History of Christianity Pt. 6

Written on: October 4, 2020

Article by: Bob Sandiford

Christianity: 1789 – 1914 Cities and Empires

The Catholic Church: 1789 – 1914

1776 saw the American Revolution.

  • 1789 saw the start of the French Revolution – a revolution against an absolute monarchy, which had been the norm in Europe for centuries.

The 1700’s also saw the start of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Started in England, and spread to German and France in the 1800’s, and through Europe.
  • This saw an acceleration in moving from the country to urban centres.

By the middle of the 18th century, the British Empire had turned into the British Commonwealth as many colonies moved towards self-determination.

previous arrow
Job Postings
Register Now for Camp Omagh
Great Lakes Christian High School – Teacher Ad
True North Helping Hands
Great Lakes Bible College Course
Parish House Minister
The Book
The Climax of God’s Mission
Anjul Enterprises
Broker Force
Grove Park Home
next arrow

Various Frenchmen had been thinking and writing about social change, along with others from other countries.

  • This fit in well with much of the philosophy which questioned everything – including the traditional social orders and ruling structures.

In July 1789, a mob of French peasants attacked and destroyed the Bastille, a Paris prison, freeing the prisoners.

  • This was reaction against the current monarch – Louis XVI – who was extremely unjust.
  • It wasn’t along the peaceful lines that influential thinkers had been proposing – and it was much more organic.
  • Though France officially had a parliament, it had not met in over a century.
  • Most of the land was owned by the clergy and nobility, who were skilled at avoiding taxation.
  • More than 95% of the French were peasants – there was a small middle class, but just as oppressed by the privileged classes.

In August 1789 the old regime was ended as a National Assembly published the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man.’

  • Local governments were reorganized, and France partitioned into 83 ‘departments’ – each set up and governed the same way. Courts were revamped. Workers associations and guilds were banned, to encourage individual initiative and competition.
  • Church lands were taken into public ownership to help finance the changes taking place.
  • The Catholic Church in France was also affected. France’s ‘departments’ were also the Dioceses of the Church, each with a Bishop. Bishops and priests were to be elected by the people. Clergymen were made to swear allegiance to the French Constitution rather than to the pope. Many went along, many refused. In practice, though, the power of the pope was abolished in France, but the Church in France was split.
  • The new regime even realigned the calendar – into 10 day ‘decades’ in place of 7 day weeks, and pressured Catholic priests to celebrate mass on the 10th day’s, rather than the ex-Sundays.

Not all of France had fallen to the revolution.

  • 1792 saw a peasant army organized and marched on Paris.
  • Nobles and clergy who opposed the revolution were executed – King Louis XVI was guillotined in January 1793.
  • 1793-1794 saw the Reign of Terror in Paris.
  • As the revolution continued and more changes were made, many French people left France – often these were those educated and experienced in governing.
  • France was just about continually at war with other European powers. Some of this caused by the emigrants as they attempted to influence the countries around them to restore France to the monarchy. Civil war within France also broke out.
  • The country was basically a mess – ineffective government. Power shifted between different factions.

In 1799, General Napoleon Bonaparte took control – basically a military coup. Religiously, he was a sceptic.

  • He restored relations with the Vatican, and the pope gave assent to the revolution.
  • Clergy were to receive a regular stipend from the state.
  • The pope would appoint bishops, but the state could veto them, as it could the appointment of other clergy made by the bishops.
  • Protestants were granted freedom of religion in France.
  • Initially Bonaparte’s regime was not a dictatorship – that came later. By 1804, he had a complete grip on French power and crowned himself Emperor.

Napoleon invaded Italy in 1808, and took the Vatican states. The pope was deported to Savona in modern day NW Italy – close to the border with France. Then exiled to Fontainebleau near Paris. The pope didn’t return to the Vatican until 1814.

  • Ultimately Napoleon was defeated in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • A king was re-instated in France – Louis XVII (Brother to executed King Louis XVI.)
  • The other European powers tried to assert again both the divine right of Kings, and the authority of the Catholic Church.
  • Borders were generally reset to what they had been before Napoleon’s annexations and wars of conquest, and previous rulers reinstated.

As a result of all this, and movements in other countries to make the Catholic Church ‘national’ instead of under the authority of the pope, the Catholic Church was in much disarray.

Early in the 1800’s, during the Napoleonic wars in Europe, a new wave of Pietism took place.

  • Ruling monarchs in Europe felt threatened not only by Napoleon, but by the ideas of the American and French revolutions – threats to the idea of the divine right of kings, and the support of the monarchies given by the hierarchical authority of the Catholic Church.
  • Austria, Prussia, Russia signed a treaty instituting a Holy Alliance.
  • Though there was also the desire to balance British sea power.
  • Remember – Russia was Orthodox, Prussia and Austria a mix of Protestantism and Catholicism – not a good mix, as we’ve seen before.
  • In 1817 the Prussian king decreed the union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany.
  • The hope was to consolidate a front against rationalism.
  • The result was opposition from all sides – a decreed union between two different churches wasn’t going to work.
  • In Catholic Europe, post-Napoleon, a movement called ‘Ultramontanism’, which had been around for a while, became stronger. Basically the view that focussed all power in the Catholic Church in the papacy.
  • An 1819 publication On the Pope, illustrated the basic principles – society needs a strong central authority, the basis of which are the papacy, and the monarch by divine right.
  • The Ultramontanist movement never gained complete acceptance in Europe – there was ongoing conflict between the Church and political liberals and republicans – i.e. opponents of Monarchical government – which were becoming more common in Europe.
  • In Italy – still a collection of small, mostly independent states, some tried to unify these states, but both the pope and surrounding countries were opposed to this.
  • The pope of the time (Gregory XVI), fearing loss of power in the Papal States he still governed.
  • The surrounding countries because under the unification movement was liberalism and any-monarchy sentiment.

1848 saw a second revolution in France.

  • Napoleon’s nephew, Louis Napoleon, was elected president – but dissolved the legislature and proclaimed himself emperor in 1852.

1848 also saw rebellion in Germany.

