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20 centuries cf C v j^istla:iit; 

270 H97i 

2d\"tchlnci; r ^6 . CO 

20 centiiries of CliriGtianit; r 






with Halford E, Luccock 




















with Alfred De Groat 





Centuries of Christianity 










Paul Hutchinson wrote the article "The Onward March of the Chris- 
tian Faith" for that issue of Life (December 26, 1955) which ended 
its series "The World's Great Religions." A publisher suggested that 
he expand the article into a book. He gladly undertook this congenial 
task, but death overtook him suddenly before he had proceeded far 
with it. His family asked me to carry it to completion. I have done 
this with the feeling that I have been not so much writing my own 
book as finishing his. 

Though he and I had no consultation about any part of the project 
other than an hour of very specific talk while the Life article was 
being written, the book is truly the product of collaboration, for we 
had been collaborating in many matters for a long time. We were 
colleagues for more than thirty years on the editorial staff of the 
Christian Century, he as managing editor and then editor, I as part- 
time literary editor and editorial writer while my chief work was 
with the University of Chicago. Without an exception that I can 
remember, our differences of opinion were mutually supplementary 
rather than contradictory. The congeniality of our minds was such 
that our agreements were often unspoken. 



I have reason to hope, therefore, that what I have done 'with the 
beginning of Dr. Hutchinson's book manuscript in carrying the story 
on from the fourth century to the twentieth is not too unlike what 
he would have done, though, of course, I have followed my own light. 
Not to make him responsible for anything he would not have written 
or would have written better it should be stated that the first eight 
chapters of this book are Hutchinson; the remaining eighteen, Gar- 
rison. The editors of Life kindly gave permission to make free use of 
the Hutchinson article. The borrowings from it are considerable in 
the first eight chapters, very slight from there to the end. The closing 
sentences of the book are to be ascribed to Dr. Hutchinson, since they 
became his final testament of faith. 

Dr. Hutchinson had sketched a preface for the book, apparently 
before beginning to \vrite it. This draft scarcely fits the book now, 
but one paragraph of it ought to be preserved: 

Not long ago the Ne r w Yorker published a cartoon which showed 
a harassed salesman in a bookstore confronted by a determined ma- 
tron demanding "an unbiased history of the Civil War from a South- 
ern point of view." With the best intentions in the world to achieve 
objectivity, those who write the history of Christianity can hardly 
claim a greater degree of success. There is, in church history, a Ro- 
man Catholic point of view, an Eastern Orthodox point of view, a 
Protestant- Anglican point of view (with Calvinist, Lutheran, and 
Anabaptist refinements), and none of us who write in the field can 
escape from the one in which we are at home. 

The history of Christianity bristles with controversial issues and 
diversities of interpretation and evaluation. The authors can only say 
that they have tried to be as objective as they could from a Protestant 
point of view. One thing is clear, they both write from a standpoint 
within the Christian movement, though not within the same denomina- 
tion. They believe that Christianity is important, that its influence has 
been on the whole beneficent, and that its main affirmations about God 
and man are true. If this gives them a slanted view of its history, so 
be it. Here we stand. We can do no other. 



c. B.C. 4 Birth of Jesus 

c. A.B. 29 Crucifixion 

c. 35 Conversion of Paul 

47-57 Paul's missionary journeys and letters to Thessalonica, Corinth, 
Galatia, and Rome 

49 Jerusalem Council 

64-65 Persecution by Nero; martyrdom of Peter and Paul 

70 Destruction of Jerusalem 

96 Persecution by Domitian <-""""" 

170 Persecution by Marcus Aurelius" 

25O Persecution by Decius 

303 Last persecution of Christians, by Diocletian 

313 Constantino's Edict of Toleration 


325 Council at Nicaea 

392 Paganism outlawed by Theodosius I 

410 Capture of Rome by Alaric tlie Goth 

432 St. Patrick's mission to Ireland 

440-61 Pope Leo I 

476 End of Western Roman Empire 

496 Conversion of Clovis 

526 Benedict of Nursia organized "Western monasticism 

563 Columba from Ireland to lona 

590-604 Pope Gregory I 

6O1 Monk Augustine founded See of Canterbury 

622 The Hejira, beginning of Moslem era 

664 Whitby Conference 

729 Winfrid (Boniface) began mission to Germany 

732 Charles Martel stopped Moslem advance at Tours 

756 Beginning of temporal sovereignty of pope 

800 Charlemagne crowned emperor 

858-67 Pope Nicholas I 

910 Cluniac reform of monasteries 

1O54 Final break between Eastern and Western churches 

1073-85 Pope Gregory VII, Hildebrand 

1084 Carthusian reform 

1O96 First Crusade 

1098 Cistercian reform 

117O-1221 St. Dominic 

1176 Peter Waldo began Waldensian movement 


1182-1226 St. Francis of Assisi 

1198-1216 Pope Innocent in 

1233 Inquisition established 

1225-74 St. Thomas Aquinas 

1265-1321 Dante 

1284-1303 Pope Boniface VIII 

1309-77 Papacy at Avignon 

1328-84 John Wyclif 

1377-1417 The Great Schism 

1415 John Huss burned; Council of Constance 

1480 Spanish Inquisition established 

1498 Savonarola burned at Florence 

1516 Erasmus; first printed Greek New Testament 

1517 Luther's Ninety-five Theses 

1521 Diet at Worms 

1522 Zwingli began reforms at Zurich 

1529 Diet at Speyer; "Protestants" 

1530 Augsburg Confession 

1534 Henry VIII broke with Rome, excommunicated 

1536 Calvin's Institutes, first edition 

1540 Jesuit order officially recognized 

1545-63 Council of Trent 

1553 Servetus burned at Geneva 

1560 Elizabethan Settlement 

1572 Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day, France 

1603-25 James I 

1629-40 Great Puritan migration 


1640-60 Puritan dominance in England 

1643-49 Westminster Assembly 

1660 Restoration of Stuarts and Episcopacy 

1689 Act of Toleration 

1703-91 John Wesley 

1736-40 Great Awakening in America 

1786 Virginia Act for establishing religious freedom 

1791 First Amendment guaranteed separation of church and state 

1834 Last vestige of establishment disappeared, Massachusetts 

1908 Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America 

1910 Beginning of modern Ecumenical Movement, Edinburgh 

1948 World Council of Churches, Amsterdam 


Foreword v 

Chronological Table vii 

I The Beginning 1 


// Peter, Paul, and the Apostolic Age 8 


III Life in the Earliest Churches 17 


IV The Blood of the Martyrs 28 


V The Creeds 35 





VI Constantine 44 



VII Athanasius and After 52 



VIII The Church under the Byzantine Emperors 60 




IX The Great Divide 70 


X Beyond the Border 80 






XI The Holy Roman Empire 92 


XII East and West 105 





XIII The Two Swords 219 





XIV Monks and Friars J32 





XV Rites and Customs 






XVI Scholars and Mystics 



XVII Rifts in the Unity 








XVIII Renaissance and Religion 


XIX The Protestant Reformation 




XX Catholic Reformation and Expansion 


XXI Protestantism Reaches America 


XXII Religion on the American Frontier 










XXIII Christianity in Europe 251 




XXIV Christianity and Modern Thought 259 




XXV The Field Is the World 275 

XXVI Christianity in the Modern World 286 

Bibliography 295 

Index 299 


The Beginning 

Among all the religions by which men seek to worship, Chris- 
tianity is the most widely spread, embraces the largest number of 
adherents, and makes the most stupendous claims for the divinity 
of its Founder and the finality of its teaching. Of the two and a 
half billion human beings on earth, nearly 800 million one out of 
every three: are ordinarily listed as Christians. They are either 
Christians by personal avowal or live in cultures saturated with 
Christian ideas and practices. In one sense or the other, they are 
part of Christendom. 

The churches in which Christians worship have, during their 
nearly two thousand years since Jesus Christ lived and died, 
developed such an astonishing diversity of belief and ritual that it 
is sometimes difficult to recognize that they all acknowledge the 
same Lord. The glittering spectacle of an Easter Mass in St. 
Peter's, the stillness within the bare walls of a Quaker meeting- 
house, the squatting circle of Congo tribesmen listening to the 
white-haired medical missionary as he preaches in a jungle clearing, 
the chanting monks cut off from the world on the forbidden peak 
of Mount Athos, a hundred thousand Mar Thoma devotees 



gathered in a dry river bed to join their prayers under the blazing 
sun of South India, thousands pressing forward in London's 
Wembley Stadium at the appeal of a spotlighted evangelist, wraith- 
Eke figures kneeling in perpetual adoration before the altar in a 
Quebec convent, a sea of dark faces swaying while the tide of the 
spiritual rolls across them: "It's me, O Lord, standin' in the need 
of prayer" how can these, and hundreds of other differing 
manifestations, all be accounted parts of the whole to which we 
give the name of Christianity? 

Some will deny that they are. But there is justification for the 
habit of including all such diversities in the inclusive reckoning. 
All, under whatever form, acknowledge one God; all declare their 
loyalty to one Lord; all find in one Cross the symbol of their faith. 
The differences they present to the world are endless, confusing 
even to themselves, often enfeebling. Considered from the outside, 
it is manifestly not true, as one of their most-sung hymns affirms, 

We are not divided, All one body <we, 
One in hope and doctrine, One in charity. 

Often in their dealings with one another, charity has been the 
element most painfully missing. But in their ultimate allegiance 
they are one. They are Christians. 

Inevitably the questions rise: Where did this Christian religion 
come from? How did it spread? Why has it taken so many forms? 

The answers make up one of the most dramatic, and in some 
parts romantic, stories known to history. It cannot be told here in 
all its ramifications; this, as the subtitle of this book states, is simply 
a short account, confined to the high spots and the most memorable 
personalities and events in the long record. From the days of St. 
Luke, who wrote his account of the Acts of the Apostles sometime 
in the first Christian century (the fact that over most of the world 
time is dated B.C. or A.D. is itself of historical significance), down 
to the present, thousands of scholars have labored to uncover all 
the facts which go to make up the complete story. Before Chris- 
tianity was a hundred years old some despairing soul, adding a 
postscript verse to the last-written Gospel, sighed that "even the 


world Itself" would not be large enough to contain all the books 
that could be written to fill out the Christian record. When one 
considers the vast libraries of such scholarship that have been 
accumulated since then, this hardly seems an exaggerated prophecy. 
In the brief compass of this account, however, many details con- 
nected with events and many names familiar to church historians 
must be passed over. Mere we are trying only to recall a f ew of the 
men and women who bore leading parts in making Christianity 
what It is today, trying to catch them in characteristic moments 
which suggest their importance to the record, and to note the great 
movements of thought and action of which these notable person- 
alities were either the movers or the agents. 


Christianity is the religion that springs historically from Jesus 
of Nazareth. If, for the sake of brevity, one ignores the long Jewish 
background although this had so deep an influence on those who 
became the first Christians that it must not be forgotten the 
emergence of Christianity can be dated from the appearance in the 
Judean wilderness, about the year 28, of John, an ascetic -whose 
fiery denunciations of the morals of Palestine's ruling classes, 
coupled with prophecy of imminent judgment at the hands of an 
outraged God and the equally imminent coming of the Messianic 
agent of this judgment, drew crowds to the Jordan valley to hear 

John is identified in some of the New Testament narratives as 
a cousin of Jesus. But that has little bearing on his importance to 
the birth of Christianity. "What mattered was that he was a direct 
spiritual descendant of the line of great Hebrew prophets. He may 
well have been, before he took up his solitary preaching mission, 
a member of one of the Essene or other Jewish monastic reforming 
communities which excavation and decipherment of the lately dis- 
covered Dead Sea scrolls are uncovering to modern eyes. His re- 
quirement that those who believed his message should be immersed 
by him in the Jordan as a symbol of their confession and repent- 
ance fastened on him the name by which he is known to history 


John the Baptizer, or Baptist. The early Christians regarded him 
as the great forerunner of their Master, and the New Testament 
represents John as himself having that conception of his mission. 
But there was at least a small band of followers of John who con- 
tinued a separate existence for some years after the formation of 
the first Christian churches. 

With his fierce assault on the privileged, whom he called a 
"generation of vipers," it did not take John long to land in trouble. 
Herod Antipas, the Roman puppet tetrarch of Galilee, not relish- 
ing John's comments on his personal morals, threw him into prison, 
and presently, inflamed by incestuous passion for the Princess 
Salome, cut off his head. The circumstances of his execution have 
made an irresistible appeal to scores of dramatists, composers, art- 
ists, and Hollywood script-writers. 

Before John's arrest, however, there appeared among those 
seeking baptism from him a man from the Galilean hill town of 
Nazareth. His name was Joshua; in the Greek form, Jesus. He was 
about thirty, a member of the Jewish tribe of Judah, The Gospel 
According to St. Matthew states that through "Joseph the hus- 
band of Mary, of whom was born Jesus," he could claim descent 
from the great national hero, King David (Matt. 1:16). Tradition 
holds that up to the time he joined the crowds flocking to hear John 
he had been supporting himself, and helping to support the large 
family of his widowed mother, by working as a carpenter.* The 
same tradition asserts that John recognized in his cousin the Mes- 
sianic judge and deliverer whose coming he had been predicting, 
and that he demurred at the idea of baptizing him "f or the remission 
of sins." But Jesus insisted, the rite was performed, and later it came 
to be believed in the church that immediately after his baptism 
Jesus saw "the heavens opened ... the Spirit of God descending 
like a dove," and heard a voice from heaven, "Thou art my be- 
loved Son." Thus, symbolically, the torch of religious reformation 
was passed along from the Baptizer to the Man of Nazareth. 

*The Roman Catholic Church denies that the Virgin Mary bore other 
children. It holds that the word translated "brothers" in most English ver- 
sions of the New Testament (see Matt. 12:46-50) should be rendered 



What we know about Jesus comes from the letters (Epistles) 
that the Apostle Paul and other early Christian leaders wrote to 
Christian churches in their formative years; from the Acts of the 
Apostles, an account by St. Luke, a physician and St. Paul's travel- 
ing companion, of the missionary activities and preaching of some 
of the first-generation Christians; and from the four Gospels that 
open the New Testament. Such references to Jesus as appear in the 
secular literature of that age a few sentences in Josephus, Pliny 
the Younger, Tacitus, and, possibly, Suetonius throw no light on 
his career. (Josephus knew much more about John than about 
Jesus.) The evidence in all these records is so confusing, pays so 
little attention to chronology, and in part is so contradictory that 
it is impossible to be sure about many facts in the Nazarene's life. 
At the close of the work that established his eminence as a theo- 
logian, The Quest of the Historical Jems, Albert Schweitzer 
wrote: "There is nothing more negative than the result of the 
critical study of the life of Jesus. . . . We are experiencing what 
Paul experienced. In the very moment when we were coming 
nearer to the historical Jesus than men had ever come before . . . 
we have been obliged to give up the attempt and acknowledge our 
failure in that paradoxical saying: 'If we have known Christ after 
the flesh, yet henceforth know we him no more.' " Biblical scholars 
will widely agree with the verdict of the Encyclopaedia Britan- 
nica: "Any attempt to write a 'Life of Jesus' should be frankly 
abandoned. The material for it certainly does not exist." 

Yet there are some facts. At the very least it can be said that 
some men and women who lived in Palestine and in other parts of 
the Mediterranean world during the Roman reigns that stretched 
from Augustus to Titus believed certain things about Jesus to be 
true, and their belief had such profound effects that it changed the 
course of history. What were these history-making beliefs? 

They believed that Jesus was an actual historical person who 
lived at the time and place indicated in the Gospels, and that, after 
the imprisonment of John, he left Nazareth, apparently to take up 


the mission of spiritual awakening his cousin had been forced to 
lay down. They believed he traveled about Palestine, most of the 
time in his native Galilee, more briefly in Judea, for an indeter- 
minate period in the region between the two. For perhaps as much 
as three years, but more likely for about half that time (the Gospels 
tell of events on not more than fifty days), he healed, he worked 
wonders, he taught. He gathered a following which varied greatly 
in size, apparently depending on the amount of healing he was 
doing. Out of this following he screened a dozen men for especially 
intimate companionship and instruction. He was remembered as 
a man who loved the open, drew many an illustrative teaching 
from the ways of nature, made little of family ties, could be for- 
biddingly stern with pretense and the pretentious but infinitely 
tender with the sorrowing and needy. One of the firmest beliefs 
in the early church was that he had a natural gift for winning the 
trust of children. 

These contemporaries believed that as Jesus grew more con- 
vinced of his Messianic role and as his moral judgments grew 
more rigorous, he came into conflict with the conservative re- 
ligious forces of his nation. The Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, 
was induced to regard the Nazareth prophet as a threat to public 
order, even a possible revolutionist (the Gospels suggest that it 
was the word "king" which stuck in Pilate's mind when he was 
examining this prisoner) and he was crucified. But his followers 
believed that he rose from the dead. They declared that, in a resur- 
rected and glorified form, he appeared to many of them. They must 
have believed it, for within fifty days after Jesus had been executed, 
what had been a despairing and disintegrating band of disillusioned 
dreamers vividly portrayed in St. Luke's haunting story of the 
walk to Emmaus was transformed into a company of zealots who 
would dare any fate to proclaim that this resurrected Jesus was in 
fact God's promised Messiah, or, in Greek, the Christ the 
Anointed One sent by God. "Upon this conviction, that their Mas- 
ter had risen from the dead, the Christian religion is historically 
founded." Some day, those contemporary believers in Jesus as the 
Messiah expected, this resurrected Lord would be "revealed from 
heaven" in a flaming spectacle of judgment, when punishment 


would be meted out to the wicked and his own followers would 
share in his glorious reign. That day, they thought, was not far 
distant; for the first few years most of those early disciples of 
Jesus looked for his return before their own deaths. 


Peter, Paul, and the Apostolic Age 

In the company of Jesus' twelve specially chosen disciples re- 
duced to eleven by the treachery of Judas Iscariot the one who 
stands out is Simon, better known by the affectionate name, Peter, 
given him by his Master. In a famous passage in Matthew 16:18, 
19, Jesus is reported to pun on the name and its Greek meaning 
petros, rock. In a rush of praise after Simon had declared his belief 
that his Master was "the Christ, the son of the living God," Jesus 
bestowed his accolade: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: . . . 
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; . . . 
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: 
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; 
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 
It can be plausibly contended that these few words, not found 
in the other Gospels, have influenced history, for good or ill, more 
profoundly than any other single recorded utterance. Because the 
Roman Catholic Church has seized on them as possessing such 
supreme importance, claiming that through them both the institution 
of the papacy and the authority of its priests to absolve from sin 
can be traced back to the very words of Christ, the passage has 


been often questioned. Some have claimed that it is an interpola- 
tion, inserted years after Matthew was written to justify the by- 
then growing ascendency of the bishop of Rome among Chris- 
tian leaders. Others say that it was not intended as any grant of 
peculiar spiritual powers to Simon, but was simply an affirmation 
by Jesus that faith in Him as the Christ, which had just been 
publicly declared for the first time, was the faith on which the 
community of His followers would be founded and grow. Al- 
though these questions will never be settled, probably a majority 
of contemporary Protestant scholars regard this passage in Mat- 
thew as authentic, but they would not agree that there is anything 
in it to indicate that Jesus intended any precedence He conferred 
on Peter among the Twelve to pass on to the later bishops of 
Rome. And so far as conferring on Peter any measure of spiritual 
infallibility is concerned, any reader has only to proceed in that 
chapter of Matthew for another four verses to find the Master's 
praise of His impetuous follower turning to blistering rebuke: 
"Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou 
savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." 
It is to be noted also that the binding-and-loosing formula is re- 
peated just a little later (Matt. 18:18) but with a significant dif- 
ference, for here it is in the plural, "Whatsoever ye shall bind" 
addressed not specifically to Peter but to all the apostles. 

The textual evidence for a divine instruction as to the nature 
of the Christian church, its government and its powers, is, to say 
the least, ambiguous. But that ambiguity has made a lot of history 
some of it very dreadful history. 


The other apostles, as this band of Jesus' intimates came to be 
known, are shadowy figures. But Peter, headstrong, blundering, 
violently temperamental, easily influenced by his surroundings or 
by the words of others, yet always ardent and after one terrible 
experience while Jesus was on trial always courageous, Peter is 
unforgettable. As has been said, it is Peter to whom the New Testa- 
ment accords the honor of first openly saluting Jesus as the Mes- 


siah. Paul told the Greek Christians at Corinth that it was to Peter, 
after the crucifixion, the risen Lord first appeared (I Cor. 15:5). 
And when, fifty days after the resurrection, the followers of the 
new faith made their first attempt to win a public hearing, it was 
Peter who preached the sermon on that memorable Pentecost. 

We do not know a great deal about Peter's subsequent career, 
for he had no biographer who traveled with him, as did Luke with 
Paul, to keep a record of his preaching journeys. We learn, how- 
ever, from the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and from 
statements in Paul's letters, that Peter spent some time with the 
church in Jerusalem and the churches that were springing up in 
many Gentile cities in Asia Minor. Finally, in some unknown 
fashion, he reached Rome, where Catholic tradition holds that he 
was the first bishop. There he is believed to have suffered martyr- 
dom under Nero in A.D. 64. There is some reason to expect that 
before long his burial place in the present Vatican at that time 
the site of Nero's gardens will be authenticated. 

Everything about Peter's career in Rome is legendary, but 
legends are often valuable in their revelation of character. There 
is one story, for example, which tells how the apostle was induced 
by other Christians, when Nero's persecution started, to escape the 
emperor's wrath by fleeing. But as he plodded along the Appian 
Way he met a Figure whom he recognized as One with whom he 
had once traveled the roads of Galilee. Quo vadis, Domine? 
("Where are you going, Lord?") he asked. "To Rome in your 
stead," the Figure answered. Whereupon Peter, in remorse only 
a little less bitter than he had tasted after his denial in the high 
priest's courtyard, turned around and marched back to his death. 
It was possible for pliable Peter to be persuaded by others to go 
wrong. Paul told the Galatian churches about that (see Gal 2). 
But he could recognize his mistakes, repent of them, and correct 

Another legend deals with the manner of Peter's martyrdom. 
After he had been condemned, it asserted, the apostle asked that, 
as a last favor, he might be crucified head down. In this way he 
sought to show his sense of unworthiness to be put to death in the 
same fashion as had his Lord. True or not, it is at least in character 


with all that is known of St. Peter, Origen tells us that by the 
third century this story had become familiar to Christians every- 


Of the others in that original company of apostles, almost noth- 
ing can be said with confidence. Tradition has apportioned to all 
of them missionary journeys and a roster of places of martyrdom 
so geographically distributed as to arouse suspicion. One of the 
most remarkable and least improbable of these legends ascribes to 
St. Thomas, "the doubter," a mission to India, where he is revered 
as founder of the large Mar Thorna churches which still flourish, 
and where he is supposed to have suffered martyrdom near 
Madras. The Apostle James, by the testimony of the New Testa- 
ment, is known to have been put to death in Jerusalem about A.D. 
44 in a local persecution under Herod Agrippa L* The name of 
St. John, "the beloved," is linked by hazardous tradition with 
Ephesus, where it is possible that he wrote that Fourth Gospel 
which some scholars do, and more scholars do not, ascribe to his 
authorship. There is a legendary picture of him as a very old man, 
nearly if not quite a centenarian, being carried on a litter through 
the Ephesian church, murmuring his blessing over the kneeling 
congregation: "Little children, love one another." The closing 
verses of the Fourth Gospel, by whomever written, certainly indi- 
cate that St. John lived to a great age. 

As for what happened to the other apostles, we have nothing to 
go on but conjecture. And the materials for intelligent conjecture 
do not exist. It may be noted that even according to the most con- 

* The martyred Apostle James is not to be confused with James "the 
brother of the Lord" (Gal. 1:19; 2:9 and Acts 21:18) who later held the 
leadership of the Jerusalem church and suffered martyrdom just before the 
remnants of that church fled from Jerusalem in the face of Titus's approach. 
After the fall of Jerusalem, what was left of the Jerusalem congregation 
established headquarters east of the Jordan and chose Simeon, another 
relative of Jesus, as its head. This suggests that the Palestinian tradition, had 
it prevailed, might have fastened on Christianity a system of hereditary rule 
like that of the later Islamic caliphate. 


servarive opinion only three of the twelve apostles had any part 

in writing the books of the New Testament and that these wrote 
only about one-third of its total contents. Most modern scholars 
would reduce the direct contribution of the Twelve to a very 
much lower figure, in fact, almost to the vanishing point. 


There is another figure, however, who stands right alongside 
St. Peter in the story of the first Christian century the Apostolic 
Age. This is St. Paul, the man who has been credited, though with 
some scholarly dissent, with having written a great part of the 
New Testament. In his brilliant study of early Christianity, the 
recently retired Bishop of London, Dr. J. W. C. Wand, has ex- 
plained its rapid expansion from a Jewish sect into a world religion 
by the fact that "the Christian society was born at the place where 
two worlds met, the East and the West, the Semitic and the 
Graeco-Roman, the Jew and the Gentile." This meeting and 
mingling of cultures was very nearly incarnated in the Apostle 

Paul was not an apostle in the sense of being one of the Twelve. 
The probability is that he never saw Jesus during his earthly 
career; if he had seen him, it is unlikely that his epistles would have 
failed to say so. It is possible, though not probable, that Paul did 
not reach Jerusalem until after the crucifixion. 

Born in the Cilician city of Tarsus, a Pharisaic Jew of the Dis- 
persion, acquainted with the Greek Stoic teaching which was 
popular in his native city, Saul, as he was known before his con- 
version, possessed the immense advantage of bkthright Roman 
citizenship when he went to Jerusalem to complete his rabbinical 
education under the famous Rabbi Gamaliel. One lesson, however, 
he seems never to have learned from his mentor tolerance. In 
Acts 5: 38, 39 it is recalled how calm Gamaliel remained in the face 
of the rising Christian challenge which so excited other rabbis. 
Young Saul became as wrought-up as any of the Pharisees over 
what he construed as an attempt to undermine the teaching and 
authority of the old Hebrew law. Soon he was going all out to 


suppress the new teaching, even taking part in the stoning of 
Stephen, the first Christian martyr. 

Then suddenly, probably about the year 35, as Saul was riding 
to Damascus with a commission to destroy a company of Chris- 
tians that had sprung up there, he underwent the shattering ex- 
perience so vividly described in Acts and in the apostle's own 
letters. From there, having adopted the name of Paul (meaning 
"little" or "the little one," though there is no New Testament 
evidence of any overwhelming modesty on his part), he went on 
to become the great missionary to the Gentiles. In doing this, as 
we shall see, he had to maintain against strong elements in the 
Jerusalem church and many Jewish Christians outside Palestine 
his right to be accepted as an apostle. This he did on the ground 
that he had received his commission to preach to the Gentiles 
directly from Christ, and it is interesting to discover, in I Corin- 
thians 15:8, that Paul claimed to have seen the risen Lord several 
years after the crucifixion as truly as had Peter and the others who 
were in Jerusalem at the time of the resurrection. Nor does this 
passage suggest any difference in the nature of these appearances of 
the postcrucifixion Christ. 

Paul was the great, though by no means the only, missionary of 
that first century. His indefatigable journeyings can be traced 
largely, though not completely, in the Acts of the Apostles, with 
a little additional information from his own Epistles. He went from 
one major city in the Roman Empire to another until he had cov- 
ered almost all of Asia Minor, Greece, and various Mediterranean 
islands. Early Christian testimony declares that he preached as far 
west as Spain. Finally, however, he was beheaded (as a Roman 
citizen he could not be crucified) in Rome, if tradition is depend- 
able, at about the same time St. Peter was martyred. The church 
in Rome thus acquired the distinction of being the one church in 
the West to have had the advantage not only of receiving the 
teaching of two apostles, but also of being the venerated place of 
their martyrdoms. 

In Peter and Paul the Christian religion can be seen beginning 
to develop along both the great avenues which give it permanent 
importance. It develops as an institution (the church) and as a 


teaching, a theology, a faith. The institution is named first because 
the theology came out of it, not the Institution out of the theology. 
The New Testament Gospels, Epistles, Apocalypse is a product 
of the Christian community. None of it was written until there 
were Christian churches scattered over a great part of the Roman 
world. The New Testament, as we have it, is the recollection of 
Jesus as it persisted in the churches for a hundred years after his 
death, plus what were believed to be authentic writings by apostles 
and others. Several books crept into the New Testament because 
they were erroneously ascribed to apostles, and a few not claiming 
apostolic authorship were kept out that might perhaps profitably 
have been let in. 

With Peter, the rudimentary original nature of the Christian 
institution and the Christian teaching stands out. The early chap- 
ters of Acts show Peter rushing about to set up emergency forms 
of organization in Jerusalem. These were improvisations, and some 
of them did not work out well for example, the choice by lot 
of a twelfth apostle, Matthias, who promptly sank from the record 
without leaving a trace. Peter's teaching, as shown in the long 
report of his sermon on the first Pentecost and in I Peter (which 
he probably wrote; something which cannot be said for II Peter), 
was just as rudimentary. Jesus was the Messiah, sent by God, re- 
jected by his nation but certified by his resurrection, who was 
soon to return to lift into a glorified and eternal state of bliss all 
who acknowledged him as Lord and were baptized in his name. 
The tremendous questions regarding the nature of Christ, his rela- 
tion to God and to humanity, which were to rend later generations 
and still torment men's minds, seem scarcely to have occurred to 

Paul was of a different stripe. He was no Galilean fisherman 
being carried to immortality by the intensity of his devotion to a 
Master with whom he had once lived on terms of personal in- 
timacy. Paul was a sophisticated Roman citizen and product of 
Greek-Hebrew culture. When he reached Athens, he was quite 
able to preach the Christian gospel there in terms to challenge the 
minds of Greek intellectuals, though the truth he had to preach, 


of a God crucified for man's salvation, he admitted to be "foolish- 
ness" to Greek thinking. 

