man, yet he did not sin. As fully God, he defeated death and rose to life again. According to the Bible, "God raised him from the dead," he ascended to heaven, is "seated at the right hand of the Father"and will return again to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy such as the Resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment and final establishment of the Kingdom of God. According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary. Little of Jesus' childhood is recorded in the canonical Gospels, however infancy Gospels were popular in antiquity. In comparison, his adulthood, especially the week before his death, are well documented in the Gospels contained within the New Testament. The Biblical accounts of Jesus' ministry include: his baptism, miracles, preaching, teaching, and deeds.

Death and resurrection of Jesus Christians consider the resurrection of Jesus to be the cornerstone of their faith (see 1 Corinthians 15) and the most important event in human history. Among Christian beliefs, the death and resurrection of Jesus are two core events on which much of Christian doctrine and theology is based. According to the New Testament Jesus was crucified, died a physical death, buried within a tomb, and rose from the dead three days later.The New Testament mentions several resurrection appearances of Jesus on different occasions to his twelve apostles and disciples, including "more than five hundred brethren at once," before Jesus' Ascension to heaven. Jesus' death and resurrection are commemorated by Christians in all worship services, with special emphasis during Holy Week which includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The death and resurrection of Jesus are usually considered the most important events in Christian Theology, partly because they demonstrate that Jesus has power over life and death and therefore has the authority and power to give people eternal life.

Christian churches accept and teach the New Testament account of the resurrection of Jesus with very few exceptions.Some modern scholars use the belief of Jesus' followers in the resurrection as a point of departure for establishing the continuity of the historical Jesus and the proclamation of the early church. Some liberal Christians do not accept a literal bodily resurrection, seeing the story as richly symbolic and spiritually nourishing myth. Arguments over death and resurrection claims occur at many religious debates and interfaith dialogues. Paul the Apostle, an early Christian convert and missionary, wrote, "If Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless."


Protestantism teaches that eternal salvation is a gift that comes to an individual by God's grace, sometimes defined as "unmerited favor", on the basis of one's personal belief in and dependence on the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation in this sense refers to God's activities in bringing humans into right relationship with God and with one another through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the belief that one can be saved (rescued) from sin and eternal death. Other concepts used in the study of how salvation is accomplished include conversion, faith, justification, regeneration, and others.Many Protestants believe in the "assurance of salvation"—that God can give the confidence that a believer in Jesus as the Christ has truly received salvation.

Christianity percentage by country.

Catholicism teaches that while in most cases one must be a baptized Catholic to be saved,it is possible in some circumstances for people to be saved who have not been fully initiated into the Catholic Church. Catholics generally emphasize the role of works and sacraments in attaining salvation. The Catholic Church teaches that faith is important, but it also believes that salvation also requires good works and piety such as obedience to the commandments, participation in the sacraments, church attendance, doing penance and giving alms, reciting prayers and so on, in order to merit eternal life.

The formal study of theology of salvation is Soteriology. The crucifixion of Jesus is explained as an atoning sacrifice, which, in the words of the Gospel of John, "takes away the sins of the world." One's reception of salvation is related to justification.

The operation and effects of grace are understood differently by different traditions. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy teach the necessity of the free will to cooperate with grace. Reformed theology places distinctive emphasis on grace by teaching that individuals are completely incapable of self-redemption, but the grace of God overcomes even the unwilling heart. Arminianism takes a synergistic approach while Lutheranism and most other Protestant doctrines teach justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Trinity Main article: Trinity Trinity refers to the teaching that the one God comprises three distinct, eternally co-existing persons; the Father (from whom the Son and Spirit proceed), the Son (incarnate in Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Together, these three persons are sometimes called the Godhead, although there is no single term in use in Scripture to denote the unified Godhead. In the words of the Athanasian Creed, an early statement of Christian belief, "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God". They are distinct from another: the Father has no source, the Son is born of the substance of the Father, the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Though distinct, the three persons cannot be divided from one another in being or in operation. The Trinity is an essential doctrine of mainstream Christianity. "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" represents both the immanence and transcendence of God. God is believed to be infinite and God's presence may be perceived through the actions of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. According to this doctrine, God is not divided in the sense that each person has a third of the whole; rather, each person is considered to be fully God . The distinction lies in their relations, the Father being unbegotten; the Son being eternally begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and (in Western theology) from the Son. Regardless of this apparent difference, the three 'persons' are each eternal and omnipotent.

The word trias, from which trinity is derived, is first seen in the works of Theophilus of Antioch. He wrote of "the Trinity of God (the Father), His Word (the Son) and His Wisdom (Holy Spirit)". The term may have been in use before this time. Afterwards it appears in Tertullian.In the following century the word was in general use. It is found in many passages of Origen.

Trinitarians Trinitarianism denotes those Christians who believe in the concept of the Trinity. Almost all Christian denominations and Churches hold Trinitarian beliefs. Although the words "Trinity" and "Triune" do not appear in the Bible, theologians beginning in the third century developed the term and concept to facilitate comprehension of the New Testament teachings of God as Father, God as Jesus the Son, and God as the Holy Spirit. Since that time, Christian theologians have been careful to emphasize that Trinity does not imply three gods, nor that each member of the Trinity is one-third of an infinite God; Trinity is defined as one God in three Persons.

Non-trinitarians Nontrinitarianism refers to beliefs systems that reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Various nontrinitarian views, such as adoptionism or modalism, existed in early Christianity, leading to the disputes about Christology. Nontrinitarianism later appeared again in the Gnosticism of the Cathars in the 11th through 13th centuries, in the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, and in Restorationism during the 19th century.

Scriptures Christianity regards the Bible, a collection of canonical books in two parts (the Old Testament and the New Testament), as authoritative. It is believed by Christians to have been written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore for many it is held to be the inerrant word of God. The books that are considered canon in the Bible vary depending upon the denomination using or defining it. These variations are a reflection of the range of traditions and councils that have convened on the subject. The Bible always includes books of the Jewish scriptures, the Tanakh, and includes additional books and reorganizes them into two parts: the books of the Old Testament primarily sourced from the Tanakh (with some variations), and the 27 books of the New Testament containing books originally written primarily in Greek. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons include other books from the Septuagint which Roman Catholics call Deuterocanonical. Protestants consider these books apocryphal. Some versions of the Christian Bible have a separate Apocrypha section for the books not considered canonical by the publisher.

Roman Catholic interpretation In antiquity, two schools of exegesis developed in Alexandria and Antioch. Alexandrine interpretation, exemplified by Origen, tended to read Scripture allegorically, while Antiochene interpretation adhered to the literal sense, holding that other meanings (called theoria) could only be accepted if based on the literal meaning.

Roman Catholic theology distinguishes two senses of scripture: the literal and the spiritual.

The literal sense of understanding scripture is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture. The spiritual sense is further subdivided into: the allegorical sense, which includes typology. An example would be the parting of the Red Sea being understood as a "type" (sign) of baptism. the moral sense, which understands the scripture to contain some ethical teaching. the anagogical sense, which applies to eschatology, eternity and the consummation of the world Regarding exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation, Roman Catholic theology holds: the injunction that all other senses of sacred scripture are based on the literal that the historicity of the Gospels must be absolutely and constantly held that scripture must be read within the "living Tradition of the whole Church" and that "the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome".

Protestant interpretation Clarity of Scripture Protestant Christians believe that the Bible is a self-sufficient revelation, the final authority on all Christian doctrine, and revealed all truth necessary for salvation. This concept is known as Sola scriptura. Protestants characteristically believe that ordinary believers may reach an adequate understanding of Scripture because Scripture itself is clear (or "perspicuous"), because of the help of the Holy Spirit, or both. Martin Luther believed that without God's help Scripture would be "enveloped in darkness."He advocated "one definite and simple understanding of Scripture."[ John Calvin wrote, "all who...follow the Holy Spirit as their guide, find in the Scripture a clear light." The Second Helvetic (Latin for "Swiss") Confession, composed by the pastor of the Reformed church in Zurich (successor to Protestant reformer Zwingli) was adopted as a declaration of doctrine by most European Reformed churches. Original intended meaning Protestants stress the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture, the historical-grammatical method. The historical-grammatical method or grammatico-historical method is a effort in Biblical hermeneutics to find the intended original meaning in the text. This original intended meaning of the text is drawn out through examination of the passage in light of the grammatical and syntactical aspects, the historical background, the literary genre as well as theological (canonical) considerations. The historical-grammatical method distinguishes between the one original meaning and the significance of the text. The significance of the text includes the ensuing use of the text or application. The original passage is seen as having only a single meaning or sense. As Milton S. Terry said: "A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture." Technically speaking, the grammatical-historical method of interpretation is distinct from the determination of the passage's significance in light of that interpretation. Taken together, both define the term (Biblical) hermeneutics.