  • The Kaiser refused to agree to a written constitution – saying he wouldn’t allow a ‘scribbled sheet of paper’ to come between God and the country – read – he wanted his divine right to rule continued.
  • Street fighting erupted in Berlin – and the Kaiser, rather than using the army to put down the fighting, met with the leaders and ‘Declaration of Rights of the German People’ was agreed to.
  • It gave religious freedom for dissenters (i.e. people not wanting to be part of the national church.)
  • But, by 1850, this had fallen by the wayside again.

1848 saw rebellion in Italy, also – but much more closely related to the Catholic Church.

  • A new pope had been installed after Gregory’s death in 1846 (Pius IX, 1846-1878 – the longest serving pope.)
  • This pope hoped to bind the various Italian states closer together.
  • Sicily rebelled against the Bourbon monarchy of France, and north Italy against Austria.
  • This failed. The pope had to leave Rome late in 1848.
  • He was able to return in 1850 with French and Austrian help, but never tried unity again. He held onto the Papal States until 1870.
  • 1861 saw Victor Emmanuel proclaimed king of Italy – and in 1870 that included the Vatican.
  • In 1871 Italy passed the Law of Papal Guarantees which defined the pope’s right.
    • The person of the pope was declared inviolable, he was granted an annual income.
    • The pope was left with only the Vatican, and the Lateran palace and Castel Gandolfo in Rome.
    • The pope rejected this law, declined the income, and withdrew into voluntary exile within the Vatican. He basically became a ‘prisoner of the Vatican’. It wasn’t until 60 years later in 1929 that the pope of the time was ‘freed’ by Mussolini.
  • So – during the 19th century, the pope’s political power was decreasing.
  • He increasingly emphasized his spiritual power.
  • For example – in 1853 Pius set out the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary – i.e. that from the moment of conception she was free from original sin.
  • In 1862, he published the Syllabus of Errors, which condemned political liberalism, rationalism in all forms, liberal theology, freemasonry, religious toleration, and Bible Societies.
  • Previous popes had rebuked Bible Societies for distributing Bibles without including the comments of the church Fathers, and for being ‘Daring heralds of infidelity and heresy.’
  • The pope also attacked the idea of separation of Church and state – partly in reaction to the strength of republicanism in France.
  • France prohibited the publication of this Syllabus of Errors.

1870 saw the first Vatican Council.

  • Primarily focussed on the role of the papacy.
  • Delegates brought ideas of Ultramontanism and conservative Catholicism on the one hand, and country based (national) Catholicism and liberal Catholicism, and the idea that authority in the Church was vested in universal councils rather than in the pope, on the other.
  • The Ultramontanists took the day, and in 1870 the dogma of the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex cathedra (i.e. ‘from the chair’) on matters of faith and practice.

Germany in the early 1800’s was like Italy – a collection of independently ruled states.

  • States such as Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Baden, Hanover. Prussia was the largest, and is where Berlin is located.
  • In 1871, at the end of the Franco – Prussian war, King William of Prussia was proclaimed Emperor of Germany.
  • Another Prussian leader – Chancellor Otto von Bismarck started the Kulturkampf against the Catholic Church.
    • The roots go back to the 1830’s when the Archbishop of Cologne (also in Prussia) refused to sanction marriages between Protestants and Catholics. This got him arrested for a few months – but began a rift between the Prussian monarchy and the papacy.
    • The pope being declared infallible in 1870 had increased the tensions.
    • 1871 – Bismarck abolished the Catholic bureau of the Prussian ministry of education and public worship.
    • 1872 – Jesuits were expelled from Germany, and education was taken over completely by the state.
    • 1873 – The ‘May Laws’ were passed – which claimed absolute supremacy for the state, which limited Church powers further. Clerics were required to study at state universities, and a supreme Church court appointed by the Emperor was set up.
  • The pope condemned all this – but to no avail.

Austria (just south of Germany) had a similar form of the Kulturkampf.

  • Laws were passed restricting the Catholic Church, civil marriage was introduced, and Church schools were brought under government control.
  • Protestants were made equal with Catholics under the law.

France continued its path to secularization – at least at the state level.

  • Napoleon III withdrew troops from the Papal States in 1870 (the same year the pope lost control of them.)
  • When pushed to a choice between Catholicism and the national interest, Napoleon III chose national interest.
  • In 1901 a new law was passed in France where every religious body had to register with the state, and no member of an unregistered church could teach in a French school.
    • About 25% of religious associations did not register, including the Jesuits and Benedictines.
    • By 1904, the state had closed almost 14,000 schools.
  • 1905 saw the final break between Church and state.
    • All subsidies to religious institutions were stopped, Church buildings became state property (though they could still be used for public worship), and all privileges previously granted to the Catholic Church were revoked.
    • However – complete freedom of worship was introduced.

Towards the end of the 1800’s, the pope expanded his role from purely spiritual, to including diplomatic relations with various countries (Washington, Tokyo and Moscow were the first.)

  • He pleaded for social reform, for trade unionism, and for proper income for workers.
    • A shift from solely matters of faith and doctrine, to include social issues and bring what authority he could to bear in those areas.
  • In the early 1900’s, pope Pius X tried to strengthen the use of the liturgy, also launched a revival of the Gregorian chant, urged more zealous veneration of the Virgin Mary, and revised the prayer book used in the liturgies.

By 1914, democracy had become the norm in most of northern Europe, and much of the south.

  • Generally the Catholic Church had stood against this movement to popular government.
  • While the Catholic Church lost political power, it strengthened its spiritual power, and between the pope and the new Vatican Council brought a stability to the Catholic Church.
  • It also started to become more active in social issues.

The Industrial Revolution and Christianity

The Industrial Revolution started primarily in England.

  • This wasn’t a sudden changeover from older to newer approaches to business, production, farming, mining, etc. It was a somewhat gradual adoption of new methods, at different times in different industries, over a period of about 200 years.
  • However – compared to the norm up until about 1700, it certainly was a revolution.

This was a revolution by consent of just about all, with no existing power structures being intentionally attacked or replaced.