Paul was a tireless founder of churches, and in these churches 
there sprang up all sorts of competing interpretations of what the 
Christian teaching was. So he wrote letter after letter to straighten 
out the thinking, and at times the behavior, in these churches. Such 
of these letters as survived are the real beginning of the attempt to 
formalize, rationalize, put down in logical argument the Christian 
faith. So much so that it has been charged that Paul, not Jesus, is 
the real author of what we know today as Christianity, that dif- 
ferences and divisions among Christians have resulted from ob- 
scuring the simple moral precepts of the Galilean with the sophisti- 
cated metaphysical speculations of this man from Tarsus. 

There were more objections of that kind a few years ago than 
there are today. One reason is the discovery that, while the New 
Testament contains ample evidence of vigorous disagreements be- 
tween Paul and Peter and James and others on questions of church 
order on such a matter, for instance, as the necessity or otherwise 
of circumcision for Gentile converts it gives not the slightest hint 
that any apostle ever took exception to Paul's doctrinal teaching. 
If one had, we can be confident that the apostle to the Gentiles 
would have said something about it. It would probably have been 
something drastic. The argument from silence can never be con- 
clusive, but in this instance it is certainly to be taken into account. 

But more to the point in laying at rest the charge that Paul 
substituted his own speculations for "the simple gospel" of Jesus 
is our increasing realization that what Jesus taught was by no 
means confined to simple moral precepts. To be sure, there were 
such precepts and a considerable admixture of "sweetness and 
light" in the teaching of Jesus. (This is assuming that we have 
the substance of that teaching in the first three "Synoptic" Gos- 
pels.) But along with the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon 
on the Mount, along with his assurance of God's fatherly love and 
care, must be set the predictions which Jesus uttered of impending 
catastrophe, of coming judgment and punishment, and only after 
these terrifying experiences, after an implacable separation of sheep 


from, goats, would a new age come. "Simple gospel?" That is 
hardly what a careful reader finds in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 
(The Fourth Gospel, John, is itself a theology thrown into bio- 
graphical form.) 

So when Paul, writing from twenty to thirty years after the 
crucifixion, tried to give the Gentile converts in his churches a 
satisfying interpretation of Christian teachings, naturally the first 
questions he had to answer were: Who 'was this Jesus Christ? By 
what authority did he make his tremendous declarations about the 
relation of God to the world and man, and about what was to be 
the ultimate outcome of that relationship? When Paul tried to 
answer those inescapable questions inescapable if Christianity was 
to survive the theology that was to take hard-and-fast form in 
the later creeds was born. When Paul wrote his letters to the new 
Christians in young churches, he was not reciting what they had 
been required to believe in order to become Christians; he was 
telling them what he thought they ought to believe in order to get 
the full value of the Christianity which they had already accepted. 


Life in the Earliest Churches 

How did it come about that Christianity spread so rapidly and so 
widely throughout the empire of the early Caesars? There is some- 
thing almost magical about that expansion. In the year 33, a Galilean 
teacher with a handful of followers is put to death as a common 
malefactor in an out-of-the-way corner of Rome's sprawling 
dominions. Close your eyes then for the passage of three centuries, 
and when you open them a religion that worships this Galilean 
as its divine Lord has covered the Mediterranean world with its 
churches, has won converts by the thousands from every level of 
society, perhaps ten per cent of the total population, and has even 
brought the emperor to the point of placing its symbols in his 
imperial standards and to accepting baptism! What explanation 
for such a dramatic transformation makes sense? 

To a considerable degree, as many writers have pointed out, 
the way had been opened for the swift permeation of the Graeco- 
Roman world by the waning vigor of its old faiths. The temples 
of the Roman and Greek gods were still open; the prescribed 
sacrifices were still offered in them. But there was a general feeling 
that what virtue the ancient forms of worship had once possessed 



was rapidly seeping out of them. Both Roman and Greek literature 
from the time of Cicero on is filled with mourning for the passing 
of the "good old days," and with exhortations to return to the 
virtues of the fathers, now largely vanished. This pervasive sense 
of unfulfilled spiritual desires encouraged the importation from 
Egypt and the East of a number of so-called "mystery religions." 

By the time Peter and Paul started on their missionary labors, 
Rome was filled with these new fads in religion, existing alongside 
the official cult of the state gods and goddesses, commanding devo- 
tion from their initiates and exerting an alluring fascination on 
thousands. Such a great emperor, for example, as Hadrian (117- 
138), who spent little of his reign in Rome, eagerly sought initia- 
tion into whatever cults he encountered as he moved about his 
vast domain. This sense of the weakening hold of the old gods and 
of the need to find satisfaction in strange new rites was as deeply 
felt in the other cities of the empire as in Rome. 

Indeed, the time had come when a moral decline in all the lands 
clustered around the Mediterranean showed the need for a new 
spiritual lift to higher levels of conduct. Not that the Graeco- 
Roman world was bereft of moral ideals. Far from it. Socrates, 
Plato, and the other great Greek philosophers had taught principles 
of conduct which remain an imperishable legacy. The Stoics held 
up standards that were loftier than the mine-run of human beings 
have ever lived up to anywhere or at any time. Nevertheless, the 
corruption which, as Lord Acton says, goes with power was work- 
ing havoc in Roman society, while the outlying cities of the em- 
pire sometimes seemed to be vying with one another to win no- 
toriety as centers of vice. As one reads today the history of the 
Caesars, or the comments of contemporary satirists on the society 
they observed about them, the smell of putrefaction rises from page 
after page. Read Juvenal and Martial and Suetonius's Lives of the 
Twelve Caesars. 

Into this morally sick world Christianity came like a breath 
of fresh air. It had a theology of a God-man who opened a way 
of salvation that was more arresting than any of the myths of the 
older faiths. It had baptismal and eucharistic rites as conducive to 
the curiosity of outsiders as any rites of the mystery religions. 


(Some of the wild rumors that gained general credence concern- 
ing these rites were to make bitter trouble for the Christians.) But 
primarily, it had an object lesson to show that pagan world in the 
form of communities in which people of all kinds a few aristo- 
crats, numbers of artisans and tradesmen and housewives, even 
numerous slaves were living the sort of daily lives which their 
neighbors instinctively wished they were living. Edwyn Bevan 

It can hardly be doubted that the attraction of Christianity 
from the very beginning was social. It was not as a disembodied 
truth uttered into the air that the Christian "Good News" laid 
hold of men; it was through the corporate life of the little Chris- 
tian societies in the cities of the ancient world. The life and 
spirit of these societies was indeed what it was because amongst 
them the Christian Good News was believed, but it was the life 
and spirit which gave the Good News its power. Men coming 
into contact with such a group felt an atmosphere unlike any- 
thing else. Each little group was a center of attraction which 
drew men in from the surrounding world. In that way, prob- 
ably, more than by the preaching of any few individuals, the 
church grew. (Edwyn Bevan, Christianity, Oxford University 
Press, 1932.) 

Someone has said that Christianity is not taught so much as 
caught. That was certainly true in the world of the first Christian 
century, and it remains true. 


What was life like in those earliest Christian churches? Well, 
such evidence as we have indicates that they differed from one to 
another in details of organization and in their practices. But in the 
main they seem to have been little groups who came together out 
of a common acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah and Lord, and 
were welded together by their sense of being different from and 
regarded with suspicion by their surrounding Jewish or Gentile 
communities. They had an initiatory rite, baptism. What symbolic 
meaning it had for the earliest Christians we cannot be sure, but 
one fact appears certain baptism was supposed to be accompanied 


or followed by an experience known as "the gift of the Holy 
Spirit," which would give the one baptized an inner power to live 
up to the high standards of conduct that were required of all 

The formula of creedal affirmation for all who sought entrance 
into this company was, in the earliest days, very simple. The New 
Testament shows that all the candidate for baptism had to avow 
was his belief that "Jesus is Lord/' and then go on from there. 
But the fellowship in the little groups, who sometimes called them- 
selves "the Brethren" and sometimes "Followers of the Way," was 
very close. They met together daily. There was constant concern 
for the physical needs of all members; collecting and distributing 
for their poor was one of the principal activities within their 
groups. Groups in more fortunate circumstances took up collec- 
tions for the relief of other groups, sometimes hundreds of miles 
away, who were having hard going. For a brief time at the start the 
Jerusalem group practiced a sort of voluntary social communism 
(Acts 2:44, 45). 

Within these Christian groups, which gradually came to speak 
of themselves as ecclesiai, a Greek word we translate as "churches," 
the standards of personal morality were very high, though the level 
of actual practice was sometimes shockingly lower. The early 
Christians were, after all, recent converts from a corrupt pagan 
society. They had some bad habits to overcome, and that took time. 
There were even times, as when St. Paul counseled his converts 
to follow his example and remain unmarried in order to concen- 
trate on their religious duties, when there was a tendency to regard 
celibacy as the highest form of moral life. Fortunately, that ex- 
travagance withered. But no sexual indulgence outside the marriage 
relation was countenanced, no loose living of any kind, while in 
all business and social dealings the most exacting standards were 

The fact that mattered most, however, was not that these early 
"Nazarenes," as their Jewish critics called them, taught these lofty 
precepts of conduct, but that, by and large, they actually lived up 
to them. St. Augustine later was to claim that Christianity's distin- 
guishing virtue lay not in its possession of any moral precepts 


which were very different from or superior to the precepts of the 
Hebrew religion or of the greatest Greek philosophers, but that it 
gave innumerable ordinary men and women the ability to live out 
a code of conduct to which formerly only a few philosophers had 

One other thing distinguished these early Christian churches. 
This was their habit of meeting for a communal meal, at which 
bread and wine were shared. Exactly what symbolic meaning was 
at first attached to this act is a matter for debate. St. Paul speaks 
of the bread and wine as being the Body and Blood of the Lord, 
but how he meant those terms to be taken, or how those in his 
churches understood them, who can tell? There is no reason to 
doubt, however, that the apostolic tradition asserted that Jesus, at 
the Last Supper, made a similar reference to the bread he broke 
and the wine he poured out. It was natural, therefore, that from 
the earliest days the Christian groups should have gathered in these 
commemorative meals at which bread and wine formed the central 
elements, though it took more than a thousand years to develop 
fully the dogma of transubstantiation. 

This common meal, in which only baptized believers partici- 
pated, led to some of the most damaging slanders circulated against 
Christianity. The very fact that Christians tended to live by them- 
selves and to celebrate their most sacred rites in private encouraged 
the rumormongers. Three charges in particular were made when 
Christians were brought before magistrates: atheism, incest, and 
cannibalism. The first grew out of their refusal to venerate any 
images or to cast incense on the altars dedicated to the emperor's 
genius. More will be said about that when we come to the persecu- 
tions. The second was downright libel, and easily proved so. But 
the cannibalism charge had this faint shadow of a factual basis 
that the Christians were alleged to "eat their God" in their secret 
communal meals. 

We have a reflection of the trouble this charge caused those 
early Christians in a famous letter which Pliny the Younger wrote 
Trajan about the year 113. Pliny had been sent out as governor of 
Bithynia and found himself called on to try Christians against 
whom these scandalous charges had been leveled. When he ex- 


amined them, he found the accusations so baseless and the general 
conduct of the accused so blameless that he wrote to the emperor 
for instructions as to what to do. Far from indulging in licentious 
living or secret orgies, he told Trajan, this is what he had found 
out about them: 

. . . They declared that the sum of their guilt or error had 
amounted only to this, that on an appointed day they had been 
accustomed to meet before daybreak, and to recite a hymn 
antiphonally to Christ, as to God, and to bind themselves by an 
oath, not for the commission of any crime, but to abstain from 
theft, robbery, adultery and breach of faith, and not to deny a 
deposit when it was claimed. After the conclusion of this cere- 
mony it was their custom to depart and meet again to take food; 
but it was ordinary and harmless food and they had ceased this 
practice after my edict in which, in accordance with your 
orders, I had forbidden secret societies. I thought it the more 
necessary, therefore, to find out what truth there was in this by 
applying torture to two maidservants, who were called dea- 
conesses. But I found nothing but a depraved and extravagant 
superstition, and I therefore postponed my examination and had 
recourse to you for consultation. 

Pliny seems to have been fairly certain that the Christians were 
guilty of something. He wasn't sure what it was. But at least he had 
found out that it was not cannibalism or immorality. 

From such descriptions of life in the early Christian churches 
it must not be concluded that all was harmony within them. One 
of the "church fathers" wrote that these congregations made their 
deepest impression because their fellowship was so warm. "Be- 
hold," he quoted their pagan neighbors exclaiming, "how these 
Christians love one another!" There were times, however, when 
the internal disputes waxed hot. 


One of the first of these concerned circumcision. The original 
Christian congregation in Jerusalem held that all the requirements 
of the Jewish law applied to its members. If Gentiles were to 
become Christians, then they must be circumcised an act pecul- 


iarly abhorrent to Greeks just as Gentile proselytes to Judaism 
had been required to undergo circumcision. St. Paul and others 
who were active in missionary work among Gentiles challenged 
this claim. Their argument was that Christ had brought an end to 
the period in which the old Mosaic law had to be observed in all 
its details. This was a new era, a a new dispensation." 

This debate raged throughout the churches almost as long as the 
Jerusalem church retained its ascendancy. Where Jews as well as 
Gentiles became converts, the churches in Gentile cities were 
shaken by the same hot arguments. For a time St. Peter had trouble 
making up his mind which side he was on. Paul accused him face 
to face of wobbling. But at last he came down decisively on the 
side of those who held circumcision no longer a binding command. 
And James, "the Lord's brother," head of the Jerusalem church, 
finally, though apparently without much enthusiasm, accepted the 
same view. 

Behind this internal struggle over circumcision was the more 
basic and important struggle over whether the new faith was to be 
just another reforming sect within Judaism or a universal religion. 
There is a widespread notion that the teaching of Jesus had an- 
swered that question, but this is not so. As a matter of fact, there 
are one or two statements attributed to Jesus that could have been 
used as arguments by those who regarded "the Way" as a cleansing 
and reviving movement to be kept within Judaism. It was Paul who 
insisted on Christianity's universalism, who declared that in the 
Christian fellowship there was "neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian, 
Scythian, bond nor free." And again Peter, after a period of hesi- 
tation, came decisively to the support of this position. The critical 
phase of this struggle was soon over. Paul dealt with the basic issue 
in his epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, but does not 
mention it in writing to the Ephesians just a little later. After that 
the extreme "Judaizers" were cut off, or cut themselves off, from 
the main stream of Christianity and became the vanishing sect of 
the Ebionites. 

Nor was it only over such fundamental decisions that disputes 
broke out in those earliest churches. There were differences of 
opinion over doctrine and over the ways in which church activities 


should be conducted. Sometimes congregations threatened to split 
over loyalty to various leaders. The first purpose of one of St. 
Paul's most famous epistles was to patch up the party quarrels that 
had rent the church at Corinth between the adherents of three 
teachers Apollos, Peter, and Paul himself and those who tried to 
bypass such disputes by saying that they belonged to none of these 
factions but that "I am of Christ." Human nature is a pretty con- 
stant quality, and those who deplore the divisions among Christians 
today should at least remember that there have been disagreements 
within the Christian community from the beginning, and also that 
the responsible leaders strongly rebuked all the partisans, including 
their own. 

Yet with all the internal quarrels, throughout that first century 
the feeling grew among Christians that they were not simply an- 
other Jewish sect, but that their local groups of believers, or 
ecclesiai, together constituted something entirely new. Instead of 
coining a new word for this new thing, they used an old word and 
gave it a new meaning. They called it the eccksia, the church. In 
the secular Greek of the time, this word meant a public meeting 
of any kind or a gathering of citizens. In the Greek translation of 
the Old Testament (the Septuagint) it was used to translate the 
Hebrew word Qahal, which meant an assembly of the people. The 
Christian ecclesia was not a mass meeting that went out of existence 
when the meeting adjourned; it was a continuing reality. It was 
not a "new Israel," but a new "people of God" taking that place 
after Israel had forfeited it, yet inheriting much from the Hebrew 
tradition. The Messiahship was a Jewish concept expressed in the 
prophetic expectation of a Messiah who would restore Israel. Chris- 
tianity was a new religion founded on faith in Jesus as the Messiah 
who would redeem the world, or so much of it as would accept 
redemption through him. As the preponderance of adherents 
swung to the congregations outside Palestine, pushing the Jewish 
members into a smaller and smaller minority, this feeling of non- 
Jewishness increased. After the Romans all but wiped Jerusalem off 
the map, the center of activity shifted finally to the great Gentile 
cities. For a long time Antioch, the Syrian metropolis, was the most 
vigorous of all the congregations, and the Book of Acts tells us that 


it was in Antioch the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians. 
That name, first applied by their pagan neighbors, stuck. As the 
new religion spread, the name spread. By the time the Roman 
writer Suetonius came to write his life of the Emperor Claudius, 
he explained the edict that banished Jews from Rome in AJD. 52 
on the ground that they were a constant source of turmoil in the 
city, "continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chres- 
tus." (Like many a modern newspaper reporter, he didn't quite 
spell the name correctly.) In his life of Nero, Suetonius called the 
adherents of this "novel and mischievous superstition" Christians. 
At the end of that first century, both within and without the 
young churches, the name was in general use. 


One more important development had begun before that first 
Christian century ended. The Christians had produced most of the 
writings that were later to be collected to form the New Testa- 
ment. At the start, the Bible used in the Christian groups was the 
Bible of Judaism, the Old Testament. Christian teachers read it and 
interpreted it as prophecy that had been fulfilled by Christ. But 
along with the Hebrew Scriptures (in a Greek translation) , those 
earliest congregations listened to letters from their most important 
leaders, in which practical advice for their own conduct mingled 
with recollections of things taught by Jesus. At the same time, as 
the number decreased of those who could testify by word of 
mouth to what they had heard Jesus say, there was a demand that 
these recollected sayings should be written down. 

We need not here go into the long story of how all these oral 
recollections, later written memoranda, letters to churches, and 
letters to individuals shook down into the New Testament. Tradi- 
tion asserts that, of the three Gospels that open the New Testa- 
ment, the one attributed to Mark was written by John Mark, 
Peter's nephew and secretary, to keep in permanent form Peter's 
memories; that the one attributed to Matthew was the collection of 
sayings and biographical material that grew up in the church at 
Antioch, possibly influenced by the apostle whose name it bears; 


and that the Gospel According to Luke, Paul's companion, was 
compiled originally by that gifted physician-writer for the guid- 
ance of the congregations in Greece. Much later probably not 
before the end of the century and possibly as much as two or three 
decades later a Fourth Gospel emerged, tradition says in Ephesus, 
which cast the recollections of Jesus' contemporaries into a wholly 
different framework. (Some interpreters of the Dead Sea scrolls 
have found grounds for a conjecture that the Fourth Gospel may 
have been the first in order of writing.) This Gospel was a sort of 
dramatic argument to prove not only that Jesus was the Christ, the 
Messiah for whom Judaism looked, but that he was the Logos, the 
Divine Word of Greek philosophy, the pre-existent Source of all 
creation and the Sustainer and Sacrificial Redeemer of all created 

Scholars have argued for centuries about this Fourth Gospel 
who wrote it, to what extent the words it puts in the mouth of 
Jesus were actually spoken by him, and, more importantly, to what 
extent the ideas it ascribes to him of his own nature and attributes 
were actually his. That argument still rages and, like many others 
concerned with the early churches, it is safe to predict that it will 
never be settled. Any reader of the New Testament, however, 
can see with his own eyes that the portrait of Jesus in the first three 
Gospels differs fundamentally from that in the Fourth; one who 
approached the four books without prior acquaintance would find 
it difficult to believe that the writer of the Fourth Gospel and the 
writers of the first three were talking about the same man. 

Slowly, these collections of Christian writings came to be re- 
garded in the early churches as having equal standing as Holy 
Scripture with the books of the Old Testament. Thus, what is 
called a "canon" of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, grew. 
This was not an easy or simple task. There were dozens of "Gos- 
pels," "Acts," "Epistles," and "Apocalypses" having some sort of 
claim to inclusion, and it was long before all the books now in- 
cluded were unanimously accepted. The gradual fixation of the 
canon came about by the usage of the churches, not by the act of 
any council or central authority. By the middle of the second cen- 
tury it was generally agreed that some Christian writings were 


more authoritative than others and that there could be a collection 
of these which would constitute a canon of Christian Scriptures. 
By the end of the second century there was general agreement on 
most of the contents of such a canon. The test was reputed author- 
ship by an apostle or by a companion of an apostle so as to preserve 
the apostolic teaching. Marginal differences remained until late in 
the fourth century. 

Scholars are predominantly of the opinion that the churches of 
that formative period were not infallible in determining apostolic 
authorship. The Epistle to the Hebrews, for example, was included 
(fortunately) on the ground that it was written by Paul, but noth- 
ing is now more certain in the field of Biblical scholarship than that 
Paul did not write it. It is highly improbable that II Peter, II and 
III John, and Revelation were written by apostles. But when one 
compares the books that were accepted into the canon with the 
scores of competing writings that did not make it, the level of 
spiritual perception among those early Christians is seen to have 
been remarkably high. 

Much later a difference of opinion arose in regard to the limits 
of the Old Testament canon. If the Protestant layman will examine 
the "pulpit Bible" on the lectern in almost any church, he will 
probably find between Malachi and Matthew several books that 
are not in the Bible he has at home. These are labeled "Apocry- 
pha." In Roman Catholic Bibles this material is not thus set apart, 
but is treated as an integral part of the Bible. These books were not 
written in Hebrew but in Greek, and were not in the Hebrew 
canon. St. Jerome included them in his great Latin translation, the 
Vulgate, and until the sixteenth century they were regarded by all 
Christians as having equal rank with all other parts of the Old 
Testament. Modern Protestant scholars have a growing apprecia- 
tion of their literary and religious value. It is some comfort to 
reflect that, while these differences exist in regard to the Old 
Testament, there is no doubt whatever as to what books constitute 
the New Testament. 


The Blood of the Martyrs 

For two hundred and fifty years after the martyrdoms of Peter 
and Paul, Christianity spread steadily over the Mediterranean 
world, its expansion not much affected by periods of official re- 
pression which sometimes blew up into vigorous persecutions. 
This was the period during which the church enrolled some of the 
most illustrious names on its roster of martyrs. But there is a wide- 
spread misconception about the number of these martyrs, as well 
as about the extent of the persecutions. During those first three 
centuries before Christianity became the established religion of the 
empire, not all Christians were thrown to the lions. Neither did 
every Christian go to bed every night fearful lest, before morning, 
there would come that dreadful knocking on the door and he 
would be hustled off to stand trial before the magistrate. It was 
not like that at all On the contrary, most of the time most Chris- 
tians lived in security, and the churches went on gathering their 
converts without interference. Persecution was the abnormal, not 
the normal, thing. 

This is not to deny that there were persecutions, nor to mini- 
mize the trials of the martyrs. But official attempts to curb the 


Christians, as well as mob outbreaks against them, were largely 
local affairs, touched off by some local incident at times nothing 
more than the attempt of an unpopular Roman governor to work 
off the anger of the populace on a convenient scapegoat and they 
seldom lasted long. Nero's famous persecution in 64 was of that 
sort. Even Tacitus, the Roman historian, was fairly certain that the 
Christians, who suffered so horribly then for a short period, had 
nothing to do with the burning of Rome, but were the victims of 
the emperor's need to turn suspicion from himself. 

There was another period of persecution by Domitian just be- 
fore the end of the first century, which is reflected in the bitter 
accusations and dire threats against "Babylon" (Rome) in the 
closing book of the New Testament, the Revelation of John, writ- 
ten at that time. The virtuous Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius 
(161-180) was a conscientious persecutor. Polycarp and Justin 
Martyr were his most famous victims. But we have no proof that 
any effective general law of the empire was enacted against the 
Christians before the opening of the third century, when Emperor 
Septimius Severus made it a crime to baptize a new convert. There 
were several more brief and scattered persecutions during the even 
briefer reigns which cluttered up the record of that anarchic cen- 
tury, the fiercest and most general being that under Decius. But 
the all-out, merciless effort to stamp out Christianity in every part 
of the empire was not to come until the opening of the fourth cen- 
tury, and we have not yet reached that point in the story. 


Such persecution of Christians as there was in the first three 
centuries resulted in most instances from difficulties over emperor 
worship. As has been said, the grip of the old Roman gods was 
slackening throughout the period of the empire. The Romans were 
normally tolerant in regard to religion, chiefly through indif- 
ference. But from Augustus on there rose a cult of homage to the 
emperor proclaimed a god. Temples were built in all the principal 
cities of the empire to this living divinity, and in these stood the 
altars on which the loyal citizen was required to sprinkle incense 


to the emperor's Genius. To the Roman authorities, this was more 
an act of patriotism than of religion. Or perhaps it should be called 
a religious act performed as a proof of patriotism. Something much 
like it was required in the Japanese Empire before World War II, 
when the divinity of the Japanese imperial house was the funda- 
mental tenet of State Shinto. It made almost as much trouble for 
Christians in Japan and Korea as did the demands of emperor 
worship for the Christians in the Roman Empire. 

On the whole, Roman policy was remarkably tolerant in deal- 
ing with the religions encountered as the legions overran that 
world around the Mediterranean. If the national religions of the 
conquered countries would add homage to the emperor to their 
other rites, Rome almost never interfered. On the contrary, it was 
more likely to find a place for the foreign religion in the swarm 
of new deities whose cults were brought to Rome. And in one 
notable instance, Rome even dropped the requirement of emperor 
worship. The Jews, with their fanatical loyalty to their One True 
God, and their readiness to turn their land into a blood-soaked 
waste before they would acknowledge any other deity, were 

If Rome was willing to make an exception in the case of the 
Jews, why was it not willing likewise to exempt Christians from 
spilling incense on the altars of the divine emperors? At the start, 
the Roman authorities not unnaturally regarded the Christians as 
just one more sect of Jews, and this may help to explain why 
general persecution was so slow in starting. The Christians, how- 
ever, raised the problem of toleration in a form more exasperating, 
from the Roman viewpoint, than the Jews ever had. The Jews, 
after all, were a sort of closed corporation, a people set apart from 
others by the mark of circumcision, who lived and worshiped 
largely by themselves, and did no active proselyting. The Chris- 
tians, on the other hand, were ceaseless proselyters. They were 
avowedly out to make Christians of the entire population of the 
empire, and the rapidity of their spread showed that this was no 
idle dream. Not only did they, like the Jews, refuse to worship 
the emperor as a living god, but they were doing their utmost to 


induce every subject of the emperor to join them in that same 

The problem for the empire, in other words, was more political 
than religious. While sacrifice to the Genius of the emperor re- 
mained the test of patriotism, could the state authorities afford to 
wink at the contumacy of these unpatriotic Christians? The trou- 
ble in which the Christians consequently found themselves was not 
wholly unlike the trouble in which, during the war years, that 
aggressive sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses found itself in the 
United States over the matter of saluting the national flag. 

Logically, the Roman state of the Caesars should have cracked 
down everywhere and at all times on the Christians. It did nothing 
of the sort. The Roman proconsuls and local magistrates were not 
looking for trouble; when their jurisdictions were peaceful they 
were glad to leave well enough alone. At the same time, the Chris- 
tians went out of their way to try to prove that they were good 
citizens. They lived quiet, moral, indeed model lives. The epistles 
read in their meetings, written by Paul and other leaders, admon- 
ished them to render proper obedience to those in civil authority. 
If they would not pray to the emperor by scattering incense on 
his altars, they never failed to pray f or him in their meetings. In 
every respect except that single matter of incense-burning they 
were exemplary citizens. 

Moreover, some of them were influential citizens. As early as 
when St. Paul was writing his letters, he included salutations to the 
church at Rome from "Erastus the chamberlain of the city," and 
to the church at Philippi from "the saints . . . that are of Caesar's 
household." A Roman consul, so close a relative of the emperor 
that his sons were named to the imperial succession, was among the 
converts before the first century ended. By the reign of Diocletian, 
when the Great Persecution was ordered, the wife and daughter of 
the emperor were rumored to be catechumens. Certainly by that 
time the imperial household and the Roman military and adminis- 
trative service were honeycombed with Christians. 

Face to face with an actual situation of this sort, logic usually 
gave way to caution in Rome's dealing with this new faith. The 


Christians were openly recalcitrant when it came to participating 
in this one prescribed loyalty test. For this reason they were 
always, legally considered, in contempt of Caesar and therefore 
liable to punishment. But by the middle of the second century no 
official who considered persecuting them could be sure how close 
to his own household the purge might come. So Rome, on the 
whole, moved cautiously. "This curious vacillation on the part of 
the Roman government," writes Edwyn Bevan, "striking now and 
again with atrocious violence, and then for long periods letting the 
Christian community grow unchecked, suggests that the govern- 
ment was really puzzled what line to follow, when confronted 
with the new and mysterious phenomenon." 

Nevertheless, there were martyrs, and their blood, as the familiar 
saying put it, was the seed of the church. When persecution came, 
not all Christians proved courageous enough to stand up against it. 
One problem that agitated those early churches was what to do 
about the apostates who, having sprinkled incense on the altars of 
the emperors when their lives were at stake, after the persecution 
died down repented of their weakness and asked to be taken back 
into the Christian fellowship. Yet there were enough who sealed 
their faith with martyrdom to make a deep impression on pagan 
observers. During some of the later persecutions there even came 
periods when a sort of psychological mass mania for martyrdom 
swept through some of the churches, and Christian leaders felt 
constrained to expostulate against the idea that there was merit in 
going out of one's way to provoke magisterial action. 

There has been some disparagement of the courage of those 
early martyrs on the ground that, since they were expecting the 
end of all things to come with the return of Christ at any moment, 
it made little difference to them whether they lived much longer. 
St. Paul, who was himself to be one of the earliest martyrs, told 
the Philippian Christians that he was in a dilemma between want- 
ing to die and "be with Christ, which is far better," and to live 
and carry on his work as a missionary. On the whole, he had con- 
cluded that it was better to go on living, but he acknowledged the 
urge to welcome death. 

