from author Eric Shuster
SECTION 1: WHO ARE THE CHRISTIANS?—a History
Chapter 4: They were Reformed and Scattered (1500 to the Present)
The final segment of Christian history covers the year1500 to the present and is called the Reform and Denominational Proliferation period. During this period individuals came forward to challenge the established Christian Church to reform itself from corruption. When reform did not go far enough more schisms took place leading to the formation of the 33,820 Christian denominations we have today (Word Christian Encyclopedia).
This period is marked by five major activities including the carryover of corruption, the emergence of refiners, reformers and restorers, Christian movements and influencers, the propagation of published scripture and the proliferation of denominations.
The corruption of the former period continued in ongoing nepotism, immorality, greed, and arrogance. Alexander VI, perhaps the most corrupt pope in history prolonged his crooked reign with more appointments of cardinals for money, arrangements of marriages of his children for financial gain, and the famous Banquet of Chestnuts in 1501 where the pontiff hosted prostitutes for sex on display among his guests. These acts of corruption were not isolated to Catholicism alone.
Exhausted by the state of affairs there came forward three types of individuals calling for an end of church corruption: Refiners—those who sought to change the Church from within (e.g. Saint Francis of Assisi); Reformers—those who sought to change the Church through public debate and open accusation (e.g. Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Wesley, etc.); and Restorers—those who believed the corruption of the established Christian Churches and its doctrinal base had become so contaminated that a complete restoration to that of the original Church of Jesus Christ was necessary (e.g. Campbell, Stone, Smith, Russell, etc.).
Movements marking this period included the First and Second Great Awakenings in the Americas along with other movements such as the Charismatic, Evangelicalism, Free Grace, Holiness, Methodism, and Pentecostalism. These movements, along with the Protestant Reformation, could not have succeeded without the establishment and availability of the scriptures into local languages—a dynamic that has led to there being 92 translations of the Bible into English alone.
All of this activity led to the explosion of Christian denominations from one in Roman Catholicism around AD 1000 to nearly 34,000 ten centuries later. The World Christian Encyclopedia categorizes the sects of Christianity today into seven segments: 1) Orthodox, 2) Roman Catholic, 3) Catholics (Reformed Catholics, New Apostolic, etc.), 4) Anglicans, 5) Protestants (Lutherans, Methodists, etc.), 6) Marginal Protestants (Unitarians, LDS/Mormons, etc.), and 7) Non-White Indigenous Christians. The stories and motives behind this proliferation are critical to understanding Christianity today and are covered by the author.
Modern-day Christians are influenced by the past and are products of their own history. It is a history that produced the best and worst of humanity over a 2,000 year period. Our faith walk today is affected by and reflects these four periods of Christian history. Having a better understanding of where we came from as a Christian people we are now ready for the next leg of our journey taking on the question: “What is a Christian?”
Go to www.findyourchristianity.com to watch the book trailer, find out what type of Christian you are, and to order the book.
Where are the Christians? The Unrealized Potential of a Divided Religion
by Eric Shuster
Coming May 2013!