  • The population was increasing during the 1700s, but some industries, especially textile, were hard pressed to find enough skilled workers to meet their demand.
  • Each industry went through its own changes, but there were some elements that became widely used in many industries.
  • The steam engine – a power source independent of water or wind, and independent of season and climate.
    • The steam engine was relatively expensive, and used by the larger manufacturers – and so it led to the development of large, purpose-built factories.
  • The canal system and the railway system – changed the limitations of where industry could be located in order to reach its market.
  • The increasing population meant there weren’t enough jobs in agriculture – so more workers were becoming available for the new manufacturing jobs.

Industrial workers didn’t see these new jobs as being more secure – freed from bad harvests and peasant wages.

  • The change from time being governed by the needs of the land and the sun to being governed by the precision and regularity of the factory world – time being defined by the factory clock and bell.
  • Emphasis on precision, standards of care, avoidance of waste.
  • Many industrialists worked to create a new morality – drunkenness, for example, was hardly compatible with the requirements placed on the industrial workers.

For a time, Christian and Industrial interests coincided as far as social morality was concerned.

  • This was an Evangelical Revival that built on what had begun in England as the Great Awakening earlier in the 1700’s.
  • Lecky, a 19th century historian, wrote: the Revival brought about “a great moral revolution in England: it planted a fervid and enduring religious sentiment in the midst of the most brutal and most neglected portions of the population, and whatever may have been its vices or its defects it undoubtedly emancipated great numbers from the fear of death and imparted a warmer tone to the devotion, and a greater energy to the philanthropy of every denomination both in England and the Colonies.”
    • He suggested this was the reason why England was spared the ravages of the revolutions and problems in the rest of Europe during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
    • Not that changes in the relationship between Church and state didn’t take place in England. For example, members of Parliament since 1828 do not need to be Anglican, and since 1829 don’t even need to be Protestant.
  • Church attendance records weren’t recorded until the middle 19th century, when a national census of church attendance was first made.
    • About 70% of those who could attend service on census Sunday did so.
    • Dissenting churches were approximately as strong numerically as the Church of England, and stronger in urban centres.

With the growth in cities and towns, the Church of England was slow to respond.

  • As a state Church, an act of Parliament was required to establish a new parish (i.e. a new area under the pastoral care of a priest).
  • Existing Churches weren’t large enough to hold the influx, and there was insufficient clergy to provide spiritual leadership.
    • There were efforts made, though.
    • City churches often had a cluster of satellite missions in the poorer areas of the city.
    • Preaching took place, but they also set up relief centres – clothing, soup kitchens, and more.

Methodism, however, was able to respond more quickly.

  • It was built around the concept of itinerant ministers, simple meeting places, and local preachers.
  • Methodism and other dissenting churches such as the Salvation Army were able to expand where the Anglican Church could not.
  • But – even this left many out.

England was still a society stratified by class – and often class intruded into churches.

  • Many churches became middle class dominated – where working classes were not as welcome.
  • The Wesleyan Methodists and Congregationalists tended to attract the middle classes.
  • Baptist and ‘Primitive’ Methodist churches the working classes.

Evangelizing the working classes was a struggle for most of these churches.

  • Part of the issue was that children of the working class Christians tended to join the middle class.
  • There were organizations that tried to focus on the working classes.
  • The ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon (PSA) Movement’ started in the 1880s. It was for men only, and held on Sunday afternoons. Meetings were part entertainment, part evangelistic, and part political.
    • This survived into the 20th century, becoming something called the International Brotherhood Movement, and many leaders and members of the British political Labour party came from this.

The Salvation Army was also successful at serving the working classes.

  • Started by William Booth in 1865 in London. He had been associated with the Methodists, as an itinerant preacher.
  • It took on a military form – uniforms, citadels, its publication was called The War Cry.
  • They were able to develop communication approaches that reached the masses in the 1800s.
  • It continued the traditional Revival approach to evangelism.
    • And, they kept records on individuals – their spiritual and social conditions, and so on.
  • It also took on social reform considerations – for example in 1890 trying to show that the bottom 10% of the English nation was as much in slavery as certain African tribes.
  • The evangelical and social work weren’t two distinct efforts by the SA, but rather “two activities of the one and the same salvation which is concerned with the total redemption of man.”

This world – or the next?

  • One of the great debates in religious circles in the 1800s was the relationship between a Christian’s citizenship in this world and that in the other world.
  • Some took the stance that Christians should view this world as ‘an enemy country, a parched wilderness, a barren desert.’ (Thornton Abbey, John Satchell, 1809.)
  • Others held a different view. Lord Shaftesbury, an evangelical social reformer, wrote in 1859 “When people say we should think more of the soul and less of the body, my answer is that the same God who made the soul made the body also . . . I maintain that God is worshiped not only by the spiritual but by the material creation. Our bodies, the temples of the Holy Ghost, ought not to be corrupted by preventable disease, degraded by avoidable filth, and disabled for his service by unnecessary suffering.’
  • This latter view was held by many and led to:
    • Opposition to slavery and its ultimate abolishing in 1807.
    • The ‘Factory Act’ passed by parliament in 1883 – which helped the ‘white slaves’ of industrial England which included many children.
    • Allowing the formation of workers’ organizations.

Religious revivals took place in France, Denmark, Scotland, Norway, Sweden and other European nations following Napoleon’s defeat.