Christian eschatology

Most Christians believe that human beings experience divine judgment and are rewarded either with eternal life or eternal damnation. This includes the general judgement at the Resurrection of the dead as well as the belief (held by Catholics, in a judgement particular to the individual soul upon physical death.

In Roman Catholicism, those who die in a state of grace, i.e. without any mortal sin separating them from God, but are still imperfectly purified from the effects of sin, undergo purification through the intermediate state of purgatory to achieve the holiness necessary for entrance into God's presence.Those who have attained this goal are called saints. Some churches, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, do not believe in a particular judgment. They hold that the soul sleeps until this time. Christians believe that the second coming of Christ will occur at the end of time. All who have died will be resurrected bodily from the dead for the Last Judgment. Jesus will fully establish the Kingdom of God in fulfillment of scriptural prophecies. Universal Reconciliation, also called Apocatastasis, is the view that all will eventually experience salvation, rejecting the concept that hell is everlasting. Such a view was held in the 3rd century by Origen but was condemned as heretical. The notion was revived after the Reformation by the Anabaptist theologian Hans Denck. Christians espousing this view are known as Universalists.

Worship Justin Martyr described 2nd century Christian liturgy in his First Apology (c. 150) to Emperor Antoninus Pius, and his description remains relevant to the basic structure of Christian liturgical worship: "And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need." Thus, as Justin described, Christians assemble for communal worship on Sunday, the day of the resurrection, though other liturgical practices often occur outside this setting. Scripture readings are drawn from the Old and New Testaments, but especially the Gospels. Often these are arranged on an annual cycle, using a book called a lectionary. Instruction is given based on these readings, called a sermon, or homily. There are a variety of congregational prayers, including thanksgiving, confession, and intercession, which occur throughout the service and take a variety of forms including recited, responsive, silent, or sung. The Lord's Prayer, or Our Father, is regularly prayed. The Eucharist (called Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper) is the part of liturgical worship that consists of a consecrated meal, usually bread and wine. Justin Martyr described the Eucharist: "And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. ” Some Christian denominations view communion as indicating those who are already united in the church, restricting participation to their members not in a state of mortal sin (closed communion). Most other churches view communion as a means to unity, rather than an end, and invite all Christians or even anyone to participate. In some denominations, participation is decided by prior arrangement with a church leader.

Some groups depart from this traditional liturgical structure. A division is often made between "High" church services, characterized by greater solemnity and ritual, and "Low" services, but even within these two categories there is great diversity in forms of worship. Seventh-day Adventists meet on Saturday (the original Sabbath), while others do not meet on a weekly basis. Charismatic or Pentecostal congregations may spontaneously feel led by the Holy Spirit to action rather than follow a formal order of service, including spontaneous prayer. Quakers sit quietly until moved by the Holy Spirit to speak. Some Evangelical services resemble concerts with rock and pop music, dancing, and use of multimedia. For groups which do not recognize a priesthood distinct from ordinary believers the services are generally lead by a minister, preacher, or pastor. Still others may lack any formal leaders, either in principle or by local necessity. Some churches use only a cappella music, either on principle (e.g. many Churches of Christ object to the use of instruments in worship) or by tradition (as in Orthodoxy). Worship can be varied for special events like baptisms or weddings in the service or significant feast days. In the early church Christians and those yet to complete initiation would separate for the Eucharistic part of the worship. In many churches today, adults and children will separate for all or some of the service to receive age-appropriate teaching. Such children's worship is often called Sunday school or Sabbath school (Sunday schools are often held before rather than during services).

Sacraments The Eucharist In Christian belief and practice, a sacrament is a rite, instituted by Christ, that mediates grace, constituting a sacred mystery. The term is derived from the Latin word sacramentum, which was used to translate the Greek word for mystery. Views concerning both what rites are sacramental, and what it means for an act to be a sacrament vary among Christian denominations and traditions. The most conventional functional definition of a sacrament is that it is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, that conveys an inward, spiritual grace through Christ. The two most widely accepted sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist, however, the majority of Christians recognize seven Sacraments or Divine Mysteries: Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation in the Orthodox tradition), and the Eucharist, Holy Orders, Reconciliation of a Penitent (confession), Anointing of the Sick, and Matrimony.[107] Taken together, these are the Seven Sacraments as recognised by churches in the High church tradition - notably Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Independent Catholic, Old Catholic and some Anglicans. Most other denominations and traditions typically affirm only Baptism and Eucharist as sacraments, while some Protestant groups, such as the Quakers, reject sacramental theology.[107] Some Christian denominations who believe these rites do not communicate grace prefer to call them ordinances.

Liturgical calendar

Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Christians, and traditional Protestant communities frame worship around a liturgical calendar. This includes holy days, such as solemnities which commemorate an event in the life of Jesus or the saints, periods of fasting such as Lent, and other pious events such as memoria or lesser festivals commemorating saints. Christian groups that do not follow a liturgical tradition often retain certain celebrations, such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. A few churches make no use of a liturgical calendar.

Christian symbolism

An early circular ichthys symbol, created by combining the Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ into a wheel. Ephesus, Asia Minor. The cross, which is today one of the most widely recognised symbols in the world, was used as a Christian symbol from the earliest times.Tertuallian, in his book De Corona, tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross. Although the cross was known to the early Christians, the crucifix did not appear in use until the fifth century. Among the symbols employed by the primitive Christians, that of the fish seems to have ranked first in importance. From monumental sources such as tombs it is known that the symbolic fish was familiar to Christians from the earliest times. The fish was depicted as a Christian symbol in the first decades of the second century. Its popularity among Christians was due principally, it would seem, to the famous acrostic consisting of the initial letters of five Greek words forming the word for fish , which words briefly but clearly described the character of Christ and the claim to worship of believers: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, meaning, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. Christians from the very beginning adorned their tombs with paintings of Christ, of the saints, of scenes from the Bible and allegorical groups. The catacombs are the cradle of all Christian art. The first Christians had no prejudice against images, pictures, or statues. The idea that they must have feared the danger of idolatry among their new converts is disproved in the simplest way by the pictures even statues, that remain from the first centuries. Other major Christian symbols include the chi-rho monogram, the dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit), the sacrificial lamb (symbolic of Christ's sacrifice), the vine (symbolising the necessary connectedness of the Christian with Christ) and many others. These all derive from writings found in the New Testament.

The History of Christianity

Early Church and Christological Councils Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the eastern Mediterranean in the mid-first century. Its earliest development took place under the leadership of the Twelve Apostles, particularly Saint Peter and Paul the Apostle, followed by the early bishops, whom Christians considered the successors of the Apostles. From the beginning, Christians were subject to persecution. This involved punishments, including death, for Christians such as Stephen and James, son of Zebedee.Larger-scale persecutions followed at the hands of the authorities of the Roman Empire, first in the year 64, when Emperor Nero blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome. According to Church tradition, it was under Nero's persecution that early Church leaders Peter and Paul of Tarsus were each martyred in Rome. Further widespread persecutions of the Church occurred under nine subsequent Roman emperors, most intensely under Decius and Diocletian. From the year 150, Christian teachers began to produce theological and apologetic works aimed at defending the faith. These authors are known as the Church Fathers, and study of them is called Patristics. Notable early Fathers include Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen.