It is ridiculous, however, to try to discount those early Chris- 


tian martyrdoms on such grounds. Life was sweet to those Chris- 
tians, just as it is to us. Deliberately to choose death, when a simple 
gesture could insure life, required a courage, a constancy, and a 
faith that went down to the very roots of their being. This those 
Christian martyrs had. And as we read their stories, it is not hard 
to understand what the effect must have been on a world that no 
longer believed in much of anything or that no longer was com- 
mitted to any convictions worth dying for. 


The heroism of some of those martyrs, who left a testimony 
which has survived, can reach across the centuries to move us even 
at this far distance. Such a man, for example, was Ignatius, the 
bishop of Antioch at about the turn of the first century. When he 
was being taken to Rome, where death awaited, he forbade the 
churches to attempt to have his sentence lifted in these memorable 
words: "I write to all the churches and charge them all to know 
that I die willingly for God, if you hinder not. I entreat you, do 
not unseasonably befriend me. Suffer me to belong to the wild 
beasts, through whom I may attain to God. I am God's grain, and 
I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found 
pure bread." 

Then there was Polycarp, whose story has been left us in a 
letter written by his church to other churches after his death. 
Polycarp had been a disciple of the apostle John. He was a close 
friend of Ignatius. When a local persecution finally sought his life 
he was bishop at Smyrna. For a few days his church tried to hide 
the aged bishop, but he was finally tracked down and brought 
before the Roman proconsul in an amphitheater crowded with a 
blood-lusting mob shouting for his life. Who even today can read 
unmoved the account of this old man's death as his fellow Chris- 
tians told it in The Martyrdom of Polycarp 1 ? 

And the Proconsul tried to persuade him, saying, "Have 
respect to thine age," and so forth, according to their customary 
form; "Swear by the genius of Caesar," "Repent," "Say, 'Away 
with the atheists!' " Then Polycarp looked with a severe coun- 


tenance on the mob of lawless heathen in the stadium, and he 
waved his hand at them, and looking up to heaven he groaned 
and said, "Away with the atheists." But the Proconsul urged 
him and said, "Swear, and I will release thee; curse the Christ." 
And Polycarp said, "Eighty and six years have I served him, 
and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my 
King who saved me?" 

The Proconsul threatened death under the fangs of wild beasts; the 
mob kept shouting for the lions. Finally, as Polycarp had predicted, 
he was condemned to be burned at the stake. 

And now things happened with such speed, in less time than 
it takes to tell; for the mob straightway brought together timber 
and faggots from the workshops and baths, the Jews giving 
themselves zealously to the work, as they were like to do. . . . 
They were about to nail him to the stake, when he said, "Let 
me be as I am. He that granted me to endure the fire will grant 
me also to remain at the pyre unmoved, without being secured 
by nails." 

When he had ended his prayer the firemen lighted the fire. 
And a great flame flashed forth: and we, to whom it was given 
to see, beheld a marvel. . . . The fire took the shape of a vault, 
like a ship's sail bellying in the wind, and it made a wall around 
the martyr's body; and there was the body in the midst, like a 
loaf being baked or like gold and silver being tried in the 

"The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church." 


The Creeds 

During the three hundred years of which we have been speaking 
roughly from the Crucifixion to the council of Christian bishops 
at Nicaea in 325 whether Christians were enjoying a respite from 
state interference or were being forced underground, there grad- 
ually emerged a formulation of Christian teachings (though never 
complete agreement) and of the ways in which congregations 
should be governed. Legions of scholars have disputed for cen- 
turies, and are still disputing over this problem of congregational 
government. How "primitive" was the organization of congrega- 
tions with ordained pastors (elders, presbyters, priests) under the 
rule of apostolically consecrated bishops? When did the informal 
gatherings described by such an early church father as Justin 
Martyr (c. 100-165) become the strictly prescribed sacramental 
and liturgical services that have come down to our time? 

Justin, in his description of Christian worship about the middle 
of the second century, wrote: 

On the day that is called the day of the sun, there is an 
assembly of all who live in the towns or in the country; and the 
memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are 



read, as long as time permits. Then the reader ceases, and the 
president speaks, admonishing us and exhorting us to imitate 
these excellent examples. Then we arise all together and offer 
prayers; and, as we said before, when we have concluded our 
prayers, bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president 
in like manner offers up prayers and thanksgivings with all his 
might; and the people assent with Amen; and there is the dis- 
tribution and partaking by all of the Eucharistic elements; and 
to them that are not present they are sent by the hand of the 
deacons. And they that are prosperous and wish to do so give 
what they will, each after his choice. What is collected is 
deposited with the president, who gives aid to the orphans and 
widows and such as are in want by reason of sickness or other 
cause; and to those that are in prison, and to strangers from 
abroad; in fact to all that are in need he is a protector. 

How and when did the Christian churches pass from such sim- 
plicity as this to the elaborate, fixed liturgies and the sharply dis- 
tinguished orders of church officials that we find in the third cen- 
tury and later? These are questions for which the Roman Catholic, 
the Greek Orthodox, and the other Christian churches have their 
own answers. Accord is never likely, because the evidence is so 
sparse and so capable of many interpretations. A Roman Catholic 
historian, Philip Hughes, writes that "the sources from which the 
historian must reconstruct the story of the primitive church are, 
from the point of view of his task, far from ideal. . . , Nowhere, 
save in the Acts of the Apostles, is there, for nearly three hundred 
years, anything that can be called a contemporary historical 

As someone has said, the history of Christianity between the 
time when the first Christian congregation fled from Jerusalem, 
just before Titus captured that city in 70, and a century later is 
like a plunge into a tunnel We know it came out at this end with 
a fully articulated institution churches, the equivalent of dioceses, 
bishops, minor clergy, sacraments, feasts, and all the rest together 
with a proliferating and subtle theology. But we really do not 
know a great deal about what went on in the tunnel. Not as much 
as it is sometimes claimed we know. 



Our best source as to what Christian teaching had become by 
the close of the second century is Irenaeus, whose Adversus 
Haereses (Against the Heretics} has been preserved complete in a 
Latin translation and in large fragments of the original Greek. In 
a way, Irenaeus summed up in his career the world-embracing 
character of early Christianity, for he was a Greek, born some- 
where in Asia Minor. He studied under Polycarp at Smyrna, then 
moved on to Rome, and finally wound up as bishop in Lyons, a 
distant post in Gaul, where he complained that his ministry in 
Celtic had ruined his Greek. He wrote to confute the ideas of 
various schools of Gnostics, who, as their name implies (the Greek 
word gnosis means "knowledge"), claimed to possess a secret, 
superior knowledge, passed on by some of the apostles to selected 
initiates, concerning the relation of God to the universe and this 
world, the nature of Christ, and the means by which Christ saved 
those who believed in him. 

The purity of Irenaeus's Greek may have suffered from his 
sojourn in Gaul, but he was still capable of giving his contem- 
poraries this explanation of the mystery of the Incarnation, and 
the salvation made available to man through the church's provision 
of the sacraments: "By His own blood the Lord redeemed us; and 
gave His soul for our souls, and His flesh for our flesh, and poured 
out the Spirit of the Father upon the union and communion of 
God and man, bringing down God to man by the Spirit, and 
raising up man to God by the Incarnation, and bestowing on us 
incorruptibility in a real and true sense at his advent, through 
communion with himself." 

In such a declaration as this we find one of the hundreds of 
attempts that were being made throughout this period to answer 
the questions the pagan world persisted in asking of Christian 
missionaries who penetrated it. The Greek mind, in particular, 
could not rest without trying to fathom the metaphysical enigmas 
it found in Christian claims respecting Christ. During the apostolic 


age Jesus had been worshiped as Lord and Master, a Saviour who 
bore a relation to God unique among mortals. But Professor John 
Knox, of Union Theological Seminary, whose standing as an au- 
thority is certified by the fact that he was chosen to edit the 
technical sections on the New Testament in the monumental Inter- 
preter's Bible, says that "there is no convincing evidence that 
[Jesus] was called 'God' in the First Century, and indisputable 
evidence that he was not generally called by that name." When 
that ascription did become common, the questions became inescap- 

If Christ was God, how could he be man? Was he actually man 
or had the Figure who "suffered under Pontius Pilate" been some 
sort of wraithlike simulation of a man? What had been the relation 
of this Christ who had "dwelt among us" to the Creator-God 
before time was and in the work of creation? If he was the "Son 
of God," did this mean that he was not on an equality of dignity 
with God the Father, or that he differed in some manner from the 
Almighty Ruler of the universe worshiped by monotheists? Were 
Christians in truth monotheists, or did they worship two gods? 

To discover how Christian thinkers of that time tried to solve 
such enigmas the reader can go to any of the almost innumerable 
books on the teachings of the early church fathers. They will be 
found in any good library. To those interested in a brief translation 
of the principal ideas of those church fathers in their own words, 
Documents of the Christian Church, selected and edited by Henry 
Bettenson (Oxford University Press, 1943) can be recommended. 
In the quotations used in this book, Mr. Bettenson's translations 
have been followed. 

Whatever a modern man may think of the results at which 
these early theologians arrived in their efforts to "expose the in- 
expressible," he is likely to carry away admiration for their intel- 
lectual capacities. Their world is not ours; the scientific ideas and 
the philosophical conceptions they took over from the Greeks 
such, for example, as their concern with the "substance" of a per- 
sonality are so foreign to our thinking that they border on the 
incomprehensible. But no time, including our own, has produced 
keener minds than that of Tertullian, the hotheaded Carthage 


lawyer turned theologian, whose puritanical ideals and blasting 
attacks on what he considered heresy have earned him the title of 
"the Thomas Carlyle of early Christian literature"; or of Clement 
of Alexandria, the great bishop-teacher who combined his love for 
Platonic philosophy with his Christian theological speculation; or 
of Clement's more famous pupil, Origen. 


Origen is peculiarly attractive today because of the freedom 
and daring with which his mind explored in all directions. He was 
"orthodox" as against the Gnostics in his teaching about the nature 
of Christ, but he was strikingly unorthodox in his beliefs in rein- 
carnation and in universalism. There could be, he said, no eternal 
damnation by a beneficent God, but all beings, including the devils 
and Satan, would ultimately return to the equality of bliss in 
heaven in which they had originally existed. Along with this, he 
showed a modesty in putting forward his own opinions and an 
irenic spirit toward those who rejected them which stands in sharp 
contrast with the acidity of most theological debate, both then and 
later. The wrath of the bishop of Alexandria forced him to leave 
his native city during the later years of his life. He took refuge in 
Palestine, where the persecution of 250 caught him. Torture failed 
to daunt his heroic spirit, but it broke his body and he died soon 

Origen's was the most creative and prolific theological mind 
produced by the church between the time of St. Paul and that of 
St. Augustine. He is said to have written 6,000 books of theology 
and Biblical exposition. This claim probably reflects the free-and- 
easy statistics of those days, although that indefatigable student of 
the next century, St. Jerome, is credited with saying that no man 
could in one lifetime read through all Origen's writings. In any 
case, there can be no denial that he left his mark for centuries on 
church teaching. In the Eastern churches it is still deeply felt. Yet 
it is of interest to note that not one of these three influential Chris- 
tian teachers Tertullian, Clement, and Origen pure as were 
their lives, has been remembered by the church with the accolade 


"Saint." All three illustrate the large degree to which, up to the 
fourth century, Christian teachers were still disagreeing with one 
another and diverging in what they were teaching. It was an era 
of relatively free thought. Doctrinal regimentation had not yet 
been achieved, nor had the necessary apparatus for enforcing 
uniformity been created. 

It was only slowly that an "orthodox" body of Christian belief 
won general acceptance. The church fathers of the second and 
third centuries produced many variations in the Christian explana- 
tion as to how Jesus of Nazareth became Christ the Son, how the 
Son was related to God the Father, and later how the Holy Spirit 
was part of a trinitarian deity and related to its two other Persons. 
Out of these variations came the "heresies" which flourished so 
profusely. Gnosticism, Montanism, Sabellianism, Manicheisrn, 
Donatism, Arianisrn, Pelagianism, Nestorianism today these are 
not much more than entries in an encyclopedia, where the inquir- 
ing reader can look them up, though some of their ideas persist in 
various forms and there are Arian and Nestorian churches still in 
existence. In the third and fourth centuries, however, these were 
views for which men risked exile and death. In some instances, it 
was only by the narrowest of margins, after church councils had 
voted first on one side and then the other, that these views were 
branded as heretical and the trinitarian view prevailed. 

If one were to single out any of these heresies for passing 
attention, it should be Gnosticism. Gnosticism had a historic 
importance not so much because of what it taught (there were 
many schools of Gnostics and they taught so many differing ideas 
that it is impossible to put a finger on one set of beliefs and say, 
"This was Gnosticism") as because of what it produced. In gen- 
eral, it can be said that Gnosticism held a dualistic world view, 
with God set wholly apart from this evil world, which he ap- 
proaches only through created intermediaries, of whom Christ was 
foremost, in conflict with the powers of evil which rule the world. 
For most Gnostics, Christ was a spiritual manifestation, not in any 
real sense a human being who experienced the tragedy of cruci- 
fixion or the glory of resurrection. And this superior Gnostic 
knowledge, which was only for a small group of the enlightened, 


who could grasp it, had been passed on secretly by the inner circle 
of the original apostles. 

All this sounds fantastic; the nearest approach we have to any- 
thing like it in these days is what is loosely called theosophy. It 
would be a waste of time for the reader to try to straighten it all 
out in his mind into a logical theological-philosophical system. But 
it deserves to be remembered because this weird mixture of ideas, 
spreading among the churches for about fifty years in the middle of 
the second century, drove them to a more rigid, carefully defined 
statement of the Christian faith than had been felt necessary before. 
If the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church, then the 
speculations of the heretics were the seedbeds of the church's 

In the beginning, as has been said, all that was required of a 
convert seeking to enter church membership was the affirmation 
"Jesus is Lord." But that obviously would not cover the issues that 
the Gnostics, with their claims of a special knowledge passed on 
from the apostles, had raised. So, little by little, there came into 
being statements of the essentials of Christian belief which the 
principal churches held to be what the apostles had really taught, 
and what were therefore to be accepted by candidates for baptism 
as the true Christian faith. These were the creeds. 


There were many creeds, and scholars can trace the flowing 
lines of battle within the churches of that time by their variations. 
We are not interested in tracing these changes of wording. But 
one who is called on, when attending a Christian service today, to 
join with the congregation in repeating what is known as the 
Apostles' Creed may catch some sense of the continuity of Chris- 
tian history by knowing that as early as 175 this affirmation of 
faith was in use in the church at Rome: 

I believe in God the Father Almighty; and in Christ Jesus, 
His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was born of the Holy 
Spirit and the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate and 
buried; the third day He rose from the dead, ascended into the 


heavens, being seated at the right hand of the Father, whence He 
shall come to judge the living and the dead; and in the Holy 
Spirit, holy church, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the 

This creed was designed as a rebuttal of the theory that Jesus 
had not been a real person who had real human experiences of life 
and death. But if this satisfied the church at Rome and was received 
with respect in other churches, especially in the West, it by no 
means satisfied the churches in North Africa and the East, which 
were locked in battle with the Gnostics and other variant teach- 
ings. It was, as any reader will immediately perceive, not much 
more than a recapitulation of certain events that the church 
affirmed either had occurred or would occur. It was silent on the 
very questions that most plagued the metaphysical Greek mind. 
(And which, it should be added, continue to make most trouble 
for Christian theology down to the present.) 

Take the phrase "only begotten Son." What did it mean? In 
attempting to establish the divinity of Christ there had been in the 
early church a doctrine of his pre-existence and his agency in the 
work of creation from the beginning. This runs all through the 
epistles of St. Paul and the Fourth Gospel. Yet if Christ had been 
"begotten" by the Father, did this mean that there had been when 
he was not, and that therefore he could not be fully God in the 
sense that the uncreated Father Almighty was? If that sentence 
seems to lack two words "a time" between the words "had been" 
and "he was not" it must be explained that the omission is 
deliberate. The followers of Arius, of whom more later, were care- 
ful not to say that there had been a moment in time when Christ 
had not been in existence; their contention was that if he had been 
begotten then he must have had a beginning like any other created 
thing, though this act on the part of God the Father Almighty was 
not necessarily related to human conceptions of time. Augustine 
was to say later that God created time and the cosmos together, so 
that the begetting of the Son was in the eternity before time 

* This is the wording of an early form of the Apostles' Creed as given in 
A History of the Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner's, 1918, 


While there was intense, often violent and sometimes disgrace- 
fully acrimonious, debate among churches, bishops, priests, and 
even some laymen over nearly every clause in the creeds, as one 
looks back across the centuries and tries to peer into the dust of 
that theological conflict it becomes clear that the key word was 
"begotten." How could the Christian faith have a single unified 
God, as the trinitarian formula declared, if the Second Person in 
the Trinity had been begotten of the First? And later this meta- 
physical puzzle was extended to the question as to how the Third 
Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, could "proceed from" one 
or both of the other two, and still be on an equality with them in 
a monotheistic unity? 

These struggles to define a creed that would be accepted by all 
the churches came to a head in Alexandria just as the fourth 
century was opening. Alexandria was a natural spot for this deci- 
sive battle, for it was by that time the outstanding literary and 
philosophical center of the Roman Empire. It was the place where 
Roman, Greek, and Jewish thought, all to some extent influenced 
by the thought of Persia and other parts of Asia, met Christian 
thought, sometimes to challenge it, sometimes to reinforce it, and 
always to influence it. The dogmatic controversy in Alexandria, 
which was to lead to the adoption of the other creed that ranks, 
along with the Apostles' Creed, as normative for most of Chris- 
tendom, swirled around two local priests, Arius and Athanasius. 
But if we are to understand the way in which the tides of their 
theological conflict surged back and forth, and its outcome, we 
must first look at the revolutionary political developments that 
were then taking place in the Roman Empire. 



The second and third centuries witnessed an accelerating decline 
of the Roman Empire. In the hundred years following the reign 
of Septimius Severus (198-211), thirty emperors claimed the 
throne, and there were others whose troops draped them in 
the imperial purple but who never won any larger following. The 
Roman Senate hardly pretended any longer to go through the 
motions of electing the Caesars, and kinship to a reigning emperor 
was of little importance in determining the succession. On the 
contrary, the sons or near relatives of one Caesar usually found 
themselves in jeopardy of speedy execution or assassination when 
the next emperor took over. 

Chaos and anarchy spread throughout the empire, and when 
one Caesar had been killed few of them died natural deaths 
the next was chosen by acclamation of the troops. Sometimes the 
Praetorian Guards stationed in Rome made the choice; sometimes 
it came from the armies on the various frontiers. It should be 
remembered that by this time these "Roman" soldiers who had 
seized control of Rome's fate were almost without exception 
Germans, Gauls, Illyrians, Asians, and Africans. As the third 


century drew toward its close, most thoughtful Romans were in 
despair. They saw the empire on a swift slide into ruin and the 
civilization of which it had been the political expression about to 
be submerged in a barbarian sea. 

That, of course, was what eventually happened. But it did not 
happen around the year 300. It did not happen in the West for 
another one hundred and seventy-five years. And in the East an 
empire which claimed to be "Roman" continued in existence 
almost until the day Columbus hauled up anchor to sail to the dis- 
covery of the New World. This sudden about-face in Rome's 
history, from chaos and encroaching dissolution to a new access 
of vigor and stability, was largely the product of one reign, that 
of Diocletian, who occupied the throne for the twenty years from 
284 to 305. 


Diocletian has not enjoyed what is called a "good press" at the 
hands of history, largely because after his reign the writing of 
history, or what then passed for history, was the work of Christian 
priests, and Diocletian was the most savage of all persecutors of the 
church. But judged by the anarchy he inherited and by the re- 
vived empire he passed on to his successors when he abdicated, 
Diocletian deserves to be ranked as one of the greatest of Rome's 

Diocletian was the son of Dalmatian slaves. He embarked on 
a military career which brought him to the command of the army 
before he was forty. Raised to the purple "by the election of gen- 
erals and officers," he settled any possible competition for that 
office from Aper, prefect of the Praetorians, by leaping on him as 
he stood before the tribunal of the Senate and running him 
through. From that moment on, this rough-handed soldier pro- 
ceeded to take the disintegrating empire as it were by the scruff of 
its neck and shake it into new life. He not only stopped the retreat 
in Germany and along the line of the Danube, but even recon- 
quered most of distant Britain and Persia. 

Diocletian was more than a victorious general He was a con- 


structive statesman who could plan in long-range terms for the 
empire's future and make bold innovations to secure efficient 
administration. His military experience convinced him that the 
empire had become too unwieldy, and was under too constant 
attack along its frontiers, to be successfully governed from one 
center. Accordingly, he divided the imperial power with three 
others, and established four imperial courts, none of them in Rome. 
His own court he placed in Nicomedia, in the northwest corner of 
Asia Minor, across the Hellespont from Europe. From there he 
could keep a close watch on the always-threatening monarchs and 
tribes along the eastern borders. 

Diocletian's contrivance to protect the empire from the anarchy 
created by the constant assassination of emperors at the instigation 
of ambitious rivals, along with the frequent internecine conflicts 
between rival armies when the imperial throne had thus been 
vacated, bears witness to the subtlety of his thinking. At first 
glance, it might seem that to divide the imperial rule among four 
men two "Augusti," each with his slightly subordinate "Caesar" 
would have been the very way to insure a constant battle over 
which was top dog. But the shrewd old emperor believed that the 
ambitions of his most likely rival could be satisfied by sharing 
power with him as a second Augustus, while if the Augusti 
adopted the most promising (and ambitious) military leaders in 
the next generation as their "Caesars" with the promise of succes- 
sion, they would no longer be tempted to promote their fortunes 
by killing the older rulers. But to insure that their ambitions should 
be realized within a reasonable length of time, Diocletian rounded 
out his scheme of government by providing that the Augusti 
should abdicate after twenty years of rule. It was a remarkable 
scheme, but it worked only as long as its originator's imperious will 
was in command to work it. 

For reasons that are still a subject for debate among historians, 
Diocletian, two years before the end of his highly effective reign, 
joined with his fellow Augustus, Maximian, to order the most 
terrible of all persecutions of the Christians. Various emperors a 
generation earlier had placed restrictions on the churches, mainly 
depriving them of properties which they were beginning to accu- 


mulate on a large scale. For eighteen years Diocletian, although 
himself a convinced and practicing pagan, paid no attention to the 
growing Christian power. His court was full of Christian func- 
tionaries. Great Christian churches were built in the principal 
cities of the empire, the largest in his capital of Nicomedia. Chris- 
tians were appointed governors of important provinces and excused 
from sacrificing to the emperor. 

Then, suddenly, the old emperor ordered his army purged of 
Christians. After that, an imperial edict commanded that Christian 
churches should be destroyed, Christian worship prohibited, and 
Christian Scriptures confiscated and burned. The protection of the 
laws was withdrawn from Christians. Christian bishops were 
rounded up wholesale, imprisoned, tortured, and many put to 
death, while the whole power of the throne was turned loose to 
wipe out the rest of the Christian community in blood. 

One of the legends that have come down from that time tells 
how, when the emperor's order for the destruction of Christian 
churches was attached to the palace gate in Nicomedia, a high- 
ranking officer tore it down, and was immediately executed. The 
martyred officer became St. George, the patron saint of England. 
If he ever fought a dragon, it must have been imperial Caesar. 

In 305 Diocletian, in accordance with his long-announced 
intention, abdicated and forced his fellow Augustus, Maximian, to 
do likewise. What history recalls as the Diocletian persecution was 
still raging. In fact, the new Augustus in the East, Galerius, who 
was credited by Christian writers of that period with having been 
the real instigator of the slaughter, was more intent than ever on 
pushing ahead to complete extermination of Christianity. 

But the pagans themselves were growing sickened with too 
much bloodshed. The other new Augustus, Constantius Chlorus, in 
far-off Britain, who had never pushed the persecution very hard 
in his prefecture of Gaul, suspended all proceedings against the 
Christians and began to show them many signs of favor. In 311, 
on his deathbed, Galerius realized that the attempt to do away with 
the upstart religion had failed. Thousands upon thousands of ter- 
rified Christians had, to be sure, recanted, but other thousands had 
stood fast, sealing their faith with their blood. So eager, in fact, 


did many Christians prove to suffer for their faith that Bishop 
Mensurius of Carthage demanded that those who needlessly sought 
martyrdom should not be revered as martyrs. The effect on public 
opinion throughout the empire had been tremendous. Even the 
throne could no longer take the risk of continuing the torturing, 
maiming, killing. So, in his last official act, Galerius, reluctantly, 
grudgingly, issued an edict of toleration, and the last and worst 
persecution of Christians by Rome was at an end. 

Simultaneously, a struggle for the imperial power began be- 
tween the August! and the Caesars which we need not trace here. 
The fact of monumental importance for Christianity was that in 
that struggle the ambitious son of Constantius Chlorus proclaimed 
Augustus by his father's troops when the ruler of the West died 
suddenly while on a campaign in Britain launched a drive for 
power that carried him in the brief space of four years from the 
outpost of York in England to control of Gaul, Spain, and Italy, 
made him the sole ruler of the empire in another thirteen years, and 
thrust him into history's limelight as Constantine the Great. 


Christian writers of that time, who all but drowned the actual 
Constantine in the floods of their adulation, have preserved a 
number of stories about him which probably had little factual 
foundation. The best known is one that Eusebius, the first church 
historian to follow St. Luke, says he was told by Constantine him- 
self. As he prepared for the decisive battle at the Milvian bridge 
outside Rome, which was to settle the control of Italy, the em- 
peror swore that he saw in the night sky a lighted cross with the 
words In hoc signo vinces ("In this sign thou shah conquer") and 
that Christ appeared to him in a vision. Mythical as that story may 
have been both Eusebius and Constantine were facile myth- 
manufacturers it is a fact of history that from then on Con- 
stantine's legions carried standards with the Greek letters chi rho, 
the first two letters in the Greek word for Christ, surmounting a 
cross. And it is equally a fact that from then on Constantine was 
known as the friend and protector of Christianity. 


What sort of man was Constantine? There have been few 
characters over whom historians have reached more divergent 
verdicts. "All great men are bad men," wrote Lord Acton, the 
famed British historian, and the Constantine who emerges from 
the pages of such a book as The Age of Constantine the Great, by 
the great Swiss historian Jakob Burckhardt, fits that verdict exactly. 
Burckhardt sees Constantine as boundlessly ambitious, utterly un- 
scrupulous, "essentially unreligious" but clever in his manipulation 
of both pagan and Christian religions, "who persecuted what was 
nearest him and slew first his son and nephew, then his wife, then 
a crowd of friends." But, insists Burckhardt, judged by what he 
accomplished, Constantine is rightfully called "the Great." 

On the other hand, there have been historians from the time of 
Eusebius on who have seen Constantine as an incarnation of most 
of the virtues, approximating as nearly as any ruler can the perfec- 
tion of a saint. In their efforts to defend the emperor who was the 
first imperial patron of Christianity, these champions have swung 
as far in the direction of romanticism as Burckhardt did in judging 
him by the standards of a time not his own. A middle-ground 
judgment would seem to be that Constantine was as ready as any 
other despot of his day to protect his throne by any means, includ- 
ing murder, if it seemed necessary, but that he also had a political 
sense which enabled him to take over a realm that seemed fated to 
go to pieces again within less than a generation after Diocletian 
and to weld it into an empire which was to last, at any rate in the 
East, for another thousand years. How many existing governments 
are a thousand years old? There is at least one yardstick by which 
to measure what Constantine accomplished. 

As to Constantino's relation to the Christian church, the evi- 
dence is obscure and conflicting. He certainly started out as a 
friend of the Christians. Though some scholars today throw doubt 
on the assertion that he issued an "Edict of Milan" in 313 granting 
complete toleration to Christians along with legal rights equal to 
those of the old pagan faith, there is still predominating evidence 
that he did just that. It is beyond dispute that he showed Christians 
favors of many sorts. This was particularly so in his treatment of 
Christian clerics, who were relieved from army service and taxes 


to such an extent that the emperor had to put a stop to the 
stampede of wealthy citizens to obtain ordination. 

All the property that had been taken away from the Christians 
in previous reigns was returned; all the churches that had been 
destroyed were rebuilt and towering new basilicas rose under 
imperial orders in many cities; the imperial court, first in Nico- 
media and later when it was moved to Constantinople, the re- 
christened Byzantium, was running over with clerics either hold- 
ing, or seeking, the ruler's ear. Eusebius claims that Constantine 
considered himself a sort of bishop, and we know that he did not 
hesitate to preach to the bishops even on obscure points of the- 
ology. (The bishops were properly impressed.) The emperor's 
letters were sprinkled with the sort of pious salutations one Chris- 
tian dignitary would use in addressing another. He encouraged his 
mother to tour the Holy Land seeking the locations where great 
events in the life of Christ occurred, and gave her what she asked 
to build churches and shrines at the sacred spots which the local 
inhabitants obligingly identified for her. Nor does this exhaust the 
record of Constantine's interest in the Christian church or the list 
of favors he showered on it. 

Nevertheless, he retained the old pagan title of Pontifex 
Maximus to the end of his reign. He assisted in the building or 
refurbishing of some pagan temples. Most significant fact of all, he 
was not baptized until the day he died. Then only, at the uttermost 
extremity, he allowed an Arian bishop to pour on his head the 
water that made him a member of the Christian church. The 
reason for the delay, doubtless, was the belief that baptism washes 
away all prior sins. It seemed wise therefore to postpone it until 
the hour of death when there would be neither time nor oppor- 
tunity for any more sins. The church confirmed the belief but 
frowned on this use of it. 