  • These weren’t related to each other, and mainly involved ordinary Christians.
  • There were similar movements in England.
  • One led to the formation of a group called the ‘Plymouth Brethren’ – which in a number of ways look significantly like us, theologically.
    • Every congregation is independent – no church government beyond the local congregation.
    • Hold to the authority of the Bible.
    • Each congregation applies the teaching of Scripture in the light of culture and local situations.
    • Every member is a minister – the church is the body of Christ, made up of all true believers.
    • Worship and communion are led by different members.
    • Members of different congregations cooperate in various efforts such as missions, church building, and Bible colleges.
  • Within the Anglican Church in the early 1800’s rose something called ‘The Oxford Movement.’
    • This was a movement towards making real the clause in the Creed, “I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church”, and looked to the Church of the first four centuries for the example.
    • They believed the early church placed more emphasis on the authority and tradition of the church than on that of the Bible.
    • Only the best is good enough for God.
    • The Catholic Church was corrupt, and the Dissenting churches had no apostolic tradition – only the Church of England was the true church.
    • Their lasting contribution to the Anglican Church was to restore a sense of reverence in worship, and elements of Christian life such as the sacrament of confession, reading devotional books, a pattern of disciplined prayer, and regular communion for ‘ordinary’ Christians.
    • One of the results of this was what we today term as ‘high church’ – some of which we still struggle with today.
      • How should one dress for church?
      • Should only educated and trained men take on leadership roles, or should opportunity be available to all? (e.g. professional song leaders)

One result of the social consciousness of the 19th century was the tension between remembering what the true nature of the church is, and all the activities taking place to help society.

  • Many churches, rather than being covenant communities of believers, became more of a Christian presence in the world.
  • The idea of the ‘social gospel’ grew – where helping people out started to obscure the Gospel message.
  • Ministers were becoming heads of organizations, rather than being pastors of the local body of Christ.

Catholicism in England

  • Catholics were not well-liked in England pretty much ever since the time of Henry VIII and the formation of the Anglican Church in 1529.
  • 1698 saw the passage of the ‘Popery Act’, intended to stop the growth of Catholicism in England, by more strongly applying existing anti-Catholicism laws. It paid £100 to anyone who turned in a ‘Popish Bishop, Priest, or Jesuite’ who was subsequently prosecuted and convicted. Catholics providing education to youth could be given life sentences.
  • In 1778, an oath could be taken declaring loyalty to the sovereign, and rejecting certain Catholic doctrines such as: excommunicated princes could be lawfully murdered, and that the Pope had temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction in Great Britain.
    • Those taking the oath were exempted from some of the penalties of the 1698 act. The sections on taking and prosecuting priests, and penalty of perpetual imprisonment for keeping a school were repealed. Catholics could also inherit and purchase land.
    • A huge riot broke out in London demanding repeal of this new act, but it stood.
  • Anti-Catholic sentiment continued – 1829 and 1840 saw more protests.
  • In 1850 the Catholic Church re-established itself in England – a move seen as ‘papal aggression upon Protestant England.”
  • In Fiction, Catholics were often portrayed as immoral, perpetrators of pornography, all the way up until WW I.
    • Catholicism was portrayed as ‘un-English, priest-ridden and ruled over by a capricious but all-powerful pope. The word of a Roman Catholic could not be relied upon, and the work of the Jesuits was a byword for sinister duplicity.’
  • Some of the antipathy was tied to racial prejudice – Irish immigrants, mostly Catholic, were viewed as a threat to the employment of Englishmen.
  • The Catholic Church decided, rather than re-establish huge and ornate cathedrals, to instead provide for these urban migrants and provide pastoral care for the faithful.
  • Slowly, Catholics started making a positive impact on English society, but up until 1914 not completely.

Worldwide Vision

In 1844, what was to become the Young Men’s Christian Association was started in London.

  • It was an international, interdenominational organization for evangelism among young men.

In 1846, an interdenominational group called the ‘Evangelical Alliance’ was formed.

  • It was a rebirth of the ecumenicalism of the late 1700’s.
    • It also sought to promote ‘an enlightened Protestantism against the encroachment of Popery … and to promote the interests of a Scriptural Christianity.’
  • It was an international movement – though an American branch wasn’t founded until after the Civil War, due to differences over the issue of slavery.

In 1895, the World Student Christian Federation, another interdenominational group was founded, and many young men offered themselves for missionary service overseas.

  • 1910 saw the first World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh.
  • To the Third World, most European and North American denominational differences meant little or nothing.

The Anglican Evangelicals

Many of these movements were encouraged by the social movements and pietism movements of the early 1800’s.

  • Wilberforce (who saw through the passing of anti-slavery legislation) wrote a book A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country contrasted with Real Christianity.
    • He commented on the rise of prosperity, and the decline of religion, morals, and manners.
    • He reminded the rich of their duties to the poor, and claimed the only true solution for the rich was to turn from their nominal Christianity to the real Christianity found in personal commitment.
    • 17,500 copies sold in 6 months.
  • It had a huge impact.
    • Cock-fighting, bull- and bear-baiting died out through lack of support. Bookshops selling ‘dirty books’ closed down for lack of customers. By 1820 a complete change took place in the social habits of Britain.
  • ‘Victorianism’ actually arrived 20 years before Queen Victoria.
    • The upper classes and new wealthy classes became less frivolous and more conscious of their responsibilities.
    • One writer commented on the huge change observable in 15 years just by the difference in walking down one particular street.

It was a change to the good – but, still not true Christianity as Wilberforce had called for.

  • In many circles, hypocrisy replaced corruption as the typical sin of the age.
    • One ad for a coachman: ‘High wages not given. A person who values Christian privileges will be preferred.’
  • Evangelicals believed in neither democracy nor in trade unions.
    • They were willing to do all they could for the poor – but not to allow them to do it for themselves.
  • During this time, Sunday became strictly observed by the Evangelicals.
    • The ‘Lord’s Day Observance Society’ was formed in 1831 – lots of letters and articles published in newspapers against opening parks, museums, and gardens on Sunday.

Coming from the Evangelical Revival of the 1700’s, one of the groups was the Anglican Evangelicals.

  • They believed that Christ died for the whole world, and that through Christian Missions, the whole world would eventually come to faith in Christ.
  • At that time, Christ would return and the millennium would begin.
  • They drew away from the Calvinists, and nearer the Methodists, that salvation was for the world and not for the elect.
  • However, they also rejected Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection – the idea that people could become perfect here on earth as Christians.

Evangelicals slowly gained higher offices in the Anglican Church, some becoming bishops.

  • They produced a new model for bishops. They were much simpler in their life-style, visited all parts of their dioceses, and took more care over confirmations and ordinations.
  • In the 1850’s, this pattern spread, leading to some renewal within the Anglican Church.