Christianity was legalized in the 4th century, when Constantine I issued an edict of toleration in 313. On 27 February 380, Emperor Theodosius I enacted a law establishing Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. From at least the 4th century, Christianity has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization. Constantine was also instrumental in the convocation of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which sought to address the Arian heresy and formulated the Nicene Creed, which is still used by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion, and many Protestant churches.[27] Nicaea was the first of a series of Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils which formally defined critical elements of the theology of the Church, notably concerning Christology. The Assyrian Church of the East did not accept the third and following Ecumenical Councils, and are still separate today.

Early Middle Ages

With the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the west, the papacy became a political player, first visible in Pope Leo's diplomatic dealings with Huns and Vandals. The church also entered into a long period of missionary activity and expansion among the former barbarian tribes. Catholicism spread among the Germanic peoples (initially in competition with Arianism, the Celtic and Slavic peoples, the Hungarians and the Scandinavian and Baltic peoples.

Around 500, St. Benedict set out his Monastic Rule, establishing a system of regulations for the foundation and running of monasteries. Monasticism became a powerful force throughout Europe, and gave rise to many early centers of learning, most famously in Ireland, Scotland and Gaul, contributing to the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century. From the 7th century onwards, Islam conquered the Christian lands of the Middle East, North Africa and much of Spain, resulting in oppression of Christianity and numerous military struggles, including the Crusades, the Spanish Reconquista and wars against the Turks. The Middle Ages brought about major changes within the church. Pope Gregory the Great dramatically reformed ecclesiastical structure and administration. In the early 8th century, iconoclasm became a divisive issue, when it was sponsored by the Byzantine emperors. The Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea finally pronounced in favour of icons. In the early 10th century, western monasticism was further rejuvenated through the leadership of the great Benedictine monastery of Cluny.

High and Late Middle Ages

In the west, from the 11th century onward, older cathedral schools developed into universities (see University of Paris, University of Oxford, and University of Bologna.) Originally teaching only theology, these steadily added subjects including medicine, philosophy and law, becoming the direct ancestors of modern western institutions of learning. Accompanying the rise of the "new towns" throughout Western Europe, mendicant orders were founded, bringing the consecrated religious life out of the monastery and into the new urban setting. The two principal mendicant movements were the Franciscans and the Dominicans founded by St. Francis and St. Dominic respectively. Both orders made significant contributions to the development of the great universities of Europe. Another new order were the Cistercians, whose large isolated monasteries spearheaded the settlement of former wilderness areas. In this period church building and ecclesiastical architecture reached new heights, culminating in the orders of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the building of the great European cathedrals.

Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont, where he preached the First Crusade.

From 1095 under the pontificate of Urban II, the Crusades were launched. These were a series of military campaigns in the Holy Land and elsewhere, initiated in response to pleas from the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I for aid against Turkish expansion. The Crusades ultimately failed to stifle Islamic aggression and even contributed to Christian enmity with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Over a period stretching from the 7th to the 13th century, the Christian Church underwent gradual alienation, resulting in a schism dividing it into a Western, largely Latin branch, the Roman Catholic Church, and an Eastern, largely Greek, branch, the Orthodox Church. These two churches disagree on a number of administrative, liturgical, and doctrinal issues, most notably papal primacy of jurisdiction. The Second Council of Lyon and the Council of Florence (1439) attempted to reunite the churches, but in both cases the Eastern Orthodox refused to implement the decisions and the two principal churches remain in schism to the present day. However, the Roman Catholic Church has achieved union with various smaller eastern churches.

Beginning around 1184, following the crusade against the Cathar heresy, various institutions, broadly referred to as the Inquisition, were established with the aim of suppressing heresy and securing religious and doctrinal unity within Christianity through conversion and prosecution.

Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation

The 15th-century Renaissance brought about a renewed interest in ancient and classical learning. Another major schism, the Reformation, resulted in the splintering of the Western Christendom into several Christian denominations.Martin Luther in 1517 protested against the sale of indulgences and soon moved on to deny several key points of Roman Catholic doctrine. Others like Zwingli and Calvin further criticized Roman Catholic teaching and worship. These challenges developed into the movement called Protestantism, which repudiated the primacy of the pope, the role of tradition, the seven sacraments, and other doctrines and practices. Reformation in England began in 1534, when King Henry VIII had himself declared head of the Church of England. Beginning in 1536, the monasteries throughout England, Wales and Ireland were dissolved. Partly in response to the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church engaged in a substantial process of reform and renewal, known as the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reform. The Council of Trent clarified and reasserted Roman Catholic doctrine. During the following centuries, competition between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism became deeply entangled with political struggles among European states. Meanwhile, the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 brought about a new wave of missionary activity. Partly from missionary zeal, but under the impetus of colonial expansion by the European powers, Christianity spread to the Americas, Oceania, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout Europe, the divides caused by the Reformation led to outbreaks of religious violence and the establishment of separate state religions in Western Europe: Lutheranism in parts of Germany and in Scandinavia and Anglicanism in England in 1534. Ultimately, these differences led to the outbreak of conflicts in which religion played a key factor. The Thirty Years' War, the English Civil War, and the French Wars of Religion are prominent examples. These events intensified the Christian debate on persecution and toleration.

Christianity in the Modern Era

In the Modern Era, Christianity was confronted with various forms of skepticism and with certain modern political ideologies such as liberalism, nationalism and socialism. Events ranged from mere anti-clericalism to violent outbursts against Christianity such as the Dechristianisation during the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and general hostility of Marxist movements, especially the Russian Revolution. Christian commitment in Europe dropped as modernity and secularism came into their own in Western Europe, while religious commitments in America have been generally high in comparison to Western Europe. The late 20th century has shown the shift of Christian adherence to the Third World and southern hemisphere in general, with western civilization no longer the chief standard bearer of Christianity.


With an estimated number of adherents that ranges between 1.5 billion and 2.1 billion, split into around 34,000 separate denominations, Christianity is the world's largest religion. The Christian share of the world's population has stood at around 33 per cent for the last hundred years. This masks a major shift in the demographics of Christianity; large increases in the developing world (around 23,000 per day) have been accompanied by substantial declines in the developed world, mainly in Europe and North America (around 7,600 per day). It is still the predominant religion in Europe, the Americas, the Philippines, and Southern Africa. However it is declining in some areas including Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), northern Europe (including Great Britain, Scandinavia and other places), France, Germany, the Canadian provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, the western and northern portions of the United States, and parts of Asia (especially the Middle East, South Korea, Taiwan and Macau.)

In most countries in the developed world, church attendance among people who continue to identify themselves as Christians has been falling over the last few decades. Some sources view this simply as part of a drift away from traditional membership institutions, while others link it to signs of a decline in belief in the importance of religion in general.

Christian denomination

There is a diversity of doctrines and practices among groups calling themselves Christian. These groups are sometimes classified under denominations, though for theological reasons many groups reject this classification system Christianity may be broadly represented as being divided into five main groupings: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Protestantism and Restorationism. ,Christian Denominations in English-speaking countries Australia United Kingdom [United States International Associations

Roman Catholic Church

The (Roman) Catholic Church comprises those particular churches, headed by bishops, in communion with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as its highest authority in matters of faith, morality and Church governance. Like the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholic Church through Apostolic succession traces its origins to the Christian community founded by Jesus Christ. Catholics maintain that the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" founded by Jesus subsists fully in the Roman Catholic Church, but also acknowledges other Christian churches and communities and works towards reconciliation among all Christians. The Roman Catholic faith is detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The 2,782 sees are grouped into 23 particular rites, the largest being the Latin Rite, each with distinct traditions regarding the liturgy and the administering the sacraments. With more than one billion baptized members, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest church representing over half of all Christians and one sixth of the world's population.

Various smaller communities, such as the Old Catholic and Independent Catholic Churches, include the word Catholic in their title, and share much in common with Roman Catholicism but are no longer in communion with the See of Rome. The Old Catholic Church is in communion with the Anglican Communion.

Eastern Orthodoxy Eastern Orthodoxy is comprised of those churches in communion with the Patriarchal Sees of the East, such as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church also traces its heritage to the foundation of Christianity through Apostolic succession and has an episcopal structure, though the autonomy of the individual, mostly national churches is emphasized. A number of conflicts with Western Christianity over questions of doctrine and authority culminated in the Great Schism. Eastern Orthodoxy is the second largest single denomination in Christianity, with over 200 million adherents.