How is so contradictory a record to be evaluated? Is it not a 
fair verdict to say that Constantine, sharp as was his political 
instinct, saw at the very start of his rise to power the need for 
some strong cultural cement to hold together his sprawling, multi- 
cultured empire, and he believed he could find that binding ele- 
ment in Christianity? He was impressed not only by the moral 


superiority of Christianity over a dying paganism, but by its 
ability to weld its communicants into a vigorous, self-conscious 
community. Primarily, his interests were probably always political 
that made him a great emperor. But with whatever motives, and 
whatever personal hesitations, he seized on Christianity to be the 
cultural, ethical, and emotional fountain of energy for the "new 
Rome" he sought to establish, and his choice was vindicated by 

For Christianity, the reign of Constantine marked the transi- 
tion from the days in which it lived perilously and amid derision to 
the days of its freedom from fear and the beginnings of its social 
prestige. To be sure, the legal process by which Christianity be- 
came the religion of the state and paganism a proscribed faith was 
not completed for nearly half a century after Constantine's death. 
But Constantine took the decisive steps that were to culminate in 
the edicts of Theodosius. It is with Constantine on the throne that 
the process summed up in a famous sentence by Gibbon reached its 
climax: "While that great body [the Roman Empire] was invaded 
by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and 
humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, 
grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigor from opposi- 
tion, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the Cross on the 
ruins of the Capitol." 

Great as was the change in the fortunes of the church with 
Constantine's tolerance and favor, a greater change was yet to 
come. During Constantine's reign many professed Christianity to 
gain worldly advantage, but no one was compelled to do so. 
Christianity was still, as it had been in the beginning, a voluntary 
religion. Constantine frowned upon those who would divide the 
church, because he wanted it to be a unifying force in his empire, 
but he did not make Christianity compulsory. The great divide in 
Christian history came near the end of the fourth century when 
the acceptance of Christianity became mandatory and when the 
church, having so lately escaped from its persecutors, became a 
persecuting church. 


Athanasius and After 

If Constantine hoped to find in Christianity the religion that would 
bind his empire in a cultural unity, as has been suggested, by the 
time he was firmly established in power he must have begun to 
wonder whether he had been mistaken. Instead of bringing his 
subjects closer together in a common faith, the evidence seemed 
to indicate that this religion was another source of division, and 
that the cleavages it produced struck deeper and were less sus- 
ceptible to healing than any that had plagued the empire in the 

As the emperor at last eliminated all rivals and gathered all the 
reins of government in his own hands, reports came to him from 
all quarters of the bitterness with which Christians were disputing 
over theological issues, denouncing and excommunicating each 
other, and appealing to the civil authorities to employ the punitive 
powers of the state against their opponents in these church battles. 
The same Christians who, while Diocletian and Galerius ruled, had 
been the victims of terrible persecution, were demanding, now that 
the imperial favor was extended, that their fellow Christians who 
differed from them on points of doctrine be suppressed, banished, 


or ejected from their churches by the power of the state. Con- 
stantine saw no choice but to intervene to stop this constant 
bickering, or worse, and to make his Christian subjects agree on 
what their Christian doctrines were. One may regret the conse- 
quences of that imperial intervention in the affairs of the church, 
but one can hardly wonder that the emperor, seeking stability and 
unity for his realm, should have resorted to it. Though his edict 
had declared that both Christians and pagans might freely practice 
their religions, he had no firm convictions about either religious or 
civil liberty. 


The most important of these disputes over Christian teaching, 
as was said at the close of Chapter V, centered in the city of 
Alexandria. Its central figures were two priests, Arius and Athana- 
sius. And the issue at stake involved the Christian belief as to the 
nature of Christ. Was the Son, the Second Person in the Christian 
Trinity, of the same substance as God the Father? Or was he of 
like substance, but in some essential way different? Arius held the 
second view; Athanasius the first. 

Many today look back on the war of words that swirled around 
those Alexandrian antagonists in the fourth century with a sort of 
incredulity, or sometimes with downright scorn. Since the matters 
in dispute dealt with questions of a metaphysical sort which the 
human mind can never compass, for which indeed it has no ade- 
quate vocabulary, it is not difficult to conclude that the whole 
argument was senseless. Mere men were claiming infallible cer- 
tainty where in the very nature of things they could not know and 
could not speak with exactness. Edward Gibbon, the historian of 
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, expressed this feeling. 
Two Greek words, homoousios and homoiousios, became the key 
terms in the controversy. The first, "of the same substance" or "of 
one substance," was the word accepted by Athanasius. Hosius, 
bishop of Cordova in Spain, is credited with coining it during the 
Council of Nicaea. The second, "of like substance" or "of similar 
substance," expressed the thought of Arius, though it was not 


invented until several years after his death. Until this controversy 
arose, the Greek language had no such words because there had 
been no occasion to express these two ideas and the contrast be- 
tween them. It had homos meaning "the same," and homoios 
meaning "similar"; and it had ousia meaning "being" or "essential 
"substance." Out of these, ingenious theologians now constructed 
the two adjectives that put the issue between them in a nutshell. 
Gibbon, in his memorable history, passed on a sneer that in this 
struggle, which lasted for centuries and cannot be said to be en- 
tirely ended even today, Christians fought each other over a 

Well, so it was a diphthong. But that diphthong carried an 
immense meaning. To Arius, when Christians called Christ God, it 
was not meant that he was deity except in a sort of approximate 
sense. He was a kind of minor divine being, not the eternal and 
uncreated Creator. He was a created Being the first created Being 
and the greatest, but nevertheless himself created. "The Son," 
wrote Arius in explaining his position to Eusebius, the bishop at 
the empire's capital of Nicomedia (not to be confused with 
Eusebius the historian), "the Son has a beginning, but . . . God 
is without beginning." Against that teaching Athanasius flung 
down his challenge. Taking his stand where Christian thought in 
the West had stood, in the main, for years, he asserted that God 
the Father and God the Son were one two Persons but having 
an identical substance. 

At the start it looked as though Arius would win this theologi- 
cal battle. He was a much older man, pastor of the influential 
Baucalis church in Alexandria (what we would call today a con- 
gregation made up of "the best people"). He was an eloquent 
preacher and, though the unfriendly accounts that have come 
down to us accuse him of vanity and self-opinionated pride, he 
seems to have been highly regarded in his home city for learning, 
ability, and good character. Moreover, he had a flair for what we 
call public relations. In the opening stages of the conflict, while it 
was confined to Alexandria, he put his ideas into jingles which, set 
to simple tunes like a radio commercial, were soon being sung by 
the dockworkers, the street-hawkers, and the school children of 


the city. Later, when the controversy had involved the churches 
in every part of the empire, it turned out that the Arians had 
influential political as well as ecclesiastical connections. Recall that 
it was an Arian bishop in the imperial palace who finally baptized 
Constantine. This too augured success. 

Athanasius was a very young man when he entered the lists 
not yet more than a deacon. He held his views with such intensity, 
feeling that those who did not accept them were not simply mis- 
taken but evil, that he never made friends or influenced people 
easily. But he started with one great advantage, that his opinion 
agreed with that of the bishop of Alexandria. It was with the 
bishop, in fact, that Arius began his dispute. When the contro- 
versial priest appealed to the bishop of Nicomedia, and won his 
backing, the theological quarrel became a test of strength between 
the two most important sees in the East, Nicomedia, the political 
capital, and Alexandria, the intellectual capital. Just about the time 
Constantine finally disposed of his last rival, Licinius, the debate in 
Alexandria came to an explosive climax. The bishop, after a local 
church council had formally rejected the views of Arius, expelled 
him from his pastorate and from the city. But he sought refuge 
with the powerful bishop of Nicomedia, who not only espoused 
the Arian doctrines which Alexandria had rejected but began to 
circulate them through all the Eastern churches and to press them 
on the imperial court. 


So it happened that Constantine, the patron of Christianity, 
who was looking to this religion to tie his empire together, no 
sooner became master of all the Roman world than he found this 
major Christian dispute on his hands, more threatening than any 
political challenge to the unity of his realm. He was, of course, 
incapable of understanding the subtleties of theological distinctions 
in the debate. But there was one thing on which he was deter- 
mined; he meant to have internal peace. So in 325, the second year 
of his undivided rule, he summoned the Christian bishops to a 
council at Nicaea, near Nicomedia. Not all Christian bishops were 


invited. Less than a dozen were from the West, and the most 
important of the Western bishops, the bishop of Rome, was not 
among them. Burckhardt, with his usual jaundiced view of Con- 
stantine's relations with the church, says that "of the perhaps 
thousand bishops of the East only those received invitations from 
the imperial secretariat whose opinions could be swayed or over- 
borne." The council had one purpose to end the theological 
controversy which was rending the church and disturbing the 
empire by reaching an agreement on the nature of the Christian 

Eusebius of Caesarea, who participated in that historic meeting, 
has painted a vivid picture of the assembling of that first general 
church council. He tells how more than three hundred bishops 
(other sources say there were exactly 318) came rushing to Nicaea 
with their attendants in a frenzy of excitement, many of them 
scarred by what they had undergone in Diocletian's persecution, 
with eyeless sockets, disfigured faces, twisted and withered limbs, 
paralyzed hands. Constantine himself presided, a glittering figure 
in his imperial robes, which were no longer the austere purple 
garment worn by the emperors in Rome but were the jewel- 
encrusted, multicolored brocades thought proper to an Eastern 

At the start, the bishops were divided nearly evenly between 
those who supported the Arian view and those who favored that 
of Athanasius. Eusebius, who had Arian leanings, proposed a 
formula in words quoted directly from the New Testament, but 
the Athanasian party would have none of that because it seemed 
that the Arians might accept it and still hold their own views. The 
New Testament writers had never said anything about the ousia 
of either the Father or the Son. It was probably Bishop Hosius 
who introduced the word homoousion. Since he had great influ- 
ence with Constantine, the imperial weight was thrown into that 
side of the scales. After more days of inconclusive debate the im- 
patient emperor intervened to demand that this statement of the 
Athanasian view should be adopted. Only two bishops voted 
against it. Thus, it came to pass that, out of an assembly which 
partook more of the character of a political convention than a 


religious convocation, there emerged that Nicene Creed, which to 
this day is the standard of orthodoxy in the Roman, Eastern, 
Anglican, and some other churches: 

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of all 
things visible and invisible; 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of 
the Father, only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father, 
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten 
not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all 
things were made, both things in heaven and things on earth; 
who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made 
flesh, and became man, suffered, and rose on the third day, 
ascended into the heavens, is coming to judge living and dead. 

And in the Holy Spirit. 

But those that say "There was when He was not," and, 
"Before He was begotten He was not," and that, "He came into 
being from what-is-not," or those that allege that the Son of 
God is "Of another substance or essence," or "created," or 
"changeable" or "alterable," these the Catholic and Apostolic 
Church anathematizes. 

From Constantine on, the Christian record undergoes a funda- 
mental change. Many will contend that it was not a change for the 
better. "After Constantine," said the late Dean William R. Inge, 
of St. Paul's Cathedral, London (often called "the Gloomy Dean"), 
"there is not much that is not humiliating," This is, of course, too 
sweeping. But certainly life in a church that had vanquished its 
rivals, that enjoyed so many special privileges and was constantly 
being given evidences of the imperial favor, a church in which 
membership was soon by imperial decree to include all loyal sub- 
jects, was bound to differ from that in a church where member- 
ship was by individual choice and might involve martyrdom. At 
one swoop Christian congregations throughout the empire were 
swamped with hordes of candidates clamoring for baptism whose 
only motive in becoming Christians was to get on board the 
imperial bandwagon. 

Such a church historian as Bevan laments that, after the church 
"won" its acceptance by Constantine, no perceptible change or 
improvement followed in Roman customs or courts. (Constantine 


did, to be sure, put a final end to gladiatorial contests, but these 
had been losing their attraction for a long time before his rescript 
was issued.) How could any improvement have been expected? 
The new Christians were, so far as thinking and habits went, the 
same old pagans; their desire for baptism was strictly prudential. 
Their surge into the churches did not mean that Christianity had 
wiped out paganism. On the contrary, hordes of baptized pagans 
meant that paganism had diluted the moral energies of organized 
Christianity to the point of social impotence. St. Jerome and St. 
Augustine both deplored the corruption of the Christian com- 
munity by the sudden influx of the unconverted. 

Even more distressing, as one looks back, was the alacrity with 
which the Christian clergy who had suffered under pagan persecu- 
tion turned to persecuting their opponents. "In the hour of 
victory,'' writes Arnold Toynbee, "the intransigence of the Chris- 
tian martyrs degenerated into the intolerance of Christian perse- 
cutors who had picked up from the martyrs' defeated pagan 
opponents the fatal practice of resorting to physical force as a 
short cut to victory in religious controversy." * By the time a 
century had passed, St. Augustine had found in the text from 
Luke 14:23, "Compel them to come in," a command from Christ 
himself for the persecution of heretics! 

This persecuting zeal would not have been put effectively into 
practice if it had not been backed by the imperial power. Con- 
stantine began it in a small way, not to compel pagans to become 
Christians but to enforce unity among Christians. Even before the 
Council of Nicaea he had banished certain North African bishops 
who had adopted the Donatist position that had been condemned 
by a council at Aries in 3 14. This contended that a certain bishop 
of Carthage, who had apostacized during the Diocletian persecu- 
tion, could not after that effectively ordain his successor. The 
Western bishops who were at Aries decided that the sinful char- 
acter of the bishop in no way altered the spiritual powers which 
had been conferred on him at his ordination. The Donatist bishops, 
refusing to accept this decision, appealed to the throne, which 
answered by depriving them of their churches and sending them 
* A Study of History, Oxford University Press, 1954, vol. VII, p. 439. 


into exile. This did not end the Donatist schism. A century later 
Augustine was cheering on the imperial troops that had been 
called in to liquidate Donatism. 

After Nicaea, Constantine stepped in again to banish Arius 
and to exile from their dioceses most of his conspicuous supporters, 
including Eusebius of Nicomedia, even though at the final vote in 
that council they had bowed to the imperial will. What happened 
after that, no one familiar with human nature will need to be told. 
Control of church offices was seen to depend on control of the 
imperial favor. The emperor's court was overrun by ecclesiastics, 
all competing for the imperial ear. First Constantine and then his 
successors found themselves pulled this way and that by theological 
and political factions in the church, with the result that the imperial 
power was forever ordering bishops into banishment and almost 
as often bringing them back again when some new group of 
ecclesiastical advisers got the upper hand in the palace. 

No career better illustrates the way in which the imperial 
power took over actual control of the church than that of Atha- 
nasius. As a young priest he had won a resounding dogmatic vic- 
tory at Nicaea over his elderly opponent, Arius. Soon after that he 
became bishop of the great see of Alexandria at the age of 33, and 
his controversial life was to continue until 373. During that time 
he was banished no less than five times, each banishment and return 
to Alexandria representing either a change in emperors or a shift 
in the make-up of the palace ecclesiastical clique that had the 
emperor's ear. There were times when Athanasius was so com- 
pletely out of imperial favor that he felt deserted by all his sup- 
porters. Then it was that he uttered his famous defiance, Atha- 
nasius contra mundum. He would stand alone, if need be, against 
the world. But when the imperial favor smiled in his direction he 
did not lack followers. He died in such a period, again in pos- 
session of his diocese of Alexandria, with his "Nicene" doctrines 
accepted by nearly all the churches in the central parts of the 
Roman Empire, though the barbarian tribes on the borders newly 
converted or about to be converted were largely Arian. His city 
buried him with pomp and circumstance. 


The Church under the 
Byzantine Emperors 

Nicaea is regarded by all Christian churches as the first ecumenical 
church council. That word "ecumenical," which occurs frequently 
of late in discussions of church affairs, seems to give trouble to 
many, including some earnest churchmen. There is no reason why 
it should. It comes from a Greek word which literally meant "the 
inhabited world." In other words, all the world, universal And an 
ecumenical council was, therefore, one in which the Christian 
churches of all the world purported to be represented. The theory 
was that, with all the churches represented, the Holy Spirit would 
guide the delegates to infallible conclusions, which it would then 
be incumbent on all Christians to accept. 

If one holds "ecumenical" to its strict meaning of universal or 
all-embracing, it can be argued that there never has been a genu- 
inely ecumenical church council. At Nicaea, as we have seen, only 
the East had a large representation, and only a minority of even 
the Eastern bishops were there. The bishop of Rome was repre- 


sented only by a couple of observers. Nevertheless, there is a 
general readiness to grant the status of ecumenicity to Nicaea and 
to six other councils that followed before the end of the eighth 
century. The most important of these, next to Nicaea, was the 
Council of Chalcedon, which, in 451, explicitly defined the doc- 
trine that in Jesus two natures, one divine and the other human, 
completely united to form one Person who, in his earthly existence, 
was both in body and in soul at one and the same time God and 
man. This declaration at Chalcedon has, for fifteen hundred years 
since then, been the accepted formula as to the nature of Jesus in 
all except the Unitarian and Monophysite churches. 

When the number of ecumenical councils is limited to seven, 
that implies rejection of the claim of the Roman Catholic Church 
that the councils it has held in considerable numbers since 787, 
including the history-making councils of Constance and Trent and 
that held at the Vatican in 1870, were ecumenical. This rejection 
rests on the undisputed fact that, after the seventh general council, 
there took place the first great division in the body of Christendom, 
the split between East and West, and that after that the East was 
never represented in the councils held in the West. The Roman 
Catholic contention is that after the split the Eastern churches were 
schismatic, and that they were therefore not eligible to participate 
in the conciliar proceedings of the One True Church.* 

Following Constantine came the sons of Constantine. And 
after they had finished murdering or in other ways getting rid of 
one another, there ascended the throne for a year and a half a 
figure about whom romantic legends have clustered ever since 
Julian "the Apostate." 

* The same strictures apply to the use, by the non-Roman churches holding 
membership in the World Council of Churches, of the term "ecumenical" 
for its assemblies, such as that which met at Evanston, Illinois, in 1954. 
These churches employ "ecumenical" to mean that their World Council, 
established in 1948, is part of a process designed to bring about their ulti- 
mate union, and that they cherish the hope that this union will eventually 
include all trinitarian Christian bodies, including the Roman Catholic 
Church. But in a strict sense, this Orthodox-Anglican-Protestant council at 
the present time is not ecumenical. It is ecumenical in spirit, not in fact. 



Julian was not really an apostate, because he was never a Chris- 
tian. He was an idealistic, honest man who owed his life to the 
fact that, when the sons of Constantine murdered the rest of his 
family, he had been too young to threaten their succession. 
Throughout his boyhood, for his own safety he had to appear to 
accept the rigid Christian training to which his bloody-handed 
uncles ordered that he be subjected. In his young manhood, the 
troops in Paris declared him emperor, and he felt himself strong 
enough to challenge Constantine II, the last surviving son of Con- 
stantine, for the throne. He became openly what he had long been 
in secret; he proclaimed himself a convinced pagan and dedicated 
the imperial power to a pagan revival. 

For Julian, Christianity was a compound of the hypocritical 
piety of his uncles, who had murdered his father, and the endless, 
venomous debates between clerics over the nature of the Godhead. 
He wanted to get back to the mysticism of some of the later Greek 
Neoplatonist philosophers and to what he romanticized as the 
beauties of pagan worship. One gathers that he was dreaming of 
lovely maidens and clean-limbed young athletes with garlands in 
their hair, singing praises to Apollo in the groves about his shrines 
while their elders gathered in the forum to continue the eager 
philosophic dialogue which the disciples of Plato had never fin- 
ished. Such measures as Julian took against the Christians were 
mild; he cut off the state funds which by that time were flowing 
like a flood to the support of the clergy, and he excluded Christians 
from the teaching profession. As fast as he could, he reopened the 
surviving pagan temples. 

But it was all over almost before it had started. After Julian 
had been emperor less than eighteen months he had to embark on 
one of the interminable campaigns that all the emperors had to 
fight to protect their eastern frontiers against the Persians. In 
almost his first engagement he was fatally wounded. Legend says 
that, as he lay dying, Julian murmured, "Thou hast conquered, O 
Galilean! " Perhaps the words are mythical; the fact was true. With 


Julian's death the old paganism of Rome and Greece and the gods 
of the Mediterranean world died. 


Then, in a few swift years, came the complete triumph of the 
church. All state subsidies to pagan temples were ended and the 
temples themselves destroyed or turned into churches. Endow- 
ments accumulated by some of the old temples were confiscated. 
Persons attempting to celebrate pagan rites were to be arrested and 
fined; they were denied legal ownership of property. Pagan schools 
of philosophy were suppressed; before the middle of the sixth 
century the school at Athens founded by Plato was closed by 
imperial decree. By the end of the fourth century Emperor 
Theodosius I had not only made Christianity the state religion but 
had made refusal to accept Christianity tantamount to disloyalty 
to the throne. 

It was indeed a triumph so complete, in its outward aspects, 
that, as we look back on it and remember the little group of 
despised Jews with whom the Christian expansion started less than 
four centuries earlier, it is hard to comprehend. But the key word 
in that sentence is "outward." Inwardly, in the spiritual life of the 
church, the adoption of Christianity by the throne was a disaster. 
From the time of Julian on, especially in the East, the church was 
to become little more than an appendage of the state, a tool and 
plaything of emperors. After Theodosius the Roman realm per- 
manently split into two parts, though a theory of sovereignty over 
the western half held by the emperor in Constantinople was kept 
alive down to the time, at the very end of the eighth century, when 
Charlemagne put an end to that fantasy. In the Byzantine, or 
Eastern, Empire, where the imperial court remained, the inner rot 
permeated almost everywhere. 

Perhaps the Byzantine emperors were not to blame. A few of 
them seem to have had at least a glimmering of what the Christian 
gospel was all about, and would have been happy had the churches 
in their domains, with their clergy, exemplified the spirit as well as 
the teaching of that gospel. But most of the emperors regarded the 


ambitious schemes of patriarchs and bishops with the same cynical 
complacency they showed toward all the other maneuverings for 
power that swirled around their thrones. They acquiesced in it 
when they did not encourage it. As a consequence, ecclesiastics 
grew more and more servile in their attendance on the throne, 
clerical preferment became increasingly a pawn of palace intrigue, 
and decade by decade the church in the East lapsed steadily into 
that Erastian torpor which has put into our dictionaries a term of 
reproach that still applies to the churches with a Byzantine back- 
ground, "caesaropapism." The Christian church in the East paid 
dearly for the triumph that tied it so tightly to such a fount of 
corruption as the Byzantine court. 

This is not to deny the presence of some devoted Christians in 
the upper circles of imperial pomp. St. Helena, the mother of Con- 
stantine, who has already been mentioned, was one such. The 
legends that have become attached to her name are mostly without 
foundation, and the readiness with which she accepted the identi- 
fications of sacred places shown her on her pilgrimage to Palestine 
suggests that she must have been more than usually credulous even 
in that credulous age. Yet she was undoubtedly a woman pure in 
character and devout in spirit, who deserved the canonization later 
accorded her. More typical, however, of the women of the 
Byzantine court in their relations to the church was the Empress 
Theodora, whose constant interference in church affairs con- 
tributed greatly to the demoralization of the sycophant clergy. Of 
the part played by another empress, Eudoxia, in hounding to his 
death that pure and shining light of the Eastern church, St. John 
Chrysostom, more will be said presently. 

While the Eastern church was thus suffering internally through 
the corruption of its clergy by their ceaseless competition for 
imperial favor, it was likewise passing through a series of convul- 
sions over doctrine. The less its spiritual vigor, the greater its 
attention to meticulous definitions of spiritual mysteries. Fighting 
over the precise Greek words to use to define the indefinable 
became more and more part of the struggle over ecclesiastical 
preferment. When one patriarch or bishop wanted to get rid of 


another patriarch or bishop, either to exalt the comparative im- 
portance of his own see or to build up his own personal power, the 
most effective way of going about it was to accuse his rival of 
heresy in an appeal to the throne. 

Although the great Justinian, who reigned in the middle of the 
sixth century, was a better theologian than most of his clerical 
subjects, most of the emperors knew little theology but they knew 
the value of having what might be called a "palace party" in con- 
trol of the key bishoprics. So they seldom hesitated to intervene by 
passing on doctrinal issues and banishing recalcitrant bishops. 
Soon, likewise, the bishops of Rome, who by this time had risen to 
pre-eminence in the West, were drawn into the same miserable 
business. Their influence, it should be said at once, was usually on 
the side of moderation and humane treatment for the defeated dis- 
putants, but their influence with the Byzantine emperors was 
seldom large. In the Western Empire, to which we shall return in 
the next chapter, there was never such subordination of the clergy 
to the court as in the East. Nothing ever happened in the Byzantine 
Empire comparable to the stern exclusion of Emperor Theodosius 
from the sacrament by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, until he should 
do penance for the sin of massacring a crowd of demonstrating 
citizens in Thessalonica. Chrysostom had the courage but not the 
effective moral authority. 


It would take too much space to attempt here to trace all the 
theological issues that occupied the church councils that met in the 
East from the fourth century through the eighth. Nor would most 
readers keep the distinctions between one council and the next 
clearly in mind for ten minutes after reading of them. It is suffi- 
cient for our purposes to recall that throughout this long period of 
doctrinal debate there was a constant triangular contest going on 
in the East among the three great patriarchates of Alexandria, 
Antioch, and Constantinople, with the Western patriarchate of 
Rome drawn in at intervals by appeals for support from the 


Eastern disputants. Ostensibly these debates were over creedal 
matters; actually they were usually over the precedence of the 

In the main, Alexandria and Rome tended to support each 
other, and Antioch to go along with Constantinople. On Alex- 
andria's part this reflected the jealousy that proud and ancient city 
felt at the rise of the upstart capital on the Bosporus. The see of 
Rome, too, while for the time content to extend its influence over 
the imperial dominions in the West, found no cause for satisfaction 
in the growing pretensions of the "new Rome" in the East. On the 
other hand, Antioch and Alexandria had long been at loggerheads, 
as rivals for precedence in the East. If Antioch could not gain that 
position, it preferred to see it go to the patriarchate in the new 
capital rather than to its old rival on the Nile. 

These informal alliances continued to influence the decisions of 
church councils until, at Ephesus in 449, the patriarch of Alex- 
andria, in order to win a momentary victory and put a candidate 
of his own in the bishopric of Constantinople, broke with Leo I, 
first of the great Roman popes.* After that there was almost always 
tension between Rome and all the East. 

Out of these controversial councils there came also the two 
major Eastern heresies, the Monophysite and the Nestorian, which 
survive to our day in certain churches. (See Chapter XII.) The 
Monophysite teaching, as its name indicates, was a rejection of the 
decision as to the nature of Christ reached at the Chalcedon council 
in 451. It held that, instead of the divine and human natures joining 
to form one Person in Jesus, he possessed but one nature in which 
divine and human were indistinguishable, but its effect in actual 
preaching was to exalt the divine at the expense of the human. The 
theological issue, though subtle, was important, but the factor that 
contributed most to the breaking away of the Monophysite 
churches from the rest of Eastern Orthodoxy was the lessening 
grip of the Byzantine throne on the outlying portions of the 

* Leo I denied that this gathering had been a general church council. It 
was, rather, he said, "a den of thieves latrociniwn" The growing influence 
of the pope is reflected in the fact that his indignant repudiation has stuck; 
Ephesus 449 is remembered as the "latrocinium council." 


Eastern Empire and the growing sense of national patriotism in 
those regions. The Coptic Church, which is the largest Christian 
body in Egypt today, with a related church in Ethiopia, is a 
Monophysite church. So is the so-called Jacobite Church of Syria, 
which has most of its adherents in South India. And so is the 
Armenian Church, which can boast one of the most heroic records 
of any Christian body. 

As for Nestorianism, after a period of great missionary success 
in Persia, and later in China, its principal surviving strength is also 
in South India. Those who wonder what the fate of Christianity 
in China will be if Communist rule continues for a long time recall, 
with apprehension, the utter disappearance of the Nestorian 
churches which archaeology testifies once flourished there. It is 
hard to decide in what respect Nestorius, who was a patriarch of 
Constantinople, broke with the orthodox creed. The controversy 
was one of several having to do with the exact method of the union 
of the human and divine natures in Christ, while all parties ad- 
mitted that both natures were present. The test phrase was 
"Mother of God" as applied to the Virgin Mary. Nestorius ob- 
jected to the use of that term on the ground that God could not 
have a human parent, and perhaps also because he could not 
approve the rising cult of the Virgin Mary which this title was 
obviously designed to support. But the issue is somewhat blurred 
by the fact that he did say that he was willing to use the phrase 
with certain interpretations that were approved by other theolo- 
gians regarded as orthodox. It appears that the phrase "Mother of 
God" was coined not so much to honor Mary as to assert the 
complete godship of her son. It represents an aspect of the Christo- 
logical controversy. Granted that the Son, the Second Person of 
the Trinity, is truly God, does it follow, some asked, that Jesus was 
God at every stage of his earthly life, as infant, youth, and man, 
so that even at the moment of birth he was an infant God? The 
assertion that Mary was "the Mother of God" was a way of 
answering that question affirmatively. The Nestorians thought 
otherwise. The truth seems to be that Nestorius was deprived of 
his see and driven into exile by what was in essence the political 
triumph of the ambitious patriarch of Alexandria, Cyril, who had 


the support of the bishop of Rome In that struggle. The battle, 
which ended in the branding of Nestorius as a heretic, has been 
called by Williston Walker "one of the most repulsive contests in 
church history." 

It should not be concluded from all this that there was nothing 
but intrigue, political maneuvering, and the pursuit of personal 
ambition in the Christian church under the Byzantine emperors. 
There were thousands of spiritually concerned men and women 
who, in pursuit of salvation, went off by themselves into the deserts 
of Egypt and the caves of Palestine where, apart from the brutal 
and sensual world, they hoped to achieve holiness. And there were 
some theologians of pure character and towering intellect who are 
remembered as among the most profound thinkers Christianity has 
known. Conspicuous among these were the three great "Cappado- 
cian fathers" so known from the region in Asia Minor where 
they were born: Basil of Caesarea in Cappadocia; his younger 
brother, Gregory of Nyssa; and Basil's intimate friend, Gregory 
of Nazianzus, for a brief period under Theodosius I patriarch of 
Constantinople. He gave up that post to escape its worldly entan- 
glements so that he could concentrate on teaching and writing. 