Hymns and Church Music

The 1800’s saw a huge amount of hymn writing – and now not just by men.

In Britain:

  • The Anglican Church basically considered hymn singing to be illegal – until a test case in 1819, after which it slowly was adopted, and Anglican hymns were being written.
  • Carols such as ‘Good King Wenceslas’ were written as part of the songs for the Christian year.
  • There were many women hymn-writers in the 1800’s.
    • Mrs. C.F. Alexander, ‘All things bright and beautiful’, and ‘Once in royal David’s city.’
    • Charlotte Elliott – ‘Just as I am without one plea.’
    • Sarah Adams – ‘Nearer, my God, to Thee.’
  • Hundreds of hymnals were printed through the century.
  • English hymns often focused on the harmonic parts, and chord progressions.
    • The use of named tunes was popular – making it easy for those who couldn’t read music to sing (and in fact most hymn books did not include music – just the words, and the names of suitable tunes that could be used.)
    • For example, the tune ‘Nicaea’ was written for ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’
  • In Scotland, until the mid-1800s, only psalms were sung. When hymns were introduced, they used mostly English tunes.
  • In Wales, music was written more locally.
  • And, as mentioned earlier, for Roman Catholics there was the revival of the Gregorian chant.
    • This was a huge collection of unharmonized music, intended for of trained choirs to sing during the liturgy.

In America:

  • American religious music was less formal and inhibited.
  • Gospel songs had simple, repetitive rhythms and harmonies.
  • Many Negro spirituals were written during this time – e.g. ‘Swing low, sweet chariot.’
  • William Merrill – ‘Rise up, O men of God.’
  • Edward Sears – ‘It came upon the midnight clear.’
  • John Greenleaf Whittier – ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind.’
  • Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey collected hymns specifically for their evangelistic campaigns.
    • The Revival meeting became popular – and a huge part of that was the singing.
    • For many hymns, the music was taken from the music-hall – familiar tunes, with spiritual words, making them easier for non-Christians to learn and sing.
    • Many of Fanny Crosby’s hymns were used in this way, along with others.

New Crusades

The US in the 1800’s saw huge growth westward.

  • Christianity proceeded with the expansion, and had two main aspects:
    • Christian Revivalism.
    • Democratic Nationalism.
  • Christianity in the US mirrored or supported the overall political and societal contexts.
    • The revival meetings became ‘Camp Meetings’, and had several characteristics:
      • Being freely supported by members.
      • A turning away from liturgy.
      • Emotion before intellect.
      • Crossing denominational boundaries.
  • The churches reached the masses.
    • Revivalism emphasized both the work of man in salvation (reflecting ‘individualism’), as well as God’s work.
    • The idea of a personal encounter with God was preached (reflecting ‘democracy’.)
  • This ‘Second Awakening’ also brought with it the idea that God was visiting America – a view that still holds widely today in the US.
    • This linked politics and religion – which we also see today in various aspects in the US.
  • The Methodists and Baptists were the two groups most involved during the expansions.
    • In 1855, the Methodist church was the largest in the US – over 1.5 million members – about 5% of the entire US population.
    • The Baptists were second at about 1 million.
  • Unlike Britain, the US was primarily a classless society – this has been termed a ‘crusade among equals.’
  • Like Britain, Christianity in the US was also involved with social issues – women’s rights, temperance, prison reform, public education, world peace, and (in the North and West at least) the abolition of slavery.
    • Campaigned against Sabbath-breaking, theatre, dueling, prostitution, alcohol, and slums.
    • Just as in Britain, Catholicism was crusaded against.
    • During the war with Mexico (1846) it was rumoured that there was a popish plot to poison US soldiers.
    • In many people’s minds, preaching the gospel and purifying the government came to mean the same thing.


Humanitarians inside and outside the church had always opposed slavery.

  • In 1817, a group called The American Colonization Society put forth a plan to send freed black people to Liberia in West Africa – by 1821 the leaders of every major Protestant denomination in the US backed this.
    • Unfortunately this didn’t resolve anything.
  • By 1830, Christians from all around the US began using the Bible either to attack or to defend slavery.
  • Churches split over this issue.
    • Southern Methodists declared themselves independent in 1845.
    • 1845 also saw the organization of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Then the Civil War broke out in 1861.
    • After 1860, ministers both from the North and the South encouraged their young men to serve in their respective armies.
    • Both sides prayed to the same God, holding Him to be on their side. (There didn’t seem to be a lot of questioning about whether either nation was on God’s side.)
  • When the war ended – that didn’t heal the rifts in the churches.
    • Northern churches tended to look on the south as needing evangelization.
    • Southern churches failed to admit to the wrong of slavery, or to pledge loyalty to the Union.
  • Today – American churches are still very much politically aligned with the US Nation.
    • Most churches I’ve visited have American flags at the front of their auditoriums.
    • You can see several American ‘patriotic’ hymns in our song books even now.

Rationalism and Scepticism in the 19th century

At the close of lesson 5, we looked at Rationalism, philosophies of reality, skepticism in the 17th and 18th centuries, all of which brought into question not only Christianity, but the very existence of God.