Oriental Orthodoxy

The Oriental Orthodox Churches (also called Old Oriental Churches) are those eastern churches that recognize the first three ecumenical councils—Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus—but reject the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon and instead espouse a Miaphysite christology.


In the 16th century, Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin inaugurated what has come to be called Protestantism. Luther's primary theological heirs are known as Lutherans. Zwingli and Calvin's heirs are far broader denominationally, and are broadly referred to as the Reformed Tradition. Most Protestant traditions branch out from the Reformed tradition in some way. In addition to the Lutheran and Reformed branches of the Reformation, there is Anglicanism after the English Reformation. The Anabaptist tradition was largely ostracized by the other Protestant parties at the time, but has achieved a measure of affirmation in more recent history. The oldest Protestant groups separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century Protestant Reformation, followed in many cases by further divisions. For example, the Methodist Church grew out of Anglican minister John Wesley's evangelical and revival movement in the Anglican Church. Several Pentecostal and non-denominational Churches, which emphasize the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, in turn grew out of the Methodist Church. Because Methodists, Pentecostals, and other evangelicals stress "accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior", which comes from John Wesley's emphasis of the New Birth, they often refer to themselves as being born-again. Estimates of the total number of Protestants are very uncertain, partly because of the difficulty in determining which denominations should be placed in these categories, but it seems clear that Protestantism is the second largest major group of Christians after Roman Catholicism in number of followers (although the Eastern Orthodox Church is larger than any single Protestant denomination) A special grouping are the Anglican churches descended from the Church of England and organised in the Anglican Communion.. Some Anglican churches consider themselves both Protestant and Catholic. Some Anglicans consider their church a branch of the "One Holy Catholic Church" alongside of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a concept rejected by the Roman Catholic Church and some Eastern Orthodox. Some Christians who come out of the Protestant tradition identify themselves simply as "Christian", or "born-again Christian"; they typically distance themselves from the confessionalism and/or creedalism of other Christian communities by calling themselves "non-denominational"—often founded by individual pastors, they have little affiliation with historic denominations.


Restorationism is composed of various unrelated churches that believe they are restoring the original church of Jesus Christ and not reforming any of the churches existing at the time of their perceived restorations. They teach that the other divisions of Christianity have introduced defects into Christianity, which is known as the Great Apostasy. Some of these are historically connected to early-19th century camp meetings in the Midwest and Upstate New York. American Millennialism and Adventism, which arose from Evangelical Protestantism, produced the Jehovah's Witnesses movement (with 6.6 million members and, as a reaction specifically to William Miller, Seventh-day Adventists. Additionally, there are the following groups: Christadelphians, Churches of Christ with 2.6 million members, Disciples of Christ with 800,000 members, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest denomination of the Latter Day Saint movement with over 13 million members. Though Restorationists have some superficial similarities, their doctrine and practices vary significantly.

Mainstream Christianity is widely used to refer collectively to the common views of major denominations of Christianity (such as Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodox Christianity) as against the particular tenets of other sects or Christian denomination. The context is dependent on the particular issues addressed, but usually contrasts the orthodox majority view against heterodox minority views of groups like Restorationists. In the most common sense, "mainstream" refers to Nicene Christianity, or rather the traditions which continue to claim adherence to the Nicene Creed.


Most churches have long expressed ideals of being reconciled with each other, and in the 20th century Christian ecumenism advanced in two ways. One way was greater cooperation between groups, such as the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of Protestants in 1910, the Justice, Peace and Creation Commission of the World Council of Churches founded in 1948 by Protestant and Orthodox churches, and similar national councils like the National Council of Churches in Australia which includes Roman Catholics.

The other way was institutional union with new United and uniting churches. Congregationalist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches united in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada, and in 1977 to form the Uniting Church in Australia. The Church of South India was formed in 1947 by the union of Anglican, Methodist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches. Steps towards reconciliation on a global level were taken in 1965 by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches mutually revoking the excommunications that marked their Great Schism in 1054; the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) working towards full communion between those churches since 1970; and the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches signing The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 to address conflicts at the root of the Protestant Reformation. In 2006, the Methodist church adopted the declaration.

2.3 Which typical persecution does Christianity suffer from?

Eritrea dramatically accelerated its imprisonment and torture of Christians even as the U.S. State Department designated it as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for the second consecutive year. By October the number of Eritrean Christians confirmed to be jailed for their religious beliefs had shot up to a total of 1,778, nearly double the documented count in April. At least 26 full-time Protestant pastors and Orthodox clergy were jailed and their personal bank accounts frozen by government order, causing severe suffering for their families. The regime of President Isaias Afwerki stripped Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios of his ecclesiastical authority on August 7, and the country’s only Anglican priest, the Rev. Nelson Fernandez, was abruptly ordered out of the country in early October. Since May 2002, the Eritrean government has outlawed all Christian meetings for worship except those of the officially registered Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches – but the regime began jailing and harassing key leaders of even the legally recognized churches this year. On September 23, Eritrea became the first nation ever sanctioned by the U.S. State Department under the 1998 Religious Freedom Act for failure to address severe violations of religious freedom.

2 – Hollow Promises in Vietnam

Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai’s historic visit to the United States in June, an equally historic (secret) human rights agreement between the two countries in May, and supposedly less restrictive religion legislation introduced in November 2004 all made headlines but had no effect on continued high levels of persecution of Christians. The Mennonite church continued to face the kind of harassment documented by missionary Truong Tri Hien, who submitted testimony to the U.S. Congress on June 20 showing how local officials have abused administrative powers to harass the denomination. The Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang, a Mennonite pastor convicted of an offense he denied having committed, was freed from prison on August 30 as part of Vietnam’s National Day amnesty after enduring more than a year of harsh conditions and pressure to renounce his faith. While he was in prison, authorities destroyed a 16-foot section of his Mennonite center and home in a dispute over a building add-on permit. All attempts by the Vietnam Mennonite church to seek guidance on how to register, including appeals to the country’s prime minister, have gone unanswered. Typical of persecution elsewhere, authorities in Quang Ngai Province incited a mob to burn down the home of evangelist Dinh Van Hoang on August 21 because he would not sign a paper denying his Christian faith. Likewise, on July 26 and 31, authorities in the same province destroyed the homes of 10 ethnic Hre families because they would not renounce Christ. Understandably, house church leaders in Vietnam remained skeptical of Vietnam’s supposedly liberalized religion laws inviting unofficial churches to register. In spite of the flurry of official activity, Vietnam remained on the U.S. State Department’s list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom in 2005.

3 – State-Sponsored Persecution in Iran

In Iran, an Islamic court on May 28 acquitted Christian lay pastor Hamid Pourmand on charges of apostasy and proselytizing, though he continued to serve a three-year jail sentence for “deceiving the Iranian armed forces” by not reporting his conversion to Christianity. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, a military tribunal had ruled him guilty, dishonorably discharged him and handed down the maximum three-year prison sentence. Though he has not suffered physical mistreatment since his acquittal for apostasy, the 48-year-old Pourmand has been subjected to repeated pressure to recant his Christian faith and return to Islam. Such government-sponsored persecution tends to pave the way for vigilante “religious police” and acts of violence among Muslim extremists; on November 22, an Iranian convert to Christianity was arrested from his home in Gonbad-e-Kavus and stabbed to death, his bleeding body thrown in front of his home a few hours later. The death of Ghorban Dordi Tourani, a 53-year-old house church pastor of Turkmen descent, came just days after Iran’s new hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an open meeting of the nation’s 30 provincial governors that the government needed to put a stop to the burgeoning movement of house churches across Iran. “I will stop Christianity in this country,” Ahmadinejad reportedly vowed. Before the end of November representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security had arrested and severely tortured 10 other Christians in several cities, including Tehran.