Honored as such men are, however, their careers are not 
truly indicative of the disastrous part that imperial patronage 
played in demoralizing the Eastern church. Much more charac- 
teristic was the tragic career of St. John Chrysostom. The name 
by which he is remembered (Chrysostom means "golden 
tongued") was given him long after his death as a deserved tribute 
to as eloquent a Christian preacher as ever stood in a pulpit. Born 
in an aristocratic family in Antioch, he became for a time an 
anchorite in the desert. The austerities of that life so undermined 
his health that he was forced to return to his home city. There he 
became a priest, and soon by far the most famous preacher in that 
whole region. He played little part in the theological disputes that 
were agitating the church at the close of the fourth century. 
Instead, his sermons were expositions of the ethical teachings of 


the Scriptures, both Jewish and Christian, with none of the alle- 
gorizing that, after Origen, had marked the interpretations emanat- 
ing from Alexandria. 

Finally his following grew so large that he was practically 
forced, as the fifth century was about to open, to accept the 
bishopric of Constantinople. There he was soon in hot water. 
The morally lax clergy in the capital resisted his attempts to 
discipline them. The populace fumed at his blistering sermons 
aimed at every sort of sensual indulgence. But worst of all, the 
Empress Eudoxia considered his attacks on extravagance in dress 
and ostentatious luxury in living, delivered from the pulpit of 
St. Sophia, as directed against herself, and she became his im- 
placable enemy. Thereupon the patriarch of Alexandria saw his 
chance to humiliate the man he considered his rival in Constanti- 
nople. Working hand in hand with the empress, he secured 
Chrysostom's deposition and banishment. Soon this judgment was 
reversed and for a short time John was permitted to resume his 
bishopric. But when he denounced the ceremonies at the dedication 
of a silver statue of the empress as bordering on the idolatrous, he 
was again, and this time permanently, banished. He was sent into 
exile in a little town lost among the mountains on the edge of 
Armenia, the court ignoring a protest from Pope Innocent I. When 
his letters from there continued to denounce the licentiousness 
of the court and its capital, he was ordered to move on and im- 
mure himself in a village in the desolate Caucasus. He never 
reached there. His depleted strength gave out under the rigors 
of that journey and he died on the road. 

That was the sort of thing which, in the Eastern church, was 
continually happening to those who attempted to uphold the 
moral authority of Christian teaching in the face of the despotic 
and vicious Byzantine court. It was the happy fortune of the 
Western church, and of Christianity in its other than Byzantine 
forms, that Rome was so far distant from Constantinople. 


The Great Divide 

Let us go back to the Western church and to Constantine and the 
Edict of Toleration that he issued in A.D. 313 and note again the 
changing status of the church in relation to the state and to the 
religions that were in competition with what had already come to 
be called Catholic Christianity. The fourth century was the great 
divide in the character of the church, but the crest of this divide 
was reached only toward the close of that century. 

Two mistaken ideas about Constantine must be cleared away. 
One is that he gave the bishop of Rome sovereignty over the city 
of Rome and its environs; the other is that he made Christianity 
the established and only legal religion of the empire. Actually he 
did neither. The first of these fables can be easily disposed of. A 
document known as the "Donation of Constantine" appeared with- 
out previous history in a medieval collection of decretals. It 
purported to be the original text of an edict by which Constantine 
transferred to Pope Sylvester absolute sovereignty over Rome and 
a large territory surrounding it. This seemed plausible enough, for 
by the time this forged "Donation" was brought to light the popes 
already had such sovereignty, conferred on the Roman see by 


Pippin (or Pepin) in the eighth century. In 1440 Laurentius Valla 
proved conclusively that the Constantine document was a pious 
fraud and that it had been written several centuries after Constan- 
tine's time. Valla's argument was never answered and his conclu- 
sion is not now disputed. 


The second, and much more serious, mistake about Constantine 
is the idea that he established Christianity as the empire's official 
religion and banned pagan worship. What he did was immensely 
important, but it was not that. What he really did was to proclaim 
complete religious liberty for both pagans and Christians. Per- 
sonally he favored Christianity, as has been said earlier, but he 
decreed that everyone in the empire should be free to worship 
whatever God or gods he pleased. This was exactly what such 
Christians as Tertullian and Lactantius had been arguing for during 
the times of persecution. Constantine granted their request. Here 
are some of the words of his great Edict of Toleration: 

Liberty of worship shall not be denied to any, but the mind 
and will of every individual shall be free to manage divine affairs 
according to his choice. . . . Every person who desires to ob- 
serve the Christian religion shall freely and unconditionally pro- 
ceed to observe the same without let or hindrance. The same 
free and open power to follow their own religion or worship is 
granted to others, in accordance with the tranquility of our 
times, in order that every person may have free opportunity to 
worship the object of his choice. 

This was a very radical program. One may well question 
whether Constantine realized how radical it was. It would be 
centuries before the development of any doctrine of human rights 
or any principle of religious liberty to support such complete 
freedom of individual choice in matters of religion. John Locke 
stated it theoretically in 1689. The First Amendment to the 
Constitution of the United States enacted it into law in 1791. 
A different philosophy prevailed in the long interval before these. 
The edict was indeed a landmark in the fortunes of the church, 


for It ended the age of Christian martyrs and brought the church 
out of the catacombs. It would have been a turning point in the 
history of civilization and political theory if its generous pro- 
visions had been maintained. In the light of what followed we can 
now see that it marked only the moment of transition when the 
moving finger paused briefly at the zero point while shifting from 
one side to the other on the dial of persecution from the perse- 
cution of orthodox Christians by a pagan state to the persecution 
of pagans and heretics by orthodox Christians in alliance with the 

It took a little time for the persecuting impulse to pass this 
dead center and begin to operate in the other direction. Constan- 
tine did indeed apply the imperial influence to the unification of 
the Catholic Church (it was already called that) as against the 
divisiveness of the Arian heresy in the East and the Donatist schism 
in North Africa, but he did not trouble the "pagans" who con- 
tinued to worship the old gods. His admiring Christian friend and 
biographer, Eusebius, later reported that Constantine forbade 
pagan worship, but actually he did nothing of the kind. Even if he 
had issued such a decree he could not have enforced it. There were 
too many pagans. The Christians were probably not more than 
ten per cent of the population at the beginning of his reign and 
still a minority, though a much larger one, at the end of it. 

Fifteen years after Constantine's death a not-very-important 
Christian theologian, Julius Firinicus Maternus, addressed to Con- 
stantine's two sons, Constans and Constantius, who had divided 
the empire between them, a strong appeal for the imposition of the 
death penalty on all who persisted in worshiping the old gods. 
It is doubtful whether Maternus had much influence with the 
emperors, but they actually tried to do exactly what he had 
suggested. It was a premature and futile gesture. There were still 
too many pagans. Not until Theodosius I did it become politically 
practicable to attempt serious enforcement of decrees banning 
pagan worship and making orthodox Christianity the sole and 
compulsory religion within the empire. 

A series of edicts beginning in 380 and continuing for more 
than half a century, through the reign of Theodosius II, achieved 
this result. With the increasingly rigorous enforcement of these 


decrees, the revolution in the character of the church became 
complete. It had ceased to be the voluntary association of be- 
lievers; it had become the sole legal religion of the empire; its 
membership had become everybody. To reject this religion was 
thereafter equivalent to treason against the state and, naturally, was 
punishable by death. Church and state alike adopted the pre- 
supposition that religious homogeneity was essential to the cohesion 
of the social order and the stability of the civil government. This 
principle dominated the Middle Ages and was part of the heritage 
that the great Protestant state churches of the Reformation period 
accepted from the medieval Catholic Church. Its continuing con- 
sequences will be noted later. 

Obviously a change so sweeping as the liquidation of Roman 
paganism and the Christianization of the Roman Empire could not 
be accomplished in a day, or even in a decade. The edict of 
Theodosius in 383 and the stronger one in 392 did not have the 
finality that their strong words seemed to give them. There were 
still too many worshipers of the old gods, many of them in high 
place and in public office. For example, there was Quintus Aurelius 
Symmachus, of noble Roman family, who was proconsul for 
Africa a few years before the first of these edicts and prefect 
of the city of Rome in the year after it. He continued his pros- 
perous political career for twenty years after that, all the while an 
outspoken defender of the old gods; and his son, just as pagan as 
he, later held the same offices. When Rome was taken and sacked 
by Alaric in 410, Augustine felt it necessary to write his greatest 
book, The City of God, to answer the argument of those who 
blamed the adoption of Christianity for this calamity. To evoke 
such a formidable reply from Christianity's foremost champion, 
there must have been a good many persons of pagan sympathies 
who still held this opinion. 

Nevertheless, the fate of the old religion was sealed, though it 
was long in dying, and the character of the new religion as a social 
structure was radically altered when the Christian church entered 
into such alliance with the Roman Empire that thereafter it had 
the police power of the state at its command for the enforcement 
of conformity and the suppression of dissent or competition. 

The temper and quality of the Christian community also 


changed, as might have been expected, with this change in the 
worldly fortunes of the church. When it became socially and 
politically advantageous to be a Christian (under Constantine), 
and still more when it became unsafe not to be one (under 
Theodosius), thousands declared their adherence to the church 
with little or no change in their moral or religious attitudes. St. 
Jerome and St. Augustine, both contemporaries of Theodosius, 
lamented bitterly that the church was being crowded with the 
unconverted who had been led to join it by merely selfish and 
mundane motives. The mass of Christians suffered a dilution, not 
to say a corruption, in quality as it swelled in quantity. This was 
doubtless one reason for the increase of the power and prestige 
of the clergy. When the laity contained so large an element that 
knew little and cared little about the Christian faith, who but 
the priests and bishops could carry the responsibility for guarding 
the interests of the church, administering its affairs and, so far as 
might be possible, disciplining its unruly laity? Many of the clergy 
were themselves more pagan than Christian in their motives and 
morals, but no doubt they averaged better than the general mass 
of the laymen. 

It is fortunate that factors of a nonpolitical kind were simul- 
taneously at work to strengthen the moral position of the church 
and to counteract the demoralizing effect of these wholesale and 
indiscriminate additions to its membership. There was the growing 
prestige and authority of the bishop of Rome. There was the 
mellowing effect of monasticism, with its example of complete 
devotion which challenged the admiration even of those careless 
Christians who had no taste for emulating its austerities. There 
was a developing cultus of ritual worship, sacraments, festivals, 
and the invocation of saints, all providing patterns of religious be- 
havior that could be followed by the multitudes. There was 
coming into existence a technique of discipline through the 
practice of confession, penance, and absolution. Moreover, there 
were some commanding personalities men like Ambrose, Jerome, 
and Augustine who, by administrative ability, conspicuous piety, 
and intellectual power, impressed the imagination of their own and 
succeeding generations. 



The papacy is a controversial topic. Roman Catholics and 
Protestants are never going to agree on the de jure status of the 
bishop of Rome. Fortunately it is not necessary in this historical 
survey to attempt any judgment on that matter. It will be 
sufficient to state briefly some of the undisputed facts about the 
gradual acquisition of an acknowledged primacy of rank and power 
in Western Christendom by the Roman bishop. Roman Catholics 
of course hold that the Apostle Peter was the first pope, and that 
he and his successors in unbroken line Linus, Cletus, Clement, 
Anencletus, and so on were alike endowed with supreme au- 
thority and with infallibility in doctrine and morals. It is no part 
of their faith to hold that the possession of these powers was either 
recognized by the church or claimed by the leaders of the church 
at Rome from the beginning. There is no quarrel between Catholic 
and Protestant historians as to the process by which this primacy 
came to be generally recognized.* 

Several early Christian writers, beginning with Irenaeus in 
the second century, referred to Peter and Paul as founders of the 
church in Rome and to Linus as successor in the episcopate. There 
are frequent references to the primacy of Peter among the 
apostles, and to the office of bishops as standing in succession from 
the apostles. A moot question was the interpretation to be put on 
the "upon this rock" and the "binding and loosing" passages in 
Matthew 16:18, 19 and 18:18. Origen thought that the reference 
was to all who had such a faith as Peter had. Tertullian held that 
it was to Peter personally. Cyprian said the grant of authority was 
to all the apostles, and hence to all the bishops that came after 
them, but first of all to Peter. Cyprian was constantly stressing 
the importance of the episcopate "the Church is the bishop 

* Professor James T. Shotwell, a Catholic layman who was long an eminent 
professor of history at Columbia University, is coauthor of a very useful 
and reliable work which traces this historical process as far as the end of 
the fourth century with full documentation: The See of Peter, James T. 
Shotwell and Louise Roper Loomis, Columbia University Press, 1927. 


and the bishop is the Church" but at the same time he insisted on 
the equality of all bishops and declared that no bishop could "set 
himself up as a bishop of bishops." Yet even in his time (the middle 
of the third century) the bishops were not actually equal, for the 
bishops of large cities had precedence over those of smaller towns, 
and bishops of churches known or believed to have been founded 
by apostles had superior prestige. 

Both of these considerations worked to the advantage of the 
bishop of Rome, for the historic importance of Rome cast its 
shadow over every other city west of the Adriatic, and no other 
church in the West could claim an apostle as its founder. Jealousies 
and disputes among the metropolitan churches in the East led to 
appeals to Rome in the third and fourth centuries. This was not 
necessarily an acknowledgment of Rome's unique and supreme 
authority which, in fact, the Eastern churches never did ac- 
knowledge but was in the hope of gaining as an ally the one 
influential bishop who stood outside their quarrels. 

Further, in the theological disputes of the time, Rome was 
always on what turned out to be the winning side. The only 
apparent and temporary exception to this was when Bishop 
Liberius, having opposed the efforts of the Emperor Constantius 
to force Arianism upon the West, was exiled and then, under pres- 
sure, turned against Athanasius and begged to be allowed to return 
to Rome virtually on the emperor's terms. But when he gained this 
permission and returned, he recanted his recantation, and the 
church at Rome was once more on the main road of orthodoxy, 
from which it never again deviated. During the pontificate of his 
successor, Damasus, a synod at Rome petitioned the emperor that, 
in case of any future charges against a bishop of Rome, the bishop 
should have the right of direct appeal so that he might "defend 
himself before the court of the emperor." Imagine a Hildebrand 
doing that! Or even a Leo I, less than a century after Damasus. 
The other documents of Damasus' time similarly picture him as 
exercising far less than absolute authority, either spiritual or ad- 
ministrative. Yet the prestige of the Roman bishop was increasing, 
all the more rapidly as the Roman Empire collapsed under the 
impact of the barbarians from all sides, and as the church at Rome 


proved itself to be the most stable institution in an otherwise 
chaotic Italy. 

A landmark in the growth of the papacy's actual authority was 
the edict of Valentinian III, in 445, declaring the bishop of Rome 
to be the supreme head of the Western church because of the 
primacy of Peter, the dignity of the city, and "the decree of a holy 
synod." Just what holy synod had voted this decree, the emperor 
did not say. It could scarcely have been any other than a local 
synod of the Roman clergy. Be that as it may, the emperor and the 
unspecified synod were only putting into words what was already 
an accomplished fact in the person of the then bishop of Rome. 
This was Leo I, one of the truly great popes and perhaps the first 
bishop of Rome who can be called "pope" without reading back 
into the term an amplitude of meaning derived from the later 
magnification of the office. It should again be repeated that no 
question is here raised as to the legitimacy of the title or the 
theological or exegetical ground for the claim to supreme au- 
thority. We are speaking only of the recognition of the claim, and 
of the historical process by which the de -facto power and prestige 
of the bishop of Rome increased. 

Meanwhile, during the turbulent years when what was left of 
the imperial government in the West was in an advanced state of 
inefficiency and decay, the Roman see acquired vast holdings of 
property and was burdened with duties of civil administration 
and this long before the papacy had anything that could be called 
"temporal sovereignty." The concentration of such great and 
varied responsibilities in one office necessarily produced a compli- 
cation of secular with spiritual concerns. Under the conditions 
then existing, the papacy rendered valuable services in both areas. 
One may say, not without reason, that such conditions ought never 
to have existed that the church should never have been a party to 
the policy of compulsory conversion and the violent liquidation 
of every moral, cultural, and religious influence except its own. But 
when these things had been done, the papacy undoubtedly exer- 
cised a salutary effect on society and on the church in this transi- 
tion period when it was receiving into its membership a staggering 
mass of only superficially converted pagans. 



Monasticism was partly a reaction and a protest against the 
worldliness of so many skin-deep Christians when the church was 
in danger of being killed with imperial kindness and of being 
swamped by the sudden influx of pagans who joined it because it 
was fashionable, profitable, and safe to be counted among the 
Christians. But the monastic movement had begun, in a small way, 
even before this condition arose. Asceticism had been a factor in 
many religions before Christianity. Many sensitive souls had felt 
that luxury and ease hindered the pursuit of spiritual or intellectual 
ends. Socrates was a kind of secular ascetic though not to a 
fanatical degree, as the Symposium makes clear. John the Baptist, 
roaming the desert with crude garb and frugal fare, was a typical 
ascetic figure. The Apostle Paul wrote that "the flesh lusteth 
against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these are con- 
trary the one to the other" (Gal. 5: 17). Jesus told the rich young 
man to get rid of all his possessions if he would have eternal life. 
A literal application of these and other passages suggested to some 
earnest spirits that perfect Christianity required complete poverty 
and bodily austerity. Furthermore, when Christians were still a 
despised minority of the pure in a pagan world, they were perforce 
living in an environment utterly hostile to their principles and prac- 
tices. Why not get entirely away from a corrupt society the sins 
of which were as sins so often are alternately revolting and 
tempting? The desert was safer for the soul than the city. 

The monastic escape from the world began in Egypt, where a 
short journey either east or west from the narrow ribbon of fer- 
tility would put one into as rigorous a desert as the most ascetic 
heart could desire. At first these enthusiasts for renunciation of 
the world went out singly into complete solitude. Then numbers 
of individual hermit monks located their retreats in calculated 
proximity to one another, thus forming clusters but not com- 
munities, for each was still independent and solitary. St. Anthony, 
the most famous of the early monks, went through both of these 
phases. The third phase, destined to be by far the most important, 
was the organization of the monks into rigidly governed com- 
munities with standardized rules. Pachomius, a contemporary of 


Constantine, was the pioneer In this type of monasticism. But the 
solitary life continued to attract many in the East; for example, St. 
Simeon Stylites, who, a century after Pachomius, lived on the top 
of an isolated pillar for thirty-five years. Of course a stylite, or 
pillar-sitter and there were many had to have a supporting con- 
stituency on the ground to put food into his basket occasionally. 
Only the community type of monasticism, as invented and devel- 
oped by Pachomius, took root in the West. There it became one of 
the most potent institutions of the Middle Ages and left an impor- 
tant heritage to the modern world. Benedict of Nursia, in the sixth 
century, became the founder of the great monastery of Monte 
Cassino and set the pattern and basic rule for Western monasticism. 

At the gateway to the Middle Ages, when the church was in 
the throes of readjustment to its changed status and character and 
was struggling to digest the mass of worldly pagan population it 
had so suddenly swallowed, monasticism helped to restore the 
balance by going to extremes in the opposite direction. Later the 
monks took on some useful practical functions. In this period their 
greatest value to the church lay in setting an example of complete, 
self-sacrificing, even if fanatical, devotion to the spiritual life. 

More directly influential with the masses of both clergy and 
laity were these factors that have already been mentioned: the 
development of a cultus of ritual sacraments, saints, and festi- 
vals; the beginnings of a system of discipline including confession, 
penance, and absolution; and the appearance of such towering 
characters as Ambrose, the administrator, Jerome, the scholar who 
produced the Latin (Vulgate) translation of the Bible, and Augus- 
tine, the theologian. 

It cannot be said that all these influences together prevented a 
radical change in the general quality of the Christian laity. Such a 
change was inevitable when an entire population was swept into 
the church by the combined forces of persuasion, political and 
social pressure, and downright persecution. Nor can it be said that 
Christian practice did not adopt some of the features of the 
popular paganism that it supplanted. But the factors that have been 
mentioned were effective in restoring to the imperiled church so 
much of its vitality and virtue that it could presently take up the 
task of saving Western civilization from barbarism and decay. 


Beyond the Border 

Christianity entered upon a new phase of expansion as the Western 
half of the Roman Empire tottered toward its fall and approached 
the dissolution through which it was to pass before its fragments 
could crystallize into the Holy Roman Empire. This new phase 
involved the conversion of the barbarians who were gnawing at 
the edges of the empire and threatening to penetrate to its heart, 
and of such distant districts as Britain and Ireland, and of the 
tribes that were in the act of transforming the Roman province of 
Gaul into the kingdom of France, and, a little later, of the more 
persistent pagans of central and north Germany, the Low Coun- 
tries, and the Scandinavian peninsula. 

Politically, there was a change, during these centuries from the 
fifth to the eighth, from centralized governmental control under 
the empire to a division of sovereign authority among many hands, 
all of them new to the business of civil government. This was a 
critical situation for a church that had but lately gained its 
dominance through the favor and support of that same centralized 
government that was now disappearing. At the same time there 


was the transition from a classic culture which, though it had 
become decadent, still had the maturity that can come only from 
centuries of continuous intellectual life, to the boisterous adoles- 
cence of new peoples who were just becoming literate and had yet 
to learn the ways of civilized life and to exchange a migratory 
existence for such a degree of territorial permanence as would 
entitle them to be called nations rather than tribes. 


Could the church survive the changing order? It could, and it 
did. It survived by converting the barbarians. It absorbed them 
while they were absorbing the material assets of the empire. This 
achievement was no less remarkable than the early expansion of 
Christianity in the Graeco-Roman world or the sudden increase 
of its power and prestige in the fourth century. It was all the more 
so because during this crucial transition period there was a con- 
tinuous running fight within the church itself between Arianism 
and the Athanasian doctrine which thanks largely to the influ- 
ence and authority of the popes was to become the standard of 
Catholic orthodoxy. 

Professor K. S. Latourette calls the period from about the year 
500 to 950 the time of the "Great Recession" in the history of 
Christianity. There was enough decadence and disorder throughout 
these centuries to furnish some justification for that characteriza- 
tion; yet it was within this period that Christianity conquered the 
new peoples that were thereafter to dominate the fortunes and the 
civilizations of Europe. In doing this, it insured its own future. 

In those areas that lay beyond the settled borders of the old 
empire, the conversion process was the resultant of various forces 
and pressures, political and religious, but it was quite different 
from what it had been within the empire itself, both East and 
West, when first imperial favor and then imperial laws had been 
the determining factor. The barbarian tribes some so large and 
powerful that they assumed the proportions of migratory nations 
seeking a permanent location cared little for the edicts of an 


emperor with whom they were chronically at war. When the wars 
died down, whether by reason of temporary terms of peace or by 
the victory of the barbarians, the choice was still theirs as to 
whether or not they would accept Christianity, if they had not 
already voluntarily done so, and, if they did, which of the two 
contending kinds. The decision was still most often made by tribal 
units and at the will of their political or military leaders, rather 
than by free individuals, but it was no longer made under any one 
centralized compulsion. Moreover, there was in it a large element 
of genuine missionary work aimed at the conversion of individuals 
to the Christian gospel and their instruction in Christian faith and 

Consider the Goths. They had drifted down from some region 
that cannot be exactly identified, perhaps the Baltic shores, into the 
area just north of the Danube and reaching east as far as the Black 
Sea. Some of them got permission to cross the river and settled in 
the Balkan territory. But they were never satisfied with what they 
had. They wanted room to expand southward and needed it, 
with the Huns pushing them from behind. Here was the original 
Teutonic demand for Lebensraum. Inevitably there was border 
warfare between Gothic and Roman forces. The Emperor Decius, 
infamous as instigator of the first general persecution of Christians 
in the middle of the third century, died fighting the Goths on the 
lower Danube. A few years later another emperor, Claudius, 
earned the surname Gothicus by a victory over the invading Goths 
in what is now Yugoslavia. Another century went by and the 
fighting went on intermittently. The Emperor Valens was killed 
in one of these battles (A.D. 378) scarcely more than a hundred 
miles from Constantinople. The Eastern capital itself had a narrow 
escape. It was not many years later (in 410) that Rome itself was 
captured and sacked by the Goths under Alaric. After only one 
more generation Rome lay completely at the mercy of Attila the 
Hun, who, having completely ravaged northern Italy, would 
doubtless have treated Rome even more savagely if he had not been 
checked by sickness in his army, by his hope of marrying the 
daughter of the Eastern emperor, and, most important of all, by 


the impressive persuasions of Pope Leo I, who led an embassy out 
to meet the invader. Evidently the roof had fallen in for the 
Western Empire even before its nominal existence ended in 476* 
The Eastern Empire survived, after a fashion, for another thousand 
years, until the Ottoman Turks took its capital, having long since 
taken most of its territory. 

Those Goths on both sides of the Danube were, to be sure, 
dangerous enemies of the Eastern Empire, and of the Western as 
long as it lasted, but there was also a degree of cultural inter- 
mingling and much infiltration of the northern tribesmen into the 
southern population. The old empire had for centuries been receiv- 
ing into itself all kinds of streams of migration. When it divided, 
the Greek empire was not Greek nor was the Latin empire either 
Roman or Italian. Many Goths, as well as barbarians of other 
strains, took service in the Roman armies. The new peoples who 
had been hammering at the borders of the empire finally took over 
partly by conquest but partly also by infiltration. 

While all this was going on, Christianity was also filtering into 
the barbarians. A little before that disastrous campaign in which 
Emperor Valens lost his life, Ulfilas (or Wulfila) had crossed the 
Danube to become a missionary among the Goths. Aided by other 
missionaries of whose names there is no record, he converted them. 
This was in the half-century after the Council of Nicaea, when it 
was still uncertain whether the Athanasian or the Arian doctrine 
would ultimately prevail and it remained uncertain a good deal 
longer than that. Athanasius had won the theological battle at 
Nicaea, but it was still impossible to tell who had won the war. 
Ulfilas and his fellow missionaries were all Arians, so naturally they 
converted the Goths to the Arian faith. That this conversion was 
something more than yielding to social and political pressures is 
strongly suggested by the fact that Ulfilas translated the Bible into 
the Gothic language, with the exception of the Books of Kings, 
which he thought too bellicose to be edifying for a people already 
too fierce and warlike. Early manuscripts of parts of the Bible 
of Ulfilas are the oldest extant specimens of any Teutonic lan- 


Crowded by the Huns, who were in what is now southern 
Russia, the Goths moved westward. Then or earlier they divided 
into two groups, the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths. The prefixes 
really mean "splendid" and "noble," but it is easier to remember 
them as "eastern" and "western," and that is what they actually 
were. Theodoric, greatest of the Ostrogoth leaders, had spent most 
of his youth in Constantinople as a hostage. He was on good 
enough terms with the Eastern emperor to be commissioned by 
him to lead an army into Italy and drive out another barbarian 
force under Odoacer. In this he was almost too successful to please 
his imperial master, for after getting control of Italy he established 
his seat of government at Ravenna, nominally as exarch, or provin- 
cial administrator for the emperor, but actually as king of an 
Ostrogothic kingdom. Through a long reign he used his power in 
an enlightened and, in general, a Christian manner. Some of the 
finest Christian monuments of that interesting city date from his 
time, and the rest from the reign of the Eastern Emperor Justinian, 
who ascended the throne the year after Theodoric died. Within 
another century, the Ostrogoths had lost both their tribal identity 
and their Arianism, but they were still a part of Europe's new 
Christian population. 

The Visigoths, also Christian and Arian by the time of their 
successful but impermanent foray into Italy under Alaric (410), 
moved westward in a slow migration through southern Germany, 
crossed the Rhine into southern Gaul, where they tangled with the 
Burgundians, and ultimately occupied Spain, taking over control 
from the Vandals, who had preceded them, and extinguished what 
little there was left of the Roman regime. The Visigothic kingdom 
in Spain endured until the Moorish invasion in the eighth century. 
Before that, however, they had been converted from the Arian to 
the Athanasian theology. So the Visigoths not only made a large 
contribution to the racial strain of what was to become the Spanish 
people, but also became pillars of Catholic orthodoxy. As a symbol 
of this, it may be noted that the filioque addition to the Nicene 
Creed (asserting that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father 
and from the Son) originated with a council at Toledo, in Spain, 
A.D. 598 a to seal the triumph of orthodoxy over Arianism ? " as 


Philip Schaff puts It In his monumental work The Creeds of 


During all these adventures of the Goths, an even more im- 
portant population shift was occurring in a higher latitude. The 
Germanic tribes of Franks, still pagan, were moving westward into 
the northern half of Gaul. Not many years passed before they got 
control of all of it. Clovis, king of the Salic Franks, has two titles 
to fame. He became in effect the first king of France and the 
founder of the French nation; and he was the first barbarian chief 
of any importance to become a convert to Athanasian (that is, 
orthodox or Catholic) Christianity. The consequences of both 
events were tremendous. The motive of his conversion was partly 
matrimonial. He had married a Burgundian princess who was her- 
self orthodox, though most of the Burgundians were Arian. The 
princess was evidently one of those rare individualists who did not 
necessarily go with the tribe in religion. But Clovis went with her, 
and his people went with him. When a chief was converted, the 
conversion of his men usually followed as a matter of course. So 
when Clovis was baptized on Christmas Day, 496, three thousand 
of his followers were baptized with him. Doubtless his political 
position was strengthened by this act. There was already a strong 
Christian element in Roman Gaul Irenaeus had spent most of his 
active life at Lyons in the latter part of the second century, and 
St. Martin was bishop of Tours in the fourth. About the middle of 
the fourth century long before Clovis became master of southern 
Gaul and before his conversion a council at Aries had declared 
bishops derelict in their duty if they did not invoke the imperial 
laws and the police power to stamp out pagan worship. But Gaul 
was sufficiently marginal to the empire by that time to render the 
techniques of compulsion relatively ineffective when Christianity 
became the only lawful religion, so it may be presumed that most 
of the Gallic Christians were Christians by conviction. Clovis 
therefore had a good foundation to build on when he made Gaul 
(hereafter to be called France) not only Christian but Catholic. 