  • Science, Philosophy, and history were all called upon to show that Christianity had no leg to stand on.
    • Implications were that humans were descended from monkeys (which is a misstatement, but common), and that the world was not the work of a wise, loving Creator.
    • God became an unnecessary hypothesis.
  • The 19th century saw these philosophies and concepts expanded.
  • 1830’s – Charles Lyell published The Principles of Geology, in which he argued that the present state of the earth’s surface had been brought about by a long and gradual development.
    • By the way – science itself is divided along a number of lines, one of which is whether development progressed by long and gradual development, or whether catastrophic events were significant. One middle ground is ‘Punctuated Equilibrium’, which posits that generally progress was long and gradual, but there were periodic upheavals of various kinds that influenced things greatly. But – at this point – the idea of ‘long and gradual’ was the accepted scientific approach.
  • 1844 – The idea of gradual evolution was extended from geology to animal life in The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.
  • 1859 – Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species.
    • He sailed as a naturalist in the H.M.S. Beagle to South America, where he observed populations of animals that were very similar, but somewhat different.
    • He postulated that isolation of sub-groups of the same species, over time, had differed.
    • He extended that to posit that all of the animal kingdom had developed the same way – over time, isolation and separate developmental pressures – natural selection.
  • T.H. Huxley in 1860 at a meeting of the British Association took the position of a humble scientist who faced facts, rather than indulging in fine speaking (as many opponents of Evolution did – not much substance), and persuasively argued the case for evolution.
    • Huxley also coined the term ‘agnostic’ – to have a seeming middle ground between ‘atheistic’ and ‘theistic’ – both stances stated a position firmly (there is not God, there is a God). Huxley wanted a term that basically meant, ‘I don’t know, and I’m not in a position to know.’
  • Darwin’s 1859 The Origin of Species left room for belief in a creator.
    • His sequel, The Descent of Man in 1871, was more openly agnostic.
  • The Theory of Evolution gained broad support among scientists and various others.
    • The idea that the world had evolved over millions of years, possible from a single prototype being.
    • The term ‘evolution’ was appropriated and labelled on whatever people believed.
    • Karl Marx declared Darwin had provided the biological basis for communism.
    • Capitalists such as Carnegie and Rockefeller appealed to evolution to justify the growth of ‘big business.’
  • Many Christian responses were (in my view) knee jerk and not well thought out at all – at least as far as actually addressing the issues being raised. Some were more temperate.
    • Spurgeon declared evolution ‘a monstrous error, which would be ridiculed before another twenty years.’
    • Frederick Temple (who would become Archbishop of Canterbury) held that the concept of evolution left the argument for an intelligent Creator and Governor of the earth stronger than ever. The world was not just a series of accidents – the old arguments from design to belief in God could be restated in a dynamic way.
  • The first chapters of Genesis came under special consideration.
    • Usually Genesis 1 had been read as if it were a newspaper account of what had happened, and many Bibles were printed with marginal notes stating it had happened in 4004 BC (calculated by Archbishop Ussher of Ireland in 1650)
    • Now, some asked if perhaps this was too literal an approach. After all, there are two creation accounts in Genesis, each giving a different slant on the same events.
    • Perhaps rather than being taken literally, we look at each to see insights into human relationships with the world and with God, in terms that could be understood by a pre-scientific people?
    • Just as the last book of the Bible uses symbolism to describe the events at the end of the world, perhaps the same approach should be taken for the beginning of the world?
  • Today there are still three main approaches to understanding Genesis for Christians:
    • To continue to read the book literally, and completely reject old-earth based evolution.
    • To see God’s creating action in the processes of evolution – embracing both a right understanding of the Bible and a right understanding of modern science.
    • To see the Creation story as purely symbolic, or parable, and derive spiritual lessons from that, but otherwise take Science’s explanation for the beginnings of the earth.
    • I’m reminded of a saying of John Clayton’s – “Wherever there is a disagreement between Science and Theology, it is a result of bad Science, bad Theology, or both.”
      • We hold that God is our creator, and that he interacts with His creation. We shouldn’t be afraid of learning what we can about that creation. Ultimately, if our beliefs are true, both our faith and our understanding of the physical universe will be reconciled. (Says Bob Sandiford )
  • Another view is that God is the ‘God of the Gaps’.
    • That is, the creation functions pretty well on its own – God comes into the picture only where there is a break in the processes of nature.
    • The problem with this view is that as we come to understand more and more the natural processes, there is less room for God – and ultimately He is squeezed out all together.
    • For example – once, we didn’t understand thunder – God must cause it. Now we understand that thunder is from the sudden expansion of the air from lightning – God isn’t the specific cause at all.
      • And another common conclusion or understanding from that is that ‘signs’ don’t really exist, they are just natural processes.
  • In any event – the debate continues, and Christian theology needs more work along the lines of showing us more clearly how we can think of God against the background of a scientific view of the world.

Some specific folks and their thinking:

  • Immanuel Kant (Germany, 1724-1804)
    • Swept away attempts by philosophers to prove God’s existence by various rational arguments.
    • Argued that the human mind is equipped to grapple with the objects we see around us, which exist in time and space. When we try to think about any other kind of reality (for example a Spiritual realm), we land ourselves in all kinds of contradictions. Therefore it is impossible to think rationally about God.
    • Religion is useful for the simple and uneducated, but can never be a substitute for philosophy.
    • For example, we shouldn’t do good because God says so; we should do good for its own sake.
    • Kant put humanity at the centre and made everything else rotate around him.
    • Kant did identify flaws in various old-fashioned proofs about the existence of God.
    • But – it still leaves unanswered the question of whether we can know God in some other way.
      • To say that our minds think in terms of time and space is not the same as saying that we can have no insight into what lies behind our existence in time and space.
      • If we recognize that God is not an object of time and space, but that our language is geared to think in terms of time and space, it is inevitable that our language about God uses a great deal of symbolism. For example, when Jesus taught a parable, he was drawing on picture language to convey truths that could not be put in any way but by symbols.
      • The fact is, we do not have direct access to God – we cannot directly perceive Him as He is.
      • What Kant did was initiate a discussion on how we should think of God in light of our existence in time and space, the limitations of the human mind, and the nature of our language.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
    • He regarded himself as a prophet of the death of God.
      • (More clearly, God had never lived, but now his existence is disproved, then in a way for all those people of faith, this would be like the death of God.)
    • Since God is dead, humanity must go it alone. We make up our own rules and values as we go along.
    • Virtues which were prized by Christianity must be discarded, as they tend to preserve the weak and ailing.
    • (Side note – Nazi Germany took many of Nietzsche’s philosophies as their own in the 1930’s)
  • Soren Kierkegaard (Denmark, 1813-1855)
    • Kierkegaard was a Christian who was aware of the danger of trying to manipulate God.
    • We must never forget that God is other. He exists on a different plane and in a different way from ourselves. It is therefore folly to try to prove his existence by rational arguments.
      • To be known directly is the mark of an idol – not the living God.
    • God is known because he makes himself known. He does so in Jesus Christ.
      • But, because he takes on human form and speaks to us in human words, God comes to us in Christ in a sense incognito. We can know him – but only in faith.
    • The faith that counts is one which is willing to put all at risk for God and lead a life of personal discipleship.