4 – Massive Destruction in Pakistan

In Pakistan, some 2,000 Muslims armed with iron rods, axes and tins of kerosene ransacked and looted four churches, a convent, a mission-run school and several Christian homes in Sangla Hill on November 12 after the burning of the Quran led local mosques to appeal for Muslims to “teach the Christians a lesson.” The previous day Catholic Christian Yousaf Masih was gambling with his Muslim friend Saleem Sunihara near the Sangla Hill sports stadium. To avoid paying a large gambling debt, the Muslim set fire to old pages of the Quran kept in a nearby storage room and blamed the fire on Masih. Eyewitnesses told a joint fact-finding team from Jubilee Campaign and the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) that they saw Sunihara throw a burning match into the room. Several busloads of Muslim men arrived in Sangla Hill to join the mob the morning of November 12, and hundreds of Christian families, mostly poor farmers and laborers, fled the area during and after the attack. Police not only failed to protect the Christian places of worship but joined the crowd in vandalizing Catholic and Presbyterian churches. Sangla Hill police also arrested and tortured four of Masih’s six brothers, prompting the alleged blasphemer to give himself up in exchange for their release. Masih was held at the Sheikhupura jail. The homes of Masih and his brothers were burned to the ground, with no one able to confirm the whereabouts of his wife and three children. Addressing a crowd of 3,000 men at the Jamia Masjid Rizvia mosque in Sangla Hill on December 2, Muslim clerics flanked by government officials demanded the public execution of Masih.

5 – Sunday School Teachers Jailed in Indonesia

In a disturbing development for a country with a relative degree of religious freedom, Indonesian judges on September 1 sentenced three women to three years in prison for allowing Muslim children to attend a Christian Sunday school program. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun received the sentence after judges found them guilty of violating the Child Protection Act of 2002, which forbids “deception, lies or enticement” causing a child to convert to another religion. The Indramayu district, West Java Sunday school teachers had instructed the children to get permission from their parents before attending the program, and those who did not were asked to go home. None of the children had converted to Christianity. Muslim parents had been photographed with their children during the Sunday school activities, but when Islamic leaders lodged a complaint, the parents refused to testify in support of the women. No witnesses testified or provided evidence of the charges that the women had lied, deceived, or forced the children into changing their religion. The three defendants, described as “ordinary housewives,” were relieved that they had not been given the maximum five-year prison sentence but were devastated to be separated from their children, who range in age from 6 to one daughter in her 20s. As they have done throughout the trial, Islamic extremists made murderous threats both inside and outside the courtroom. Several truckloads of extremists arrived; one brought a coffin to bury the accused if they were found innocent. The defendants, witnesses and judges were continually threatened with death by hundreds of Islamic radicals if the women were acquitted.

6 – Sham Trial in Egypt

A Christian with dual U.S./Egyptian citizenship who retired and went to Egypt to begin a shelter for troubled young women – especially Coptic girls who are lured into marrying Muslim men with promises of escape from economic deprivation – was sentenced to one year in jail on October 20 after a teenager at the shelter lodged unsubstantiated accusations against him. Coptic Christian Shafik Saleh Shafik went into hiding in Egypt while his lawyers pursued an appeal over the controversial conviction of illicitly holding a minor at his shelter. Magda Refaat Gayed, then 17, had accused Shafik of beating and raping her as well, though a physician’s report refuted these charges. Her Christian parents had signed over custody of their daughter to Shafik in September 2004, after police recovered her from an Islamist group. She had fled her family two weeks earlier and was reportedly living with the Muslim religious leader of an Islamist group, learning Muslim rituals in hopes of converting and marrying a Muslim young man. Though Shafik was convicted on October 20, the verdict detailing charges against him were not revealed until November 13. Many of the Christian young women at Shafik’s shelter were brought there after their families recovered them from Muslim groups determined to spread Islam by abducting and converting them. The court initially ordered police to illegally transport the underage Gayed to an Islamic center to officially convert to Islam. Moreover, several witnesses threatened to kill Shafik if the court found him innocent.

7 – Pastor Cai Jailed in China

In China, a judge on November 8 found house church pastor Cai Zhuohua and three other relatives guilty of “illegal business practices” – a little more than eight months after new Regulations on Religious Affairs, effective March 1, strengthened a ban on illegal religious publications and increased the penalty for printing or distributing them without government approval. Judge You Tao sentenced Cai, 34, to three years, his wife Xiao Yunfei to two years and her brother to 18 months. Cai’s sister-in-law Hu Jinyun was found guilty of concealing illegally acquired goods but escaped prison because she had provided information to police. Cai’s mother, Cai Laiyi – now caring for Cai’s 5-year-old son – told Reuters that the prosecution had not found a single witness to testify that Cai had earned money from the sale of the books. Cai, who led six Beijing house churches, said the books were printed for free distribution within house church networks. The four were held for 10 months before the case finally went to trial on July 7. Defense lawyers acknowledged that the literature was printed without permission but argued that the defendants could not be charged with “economic crimes” since the Bibles were never intended for sale. Gao Zhisheng, a key lawyer on the defense team, received notice on November 4 to suspend his law practice for a year, making an appeal extremely difficult. (Gao said police have made attempts on his life and harassed his family, and he now faces imminent arrest after releasing two reports in late 2005 on the torture of Falun Gong members and the rights of minorities in Xinjiang province.) Moreover, a clerk from the court visited Pastor Cai to warn him that his sentence would be increased if he “annoyed” judges with an appeal. The defendants appealed anyway, which the court rejected on December 20 (leaving their verdicts and sentences unchanged).

8 – Legal and Physical Assaults in India

In a year of weekly incidents of violence against Christians and the introduction of a bill that could make Rajasthan the sixth state restricting religious conversions in India, the Supreme Court on November 28 deferred – for the third time – ruling on whether Dalit Christians (low-caste “untouchables”) can be denied job and education rights. Dalits belonging to Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths qualify for a government plan that reserves 26 percent of jobs and educational places for them. Under current laws, Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam lose their reservation privileges. Christian leaders said India’s 16 million Dalit Christians are extremely frustrated and demoralized by the government’s position. In October, government attorneys had delayed a ruling by telling justices that a commission had been set up to study a broad range of issues surrounding government reservations for Dalits. That commission, which Christian leaders dismissed as a way of stalling the issue, is due to finish its work next year. Additionally, throughout 2005 police routinely refused to register complaints from Christians who were assaulted by Hindu extremists.

9 – Islamization in Northern Nigeria

Christians in Nigeria’s northern quarters were frequent targets of violence in 2005 as the imposition of sharia in 2001 in 12 states continued to feed Islamic rage. A Muslim militant attack on the Christian community in Demsa village, Adamawa state, on February 4, killed 36 people and displaced about 3,000 others. In Niger state, where Christians make up half of the population, Islamic officials seized Christians’ property, discriminated against them in the public sector, and forced Christian girls to marry Muslims. As of October, nine cases of forceful conversions of Christian girls below the age of 14 were reported to the office of the Niger chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria; many other cases go unreported. State authorities found pretexts to force churches to relocate out of their towns. In Kano state, Christian children were denied admission into public schools, and those that were admitted were forced to study Arabic, Islam, and say Islamic prayers. Christians in Bari Dorayi village built a nursery and primary school for their children, but the government halted construction. The state has recruited 9,000 Muslims, known as Hisba, who have been trained as enforcers of sharia, acting as instruments of coercion, intimidation and harassment. Even in Christian-majority Plateau state, where sharia has not been imposed, Muslims worked for “Islamization” to break the state’s position as a launch point for missions to the north – destroying churches, appointing Muslims into political positions of power and denying Christians land to build churches.

10 – Gruesome Violence in Indonesia

A series of gruesome attacks showed all the signs of attempts by Muslim extremists to provoke Christians into religious war. A bombing on May 28 in the Christian market of Tentena left 22 dead and at least 49 injured. Two witnesses in the ensuing trial were shot dead in Poso district, as was a policeman involved in the investigation. On October 27, another bomb exploded in a Christian bus en route from Aplu to Tentena. In late October in Poso, four teenage girls were assaulted while walking to their Christian high school. Theresia Morangke, Alfita Poliwo and Yarni Sambue were beheaded while a fourth, Noviana Malewa, is still recovering from serious injuries. All three heads were found in plastic bags with a note stating in part, “We will murder 100 more Christian teenagers and their heads will be presented as presents.” Two more schoolgirls – one Christian and one Muslim – were shot on November 8. Machete-wielding assailants attacked three young people, killing one of them, on November 18, and a Christian couple was shot and seriously wounded on November 19. Finally, in Central Sulawesi in the early morning hours of December 31, a bomb explosion in a market of a Christian area of Palu killed eight people and left 56 others injured.