Legends tell of Christians in Britain in the first century, pos- 
sibly the Apostle Paul. He had expressed the wish to evangelize in 
Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28), and there is a wild conjecture that he may 
have gone there and then on to Britain. More specific, but no more 
historical, are the legends of Joseph of Arimathea's going to Brit- 
ain, planting his staff, which grew into a thorn tree at Glaston- 
bury, and founding an abbey there. These can be classed with the 
lovely but wholly imaginative Provengal legends of the "three 
Marys/' who were wafted miraculously the length of the Mediter- 
ranean in a skiff without oars, landing on the south coast of France 
near Aigues Mortes with their servant "Sarah the Egyptian" 
(wherefore half the Gypsies in Europe gather at Les Trois Saintes 
Maries on the proper day every summer) ; and of Lazarus going to 
Marseilles for his last years and his second death (for which reason 
the cathedral church of Marseilles is St. Lazare and this saint is 
popular enough in France to have a railway station in Paris named 
after him) ; and of Martha, formerly of Bethany, settling and dying 
at Tarascon on the Rhone just below Avignon; and of Joseph of 
Arimathea (this is an alternative to the Glastonbury legend) 
becoming the first king of nearby Les Baux. These pleasant tales 
tell us little about the beginnings of Christianity in either Gaul 
or Britain. Legends aside, the historical evidence supports the belief 
that it did begin quite early in Gaul, not so early in Britain. 

The Romans went to Britain with Julius Caesar in the century 
before Christ. Constantine was born there. His mother, Helena, 
was a British princess, but she did not become a Christian until the 
very year of her imperial son's great Edict of Toleration. The 
Romans came to Britain to conquer and administer, not to colonize. 
Indeed, they were never colonizers, as the Greeks were. It seems 
that some Roman civilians, but not many, went to Britain with the 
army, and some of them who knew the right people received 
grants of land something like the Spanish encomiendas in Mexico 
in the days of Cortez and after. They worked these tracts with 
native slaves and built the handsome villas with mosaic floors that 
are even now being unearthed from time to time. But the whole 


Roman project in Britain was essentially a military occupation. All 
the "-chesters" in England Colchester, Dorchester, Winchester, 
Westchester, and the like, including plain Chester were originally 
castra, camps of the Roman armies. 

Christianity was probably bootlegged into Britain by Roman 
soldiers, but not early, because Christians did not become soldiers 
during the first two Christian centuries, though doubtless some 
soldiers became Christians. In one way or another Christianity 
certainly did get into Celtic Britain during the Roman occupation. 
The lack of documentary evidence leaves the field open to con- 
jecture as to when and how. One piece of clear and definite testi- 
mony as to the main fact is the statement by St. Patrick, who was 
born in the southwestern part of England in or near the year 389, 
that his father was a deacon and his grandfather a presbyter. This 
points to the presence not merely of scattered Christians but of 
some church organization in Britain at least as early as the middle 
of the fourth century. This deduction is confirmed by the record 
that three British bishops attended a church council at Aries no 
later than the year 350. Granted that the "bishops" may have had 
very limited jurisdictions compared with modern dioceses, the fact 
that there were at least three of them, with sufficient constituency 
to finance a trip to southern Gaul to attend a council, indicates a 
substantial beginning of organized Christianity. 

By the end of the fourth century the Romans were beginning 
to withdraw their forces from Britain. The Irish (then called 
Scots) were harrying the western coast. The northern Scots (then 
called Picts) were overrunning the wall that had been built across 
the island to keep them out. The occupation of northern Gaul by 
the Teutonic tribe of Franks made communication with Britain 
difficult. To complete the catalogue of troubles, the forerunners of 
the Danish and Saxon invaders were beginning to come across the 
North Sea, and presently they came in force. 


All these unfriendly factors that tended to make the situation 
untenable for the Romans also made it a difficult field for the 
Christians. The Picts and Scots were solidly pagan. The menacing 


and presently invading Saxons and Jutes were pagan. All but a 
very few of the Celtic natives of Britain were pagan, and so were 
most of the Romans. Through aH the turbulent years before the 
greater part of Celtic Britain became Saxon England, it must have 
seemed that the Christian mission was a feeble plant in an in- 
hospitable climate. Yet that frail shoot of Christianity showed 
itself to be surprisingly rugged. For one thing, it had Patrick.* 

The story of St. Patrick is fantastically implausible, but its 
main facts are well-enough authenticated. In brief, this young 
third-generation British Christian while still in his teens was cap- 
tured by Irish marauders and taken into slavery in Ireland, escaped 
after six years, somehow got shipping to France and made his way 
to the monastery of Lerins on a tiny island off the Mediterranean 
shore (almost opposite Cannes), where he spent several years; at 
the age of about forty-three was consecrated as a missionary bishop 
by Bishop Germanus of Auxerre in central France; and then went 
back to the scene of his early slavery in Ireland to take the gospel 
to his former masters. In the remaining twenty-nine years of his 
life all he did was to convert Ireland no less. 

Such a sweeping statement must, of course, be taken with a 
reasonable degree of allowance. Patrick did not go to all parts of 
Ireland. He worked chiefly in the northeastern part of the island. 
And he did not convert all the people there. Ireland at that time 
had no unified government, but was ruled by many independent 
chiefs. Patrick converted enough of these chiefs, and through them 
their subordinates and subjects, so that Ireland became a Christian 
region with many organized dioceses and many monasteries. The 
Irish pattern of church organization stressed the monastic rather 
than the diocesan structure, and in general the priors of the 
monasteries were more powerful than the bishops. 

Ireland in turn became the base for the evangelization of 
Britain. Columba was the most conspicuous figure in this move- 
ment. As we have seen, there were Christian churches in Britain 
before Patrick's day, and there were Irish missionaries to Britain 

* It also had Pelagius, a British-born Christian who became famous for his 
theological controversy with St. Augustine and as the originator of the 
Pelagian "heresy." He was an older contemporary of Patrick, 


before Columba, but the founding of the monastery of lona, a 
century after Patrick's time, gave a new and vital impulse to the 
whole enterprise. Though the location of lona, on an island in the 
Hebrides, was peripheral, it became the radiating center for the 
influence that soon led to a considerable development of Celtic 
Christianity in Britain. 

Still more surprisingly, Celtic monks from Ireland and Britain 
became missionaries to the Continent. They established monasteries 
in Germany and Switzerland and even in northern Italy which 
became centers of evangelization and of devout learning. Colum- 
banus is the great name in this connection, though he was only 
one among many, and St. Gall and Bobbio were two of their most 
famous monasteries. Since Celtic Christianity had grown thus 
vigorous before the bishops of Rome had gained general recogni- 
tion of their unique status as popes, this Celtic influence on the 
Continent and the independent spirit of the Irish and British monks 
became a somewhat disturbing factor. As we shall presently see, 
one of the assignments of Boniface, the great apostle to Germany, 
was to bring these Celts and their converts into line. 


The Saxons and Angles* came in the fifth and sixth centuries as 
conquerors of a Britain that already had something more than a 
sprinkling of Christians. Unlike the Romans, these Teutonic in- 
vaders came not only to conquer but to make the land their home. 
Pagan though they were, the word no doubt had got around, even 
to barbarians on the Baltic and marauders on the North Sea, that 
the new religion was being accepted by the most powerful chiefs 
and the best people not only of the old empire on the Mediter- 
ranean but of the new nations that were taking over its assets. In 
Britain, too, it could be seen that Christianity rather than druidism 
was the religion of the future. In 597 Pope Gregory I sent the 

* It seems that not very many Angles came, but their name got attached to 
the island they did not conquer, as that of Amerigo Vespucci did to the 
continent he did not discover. History is sometimes more whimsical than 
just in its nomenclature. 


monk Augustine not to be confused with the theologian of the 
same name who lived two hundred years earlier to convert the 
English. Perhaps he did not know to what extent they had already 
been converted, but he did know that they did not give what he 
considered proper allegiance to the See of Rome. This presently 
became particularly manifest in that they did not give their monks 
the kind of tonsure that was applied to the Continental monks, and 
that they did not observe Easter on the date approved by Rome. 
One must not belittle the issue because these matters may seem 
trivial The real question was not the style of an ecclesiastical 
haircut or a date on the calendar, but the organizational and 
administrative unity of the Catholic Church and the authority of 
its pontiff . 

English Christianity took a fresh start with this second Au- 
gustine. He became the first archbishop of Canterbury (601). 
He made a beginning of the diocesan system which still prevails. 
His work prepared the way for the conference at Whitby (664) 
at which the political leaders made the fateful decision that the 
rule of Rome was to be followed whenever it differed from the 
British or Celtic practice. Henceforth, the church in England, in 
spite of its rather independent origin, was firmly integrated into 
the Catholic Church. So it may be truly said that the Church of 
England in the sense of the Catholic Church in England began 
with Augustine. 

Central and northern Germany still remained pagan. This 
region had been definitely outside of even the widest boundaries 
of the Roman Empire. Its peoples had not attacked the frontiers 
or fraternized across the borders as had the Goths and Burgun- 
dians. Neither orthodox nor Arian Christianity had reached them, 
though there were some exceptions, especially along the Rhine. 
Trier (or Treves) was founded by Augustus, and it had a bishop 
in the fourth century. Cologne was originally Colonia Agrippi- 
nensis, a Roman colony. But Germany in general was little known, 
in spite of the book about it by Tacitus, and little affected by the 
changes of the fourth and fifth centuries. This was also true of the 
Low Countries, around the mouth of the Rhine. 

The evangelization of these regions was primarily the work 


by this time the reader will expect it of British missionaries. The 
first of the great two was Willibrord, a native of Northumbria; he 
made Utrecht the center of his operations. The second, Winfrid, 
better known as Boniface, born in Devonshire, was commissioned 
by Pope Gregory II in 729 to evangelize Germany. His primary 
task was to convert the pagan population, and in this he had great 
success. Besides that, it was his function to bring the British and 
Irish missionary monks and their converts into proper relations 
with the See of Rome, and to establish dioceses and appoint bishops 
as might be required. This Boniface was undoubtedly one of the 
great missionaries of all time, and his versatility matched his devo- 
tion to the cause. He could chop down a sacred tree while the 
shuddering multitude watched to see him struck dead by fire from 
heaven, and then win them to Christ by his eloquence when the 
supposedly offended god failed to protect his tree. He could 
diplomatically engage the assistance of local Germanic chiefs and 
of the Prankish rulers to put the pressure on reluctant converts or 
on ecclesiastics of too independent temper, and he could so 
organize the districts in which he exercised his powers as to leave 
behind him a Germany that, if not yet completely converted, had 
at least a great body of professed Christians and a church structure 
that bound them firmly to the central authority at Rome. 

Boniface became archbishop of Mainz and would have ended 
his splendid career there in peace if final qualms about the failure 
of his early efforts in Frisia had not drawn him back to that still- 
pagan field. There he sealed his faith with martyrdom. If that was 
in the year 754, as is generally supposed, the young Prankish prince 
Charles, who was destined to become the Emperor Charlemagne 
and founder of the Holy Roman Empire, was twelve years old at 
the time. 


The Holy Roman Empke 

For several centuries after the fall of Rome, the political and social 
structure of Europe was such a mass of confusion that it defies 
representation in any simple pattern. As always in eras of general 
instability and disorder, there were periods of peace and even of 
reasonably good government in limited areas. Life went on at all 
levels; there was seedtime and harvest, marrying and giving in 
marriage; and probably most of the people of that time would be 
surprised to learn that die whole age in which they lived could 
be described by later historians as a one vast welter of fighting and 
political anarchy." Yet viewed from afar and in a perspective that 
takes in the whole map of Europe through those centuries, the 
description is true enough as a generalization. The shifts in popula- 
tion and sovereignty were too rapid, the struggles among con- 
flicting interests too fierce and lawless, to permit the total picture 
to be other than one of confusion. Any simplification of it for the 
modern reader is an oversimplification. With this warning, we 
proceed to oversimplify. 

Out of that welter emerged three institutions that gave to the 
whole some coherent structure and provided some intelligible 


pattern In what would otherwise appear to be chaos. These were: 
the imperial church, the Holy Roman Empire, and the feudal 

"After the fall of Rome," we said. But when and how did 
Rome fall? The first term in the title of Gibbon's famous work was 
more appropriate than the second. After the division of the empire 
and the removal of the seat of its western part from the city of 
Rome, there was a long decline an evaporation of authority, a 
sinking of its vitality, the gradual fading and ultimate disappear- 
ance of its apparatus of government. Though moribund, it still 
drew a labored breath after the raid on Rome by Alaric the Goth 
(410). The invasion of Italy by Attfla the Hun (455) left the 
Western empire virtually unconscious. It died in a coma a few 
years later, though already it had practically ceased to exist. When 
the insignificant Romulus Augustulus was deposed (476), there 
was no longer even a titular emperor. The ghost of the Western 
empire feeble even for a ghost was the shadowy claim of the 
Eastern emperor at Constantinople to the allegiance of the bar- 
barian chiefs who exercised independent military control in Italy, 
Gaul, Spain, and North Africa. The only part of that claim that 
ever had any historical reality was the Eastern emperor's exarchate 
at Ravenna. 

Justinian, the most memorable and competent of the emperors 
of the East, had great plans for asserting his imperial authority 
throughout the West and thus becoming, as Constantine had been, 
the ruler of the whole Roman Empire, with his seat at Constan- 
tinople. He got so far as to take Italy from the Goths and North 
Africa from the Vandals, thanks to the generalship of Belisarius 
and Narses, to get control of the Mediterranean islands, and even 
to occupy a corner of Spain. Ravenna again became a subordinate 
seat of Eastern government in the West. A monument of this brief 
period is the splendid mosaic portraits of Justinian, his disreputable 
consort, Theodora, and some members of their court, occupying 
one full side wall of the chancel of the Church of San Vitale in 
Ravenna. Justinian died in 565 more than a century after the 
ignominious exit of Romulus Augustulus and the dream of 
restoring the total empire died with him. His conquests fell away. 


As for Italy, most of It was taken over by the Lombards, a late- 
arriving Teutonic tribe which Justinian had permitted to settle in 
the northern part of his dominions and which started on a vigorous 
campaign to the south as soon as he was dead. All that was left of 
Byzantine rule in the West was the shrunken exarchate of Ra- 
venna, a strip of the eastern Italian coast below that city, and a bit 
of southern Italy. Almost two hundred years went by before the 
Lombards took Ravenna (751). They took it only to lose it almost 
immediately to a new arrival on the scene, and this turned out to 
be quite an important event. To find out who took it from the 
Lombards, and what he did with it, and what came of all this, we 
must go back to the Franks. 

In the preceding chapter we told how Clovis the Frank made 
himself master of most of Gaul while he was still a pagan, laid the 
foundations of modern France, and became an orthodox Christian 
in 496. His successors in the Merovingian dynasty committed the 
unpardonable political sin of allowing their top assistants to gain 
more power than they themselves had. The office of "mayor of 
the palace" at first chief steward or major-domo, then prime 
minister was hereditary. It got into the possession of a very 
vigorous family whose encroachments on the functions of royalty 
left in the hands of the kings less actual power than the president 
of the Soviet Union now has. The second of this Carlovingian or 
Carolingian line was the great Charles Martel, who, still not a 
king but only "mayor of the palace," saved central Europe from 
a Moslem invasion by stopping the Moors in the Battle of Tours 
(732). The third was Pippin the Short, who put the surviving 
Merovingians in a monastery, assumed the kingly title, and was 
crowned by the missionary Boniface. Pippin extended his power 
even to northern and central Italy. His father's policy toward the 
Lombards in that region had been one of peaceful coexistence, but 
Pippin's was more aggressive. Pope Stephen II visited him, dubbed 
him Patrician of Rome (on no authority whatever), and re- 
crowned him as king of France. A year or two later Pippin re- 
visited Italy at the pope's invitation, took the exarchate of Ravenna 
away from the king of the Lombards, and gave it to the pope. 


What Pippin actually did was to give him the keys of the city and 
a formal deed of gift for them, and these together were taken to 
Rome and laid on the tomb of St. Peter. 


This was the beginning of the temporal sovereignty of the 
papacy. The year was probably 756. The questions are: Just what 
did the pope and his successors get from Pippin, and how valid 
was the title? After the Lombards had captured Ravenna (five 
years before the "donation") there was no exarch, because the 
Eastern emperor never authorized the king of the Lombards to 
act as his representative. Since there was no exarch there was no 
exarchate. The Lombard king simply took a piece of territory by 
the sword and his only certificate of tide was the fact of military 
conquest. All that Pippin could take from him, and consequently 
all that he could transfer to the pope, was the sovereign rule over 
the seized territory. But what territory? Of course it included the 
city of Ravenna and its vicinity. The fact that the city had long 
been the seat of the emperor's lieutenant, or exarch, for the 
administration of as much of Italy as he could dominate, is 
irrelevant in this connection, because Pippin, never having been 
exarch, could not transfer the exarch's authority (whatever it 
was). No sort of legality or "legitimacy" attached to any of these 
transfers. The famous Donation of Pippin was simply the act of 
transferring to the pope his title, such as it was, to the conquered 
territory Ravenna and an adjacent district called the Pentopolis. 
But it did give the pope the new status of sovereign over some- 
thing, and that claim to papal sovereignty was soon to attach itself, 
on flimsy but sufficient grounds, to a larger and more important 
area, to Rome and the extensive States of the Church in central 
Italy. As to Ravenna, it soon broke away and became an inde- 
pendent state, then was under the sway of Venice for a long time, 
and did not again become a part of the papal dominion until 
Julius II, the "Pope in armor," sent his own army against it early 
in the sixteenth century. 


If the papal claim to sovereignty over Rome and the great 
Papal State which later occupied a large part of central Italy rested 
solely on the Donation of Pippin, it would have a very shaky tide. 
But if its legal basis is compared with that of the other European 
sovereignties, it seems about as good as any. Non-Catholics may 
think it is a terrible distortion of Christianity for the head of any 
church to be the sovereign of a territorial state, but when the 
question is the legality of his title as compared with other royal 
tides, there is little to be said against it. One can, of course, com- 
ment cynically on the exchange of favors between Pippin and the 
pope, but the Donation of Pippin actually had little more to do 
with the pope's acquisition of sovereignty than the deposition of 
Romulus Augusralus had to do with the fall of the Roman Empire. 
Both were episodes that symbolized a state of affairs that had 
already come about, or was in the process of coming about, with- 
out regard to them. 

The greatening of the papal power in relation to secular affairs 
was not confined to the acquisition of a territory over which the 
popes could thereafter exercise de jure as well as de facto sover- 
eignty. It involved also the assumption of authority to take a 
decisive part in the determination of other sovereignties. Perhaps 
the earliest experiment in the latter direction was in connection 
with the crowning of Pippin the Short. Pippin was technically a 
usurper putting himself and his family in the place of the Merovin- 
gians, whose title to the crown of the Prankish kingdom was as 
legitimate as any title could be under the circumstances. Condi- 
tions being as they were, Pippin was scarcely to be blamed for 
that. But Pope Stephen II went farther than .merely crowning him, 
and so sanctioning the usurpation. He anointed Pippin and his 
queen and their two sons with holy oil, setting them apart as the 
chosen of God, and formally forbade the Franks ever to choose a 
king from any family other than the Carlovingian under penalty 
of excommunication. It was not exactly an innovation, therefore, 
when another pope, Leo III, a generation later decided that the 
Western Empire should be revived and that one of Pippin's already 
anointed boys, then the most powerful king in Europe, should be 
its emperor. 



This most powerful king, who had been anointed in boyhood, 
was, of course, Charlemagne. He had inherited half of his father's 
kingdom and took the other half when his brother died at a young 
age. He had enlarged that kingdom by thirty years of wars, in the 
course of which he conquered the Saxons in the north, the peoples 
of what later became Hungary in the east, a strip of the eastern 
Adriatic coast to the southeast, Italy to a line below Rome to the 
south, and a belt across northern Spain to the southwest, as well as 
Corsica and the Balearic Islands. Though still just the Prankish 
kingdom, it was quite an empire in extent. It did not fall too far 
short of matching the extent of the western part of the old Roman 
Empire, and it had a good deal more square mileage than the 
diminished Eastern Empire could boast. 

Pope Leo III, not one of the strongest who have occupied the 
Roman see, was in trouble with the turbulent nobility of Rome 
and their still more turbulent retainers. In fact, they had com- 
pelled him to seek safety in flight from the city. He called upon 
Charlemagne for help, and Charlemagne came. He had already got 
the preceding pope to crown his second son as "king of Italy" 
almost twenty years earlier. The pope was restored to Rome under 
the protection of Prankish troops. Very soon thereafter, at a mass 
in old St. Peter's on Christmas Day in the year 800, the pope 
crowned Charlemagne as emperor, after first swearing fealty to 
him. Here begins the Holy Roman Empire. 

On the face of it, this w r as another exchange of favors like that 
between Pippin and Stephen II, but it was more than that. The 
empire in the East was moribund, and the empire in the West was 
dead, but the idea of empire still lived. Charlemagne's reported 
assertion that the coronation took him by surprise, and that he 
would not have gone to church that day if he had known it was 
going to happen, need not be taken too seriously. There is evidence 
that he was no more reluctant than most other candidates who 
insist on being "drafted" for public office. Perhaps he felt that 
this mild disclaimer would throw the whole responsibility on the 


pope and make it appear that he had not deliberately encroached 
upon the empty claim of Constantinople to be still the capital of 
an undivided empire. Two things made his assumption of the 
imperial dignity seem reasonable. The first, and chief, was that he 
already controlled most of the territory that had formerly con- 
stituted the Western Empire (the main exceptions being Spain and 
North Africa, then held by the Moors, and southern Italy and 
Sicily) and some that had been outside of its boundaries. The 
second was that a woman sat on the throne at Constantinople, the 
Empress Irene, who had recently blinded her son to prevent his 
accession to the throne. Though she had recently restored image 
worship in the Eastern church, and thus partly healed its rift with 
Rome, she was an odious character in Western eyes. There was 
no unfavorable reaction to the step that re-established the Western 
Empire entirely independent of Constantinople. Charlemagne 
negotiated for the recognition of his new empire by the Eastern 
ruler, and got it twelve years later. 

We shall not at this point follow the fortunes of the new Holy 
Roman Empire farther than to say that it dissolved in the weaker 
hands of Charlemagne's sons and had to be reconstituted by their 
more vigorous successors. But the initial step had been taken that 
led to bridging the gap between the period of the new barbarian 
kingdoms and the medieval unity insofar as unity was attained 
of the Holy Roman Empire. 

Charlemagne was a great character in history, but an even 
greater one in legend. When a man turns out to be the kind of 
person about whom legends accumulate, that is itself a solid histori- 
cal fact about him, though the legends may be a tissue of fancies. 
The two great cycles of medieval romances were the Charlemagne 
cycle and the Arthurian cycle. The stories that arose in later 
generations about Charlemagne and his paladins (knights) were 
concerned largely with their fights against the Saracens. They 
originated during the period of the Crusades, when fighting Mos- 
lems was deemed the ideal occupation for a Christian knight. 
Popular imagination therefore ascribed to Charlemagne a round 


of heroic exploits in defense of the faith against the "infidels." * 
The truth is that Charlemagne's principal campaigns were not 
against the Moslems. The Chanson de Roland blew up the record 
of a small rear-guard engagement with a tribe of Basques near a 
pass in the Pyrenees into the Battle of Roncevalles, which was 
represented as an epic struggle of Christians against Moors ending 
with the heroic death of both Roland, the greatest of Charle- 
magne's knights (celebrated later in the Italian epics, Pulci's 
Morgante, Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato, and Ariosto's Orlando 
Furioso), and Archbishop Turpin of Rheims, a muscular prelate 
whose legendary exploits on the battlefield alternated with the 
performance of his priestly functions. As a matter of history, the 
expedition that ended at Roncevalles got no farther into Spain than 
Pamplona. Legend also credits Charlemagne with a share in the 
discovery of the body of St. James, who, as St. James of Com- 
postela, was to become the patron saint of Spain and the object of 
the "Cult of Santiago." The finding and identification of the body 
were no less miraculous than its transportation in the first century 
from Jerusalem to the northwest corner of Spain, or the vision in 
which the son of Zebedee appeared to Charlemagne in the guise of 
a "fair and comely lord" and promised him a crown in heaven if he 
would seek the lost tomb in Galicia. The accepted date of the 
discovery is 813, but even legend does not credit the finding to the 

Charlemagne's actual importance was not as a crusader against 
the Moslems. His functions were to push out the boundaries of the 
Prankish kingdom until it had absorbed the territories of most of 
the other peoples who, along with the Franks, had been the invad- 
ing "barbarian tribes" two or three centuries earlier; and to turn 
that enlarged kingdom of the Franks into an empire which, though 
itself presently dissolved, served as a link in the chain to carry 

* In 1924 the writer of this chapter found in Palermo, Sicily, a marionette 
theater that had been operated for a hundred years by four generations of 
the same family, and in which nothing was given but plays based on the 
Charlemagne cycle. The repertoire contained three hundred plays, one for 
each day of the year, allowing for a few holidays, all dealing with 
Charlemagne's fights with the Moors. 


over the old imperial concept of a unified western Europe to the 
time when it could be embodied in a Holy Roman Empire more 
stable and comprehensive than his. Charlemagne's principal con- 
tacts with the Moslems were of an entirely unwarlike sort. He 
exchanged embassies and gifts with Haroun al Raschid, the 
fabulous caliph of Baghdad, who designated him as "protector of 
the Christians" in his dominions. 


The Moslems were, however, a conspicuous feature in the 
history of this period. They had appeared as a new rival on the 
scene before Christianity had completed the conquest of Europe. 
A century before Charlemagne's time the followers of Mohammed 
had burst upon the stage of history as a terrifying surprise. The 
Arab prophet had fled from Mecca and taken over the rule of 
Medina in 622. That is the year one in the Moslem calendar. It may 
be helpful to note that at this crucial date the monk Augustine was 
still archbishop of Canterbury. Mohammed died ten years later. 
While the Saxons were settling England and had not yet been 
Christianized, the Moslems were spreading through the Middle 
East and sweeping across North Africa. With a unique success in 
giving religious sanction to military conquest and in turning con- 
quered peoples into ardent propagandists of the faith of their con- 
querors, within a century after the prophet's death Islam had 
conquered and converted Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Persia, North 
Africa, and Spain, and had advanced its armies almost to the middle 
of France.* Charles Martel, Charlemagne's grandfather, had 

*The religion of Mohammed's followers is Islam. The adherents of the 
religion are called Moslems. The terms "Mohammedan" and "Moham- 
medism" are odious to Moslems because of the seeming implication that 
they regard Mohammed as a divine being. Moslems insist that they do not 
worship Mohammed as Christians worship Christ. Mohammed was, they 
say, a man like other men, sometimes mistaken, sometimes sinful, but God's 
final and greatest prophet and the recipient of direct revelations from God 
through the angel Gabriel. He is therefore to be revered and obeyed, but 
not worshiped. "There is no God but Allah." How Christians can believe 
that God is one and yet believe what they do believe about Christ is a 
perennial puzzle to Moslems. 


stopped them at Tours in 732. This was just three years after the 
pope had commissioned Boniface to convert the Germans. Thus 
new and unsettled was the state of Europe when the great Moslem 
menace came. 

Rather quickly the Moorish Moslems were forced back across 
the Pyrenees, and more slowly into the southern half of Spain. 
They held Cordova, and made it the seat of a high Islamic culture, 
until it was taken by a Christian king of Castile in 1236. Granada, 
the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain, held out until 1492. 
Through a great part of that period the Moslem powers con- 
stituted a menace and a challenge to Christian Europe on three 
sides. For more than two centuries the Crusades furnished an 
outlet for the energies of the Christian peoples, a field for knightly 
exploits, an opportunity for giving a pious coloration to deeds of 
violence and pillage, and a method of combining meritorious pil- 
grimages to sacred places with profitable adventure. The Crusades 
were, in the aggregate, only an episode in this long Moslem threat. 
From the seventh century to the seventeenth (there was a Turkish 
siege of Vienna in 1683), European Christianity knew that it had 
an enemy, sometimes only potential, sometimes actual, in the 
powerful religio-political system of Islam. 

It has been customary for Christians to regard with a sense of 
moral superiority the slogan "the Koran or the sword," which is 
supposed to represent the ruthless technique of the Moslem ad- 
vance. This attitude requires correction for two reasons: first, 
historical research has shown that the expansion of Islam, though 
paralleled and accelerated by military action, did not rest wholly 
or even chiefly on that basis; second, a frank recognition of the 
known facts about the expansion of Christianity itself during and 
after the fourth century requires the admission that it rested quite 
as much on compulsion as on conversion. 

Charlemagne's line played out within a century, and his Holy 
Roman Empire became virtually nonexistent. It was revived by a 
line of those Saxons who, even after Charlemagne had conquered 
them and incorporated them into his kingdom, retained their pride 
and potency. The reconstituted Holy Roman Empire at first had 
Saxon emperors. So it moved on into the Middle Ages as one of 


the fundamental institutions that held the world together through 
that turbulent period. The disintegration of the old imperial unity 
had been overcome in part by the integration of central Europe 
in the new empire. But the new empire never had the full extent or 
authority of the old. When it had detached itself from the Prankish 
line of Charlemagne and had become Saxon (though it did not 
remain so), it lost, and never again included, France as an integral 
part of it. 

The development of the papacy as one of the determinative 
medieval institutions became so much more notable a little later 
that we had better leave it to the next chapter. During the latter 
half of the ninth century, while the empire was in a state of 
suspended animation, the papacy in the person of Nicholas I took 
some decisive steps toward its later claim to be the universal arbiter, 
"judging all and judged by none." Though this theory once 
affirmed was never retracted, the papacy sank to a shamefully low 
level, both morally and politically, in the tenth century and did 
not begin its rise to a higher status in power and character until 
near the end of the eleventh. If there is any period that deserves 
the now generally discredited term "the Dark Ages," this would 
be it. The humiliating details need not be stressed. It was while 
temporal sovereignty was still a new possession of the popes that 
the spurious "Donation of Constantine" was inserted into the 
collection of documents known as "the Decretals of Isidore" which 
was put together in France in the ninth century. It was probably 
written about the time of the Donation of Pippin. The purpose, 
obviously, was to lend the sanction of antiquity to the newly 
acquired temporal power of the popes. 