The Bible under fire

Christianity was under attack from science in the form of evolution, and from philosophy in the form of alternate world-views intended to make belief in God obsolete.

  • There was another direction of attack – history, in the form of Biblical criticism.
    • If the truth of the Bible could be shown to be doubtful, then there would be nothing left on which the Christian faith could stand.
  • During the 19th century, the Old Testament was under fire.
    • It was widely assumed that the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were mythical figures.
    • Many questioned whether Moses had ever lived.
    • Critics held that the Hebrew religion had undergone a development from the primitive stories of nomadic tribes to the elaborate ritualism of the period leading up to Jesus.
    • The OT was a patchwork of pieces which owed their shape to outside influences.
    • For example, the account of the flood was influenced by the Gilgamesh epic, dating from Mesopotamia about 2100 BC.
  • The figure of Christ was also under attack.
    • The search for the ‘historical Jesus’ dates from English deists in the 1700’s.
    • In Germany, Reimarus saw Jesus as an earnest Galilean teacher, who met an untimely death because he got his earnest moral teaching mixed up with the idea that the kingdom of God meant the setting up of a new political state in which God was King. After the crucifixion, the disciples put out the story that Jesus had risen from the dead, and would come again. The whole thing was a fraud, committed for material gain.
    • Others dismissed all the supernatural and messianic elements in the gospels as myth. (Similar to the ‘Jesus Seminar’ from the mid 1980’s and 1990’s)
    • Baur (1792-1860) held that there had been a great conflict in the early church between Peter, standing for a strictly Jewish attitude to the Law, and Paul, having a more liberal Greek approach.
      • On this basis, he decided which books of the New Testament were genuine – any not reflecting this supposed conflict must be from a later period. He settled on only Romans, Galatians, and I and II Corinthians as authentic.
  • There were positive gains also.
    • The reconstruction of the original Greek of the New Testament from newly discovered ancient manuscripts continued.
      • These confirmed the essential accuracy of the texts on which the older translations of the Bible were based, such as the King James Version.
      • If you think about it – other than language differences – the KJV holds up extremely well considering the textual discoveries made in the past 400 years.
    • Studies of other Greek documents contemporary with the New Testament authors also shed more light on understanding the Greek used in the NT.
      • It also showed that the NT must have been written by the end of the first century, based on Greek language development subsequent to that time.
    • Archaeology was uncovering more supporting evidence that events in the Bible were recorded accurately. For example, studies of the geography and archaeology of the Roman Empire supported the picture painted by Luke in Acts.
    • None of these things prove the full accuracy of the Bible – it contains more than just history or language to be deciphered.
      • But, they have an historical dimension, which can be investigated.

One of the results of the various attacks on Christianity was to bring out the best in the church.

  • The 19th century included Christians who were prepared to wrestle with these attacks, and give good answers.
  • Just as it is the role of Christians today to continue to wrestle with attacks on Christianity and give good answers.
  • I Pet 3:15 (NASB)

…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…

Missionary Society Results

In the late 1700’s, Christianity was primarily the religion of the Caucasian peoples – Europe, Russia, North America, and a few other places.

  • There were very few non-Caucasian Christians in comparison.
  • 200 years later – Christianity is very much a world religion, still growing rapidly in a number areas such as the African continent.
  • In between were a number of significant changes:
    • The Industrial Revolution.
    • The rise and fall of European empires.
    • The missionary movement.
  • Some Societies for the Gospel formed in the 1700s – but these were mostly concerned with the English peoples overseas.
  • Two major changes occurred in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.
    • Recognition of the prophetic statement of Habakkuk 2:14:

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

  • Recognition that the Great Commission to preach the Gospel applied to all Christians, not just the apostles to whom Jesus directly spoke these words.
    • William Carey in England published An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen. In it he argued this understanding of the Great Commission as applying to all Christians – and that same year the Baptist Missionary Society was founded – the first of the missionary societies.
  • In America, this led to a concern for the Native Americans.
  • In Britain, this led to thoughts of regions overseas.
  • The missionary society, which we’ve talked of before, was the means by which this vision was turned into action, starting especially in the 1820’s and 1830’s.
    • The movement involved most Christian denominations.
    • And with great fervour – e.g. some Moravian missionaries sold themselves into slavery in the West Indies.
  • Early mission efforts faced criticism and opposition – for example from the Honourable East India Company, which was concerned that preaching Christianity to Hindus and Muslims in India would offend them and inflame the volatile situation there.
  • This was taking place at the same time as the rising recognition of the role of Christianity in human society.
    • Many missions were combined with setting up means for local populations to sustain themselves better – plantations, or ways to produce goods for sale.
    • There was also the recognition that ending the slave trade would be easier to accomplish were there a way to replace the perceived economic need for slavery.
    • This led to efforts to develop African resources as a way to replace the economic benefit of slavery. Exporting raw materials from Africa would replace the export of labour.
  • The doctrine of “The three c’s” was born – Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization.
    • This worked to finally stifle the slave trade.
    • David Livingstone (as in ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’) was one of those involved. He was a member of the London Missionary Society, and traveled through southern Africa in the 1850s. Though he was an explorer, and is primarily viewed that way today, his main purpose was to lay the foundation for new missions.
  • Later in the century, the ‘Commerce’ relationship with Missions turned sour.
    • Merchants complained of unfair competition from local labour.
    • Missionaries complained about the poor example of supposedly Christian merchants.
    • Alcohol became more important in trade. Travellers reported that the effects of alcohol were just as bad as those of the slave trade.
    • Ultimately Christian missionaries came in direct opposition to trading interests, especially in China, where missionaries opposed the attempts by merchants to impose the opium trade there.
  • Missions were also involved in setting up education.
    • The missionaries generally believed that, given the same opportunities, African and Pacific Islanders would perform equally well with Europeans.
    • This contrasted with many widely held views in Europe and elsewhere at the time.
    • Education was given in many mission areas – and ultimately quite necessary as by the middle of the 1800’s, it was widely recognized that recruiting and training local people to evangelize was more effective that using European missionaries. They knew the people, knew the land, and were acclimatized.
      • 1857 saw the creation of the Niger Mission, which was entirely African staffed.
  • Although the missionary society concept began in England, it did spread to other countries after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.
    • Bremen (1819), Denmark (1821), Hamburg (1822), Paris (1822), and elsewhere.
  • In the 1790’s, the missionary movement had nothing but the prophecies of the Bible, and the example of the conversion of a few hundred Native Americans to support their endeavour.
    • By 1910, the church was rooted in every continent.
    • Not that change came quickly – for example, one group was in India for 7 years before baptizing their first convert. Other missionaries were not physically able to continue in the ‘strange’ conditions of central Africa, or in the South Seas.
  • The missionary Societies had effects on the home churches as well.
    • These Societies were not churches themselves, but organizations formed for a specific purpose.
    • They promoted ecumenicalism – which was new (think of the previous centuries of religious wars).
    • They encouraged lay participation and leadership – which many churches (Anglican, Catholic) did not.
    • And – the best societies made it possible for many people to participate, and in many ways.
  • World War I put an end to the vision from the 1890’s of the evangelization of the world in one generation.
    • However when WW I broke out in 1914, the church was more like that “great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev 7:9) than ever before.