2.2How does Christianity history look like. History of persecution

The Church has suffered many kinds of persecution. The growth and the continued existence of Christianity have been hindered by cultured paganism and by savage heathenism. And in more recent times agnosticism has harassed the Church in the various states of America and Europe. But most deplorable of all persecutions have been those that Catholicism has suffered from other Christians. With regard to these it has to be considered that the Church herself has appealed to force, and that, not only in her own defence, but also, so it is objected, in unprovoked attack. Thus by means of the Inquisition or religious wars she was herself the aggressor in many instances during the Middle Ages and in the time of the Reformation. And even if the answer be urged that she was only defending her own existence, the retort seems fairly plausible that pagan and heathen powers were only acting in their own defence when they prohibited the spread of Christianity. The Church would therefore seem to be strangely inconsistent, for while she claims toleration and liberty for herself she has been and still remains intolerant of all other religions. In answer to this objection, we may admit the fact and yet deny the conclusion. The Church claims to carry a message or rather a command from God and to be God's only messenger. In point of fact it is only within recent years, when toleration is supposed to have become a dogma, that the other "champions of Revelation" have abandoned their similar claims. That they should abandon their right to command allegiance is a natural consequence of Protestantism; whereas it is the Church's claim to be the accredited and infallible ambassador of God which justifies her apparent inconsistency. Such intolerance, however, is not the same as persecution, by which we understand the unlawful exercise of coercion. Every corporation lawfully constituted has the right to coerce its subjects within due limits. And though the Church exercises that right for the most part by spiritual sanctions, she has never relinquished the right to use other means. Before examining this latter right to physical coercion, there must be introduced the important distinction between pagans and Christians. Regularly, force has not been employed against pagan or Jew: "For what have I to do to judge them that are without?" (1 Corinthians 5:12); see JEWS AND JUDAISM: Judaism and Church Legislation. Instances of compulsory conversions such as have occurred at different periods of the Church's history must be ascribed to the misplaced zeal of autocratic individuals. But the Church does claim the right to coerce her own subjects. Here again, however, a distinction must be made. The non-Catholic Christians of our day are, strictly speaking, her subjects; but in her legislation she treats them as if they were not her subjects. The "Ne temere", e.g., of Pius X (1907), recognizes the marriages of Protestants as valid, though not contracted according to Catholic conditions: and the laws of abstinence are not considered to be binding on Protestants. So, with regard to her right to use coercion, the Church only exercises her authority over those whom she considers personally and formally apostates. A modern Protestant is not in the same category with the Albigenses or Wyclifites. These were held to be personally responsible for their apostasy; and the Church enforced her authority over them: It is true that in many cases the heretics were rebels against the State also; but the Church's claim to exercise coercion is not confined to such cases of social disorder. And what is more, her purpose was not only to protect the faith of the orthodox, but also to punish the apostates. Formal apostasy was then looked upon as treason against God — a much more heinous crime than treason against a civil ruler, which, until recent times, was punished with great severity. (See APOSTASY; HERESY.) It was a poisoning of the life of the soul in others (St. Thomas Aquinas, II-II, Q. xi, articles 3, 4.)

There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Church claimed the right to use physical coercion against formal apostates. Not, of course, that she would exercise her authority in the same way today, even if there were a Catholic State in which other Christians were personally and formally apostates. She adapts her discipline to the times and circumstances in order that it may fulfil its salutary purpose. Her own children are not punished by fines, imprisonment, or other temporal punishments, but by spiritual pains and penalties, and heretics are treated as she treated pagans: "Fides suadenda est, non imponenda" (Faith is a matter of persuasion, not of compulsion) — a sentiment that roes back to St. Basil ("Revue de l'Orient Chrétien", 2nd series, XIV, 1909, 38) and to St. Ambrose, in the fourth century, the latter applying it even to the treatment of formal apostates. It must also be remembered that when she did use her right to exercise physical coercion over formal apostates, that right was then universally admitted. Churchmen had naturally the ideas of their time as to why and how penalties should be inflicted. Withal, the Roman Inquisition was very different from that of Spain, and the popes did not approve the harsh proceedings of the latter. Moreover, such ideas of physical coercion in matters spiritual were not peculiar to Catholics (see TOLERATION). The Reformers were not less, but, If anything, more, intolerant (see INQUISITION). If the intolerance of Churchmen is blamable, then that of the Reformers is doubly so. From their own standpoint, it was unjustifiable. First, they were in revolt against the established authority of the Church, and secondly they could hardly use force to compel the unwilling to conform to their own principle of private judgment. With this clear demarcation of the Reformer's private judgment from the Catholic's authority, it hardly serves our purpose to estimate the relative violence of Catholic and Protestant Governments during the times of the Reformation. And yet it is well to remember that the methods of the maligned Inquisition in Spain and Italy were far less destructive of life than the religious wars of France and Germany. What is, however, more to our purpose is to notice the outspoken intolerance of the Protestant leaders; for it gave an additional right to the Church to appeal to force. She was punishing her defaulting subjects and at the same time defending herself against their attacks. Such compulsion, therefore, as is used by legitimate authority cannot be called persecution, nor can its victims be called martyrs. It is not enough that those who are condemned to death should be suffering for their religious opinions. A martyr is a witness to the truth; whereas those who suffered the extreme penalty of the Church were at the most the witnesses to their own sincerity, and therefore unhappily no more than pseudo-martyrs. We need not dwell upon the second objection which pretends that a pagan government might be justified in harassing Christian missionaries in so far as it considered Christianity to be subversive of established authority. The Christian revelation is the supernatural message of the Creator to His creatures, to which there can be no lawful resistance. Its missionaries have the right and the duty to preach it everywhere. They who die in the propagation or maintenance of the Gospel are God's witnesses to the truth, suffering persecution for His sake.

Roman Persecutions (52-312)

The persecutions of this period are treated extensively under MARTYR. See also ACTS OF THE MARTYRS, and the articles on individual martyrs or groups of martyrs (THE TEN THOUSAND MARTYRS; FORTY MARTYRS; AGAUNUM, for the Theban Legion). Under Julian the Apostate (361-63) Constantine's edict of toleration had accelerated the final triumph of Christianity. But the extreme measures passed against the ancient religion of the empire, and especially by Constans, even though they were not strictly carried out, roused considerable opposition. And when Julian the Apostate (361-63) came to the throne, he supported the defenders of paganism, though he strove to strengthen the old religion by recommending works of charity and a priesthood of Strictly moral lives which, a thing unheard of, should preach and instruct. State protection was withdrawn from Christianity, and no section of the Church favoured more than another, so that the Donatists and Arians were enabled to return.