The third of the three medieval institutions mentioned at the 
beginning of this chapter was the feudal system. This was a pattern 
of organization that arose gradually, determined for centuries the 
relations between individuals and classes, and faded slowly, leaving 
behind it a residue of class consciousness and legal rights and duties 
which persisted even into modern times. 


The feudal system was at once a system of land tenure, civil 
government, social stratification, military organization, and the 
administration of justice. It profoundly affected the fortunes and 
operations of the church because the church was so intricately 
involved in all these secular interests. 

Some recent historians think that "feudalism" is an overworked 
word and that there was nothing very distinctive about the institu- 
tion it denotes. The view here presented is that, though most of its 
elements had appeared in other societies, the combination of them 
in a single system was a unique characteristic of the Middle Ages. 
Certainly there was nothing unprecedented about a stratification of 
society into upper, middle, and lower classes with subdivisions of 
each. Such a "pecking order" is found even in some primitive 
communities. So usual is the gradation of ecclesiastical offices that 
the word "hierarchy," which should mean rule by priests, more 
often designates an orderly arrangement of offices, persons, or 
things according to the scale of their importance. The feudal 
system was not unique in being "hierarchical" in this sense. Its 
distinguishing feature was the application of this pattern to every 
aspect of life and the recognition of certain rights and loyalties as 
the ties that bound together the various orders of society. This 
introduced some delicate problems in the area of church-state 

About the middle of the ninth century the sons of Louis the 
Pious (the one son of Charlemagne who survived him) issued an 
edict that "each free man shall choose a lord." Personal loyalty to 
one's lord would be a stronger bond than loyalty to the state, 
since the tribes had as yet scarcely become nations, or to the 
remote head of the state. By becoming the vassal of a lord, the 
freeman got protection that he sorely needed and assumed obliga- 
tions for service. The lord might be the vassal of a greater lord, or 
of the king, and the vassal might have subvassals under him. If the 
freeman were a landowner, the title passed to his lord, and the 
vassal (a tenant in this respect) received it back for occupancy 
and use. In case of the conquest of new lands as in the Norman 
conquest of England the king could give his nobles large allot- 
ments, which they, in turn, would subdivide among their vassals* 


So in the process of time it came about that central and western 
Europe were pretty well covered with this network of feudal 
tenures, reaching up to the kings, who theoretically owned every- 
thing, and down to the peasants, who tilled the soil but owned 
nothing. One essential of the military aspect of feudalism was 
knighthood and the institution of chivalry. 

This structure of society necessarily involved the church, 
because the church had become a great landowner. Bishops and 
abbots could be feudal lords, as many of them were. Endowments 
of dioceses and abbeys were in the form of land. While some of 
the monks sometimes worked part of the land held by their institu- 
tions, the cathedral clergy certainly did not work theirs, but had 
it cultivated by feudal tenants. Moreover, the ecclesiastical feudal 
lord owed fealty to his feudal superior, the king or the emperor. 
This ambiguous position of the great landowning ecclesiastics, as 
owing allegiance on the one hand to the church and the pope, and 
on the other to the civil authority under which they held their land 
by feudal tenure, was the source of the hot controversy about the 
right of "investiture" which came to a head when the papacy 
began to rise to the summit of its power in the high Middle Ages. 


East and West 

Here we will consider the Great Schism between the Eastern and 
Western churches, the expansion of Christianity among new 
peoples in both East and West, and the Crusades, which set up a 
new relation between East and West. 

The three major divisions of Christianity in the twentieth cen- 
tury are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protes- 
tantism stretching the third term to include certain communions 
in Europe and America that are classed as Protestant by everyone 
except themselves. Of these three, the least known in the West is 
Eastern Orthodoxy. For the present purpose we allow their 
particular use of ' "Orthodox," as we do of "Catholic" in a limited 
sense, without compromising the claim of the "Orthodox" to be 
catholic and the "Catholic" to be orthodox, or of other com- 
munions to be both. 

What ultimately became the Great Schism between East and 
\Vest was the long-delayed result of a gradual growing apart in 
culture, government, religion, and church organization. One could 
go even farther back to note some fundamental differences be- 
tween East and West with the Adriatic as the dividing line but 



for simplicity it may be said that the rift began when the Emperor 
Diocletian decided that the empire needed two emperors. Things 
were never the same after that. From time to time this dual empire 
had a single ruler; and when it had, his capital was Constantinople, 
not Rome. Even when there was a Western emperor his seat was 
no longer Rome, but Milan or Ravenna. After 476 there was no 
Western emperor until Charlemagne. The papacy developed in a 
political vacuum a turbulent vacuum, to be sure, but one in which 
the succession of barbarian, Byzantine, and Saracen conquerors 
possessed no such moral or civil authority as was exercised by the 
bishops of Rome. The very factors that built up the supremacy of 
Rome in the West made it inevitable that this supremacy would 
not be recognized in the East. 

In the West, the pope was more powerful than the government. 
In the East, the government was more powerful than any or all of 
the metropolitans and patriarchs. In the West, the church had 
asserted its moral authority even in the teeth of strong emperors, 
as in the case of Ambrose and Theodosius. In the East, the church 
was so habitually subservient to the state that even a stout and 
splendid spirit like Chrysostom (see Chapter VIII) could win only 
martyrdom by his courage. 

There were differences of culture and of language. Greek had 
been the language of the whole church, even at Rome, until the 
middle of the third century. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans 
in Greek. Clement of Rome, listed as the third bishop of Rome, 
wrote in Greek. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in Gaul in the second 
century, wrote in Greek. But Tertullian, in North Africa in the 
third century, wrote Latin said to be as good as that of Tacitus. 
After that the Western Romans forgot their Greek and the bar- 
barians never learned it. The older classic culture survived longer 
in the East. Greek was the common tongue there, though, strangely 
enough, Latin remained the official language of government at Con- 
stantinople until the time of Justinian in the sixth century. Western 
culture was regarded as inferior, and it was. 

The West tended toward ecclesiastical unity under the bishop 
of Rome. In the East, four rival patriarchs struggled for prece- 
dence, which none attained. The concept of divided authority, 


even of a divided church, was not unfamiliar in Eastern experience. 
From the Eastern point of view, the bishop of Rome was simply 
one of the five patriarchs, the head of one of several churches that 
had been founded by apostles and, as it happened, the only one in 
the West. If appeal was made to him in some Eastern disputes, it 
was not as to a supreme judge but as to an arbiter who stood out- 
side the quarrel. 

The East had been the birthplace of Athanasian orthodoxy. 
The Council of Nicaea was ninety-five per cent Greek, but Rome 
became the most competent and consistent defender of the creed 
it framed. Most of the barbarians Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, 
Burgundians had been converted to Arian Christianity, but under 
steady pressure from Rome they became Athanasian. In the East 
even the ecclesiastical high command had been deeply infected 
with Arianism. When that passed, other diverse doctrines arose 
which, successively labeled as heresies but commanding large 
regional followings, became occasions for division. Some of these 
will be mentioned presently when we come to speak of the various 
Eastern churches. Meanwhile, it may be noted that the existence of 
these theological variants tended to emphasize the contrast between 
East and West. 


When the West, beginning with Spain, accepted the filioque 
clause (the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and -from the 
Son) as a clincher to the anti-Arian formula of Nicaea, the East 
refused to accept it because it was no part of the creed that the 
council had adopted. It is still a point of contention between the 
two churches. Even more heat was generated by the controversy 
over the use of images. Emperor Leo III forbade this practice in 
723. It is significant that this decision came from an emperor, not 
from the church itself. The West adhered to the use of images. 
The issue was hotly debated. It took a hundred years for the 
image-using faction in the East to prevail. Meanwhile, the Eastern 
and Western churches were not in communion. 

Soon after this matter had been settled, a bitter quarrel arose 


between Photius, who had become patriarch of Constantinople 
tinder rather shady circumstances, and Pope Nicholas I. The gist 
of it was that Nicholas would not recognize the validity of Photius' 
tide, which was dubious in any case, unless Photius would ac- 
knowledge him as supreme head of the whole church, which 
Photius would not do. A somewhat similar issue arose more than 
a century later between Pope Leo IX and the Constantinople 
patriarch Cerularius. Though Leo had been appointed by the then 
emperor, Henry III, he was firmly committed not only to a policy 
of reform in the church (it badly needed it), but also to the affir- 
mation of the papacy's independence of the civil power and of his 
own primacy over the whole church. When the patriarch of Con- 
stantinople, following precedent, refused to concede the latter 
point, the pope's legates laid on the altar in the great church of St. 
Sophia a document excommunicating the patriarch and consigning 
him to the hottest fires of hell. This was really the end. The Great 
Schism was an accomplished fact. The year was 1054. There were, 
indeed, later consultations and even a protocol for reunion (at the 
Council of Florence, 1439), but only when Constantinople was in 
such imminent danger of capture by the Turks that the motto of its 
patriarch could be "Any port in a storm." Nothing came of this. 
The Eastern churches would not go along. 

While all this was going on, the church in the East was being 
so fragmented by doctrinal disputes that it was no longer a church, 
but, rather, a complex of churches. As stated earlier (Chapter 
VIII), the Council of Chalcedon (451) had rejected the Monoph- 
ysite doctrine concerning the relation of the human and divine 
elements in the nature of Christ. This was a victory for Constan- 
tinople over Alexandria. These were two of the five patriarchates. 
The other two in the East were Antioch and Jerusalem. Rome 
was the fifth, and, in the Eastern view, it was co-ordinate with the 
others. Cyril, the former eminent patriarch of Alexandria, was 
believed to have taught the Monophysite doctrine which the 
council condemned. Moreover, the council, under the influence of 
Constantinople, deposed the then incumbent patriarch of Alex- 
andria. In a natural reaction, Alexandria and all the rest of Christian 
Egypt went Monophysite. So also did the church in Nubia, which 


later disappeared, and the church in Ethiopia. Thus detached from 
the rest of the Christian East, Egypt offered only halfhearted 
resistance to conquest by the Arab Moslems in 642. The abiding 
result was the Coptic Church, which today includes most of the 
Christians in Egypt and Ethiopia and is entirely independent of the 
other Eastern churches. The council had created the patriarchate 
of Jerusalem and elected a patriarch, but the church in Palestine 
so bitterly resented the whole action of the council that the new 
patriarch had to go back and get a military escort to force a way 
for him into the city against the violent popular opposition. Syria 
also turned Monophysite, angered because the council had cut into 
the territory of the patriarchate of Antioch for the benefit of 

In addition to these specific grievances, there was a general 
resentment in the Middle East against the attempted domination of 
Eastern Christianity by the Greeks. Such domination seemed all the 
less justifiable because the territory of the Greek Empire at Con- 
stantinople was steadily shrinking. Long before the Great Schism 
reached its climax, the Eastern Empire had shriveled to little more 
than the vicinity of Constantinople, Greece, the western end of 
Asia Minor, and the heel and toe of the Italian boot. The Greek 
church being subservient to the emperor, and the emperor progres- 
sively losing his grip on his territories, there was nothing to hold 
Eastern Christianity together. 

In fact, the same thing that had happened in the West was now 
happening in the East an empire was being dissolved into a com- 
plex of independent nations made up of new peoples who had 
pushed in from the north and east. In the West, the old imperial 
organization simply vanished for some centuries, but the church 
held the pieces together by an authority centralized at Rome and 
ultimately by a common creed. In the East, the name and form of 
empire persisted but even while its capital was becoming increas- 
ingly important as a commercial center, its political vitality ebbed 
until it was scarcely more than one of the nations into which its 
former domain had been divided; and the church, having in itself 
no unity of either creed or administration, had no power to inte- 
grate the fragments of the erstwhile empire into a new social order. 


Besides Monophysitism, there was the opposite heresy of 
Nestorianism. (See Chapter VIII.) This also had to do with the 
nature of Christ. The Council of Ephesus (431) had condemned 
this heresy, but it had a large following in Syria. Those who held 
It were so vigorously persecuted by those who did not that many 
of them fled to Persia. The strong Nestorian church that developed 
there sent missionaries to China in the seventh century. Chinese 
Christianity flourished for a time and even had its own metro- 
politan. When it died out, or was killed, the Nestorians started it 
again. The mother of Kublai Khan was a Nestorian Christian, but 
her conquering son, after giving the various religions a hearing, 
favored the Lamaist variation of Buddhism. 


Though the Byzantine Empire had shattering losses and the 
Eastern church suffered fragmentation, Christianity slowly won 
acceptance by tribes whose very existence was not known to Con- 
stantine or even to Justinian. Slavic tribes moved in from the east 
progenitors of the Bulgarians, Serbians, and Croatians. The 
Balkans became pagan again and had to be reconverted to Chris- 
tianity. It might have been done sooner if the bishops of Rome 
and the patriarchs of Constantinople had not competed for their 
allegiance. "Czar" Boris of Bulgaria was baptized in 863, and took 
his subjects with him as a matter of course. A considerable native 
Christian culture developed, including literature in the idiom now 
called "Church Slavonic." Bulgaria served as a base for the con- 
version of other Slavic peoples. 

Russia was still far from consolidation into a nation when 
Prince Vladimir, reigning at Kiev, formally accepted Christianity 
in its Greek form in 987. Constantinople supplied a metropolitan, 
but the Scriptures and liturgy were Slavonian. The native element 
made its way slowly. The great Mongol invasion of the thirteenth 
century so confused the situation that the metropolitan moved his 
seat to Moscow. When the patriarch of Constantinople, in a panic 
over the Turkish menace at the gates of his city, consented to terms 
of union with Rome (1439), the Russian grand prince at Moscow 


was so incensed that he broke ecclesiastical relations with Con- 
stantinople. The direct result was the complete independence of 
the Russian church in 1448 independence, that is, of everything 
except the political powers in Russia. 

The Serbians, somewhat slow to respond, had been sufficiently 
converted to make Byzantine Christianity the state religion late in 
the twelfth century and became an ecclesiastical dependency of 
Constantinople. When the Fourth Crusade captured the Eastern 
capital and threatened to bring them under the jurisdiction of 
Rome, they escaped that outcome by establishing an independent 
national church. 

In short, Eastern Christianity took the form of an aggregation 
of national churches a pattern that anticipated the general pattern 
of the Protestant state churches during and after the Reformation 
period. The function of patriarchs and metropolitans never devel- 
oped into the type of ecclesiastical autocracy that the bishop of 
Rome acquired in the Western church. The synod remained the 
supreme authority in each of the Eastern churches. Those that did 
not become Monophysite or Nestorian called themselves "Ortho- 
dox," and that term became the name of the Eastern churches as 
a group. "Orthodoxy" came to designate also the common features 
of their liturgy and cultus. 


The hundred years from 950 to 1050 were a century of ex- 
traordinary Christian expansion in the north and northwest. The 
surprising thing may seem to be that some parts of Europe now 
regarded as most solidly and soberly Christian had remained pagan 
so long. The details must be omitted, though many of them would 
make interesting stories. If the reader will let his imagination, or 
his eye, play over the map of Europe, even this bare outline may 
take on some depth and color, especially if it is remembered that 
Christianity had been in Europe nearly a thousand years before it 
reached the remoter parts of the Continent or even some of its 
central parts. The area that was to become Hungary was taken 
by pagan Magyars from the east about the year 890. Converted in 


the eleventh century by influences from Constantinople, it never- 
theless allied itself with the Western church. Bohemia and Poland 
were converted around the year 1000. The Slavic peoples beyond 
the Elbe Pomeranians, Lithuanians, Prussians (of old East 
Prussia), Estonians, and Letts were being Christianized in the 
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and the Finns and Lapps even 
later* Scandinavia was still stoutly pagan when its adventurous 
population began to boil over in an expansion movement that 
demonstrated its dynamic quality. 

Milton was perhaps thinking of what we commonly call the 
"barbarian invasion," the earlier southward flow of the Germanic 
tribes from the southern side of the Baltic, when he spoke of Satan's 
host of fallen angels as 

A multitude like which the populous North 
Poured never from her frozen loins, to pass 
Rhene and the Danaw, when her barbarous sons 
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread 
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libym sands. 

But with a little modification of geographical details these lines 
could well enough describe the Scandinavian expeditions and 
migrations. Certainly the North seems to have been superfluously 
populous, and her "frozen loins" marvelously fruitful. 

The Swedes descended into central Russia in the ninth century 
and established a temporary, but not brief, mastery at Novgorod 
and Kiev. In history, the Swedes in Russia are known as the 
Varangians. The western Scandinavians Norse, Northmen, 
Normans, and Danes were a seafaring people who matched the 
ancient Phoenicians in their skill and courage in navigation. They 
left their mark on every coast they could reach, and they reached 
far. Raiding and then settling the most accessible coast of France, 
they made it Normandy. From Normandy they conquered Eng- 
land. Before that they had found Iceland and established settle- 
ments in Greenland and reached the coast of North America. 
Turning southward they entered the Mediterranean, temporarily 
occupied the lower Rhone valley in France and set up a line of 
kings in Sicily. 

The conversion of the Norwegian people to Christianity is 


credited to their favorite hero, King Olaf Tryggvesson, who had 
himself been baptized by a hermit monk on the Stilly Islands, fifty 
miles off Land's End at the southwest tip of England. Huge, hand- 
some, and in every way the perfect viking, Olaf used every 
instrument of persuasion and compulsion to make his people 
Christian when they had chosen him king. He had just about done 
this when he was killed in battle, at the age of thirty-six, in the 
year 1000. Sweden's conversion came a little later and less spec- 
tacularly. It was the work of English missionaries in the eleventh 
century. Sweden got a good start with a serious kind of Christian- 
ity, for its first archbishop was a Cistercian monk, a member of the 
order that was leading a great monastic reform. He established his 
see at Uppsala, which is still the seat of the primate of Sweden. 


The Crusades linked the East and West together in an unprece- 
dented way, and also created fresh antipathies between them. They 
began ostensibly to lend aid to the Eastern empire in carrying out 
a common purpose; they developed into an exploitation of the East 
by Western forces; they ended in a complete fiasco on both counts. 
The First Crusade (1096) had for its announced objective the re- 
covery of the tomb of Christ and the other sacred places from the 
profane hands of the "infidels" that is, the Saracens and it at- 
tained that end with surprising speed. The Seventh (and last) 
Crusade was followed by the loss (in 1291) of every foot of terri- 
tory that the Christians had won from the Saracens and with all the 
sacred places back under non-Christian control, just as they were 
before the First Crusade started, and as they are now. The endur- 
ing results of the Crusades were all by-products, and they were 
not unimportant. But first let us sketch the course of the events. 

There had been many pilgrimages to the shrines in Palestine by 
Europeans in the ninth and tenth centuries and many more in the 
eleventh. Some high nobles had made the journey. The father of 
William the Conqueror was one who did. It was a difficult and 
dangerous trip at best. So long as Arab Moslems held Syria and 
Palestine, some decent consideration was given to the pilgrims. 


When the Turks displaced the Arabs, the conditions became much 
worse. The Turks, moreover, continued the momentum of their 
westward drive and threatened the integrity of the Eastern empire. 
When the Eastern emperor suffered a serious defeat and lost a 
great part of Asia Minor to the Turks, he called on the West for 
help. The Western emperor, seeing a chance to enhance his own 
power and prestige, was not reluctant. But Pope Urban II also 
discerned an opportunity to exhibit and enlarge his authority. At 
a council held at Clermont, in France, the pope made what must 
have been one of the greatest speeches of all time, judged by con- 
temporary reports and by its long-range effects. He announced a 
crusade to rescue the sacred places. His eloquence aroused his 
hearers to a fury of enthusiasm knights, nobles, and clergy alike. 
Everyone who could find a piece of red cloth tore it into strips and 
made a cross to pin on his breast in token of a vow to join the 
crusade. This sudden burst of zeal was only the firing mechanism 
for a still-greater explosion, a chain reaction of crusading enthu- 
siasm that swept across Europe. Of the many monks who went 
preaching the crusade, Peter the Hermit was one whose energy and 
eloquence gained for him the undeserved credit for having initiated 
the whole enterprise. 

Before the real crusade could get under way f or even in those 
days of simple armament a military expedition did take some plan- 
ning and preparation an irresponsible rabble of men, women, and 
children set out on foot for the East with neither weapons nor 
provisions. The whole thing seemed to them so miraculous that 
they thought they could go out, like the seventy, without staff, 
scrip, or wallet. Panhandling and pillaging as they went, most of 
them did reach Constantinople. They got a cold reception there, 
where military reinforcements were expected rather than an army 
of beggars, but a hot reception from the Turks, who massacred 
most of them. 

Back in Europe many fighting men and armed civilians who 
could not conveniently go to Palestine to kill Turks thought that 
the next best thing, and perhaps equally meritorious, was to stay 
at home and kill Jews. Especially in the cities along the Rhine 
there were horrible massacres of Jews. In the vocabulary of the 


time, Moslems and Jews were classed together as "infidels," so it 
seemed fastidious to spare the one while warring upon the other. 
This was one of the by-products of the crusades a fresh impetus 
to anti-Semitism. 

When the First Crusade got on the road in 1096, it was a power- 
ful military force, ill organized but effective. The Eastern emperor, 
recognizing its potential and more than a little apprehensive about 
it, made the leaders swear that they would hold under his sover- 
eignty any lands that they might conquer. This oath the crusaders 
immediately ignored. Within three years from the time of their 
starting they had captured the city of Jerusalem and murdered in 
cold blood almost all its civilian inhabitants. Godfrey of Bouillon 
was made protector of the Holy Sepulcher, but the next year 
(1100) his brother Baldwin took over as king of the Kingdom of 
Jerusalem, which included a wide area besides Palestine. The West 
also took over ecclesiastically with the appointment of a full com- 
plement of Roman bishops and archbishops and a patriarch and the 
founding of several monasteries filled with Western monks. It 
was shortly before the taking of Jerusalem that one Peter Bartholo- 
mew, reportedly led by a vision and an audible communication 
from God, discovered the Holy Lance at Antioch and, according 
to the chroniclers, proved its genuineness by passing unscathed 
through the "ordeal by fire." 

The Second Crusade, fifty years after the first, was stimulated 
by the Cistercian reform. St. Bernard was a leader in both. The 
Moslem forces, whose previous disunion had been their weakness, 
had reunited and recaptured Edessa. The immediate aim of the new 
crusade was to take Damascus. It failed. 

The great Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, became the leader of all 
the Moslem forces and recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, thus ending a 
little less than a century of Christian occupancy. The Third Cru- 
sade was designed to win back Jerusalem. In its personnel it was 
the greatest of all the crusades, and in its results the most disastrous. 
King Henry II of England took the cross but died before the 
crusade started. The three kings who went were his son and suc- 
cessor, Richard I (the "Lion-hearted"), Philip Augustas of France, 
and Frederick Barbarossa, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. 


Nothing was accomplished except the siege and recapture of Acre, 
after which the gallant Richard executed 2,700 prisoners whose 
ransom money was slow in being delivered. Frederick Barbarossa 
was drowned in a little stream in Asia Minor. On the return jour- 
ney overland, Richard was captured by Frederick's successor, 
Henry VI, and held for a ransom equal to three times the English 
government's annual income. Raising that exorbitant sum forced 
the invention of new forms of taxation and taught later English 
kings how to get money from their people. The crusade was a 
complete failure. It succeeded only in proving that the forces of 
Christian Europe would not unite for a common cause. 

The Fourth Crusade (1202-04) was backed by Innocent III, 
who proclaimed it at the Fourth Lateran Council. The crusaders 
never got to Palestine, but they took Constantinople from the 
Greeks and set up a "Latin Empire" which lasted until 1261. This 
was only carrying to its logical conclusion the policy the crusading 
royalty and nobility had followed all along, so far as opportunity 
permitted to carve out for themselves domains and principalities 
in the East. It did not turn out to be a good way to heal the schism 
between the Eastern and Western churches. 

The tragic "children's crusade" occurred between the Fourth 
and the Fifth. About twenty thousand children, chiefly German, 
were the victims of this ill-fated youth movement. The Fifth 
Crusade was that of the Emperor Frederick II, who was under ex- 
communication when he went. He got Jerusalem by treaty, and 
lost it by the defection of his own nobles. Probably every crusade 
except this one had at least some shred of genuine religious motiva- 
tion. The Sixth (1249) certainly had, and perhaps more than any 
other, for it was led by the sincerely pious Louis IX of France, 
"Saint Louis." He captured a minor Egyptian port and a little land 
in Palestine, but not Jerusalem. The Seventh and last (1270), with 
Louis IX again the chief figure, attacked Tunis unsuccessfully. 
Whatever its main aim was, it missed it, and Louis died of the 
plague at Tunis. The last foot of Christian territory in Palestine 
was lost in 1291. 

Were the crusades in the long run an asset or a liability to the 
Christian cause? Did they "show the authority of the church" and 


increase the authority of the popes even more than did their vic- 
tory in the "investiture" controversy (see Chapter XIII) as some 
historians say? Or was the popes' prestige weakened by the costly 
failure of a tremendous enterprise that they had so consistently 
backed? Or do the crusades simply illustrate the power of a re- 
ligious appeal to crystallize men's impulses and justify their actions 
when secular interests furnish their real motivation? No definitive 
answer can be given to these questions. Certainly the slogan "God 
wills it" stirred the fighting forces of Europe to a high pitch of 
enthusiasm. Certainly, also, the summons to the crusades marshaled 
the chivalry of Europe on a congenial way that promised glory and 
profit. The business of knights was to seek adventure, and here was 
the prospect of adventure in its most appealing guise. Pilgrimages 
were recognized as the coin by which one could gain absolution 
from sins, and here was the superpilgrimage of all time. Nobles 
wanted domains to rule and soldiers wanted loot, and both were to 
be expected in the opulent East. Yet without a common religious 
ideology the fire of crusading fervor never could have been lighted. 
The crusades illustrate, as well as any episodes in history, the 
mixture of motives in the most dramatic events. 

This chapter has been peppered with dates more than most. 
They need not be remembered, but it is well to note them insofar 
as they may serve to show how this mighty East- West transaction, 
spreading over two centuries, was related in time to the final stages 
of the Christian conquest of Europe, the ultimate rupture between 
the Eastern and Western churches, the ascent of the papacy to the 
peak of its power, and the religious and intellectual movements to 
be considered in subsequent chapters.* 

* If any reader is curious to know how the crusades looked to people of 
that time, he may refer to the following contemporary accounts, translated 
into excellent English but preserving the flavor of the originals: 

A History of Deeds Done beyond the Sea, by William, Archbishop of 
Tyre, translated by E. A. Babcock and A. C. Krey, 2 vols., Columbia 
University Press, 1943. William (1130-1185) was born in Jerusalem, lived 
there nearly all his life, and died just before Saladin's recapture of Jeru- 
salem precipitated the Third Crusade. He drew his data about the First 
Crusade from earlier chroniclers, but was an eyewitness of the Second. 
Besides being archbishop of Tyre, he was chancellor of the Latin Kingdom 
of Jerusalem for the last ten years of his life. His history became so standard 


that chroniclers of the later crusades described their accounts as being 
continuations of his. 

The Crusade of Richard Lion-Heart, by Amboise, translated from the 
Old French by M. J. Hubert, Columbia University Press, 1941. The author, 
unknown except by name, was probably a Norman jongleur, or professional 
minstrel, who wrote in England after the Third Crusade, which he de- 
scribes. His record is in verse, in a style between that of the chanson de 
geste and the prose chroniclers pretty pedestrian poetry for the most part, 
but vivid and frank. He was an eyewitness of the events, except the siege 
of Acre. He ends with a bare mention of Richard's imprisonment in 
Austria, his ransom, and his return to England. 


The Two Swords 

The two centuries of the crusades were approximately the period 
in which the papacy was rising to the dangerous summit of its 
worldly power and was beginning to experience the ebbing of its 
political authority though not of its claims to exercise it. In an 
earlier section (Chapter XI), we spoke of the acquisition of 
temporal power by the popes. This, of course, meant only that 
the popes became the rulers of a specific territory which became 
simply one of the Italian states. Before the Donation of Pippin 
(756) the pope was the proprietor of vast estates. In the absence of 
competent civil authorities, he had the responsibility for carrying 
on the functions of government over a considerable area.* After 
the Donation, he was one of the sovereign powers of Europe. This 
was a step in the evolution of the papal power, but it was only in- 

* The situation was something like that on one of the large Mexican 
haciendas during the Diaz regime. I had a friend who was manager of an 
estate covering some hundreds of square miles. He had his own police force 
and his own jail and held his own court, because there were no others. The 
peons were, in every practical sense, his subjects. Without a scintilla of 
legal right to do so, he ruled, because he represented the owner. w. E. G. 



cidentally related to the development of the kind of power which 
was most significant and of which we are now to speak. What the 
papacy aimed at was not simply to be a temporal power by reason 
of sovereignty over a little Italian state, but to exercise a universal 
sovereignty over all sovereigns by reason of the spiritual office of 
the pope, who was to be the master and arbiter of all other tem- 
poral authorities. 

The development of that ideal, the partial achievement of it, 
and some of the reactions against it are what we must now con- 
sider. Lest this should seem to the modern reader a threshing over 
of old straw and a discussion of dead issues, there should perhaps 
be inserted here a reminder that all the popes of the last six cen- 
turies have worn the triple tiara. According to present-day Roman 
Catholic authorities, its three crowns signify "universal episcopate, 
supremacy of jurisdiction, and universal supremacy." In the coro- 
nation of all popes including Pius XII, on March 12, 1939 the 
tiara is placed on the candidate's head with the words: "Receive the 
tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art Father 
of princes and kings, Ruler of the world, Vicar of our Savior 
Jesus Christ." If this phraseology had not been sanctified by long 
usage, it would not have been coined in this generation to express 
the relation of the pope to the political and social order; but it 
would not have been created in the first place if it had not meant 
then what it says "Ruler of the world." 