The Bible Societies

Another long-titled work, The Excellence of the Holy Scriptures, An Argument for their More General Dispersion at Home and Abroad, was published in 1803.

  • The initial impetus for this was a recognized need in 1802 for the Scriptures to be translated into Welsh, and the concept grew from there and argued the need for Bibles in other countries around the world as well as for Britain.
  • None of the existing societies were set up for this type of endeavour.

1804 saw the formation in England of the first Bible Society – the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS)

  • The purpose was ‘to encourage the wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures, without note or comment.’
  • The governing board was comprised of Anglicans, non-conformists, and foreign members.
  • Other Bible Societies soon sprang up – including Glasgow (1805), Edinburgh (1809), Dublin (1806), Canada (1807), Russia (1813), US (1816) Australia (1817), and New Zealand (1837).
  • The BFBS supported other groups as well, including Catholics. (Though the Catholic Church was generally not impressed – they had their own official Bible…)

For 20 years, things went along well.

  • In 1825 the German Bible societies asked for the Apocrypha – books written between the period of the Old and New Testaments – to be included in their editions.
    • Roman Catholics accepted them as additional to the canon, but most Protestants set them apart from the recognized list of Bible books.
  • The BFBS refused – and the society split.
  • Other conflicts arose over time – as the ecumenical nature of the governing body, which included Trinitarians and Unitarians (i.e. acceptance of the Trinity vs just God), gave rise to complaints about doctrinal issues.

The BFBS continued, however.

  • By 1906 – 102 years after founding – there were over 9,500 branch societies and auxiliary agencies involved.
  • By 1907, over 200,000,000 Bibles, Testaments and portions of Scripture had been distributed.
  • During WW I, over 9,000,000 copies in over 80 languages were distributed to combatants and prisoners on all sides of the war.
  • During the war, translation continued, adding 34 new languages and dialects.
  • The Society still continues today.
    • Its web site, as of March 14, 2020, estimates over 6,000,000 full printed Bibles have been distributed in 2020, with many more accessing electronically the Scriptures they produce.
    • Their site indicates they publish 682 translations of the full Bible as of December 2018 – out of 7,365 languages spoken or signed around the world.
    • Translation still continues to new languages, as does updating of existing translations.

In the US, the American Bible Society was started in 1814.

  • An initial estimate was the 500,000 copies of Scripture could be usefully distributed in the US.

In 1946 the major Bible Societies met in England, and formed a fellowship of Bible Societies – the United Bible Societies, with 6 primary purposes:

  • To encourage the co-ordination and extension of efforts, and develop co-operation between societies.
  • The UBS would help exchange information between members and harmonize policies and techniques.
  • The central committee would supply its member agencies with helps and services.
  • Information would be collected concerning religious trends in the world and the uses of the Bible.
  • The UBS would represent the Bible Societies in talks with other Christian organizations.
  • Emergency services could be arranged with the UBS.
  • The UBS offices have specialists in translation, production, and distribution.
  • 2015 saw 50 new translations completed, 2018 44 languages.
  • By 2017:
    • 20% of all Bibles distributed by the UBS were downloaded from the Internet.
    • More than 34,000,000 full Bibles were made available around the world, and over 11,000,000 testaments.
    • Around 70% of the world’s full Bible translations have been provided by Bible Societies.
    • Bible Societies are at work in over 200 countries and territories.
  • 2019:
    • More than 5.6 billion people have access to the full Bible in their language. About 1.5 billion do not have the full Bible in their language, though about half of those do have the New Testament.

Questions: Lesson 6

  1. Does the Bible promote any specific form of civil government? Or, discuss what a ‘Christian Society’ would look like?
  • Not specifically.
  1. What DOES the Bible promote as far as government is concerned?
  • Obedience to civil authority, understanding where that relates to obedience to God
  • Praying for leaders
  1. The norm in North America is that church and state are substantially separate. From today’s lesson, what are the pros and cons of that separation?
  • E.g. should Christians participate in government?
  • If so, should their Christian beliefs and values inform their actions in government? Doesn’t that go against separation of church and state?
  • What role should Christians play in influencing society at a macro level (e.g. Wilberforce and his long struggle to end slavery in the British Empire)
  1. In what ways have Foreign Missions been good? In what ways have they not been good?
  • Good:
    • Obedience to the Great Commission, expanding the kingdom of Heaven on earth
    • Development of local churches led by local leaders in a local cultural setting
  • Not so good:
    • Imposition of European Christianity and World View
    • Often tied up with Political and Economic activities which operate at the same time (colonialism, exploitative companies)