All the privileges formerly granted to clerics were repealed; civil jurisdiction taken from the bishops, and the subsidies to widows and virgins stopped. Higher education, also, was taken out of the hands of Christians by the prohibition of anyone who was not a pagan from teaching classical literature. And finally, the tombs of martyrs were destroyed. The emperor was afraid to proceed to direct persecution, but he fomented the dissensions among the Christians, and he tolerated and even encouraged the persecutions raised by pagan communities and governors, especially in Alexandria, Heliopolis, Maiouma, the port of Gaza, Antioch, Arethusa, and Cæsarea in Cappadocia (cf. Grergory of Nazianzus, Orat. IV, 86-95; P.G., XXXV, 613-28). Many, in different places, suffered and even died for the Faith, though another pretext was found for their death, at least by the emperor. Of the martyrs of this period mention may be made of John and Paul (q.v.), who suffered in Rome; the soldiers Juventinus and Maximian (cf. St. John Chrysostom's sermon on them in P.G., L, 571-77); Macedonius, Tatian, and Theodulus of Meros in Phrygia (Socrates, III, 15; Sozomen, V, 11); Basil, a priest of Ancyra (Sozomen, V, 11). Julian himself seems to have ordered the executions of John and Paul, the steward and secretary respectively of Constantia, daughter of Constantine. However, he reigned only for two years, and his persecution was, in the words of St. Athanasius, "but a passing cloud". In Persia When the persecution of Christianity was abandoned by the Roman Government, it was taken up by Rome's traditional enemy, the Persians, though formerly they had been more or less tolerant of the new religion. On the outbreak of war between the two empires, Sapor II (310-80), under the instigation of the Persian priests, initiated a severe persecution of the Christians in 339 or 340. It comprised the destruction or confiscation of churches and a general massacre, especially of bishops and priests. The number of victims, according to Sozomen (Church History II.9-14), was no less than 16,000, among them being Symeon, Bishop of Seleucia; there was a respite from the general persecution, but it was resumed and with still greater violence by Bahram V (420-38), who persecuted savagely for one year, and was not prevented from causing numerous individual martyrdoms by the treaty he made (422) with Theodosius II, guaranteeing liberty of conscience to the Christians. Yezdegerd II (438-57), his successor, began a fierce persecution in 445 or 446, traces of which are found shortly before 450. The persecution of Chosroes I from 541 to 545 was directed chiefly against the bishops and clergy. He also destroyed churches and monasteries and imprisoned Persian noblemen who had become Christians. The last persecution by Persian kings was that of Chosroes II (590-628), who made war on all Christians alike during 627 and 628. Speaking generally, the dangerous time for the Church in Persia was when the kings were at war with the Roman Empire. Among the Goths Christianity was introduced among the Goths about the middle of the third century, and "Theophilus Episcopus Gothiæ" was present at the Council of Nicæa (325). But, owing to the exertions of Bishop Ulfilas (340, died 383), an Arian, Arianism was professed by the great majority of the Visigoths of Dacia (Transylvania and West Hungary), converts from paganism; and it passed with them into Lower Mœsia across the Danube, when a Gothic chieftain, after a cruel persecution drove Ulfilas and his converts from his lands, probably in 349. And subsequently, when in 370 the Visigoths, pressed by the Huns, crossed the Danube and entered the Roman Empire, Arianism was the religion practised by the Emperor Valens. This fact, along with the national character given to Arianism by Ulfilas, made it the form of Christianity adopted also by the Ostrogoths, from whom it spread to the Burgundians, Suevi, Vandals, and Lombards. The first persecution we hear of was that directed by the pagan Visigoth King Athanaric. begun about 370 and lasting for two, or perhaps six, years after his war with Valens. St. Sabas was drowned in 372, others were burnt, sometimes in a body in the tents which were used as churches. When, in the fifth and sixth centuries, the Visigoths invaded Italy, Gaul, and Spain, the churches were plundered, and the Catholic bishops and clergy were often murdered; but their normal attitude was one of toleration, Euric (483), the Visigoth King of Toulouse, is especially mentioned by Sidonius Apollinaris (Ep. vii, 6) as a hater of Catholicism and a persecutor of the Catholics, though it is not clear that he persecuted to death. In Spain there was persecution at least from time to time during the period 476-586, beginning with the aforesaid Euric, who occupied Catalonia in 476. We hear of persecution by Agila (549-554) also, and finally by Leovigild (573-86). Bishops were exiled and church goods seized. His son Hermenigild, a convert to the Catholic Faith, is described in the seventh century (e.g. by St. Gregory the Great) as a martyr. A contemporary chronicler, John of Biclaro, who had himself suffered for the Faith, says that the prince was murdered in prison by an Arian, Sisibert; but he does not say that Leovigild approved of the murder (see HERMINGILD; and Hodgkin, "Italy and her Invaders", V, 255). With the accession of Reccared, who had become a Catholic, Arianism ceased to be the creed of the Spanish Visigoths. As for the Ostrogoths, they seem to have been fairly tolerant, after the first violences of the invasion. A notable exception was the persecution of Theodoric (524-26). It was prompted by the repressive measures which Justin I had issued against the Arians of the Eastern Empire, among whom Goths would of coarse be included. One of the victims of the persecution was Pope John I who died in prison. Among the Lombards

St. Gregory the Great, in parts of his "Dialogues", describes the sufferings which Catholics had to endure at the time of the Lombard invasion under Alboin (568) and afterwards. But on the whole, after Autharis's death (590) the Lombards were not troublesome, except perhaps in the Duchies of Benevento and Spoleto. Autharis's queen, Theudelinda, a Catholic princess of Bavaria, was able to use her influence with her second husband, Agilulf, Autharis's successor, so that he, although probably remaining an Arian, was friendly to the Church and allowed his son to be baptized a Catholic (see LOMBARDY). Among the Vandals The Vandals, Arians like the Visigoths and the others, were the most hostile of all towards the Church. During the period of their domination in Spain (422-29) the Church suffered persecution, the details of which are unknown. In 429, under the lead of Genseric, the Goths crossed over to Africa, and by 455 had made themselves masters of Roman Africa. In the North, the bishops were driven from their sees into exile. When Carthage was taken in 439 the churches were given over to the Arian clergy, and the bishop Quodvultdeus (a friend of St. Augustine) and the greater part of the Catholic clergy were stripped of what they had, put on board unseaworthy ships, and carried to Naples. Confiscation of church property and exile of the clergy was the rule throughout the provinces of the North, where all public worship was forbidden to Catholics. In the provinces of the South, however, the persecution was not severe. Some Catholic court officials, who had accompanied Genseric from Spain, were tortured, exiled, and finally put to death because they refused to apostatize. No Catholic, in fact, was allowed to hold any office.

Genseric's son, Huneric, who succeeded in 477, though at first somewhat tolerant, arrested and banished under circumstances of great cruelty nearly five thousand Catholics, including bishops and clergy, and finally by an edict of 25 Feb., 484, abolished the Catholic worship, transferred all churches and church property to the Arians, exiled the bishops and clergy, and deprived of civil rights all those who would not receive Arian baptism. Great numbers suffered savage treatment, many died, others were mutilated or crippled for life. His successor, Guntamund (484-96), did not relax the persecution until 487. But in 494 the bishops were recalled, though they had afterwards to endure some persecution from Trasamund (496-523). And complete peace came to the Church at the accession of Genseric's son Hilderic, with whom the Vandal domination ended (see AFRICA). In Arabia

Christianity penetrated into South Arabia (Yemen) in the fourth century. In the sixth century the Christians were brutally persecuted by the Jewish King Dunaan, no less than five thousand, including the prince, Arethas, being said to have suffered execution in 523 after the capture of Nagra. The Faith was only saved from utter extinction at this period by the armed intervention of the King of Abyssinia. And it did in fact disappear before the invading forces of Islam. Under the Mohammedans

With the spread of Mohammedanism in Syria, Egypt, Persia, and North Africa, there went a gradual subjugation of Christianity. At the first onset of invasion, in the eighth Century, many Christians were butchered for refusing to apostatize; afterwards they were treated as helots, subject to a special tax, and liable to suffer loss of goods or life itself at the caprice of the caliph or the populace. In Spain the first Mohammedan ruler to institute a violent persecution of the Christians was the viceroy Abderrahman II (821-52). The persecution was begun in 850, was continued by Mohammed (852-87) and lasted with interruptions till 960, when the Christians were strong enough to intimidate their persecutors. The number of martyrs was small, Eulogius, Archbishop of Toledo (11 March, 859), who has left us an account of the persecution, being himself the most famous (see MOHAMMED AND MOHAMMEDANISM). Under the Iconoclasts

The troubles brought on the Church of the East by the Iconoclastic emperors cover a period of one hundred and twenty years. Leo III (the Isaurian) published two edicts against images about 726 and 730. The execution of the edicts was strenuously resisted. Popes Gregory II and Gregory III protested in vigorous language against the autocratic reformer, and the people resorted to open violence. But Constantine V (Copronymus, 741-75) continued his father's policy, summoning a council at Constantinople in 754 and then persecuting the orthodox party. The monks formed the especial object of his attack. Monasteries were demolished, and the monks themselves shamefully maltreated and put to death. Under Constantine VI (780-97), through the influence of his mother, the regent Irene, the Seventh Œcumenical Council was summoned in 787, and rescinded the decrees of Copronymus's Council. But there was a revival of the persecution under Leo V (813-20), the bishops who stood firm, as well as the monks, being the special objects of his attack, while many others were directly done to death or died as a result of cruel treatment in prison. This persecution, which was continued under Michael II (820-29), reached its most fierce phase under Theophilus (829-42). Great numbers of monks were put to death by this monarch; but at his decease the persecutions ended (842) (see ICONOCLASM). Modern period

We have reviewed the persecutions undergone by the Church during the first millennium of her existence. During her second millennium she has continued to suffer persecution in her mission of spreading the Gospel, and especially in Japan and China (see JAPANESE MARTYRS; MARTYRS IN CHINA). She has also had to face the attacks of her own children, culminating in the excesses and religious wars of the Reformation.

Within the last century, Poland has suffered what is perhaps the most notable of recent persecutions. Catholicism had continued to be the established religion of the country until the intervention of Catherine II of Russia (1762-96). By means of political intrigues and open hostility, she first of all secured a position of political suzerainty over the country, and then effected the separation of the Ruthenians from the Holy See, and incorporated them with the Orthodox Church of Russia. Nicholas I (1825-55), and Alexander II (1855-81), resumed her policy of intimidation and forcible suppression. The latter monarch especially showed himself a violent persecutor of the Catholics, the barbarities that were committed in 1863 being so savage as to call forth a joint protest from the Governments of France, Austria, and Great Britain. After his death the Catholics were granted a certain measure of toleration, and in 1905 Nicholas II granted them full liberty of worship (see POLAND; RUSSIA). In modern times, however, a new element has been added to the forces opposing the Church. There have indeed been occasional recrudescences of the "Reformers", violence dictated by a frenzied fear of Catholic progress. Such were for instance the Charleston and Philadelphia disturbances in 1834 and 1844, and the "No Popery" cries against the establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England and Holland in 1850 and 1853. But this was no more than the spirit of the Reformation. For the attitude of the South American republics during the nineteenth century, see the articles on those countries.


A new spirit of opposition appears in the so-called "Liberalism" and in Free Thought, whose influence has been felt in Catholic as well as Protestant countries. Its origin is to be traced back to the infidel philosophy of the eighteenth century. At the end of that century it had grown so strong that it could menace the Church with armed violence. In France six hundred priests were murdered by Jourdan, "the Beheader", in 1791, and in the next year three hundred ecclesiastics, including an archbishop and two bishops, were cruelly massacred in the prisons of Paris. The Reign of Terror ended in 1795. But the spirit of infidelity which triumphed then has ever since sought and found opportunities for persecution. And it has been assisted by the endeavours of even so-called Catholic governments to subordinate the Church to the State, or to separate the two powers altogether. In Switzerland the Catholics were so incensed by the attacks of the Liberal party on their religious freedom that they resolved on an appeal to arms. Their Sonderbund (q.v.) or "Separate League" was at first successful in the war of 1843, and in spite of its final defeat by the forces of the Diet in 1847 the result has been to secure religious liberty throughout Switzerland. Since that time the excitement caused by the decree on Papal Infallibility found vent in another period of hostile legislation; but the Catholics have been strong enough to maintain and reinforce their position in the country. In other countries Liberalism has not issued in such direct warfare against the Church; though the defenders of the Church have often been ranged against revolutionaries who were attacking the altar along with the throne. But the history of the nineteenth century reveals a constant opposition to the Church. Her influence has been straitened by adverse legislation, the monastic orders have been expelled and their property confiscated, and, what is perhaps most characteristic of modern persecution, religion has been excluded from the schools and universities. The underlying principle is always the same, though the form it assumes and the occasion of its development are peculiar to the different times and places. Gallicanism in France, Josephinism in Austria, and the May Laws of the German Empire have all the same principle of subordinating the Church to the Government, or separating the two powers by a secularist and unnatural divorce. But the solidarity of Catholics and the energetic protests of the Holy See succeeded often in establishing Concordats to safeguard the independent rights of the Church. The terms of these concessions have not always been observed by Liberal or Absolutist Governments. Still they saved the Church in her time of peril. And the enforced separation of Church from State which followed the renunciation of the Concordats has taught the Catholics in Latin countries the dangers of Secularism and how they must defend their rights as members of a Church which transcends the limits of states and nations, and acknowledges an authority beyond the reach of political legislation. In the Teutonic countries, on the other hand, the Church does not loom so large a target for the missiles of her enemies. Long years of persecution have done their work, and left the Catholics with a greater need and a greater sense of solidarity. There is less danger of confusing friend and foe, and the progress of the Church is made more apparent.

3.1 Reasons of persecution

Definition: No history of Christianity is complete without the inclusion of the horrible persecution which believers suffered at the hands of Roman authorities - but just how bad were those persecutions and why were they instituted? The first mass persecutions seem to have been at the hands of Emperor Nero in the year 64, apparently because he needed someone to blame for the burning of Rome and they were simply very convenient. After Nero, neither Vespian nor Titus really bother with the Christians, not finding them the least bit interesting, much less dangerous. Some of the surviving letters of Roman officials provide important information on this topic. In the year 111, Pliny the Younger who was governor of Bithynia wrote to emperor Trajan, wondering what to do with the local Christians. There were so many of them in Bithynai (on the northern coast of present-day Turkey) that pagan temples were being abandoned entirely. He had a list of Christians and, because Christianity was officially illegal, he asked Trajan what to do about them. Trajan's response explains what standard Roman policy was regarding Christians in the empire. Also, because of it, other officials followed the same policy, making it even more official. It can be assumed that this is how all Roman officials tended to act, right up until the rule of Constantine. Normally, non-Romans who refused to sacrifice to the state gods were simply executed and Roman citizens who did the same were sent back to Rome for trial. And the Christians? Trajan explained that their crime was so insignificant that it simply wasn't necessary for government officials to waste precious time trying to find them or track them down in any way. If any were actually accused by someone, it could only be by someone willing to give their name - no anonymous accusations could be permitted. Once found, they were to be given a chance to "repent" and make a sacrifice to the Roman gods. Only when they refused to do this could they be punished. And why? Not for religious reasons, but for political reasons. The punishment was because the Christians involved were showing a complete lack of respect for Roman courts and Roman authority. This was regarded as a sort of "hatred of humanity," representing contempt for Roman civilization. Even today, religious persecution is very often a mask for more political concerns - a refusal to submit to religious authorities is normally the same as a refusal to summit to the proper political authorities. Only when church and sate are separated is it possible to dissent from traditional religion without also incurring the wrath of political rulers. During the 2nd century there were few persecutions and those which happened were relatively localized. In the 3rd century, however, the empire began to enter a period of decline, and political authorities needed a scapegoat to divert the people's attention - that scapegoat turned out to be the Christians. Another common reason for persecution was that some officials hoped to restore Rome to its former glory. This, in turn, tended to involve reviving the pagan religion and suppressing the competition. In both cases, however, persecution was a matter of seeking political and social stability.

3.3Don’t be discouraged of persecution

Do not be discouraged by the difficulties and persecutions you will face in this world for following Christ: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33b); “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16: 2b-3); “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14: 22b); “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16: 24-25); “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7: 13-14); “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5: 11-12); “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10: 28). Your relationship with Christ is deep and strong. Therefore, these persecutions will serve only to strengthen your faith: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 35, 37-39). Because you have placed your trust in him, Christ is with you and will always see you through the hard times: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49: 15-16a); “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalms 34: 7, 17-19); “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8: 28). In fact, Christ identifies himself with his people in their persecutions and feels their pain. Christ regards the persecution directed to one of his disciples as directed to him personally. Christ said to Paul/Saul who was persecuting Christians before his conversion: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9: 4b-5). Christ experienced temptation and suffering personally: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2: 18). The Holy Spirit of the living God, who dwells in you, knows intimately your suffering for your faith in Christ, and imparts strength within you: “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matthew 10: 19-20).

The New Testament was written by people who were suffering from persecutions to people who were under the threat of persecution because of their faith in Christ. However, it is filled with hope, joy, and victory. It is free from the bitterness and despair that plague the human experience in this age: “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6: 13-18); “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18).

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