Going back to the time of Charlemagne say the year of his 
coronation as emperor in 800 we see the heads of church and state 
working together harmoniously. In a letter to Pope Leo III, who 
had crowned him, Charlemagne likened himself and the pope to 
Moses and Aaron. Aaron might be the priest, but Moses was God's 
chosen leader of the people and did not hold his commission sub- 
ject to Aaron's approval. We are not told how the pope liked that 
analogy, but in any case he was in no position to protest. It was a 
genuine collaboration between the secular and spiritual powers 
that Charlemagne had in mind, but his whole course of action 
showed that he was more impressed with the secular ruler's re- 
ligious responsibilities than with any secular functions to be dis- 
charged by the head of the church. That situation was to be re- 


versed as weaker emperors and stronger popes succeeded Charle- 
magne and Leo. 

The course of the dramatic struggle for supremacy between 
the rulers of the church on one side and the rulers of the state 
on the other can best be indicated by telling the story of four 
popes. The "great contention" between ecclesiastical and secu- 
lar powers, or the doctrine of the "two swords," has infinite 
ramifications, but its main lines will be clear if one knows the 
claims and the fortunes of these four: Nicholas I, Gregory VII, 
Innocent III, and Boniface VIII. 


Nicholas I (858-867) exercised his office at a time when Charle- 
magne's Holy Roman Empire, first divided among his sons and 
then discredited by their weaker successors, seemed on the verge of 
dissolution. The feudal system was rising to supply the lack of cen- 
tralized authorities. In its earliest stage the local lords and petty 
nobles were an arrogantly undisciplined crew with little of that 
allegiance to their superiors that later characterized the system. 
Theoretically the pope was absolute ruler of the church, but the 
practice did not conform to the theory. Bishops were often the 
creatures of the secular rulers of their dioceses. Some archbishops, 
being themselves the lords of vast feudal domains, assumed the 
prerogatives of minor sovereigns over their estates and litde popes 
in their archdioceses, and were not readily amenable to Rome. 
Nicholas, a man of strong personality and keen conscience, dealt 
vigorously with the issues that were presented. He saw the asser- 
tion of the papal power as the only way out of this confusion. It 
was not on his own initiative but after he had been called in as 
arbiter that he demoted Photius from the Patriarchate of Con- 
stantinople. His intervention alienated the Byzantine church but 
strengthened his prestige in the West. When a group of bishops 
had compliantly sanctioned the divorcement of his wife by the 
king of Lorraine, and the pope's legates had been bribed to ratify 
the sanction, Nicholas boldly asserted his authority over all of 
them, the king included. He won his case by the weapon of ex- 


communication. In this episode he proved two things: that a king 
can be disciplined for what the pope considers a breach of moral- 
ity, and that the decision of bishops anywhere can be reversed by 
the pope. A third case, involving Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims 
and perhaps the most powerful ecclesiastic in France, proved that 
the pope can overrule an archbishop. Though the issue did not arise 
as to the relative authority of religious and secular rulers in civil 
affairs, Nicholas's whole course of action tended to build up the 
prestige of the papacy as supreme in any field in which it chose 
to assert its authority. He appealed doubtless in entirely good 
faith to the pseudo-Isidorean decretals, which were forged about 
this time, to prove that the newly acquired papal power had an 
ancient origin. 

During the two centuries after Nicholas I, the Holy Roman 
Empire began to get on its feet again under the Saxon emperors, 
but the papacy passed through a period notably the tenth century 
in which it was in every respect at a lower ebb than ever before 
or since. It became for a time a plaything of the most corrupt 
families of the Roman nobility. It would serve no good purpose 
to recite the old scandals, some of which were probably not true. 
The historical fact is that the conditions were so bad that not 
even the most outrageous tales of corruption and immorality 
seemed to lack verisimilitude. Such a state inevitably weakened the 
whole structure of the church. What it needed was reformation in 
head and members. In the monk Hildebrand it got a head who 
gave it just that and then went on to assert the superiority of the 
religious to the secular power in unprecedented terms. 


Gregory VII (1073-1085) was one of those physically insignifi- 
cant men whose moral and spiritual stature towers over their more 
muscular contemporaries. Even when a mere monk, he was the 
chief adviser of two popes in regard to temporal affairs and in- 
ternal reforms. He straightened out the papal finances, recovered 


church property that had been seized by Roman nobles, put teeth 
into the generally ignored law of priestly celibacy, reformed some 
notoriously corrupt monasteries, went far toward stopping ap- 
pointment to ecclesiastical offices by secular lords and rulers, and, 
most important of all, set up the college of cardinals (1059) as the 
body charged with the election of popes instead of leaving it to 
the king of Germany. It is hard to tell what might have happened 
not only to the papacy but to the whole structure of the church 
if it had not been for this doughty little monk. 

When at last he came to the papal office himself, he was ready 
to go beyond the mere reform of the church in morals and disci- 
pline and to lay down some new principles governing the rela- 
tions between the secular and spiritual powers on the highest level. 
Two basic ideas determined his attitudes, as defined in the follow- 
ing declarations, which are quoted verbatim (in translation) from 
his encyclicals and decrees. These principles were: first, the pope 
is absolute master of the church; second, the church is absolute 
master of the state. Here are a few of his most significant declara- 

The pope alone can depose bishops or reinstate those whom 
archbishops or others may have deposed. 

The pope's legates take precedence over all bishops and, though 
they themselves may be of lower rank, can pass sentence of de- 
position upon them. 

All princes should kiss the feet of the pope, and of him alone. 

It is lawful for the pope to depose all secular rulers (impera- 
tores) . 

The pope can annul the decrees of any authority, spiritual or 
secular, but none can annul his decrees. 

The pope can be judged by no human authority, but by God 

The Roman church has never erred and will never err. 

The pope has power to absolve subjects from their allegiance 
to unrighteous rulers. 

Comment upon these propositions would be superfluous. Here 
is the prospectus for a thoroughgoing theocracy. Since the new 


college of cardinals was hereafter to elect the popes, and since the 
popes were to appoint the cardinals, it was in effect a closed circle 
of absolute authority, a self -perpetuating theocratic autocracy. 

The famous episode at Canossa, when the pope made Emperor 
Henry IV stand in the snow for three days before permitting him 
to confess his sin and receive absolution, put this theory to the 
test. The pope won what proved to be a rather costly victory. The 
trouble and the "sin" grew out of the "investiture" controversy. 
It was a complicated situation. Ecclesiastics were practically the 
only literate members of society. The great ecclesiastics were also 
the lords of great feudal domains in effect, princes of the realm. 
They were administrators, judges, councilors, secretaries, ambassa- 
dors. No others had the necessary education the church had seen 
to that. As lords of great feudal estates, these bishops and arch- 
bishops also controlled a great part of the military forces upon 
which the rulers had to depend to defend their realms against in- 
vasion or to suppress insurrection. It seemed to the secular rulers 
that they should have something to say about the choice of the 
men who were to exercise these secular functions. But these same 
men were also the high clergy of the church. Could the head of 
the church permit its most important clergy to be selected by lay- 
men? That is what the investiture controversy was about. 

Emperor Henry IV was determined to choose his own clerical 
princes. Gregory VII was determined that, whether princes or not, 
clergy should be selected and inducted into office by the spiritual 
power. When Henry insisted, he was excommunicated. When he 
was excommunicated, his subjects feared to obey him under 
penalty of damnation. Being thus shorn of his power, Henry 
capitulated. He stood in the snow, yielded the point at issue, con- 
fessed his sin, and at the pope's leisure received absolution and the 
lifting of his excommunication. 

It was, as we have said, a cosdy victory for the papacy. 
Hitherto the empire and the papacy had collaborated in friendly 
fashion for the discharge of a shared responsibility for the temporal 
and spiritual welfare of Europe. Thereafter each was on guard 
against encroachments by the other. To be sure there were periods 


of collaboration. If there were heretics to be pursued, and perhaps 
burned, the secular power was willing enough. It was no friend of 
heresy. It went along with the theory that every citizen of Chris- 
tendom must conform to Christendom's one authorized religion. 
Heresy was treason and must be treated as such. But always the 
secular authorities were on guard against the pretensions of the 
church to a superior right to dominate the whole social and po- 
litical order. 


Innocent III (1198-1216) came on the scene a century later. 
It was not possible to go much farther than Gregory VII had 
already gone in affirming the dominance of the ecclesiastical over 
the secular power, but it was possible to implement that general 
affirmation by specific projects to bring kings into subjection to 
the papacy. Innocent was only thirty-seven years old and was not 
yet even a priest when he was elected to the papacy, but he was 
a priest at heart, experienced in the techniques of papal administra- 
tion, the nephew of Pope Clement III, and deeply learned in 
theology. He was quickly put through the orders before he was 
crowned as pope. From the start he had no doubt as to the extent 
of his commission, which was to rule the world. To Philip Augus- 
tus, King of France, he wrote: 

To princes power is given on earth, but to priests it is attributed 
also to heaven; to the former only over bodies, to the latter also 
over souls. Whence it follows that by so much as the soul is 
superior to the body, the priesthood is superior to the kingship. 
Single rulers have single provinces, and single kings single king- 
doms; but Peter, as in the plenitude so in the extent of his 
power, is pre-eminent over all, since he is the Vicar of Him 
whose is the earth and the fullness thereof, the whole wide 
world and all that dwell therein. 

This was not merely a pious and uncontroversial observation that 
the soul is more important than the body and that therefore the 
spiritual outranks the temporal in dignity. It was intended to serve 


notice that the ruler of the souls of men claimed the right also to 
control their temporal affairs whenever and insofar as it seemed 
to him desirable. 

The "sun and moon'* analogy which Innocent III employed 
gives an even clearer picture of his theory of church-state rela- 
tions. In the same year in which he assumed his high office he 

As the Creator of the universe set two great lights in the 
firmament of heaven, the greater to rule the day and the lesser 
to rule the night, so also for the firmament of the universal 
Church, which is spoken of as heaven, he appointed two great 
deputies, the greater to bear rule over souls (these being, as it 
were, days), the lesser to bear rule over bodies (these being, 
as it were, nights). These dignities are the pontifical authority 
and the royal power. Furthermore, the moon derives her light 
from the sun, and is in truth inferior to the sun in both size and 
quality. In the same way the royal power derives its dignity 
from the pontifical authority. 

It should be noted and critics of the papacy should be careful 
to observe this that, even in thus boldly asserting the superiority 
of the pontifical to the imperial power. Innocent was thinking 
primarily of the "firmament of the universal Church" and of the 
care of souls. It was of the essence of his religious conviction that 
souls could not be saved unless they were "ruled" by the church. 
In order to rule over souls, the church itself must be free from rule 
by the secular authorities. The church's vast temporal possessions 
the feudal domains of its bishops and archbishops, the vast estates 
of its monasteries, and the great part of central Italy over which 
the pope himself held regal power were all considered essential 
instruments for ruling over souls. Therefore the church must be 
free from any kind of secular control over its temporalities as well 
as its spiritualities. Since church and state could not both be free 
from each other's control in this field of overlapping interests, it 
followed that the more important should dominate the less im- 
portant; the church should dominate the state. There was logic 
in this. If the presuppositions are granted, the conclusion is in- 


Putting this theory into practice, Innocent HI took occasion to 
require Peter of Aragon to transfer to him the title to his kingdom 
and receive it back as a fief of Rome. The feudal system was then 
fully developed, and the most effective way of registering a claim 
to superior authority over anyone was to have him accept the status 
of a vassal. The feudal lord thus acquired legal title to the property 
concerned (in this case, the Kingdom of Aragon), and the vassal 
(in this case, the king) became merely a tenant holding his prop- 
erty and status at the will of his overlord (the pope) and subject 
to the performance of the specified feudal duties. Similarly the 
prince of Bulgaria became a vassal of the pope, to strengthen him- 
self against his rivals and the Eastern emperor. Many other princes 
with smaller territories followed the same procedure. The feudal 
system had, in fact, been built up by weak proprietors or petty 
princes seeking the protection of the more powerful. The pope 
now seemed to be actually the most powerful, and many weak 
rulers sought shelter under his protection at the price of declar- 
ing their allegiance to him as their feudal lord. Excommunication 
and interdict were powerful weapons in bringing the reluctant 
to heel, and Innocent employed this weapon at least fifty times. 

Most conspicuous in the whole list was the intimidation of King 
John of England, who was forced by the interdict to surrender 
his kingdom to the pope as its feudal lord and receive it back as a 
fief for which he would render loyal service. That aff air got rather 
complicated. King John was so weakened at home by this transac- 
tion that his barons were able to extract from him the Magna 
Charta, and then the pope protested vehemently against that rudi- 
mentary charter of popular liberties. 

The Fourth Crusade occurred within the pontificate of Inno- 
cent III. This was the crusade that captured Constantinople and 
established a Latin empire and Roman Catholic dioceses in the 
East. The pope had been active in promoting the crusade. He pro- 
tested mildly against its subversion of the Eastern Empire, but 
waived his objection when it led to the expansion of his own 
ecclesiastical dominion. 

It is agreed by all historians that, when both claims and actual 
accomplishments are taken into account, the pontificate of Inno- 


cent III marks the very apex of the papal power in secular and 
political affairs. His claims for the papacy were summarized in a 
letter to the patriarch of Constantinople: "The Lord left to Peter 
the governance not of the Church only but of the whole world." 
Never, either before or after his time, did any pope come so near 
to exercising such governance. 


If this was the ultimate in the direction of claiming the rule 
of the whole world, there remained the possibility of emphasizing 
and reiterating that claim and also of falling much farther short of 
making it good. Boniface VIII (1284-1303) did both. Nearly a 
century had gone by since the great days of Innocent III. That 
century was the thirteenth, extolled by some able Catholic his- 
torians as "the greatest of centuries." Later we shall note some 
phases of the greatness of that century. It was not, however, a time 
in which secular rulers were disposed to subordinate themselves 
to the demands of a universal papal monarchy. The crusades, al- 
ways promoted by the popes, had fizzled out. The weapon of ex- 
communication, used too often, had lost some of its terrors, and 
counterweapons had been devised. When the king of France was 
excommunicated for taxing the clergy and church property, his 
answer was a currency-control act forbidding the sending of 
money out of the country, and so cutting off the French revenues 
of the papacy. The case had to be settled by compromise. The 
spirit of nationalism was rapidly rising. Stronger kings, better 
organized national governments, populations with a newborn sense 
of patriotic pride in the independence of their countries all these 
things made it impossible to impose upon Europe the type of papal 
rule that Innocent had affirmed in general terms and Boniface re- 
affirmed with picturesque detail. 

The earliest of the declarations was the famous bull Clericis 
Laicos. The gist of this was the assertion that secular authorities 
had no right to tax the clergy or the property of the church. The 
property in question was not, of course, merely such buildings used 
for religious services as are now exempt from taxation in the 


United States; it was the vast feudal domains held by and for the 
church. The secular case in the investiture controversy had been 
weak because it really did involve encroachment upon the right 
of the church to select its own higher clergy, but the church's 
case was weak when it claimed that its vast holdings of land 
amounting to perhaps one-third or more of a country's area 
should bear no part of the government's fiscal burden but should 
transmit their revenues to Rome. 

The bull Unam Sanctam, with its figure of the "two swords," is 
often cited as a parallel to Innocent Ill's "sun and moon" analogy, 
and so indeed it is. Its essential paragraph is worth quoting: 

We are taught by the Gospels that there are two swords, 
the spiritual and the temporal, both in the power of the same 
person [Peter and his successors, of whom Boniface was speak- 
ing in the lines immediately preceding]. . . . Each of these 
swords, the spiritual and the material, is under the control of the 
church. The material sword is to be used for the church, the 
spiritual by the church; the latter to be wielded by the priest, 
the former by the hands of kings and soldiers but always at the 
will and by the permission of the priest. . . . Furthermore, we 
define, assert, declare and pronounce that it is necessary for 
every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff in 
order to be saved. 

In another, somewhat less familiar, bull, Apostolica Sede, dated 
between the two that have been mentioned, Boniface spoke of the 
"Apostolic See to which every living soul is bound to be subject 
and through which princes rule and potentates administer justice 
and kings reign." It was the Apostolic See which had "transferred 
the Roman imperium to the Germans in the person of Charles the 
Great," so that "whatever of honor, dignity or status the Roman 
imperium has, it has by the grace, favor and free gift of the Apos- 
tolic See." 

If this seems to be carrying the assertion of the emperor's sub- 
servience to the pope to the extreme of absurdity, one should note 
how completely consistent it is with the terms of the so-called 
"Donation of Constantine." Clumsy ninth-century forgery as it 
was later found to be, doubtless Gregory VII, Innocent III, and 
Boniface VIII sincerely believed it to be genuine. In that document 


Constantine was represented as transferring to Pope Sylvester and 
his successors not only the Lateran palace and Rome and all Italy 
but also "all the regions of the West" meaning everything west 
of the Adriatic together with all the imperial insignia that sym- 
bolized sovereignty over them, thus making the popes de jure 
emperors of the Western Empire. That they might also be em- 
perors de facto, Constantine says he intends to move his own seat 
of empire to Constantinople for the specific purpose of leaving to 
the pope undisputed and unmistakable sovereignty over the West. 
If that grant of complete and sole dominion were regarded as valid, 
Innocent III and Boniface VIII must have felt that they were 
nobly generous in allowing the emperors and kings of western 
Europe to continue to exist even as lesser luminaries and as sub- 
servient wielders of the temporal sword instead of ordering them 
off as trespassers on their premises. 

There was a shocking disparity between the extravagant claims 
put forth by Boniface VIII and his complete failure to get ac- 
ceptance for them, the humiliation he suffered at the end of his 
career, and the servile estate of his successors during the next cen- 
tury. His two great bulls, Clericis Laicos and Unam Sanctam, were 
both launched against the king of France, Philip the Fair. Neither 
produced the desired result. The latter brought violent resistance. 
The quarrel had already led to the calling of representatives of the 
French nation clergy, nobles, and commons to the first States 
General, and this assembly supported the king against the pope. 
When the pope struck back with Unam Sanctam, the assembly 
charged him with heresy and crimes and called for a general coun- 
cil of the church to bring him to trial. Physical violence and the 
arrest of the pope by Philip's partisans in Rome forestalled his 
response by an edict of excommunication and probably hastened 
the pope's death while the quarrel was still at its height. 

It was no disgrace to Boniface that he went down fighting. He 
was a better man than Philip by any modern standard. What 
counted most was that he was not fighting Philip the Fair. He was 
fighting the up-surging force of a national consciousness which was 
ready to side with its king as against any clerical claimant to world 
dominion in temporal affairs. There is much truth in the explana- 


tion by Roman Catholic historians that "the objective of the 
papacy in the Middle Ages was the salvation of souls and the 
permeation of all human institutions with Christian principles." 
But the actual course of papal policy was determined by the con- 
viction that the only way to attain these worthy objectives was by 
complete domination of church over state and absolute authority 
of pope over church in short, by putting into the hands of the 
pope, in Innocent's words, "the governance of the whole world." 


Monks and Friars 

No institution was more characteristic of the middle period of 
Christian history than monasticism. To be sure it began at least as 
early as the third century, and it continues even to this day to be 
an indispensable element in some of the most important streams of 
Christian life, the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox. 
Nevertheless, it was in the Middle Ages that its influence was most 
widespread and most determinative. 

A basic difference between monks and friars is suggested by the 
derivation of the words, though here, as in so many other cases, 
the etymologies must not be applied too rigidly. "Monk" comes 
from a Greek word meaning solitary. "Friar" goes back through 
the old French to the Latin f rater, brother. By definition, there- 
fore, monks were men who sought their own salvation in solitude, 
while friars were a band of brothers who were also taught to 
think of themselves as brothers to all mankind. 

Monasticism began when certain devout men withdrew into 
desert places to live the ascetic life in complete solitude. Such, 
though not the first, were St. Anthony of Egypt and St. Simeon 
Stylites. The basic impulse in this, as in later forms of monasticism, 


was twofold: first, to buffet die body in order to save the soul; 
second, to escape the temptations and distractions of this evil world 
by withdrawing from it. The first of these naturally included the 
repudiation of all possessions and the denial of every appetite of the 
flesh. Especially it included celibacy and chastity. The second in- 
volved separation not only from sinful pagan society but from 
communities of ordinary Christians and from the church as a 
worldly institution. 

As early as the end of the second century, the church had freed 
itself from the taint of the Gnostic heresy, which affirmed a dual- 
ism between the world of spirit, which was the realm of God and 
was therefore good, and the world of matter, which was inherently 
evil. Its theology held that God, as creator of both spirit and flesh, 
was master of both, and that such jurisdiction as the Devil exer- 
cised over the flesh and he did have it to a terrifying degree 
had been granted to him by God for the fulfillment of his own 
purposes. So it became incumbent upon Christian men to fight 
against the Devil's employment of the flesh and the things of this 
world for his purposes. The metaphysical dualism was excluded, 
but the moral dualism remained. 

The issue became more acute as the increasing popularity of 
Christianity brought into the church great numbers whose motiva- 
tion was doubtful and whose way of life was not radically changed 
by their professed commitment. It was not merely that the body 
of the faithful was diluted by the inclusion of an increasing number 
of merely nominal Christians. What was even more significant in 
this connection was that the church itself, now becoming a prop- 
erty-owning institution with its hierarchy of ecclesiastical digni- 
taries and its status in the secular world, seemed to have lost that 
reckless ecstasy which was believed to have characterized it in its 
beginnings. The less the difference between the church and the 
world, the more those earnest souls felt the need of a special group 
which, not separating from the church as the Montanists had done, 
should exhibit within the church the pattern of the completely 
Christian life. This required withdrawal from the society of ordi- 
nary Christians and sometimes from the sacraments of the church 
and the jurisdiction of its higher clergy. But the church had the 


wisdom to keep within its fold, and on its honor roll, those who 
fled to the desert or immured themselves in monasteries to escape 
its worldliness and its compromise. 

The period of the anchorites, or individual isolated monks, did 
not last long. Soon there were aggregations of such monks, still 
independent but having their hermitages not far from one another; 
then groups that, without formal organization, put themselves to 
some extent under the direction of some experienced hermit such 
as St. Anthony; then monks definitely forming a community and 
living together under a set of rules, such as those formulated by 
St. Basil in the fourth century. (These last were "cenobites," com- 
munity monks, as distinguished from "anchorites," hermits.) The 
Egyptian Pachomius, a little after Anthony and a little before 
Basil, but not so well remembered as either, except by historians, 
seems to have been the real inventor of the plan of having a com- 
munity of monks living together under a rule and a director. By 
Basil's time there were thousands of anchorite and cenobite monks 
in Egypt and the Middle East. Monasticism had developed far in 
the East before it was transplanted to the West. It is Western 
monasticism that concerns us most. 


There were monasteries (and also a few hermit monks) in Gaul 
as early as the fourth century. St. Patrick dotted Ireland with them 
in the fifth century and gave them the active functions of preach- 
ing and teaching, which monks and monasteries had never had 
before. But monasticism in western Europe did not begin to settle 
into a standardized pattern until Benedict of Nursia, having tried 
the hermit life not very satisfactorily, enlisted a company of 
monks, established what grew into the great monastery of Monte 
Cassino, and drew up the rule that, universally known as the Bene- 
dictine Rule, became the accepted guide to the duties of the monas- 
tic life thereafter. The so-called Augustinian Rule was constructed 
several centuries later out of materials gleaned from some of the 
letters of St. Augustine, who never actually formulated a rule, and 
was adopted by several important orders. For the first five hun- 


dred years after St. Benedict's time, however (he died about 547), 
to be a monk was to be a Benedictine. 

The Benedictine Rule has been called, with perhaps some 
pardonable exaggeration, "the most important document of the 
Middle Ages." It was about contemporary with Justinian's codifi- 
cation of Roman law, and also with the closing of the schools of 
philosophy at Athens, which was the last step in the extinction of 
pre-Christian classic culture. One of Justinian's laws made monastic 
vows irrevocable, legally binding and enforcible by the civil mag- 
istrates. The Rule provided that the monks were to be strictly 
cloistered and that they were to occupy their time in praying, read- 
ing, studying, and doing manual labor to produce food for the 
monastery. It did not anticipate that some of them would become 
administrators in church and state, chroniclers, schoolteachers, mis- 
sionaries, even artists, nor could the founder foretell that the 
monks, though individually sworn to poverty, were to become 
collectively the possessors of vast wealth. 

Half a century after Benedict's death, the Lombards raided and 
burned Monte Cassino. The monks sought refuge at Rome, where 
they were received and protected by Gregory I, who himself be- 
came a Benedictine, if he was not one already. Shortly after that, 
Gregory selected the Benedictine monk Augustine for that mis- 
sion to England (see Chapter X) which turned out to be one 
of the most successful and important missionary efforts in the 
whole history of Christianity, for it led to the establishment of the 
See of Canterbury and the reduction of the British Isles to sub- 
mission to Rome. 

The ascetic program of monasticism became the church's ideal 
of the completely Christian life, and so it still is for some great parts 
of the church. Other kinds of Christian life may be good, even 
excellent, certainly necessary as marriage is honorable but vir- 
ginity superior but the monastic life was viewed as the best. This 
presupposed a double standard for Christian living. The normal 
requirements of Christian ethics were enough for ordinary Chris- 
tians and even for the "secular" clergy, that is, those of the clergy 
who lived in contact with the world. (Clerical celibacy, by the 
way, was not the rule when monasticism was getting its start and 


gaining its prestige.) Above this was the higher level of ascetic 
monasticism. This came to be regarded as requiring a "vocation," 
a special calling by God. Monks and nuns were "the religious." 
Jesus had said to the rich young man, "If thou wilt be perfect, go 
and sell that thou hast and give to the poor." He did not give that 
instruction to all his followers, because he did not expect them all 
to be perfect. 

Some of the monasteries rendered services of inestimable value 
to their own time and to subsequent ages. They kept learning alive 
by preserving and copying manuscripts and by establishing li- 
braries. They fed the hungry, gave refuge to the poor, and set an 
example of industry and dignified manual labor by their perform- 
ance of it. They furnished islands of security and tranquillity in a 
turbulent time. Not all of them did these things, but many did, 
and they did them through long centuries when there were no 
other institutions to perform these services. 

Abuses crept in, in spite of these meritorious qualities, and even 
because of some of them. As the quality of Christian life had been 
diluted when thousands crowded into the church for other than 
worthy religious reasons, so the quality of the monastic life suf- 
fered from the influx of monks who joined the orders for purely 
selfish purposes. One may well ask: What selfish reason could pos- 
sibly move one to take the vows of "poverty, chastity, and obedi- 
ence" and submit to the rigorous monastic regime? The answer is 
not hard to find. The regime was not always as rigorous as the 
Rule required. The individual monk might have no property but 
his monastery might be rich, and this gave him a degree of eco- 
nomic security to be found nowhere else. It was like owning an 
undivided interest in a great estate, A monk was exempt from mili- 
tary service in any feudal army. The manual labor on the lands of 
rich monasteries was often done by hired workers or serfs while 
the monks took their ease. Though theoretically cloistered, many 
monks were permitted to roam at large, ostensibly on errands for 
their monasteries but actually in pursuit of their own pleasure or 
profit. Some monks became abbots, and some abbots became per- 
sons of power and prestige. Practically anything was better than 
any lot to which an ordinary member of the lower social class 


could look forward. "Poverty, chastity, and obedience" with 
such alleviations of all three as might be arranged by a not too 
scrupulous monk seemed a small price to pay for the advantages 
to be gained. One need not quote the derogatory data that have 
been assembled by the later avowed critics of the system. It is suffi- 
cient to consider the reports of the official "visitations" to many 
monasteries to document the statement that the general level of 
the monastic life sank far below its Rule and its profession. Not all 
monks became as immoral as Boccaccio represented them or as 
uncouth and illiterate as Erasmus pictured them, but monasticism 
was sadly in need of reform long before either of these voiced their 

The most effective criticisms and reforms came from the in- 
side. They can be remembered as the three C's Cluniac, Car- 
thusian, and Cistercian. The first serious reform began when Wil- 
liam the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, founded the monastery of 
Cluny, in France, about seventy-five miles west of Geneva, in 910. 
It was to be an independent self-governing institution as all 
Benedictine monasteries were supposed to be subject to no con- 
trol by any lord or bishop but under the direct patronage of the 
pope. The aim was to set a good example of what a good mon- 
astery should be, and it did, chiefly because it had a series of able 
and conscientious abbots. So influential did its example prove that 
many other monasteries put themselves under the direction of 
Cluny. Its abbot appointed their abbots, and the Cluniac reform 
developed into a chain of monasteries under centralized control 
and gave rise to what was virtually a Cluniac "order," though still 
within the Benedictine system. Benedict's idea was that every 
monastery should be an autonomous unit. 


Equally earnest, though never quite as extensive or influential, 
was the reform that came when St. Bruno established in 1084 La 
Grande Chartreuse, the mother monastery of the Carthusian order. 
Its monks were strictly cloistered, each with his separate cell and 
his separate garden to cultivate. It always remained relatively small, 


but it had imitators in other countries. In England the name is 
"Charterhouse." The Carthusians maintained a high type of mo- 
nastic life.* 

The great Hildebrand, himself probably a Benedictine, was an 
ardent reformer of ecclesiastical abuses and clerical laxities for 
many years before he became Pope Gregory VII and achieved his 
costly triumph for the papacy by humiliating Emperor Henry IV 
at Canossa. He was contemporary with the Carthusian reform and 
his influence was one of the factors that gave it such success as it 


Most fruitful of all the monastic reforms was the Cistercian. 
It stemmed from the founding of a monastery at Citeaux, about 
fifty miles north of Cluny, in 1098 by a Benedictine monk named 
Robert from the abbey of Montier, who seems to have been one of 
those little men who start something great and then drop out of 
sight. The Cluniac movement, then almost two centuries old, had 
lost its reforming zeal and itself needed reforming. The Cistercians 
went back to the Rule of St. Benedict and applied it more strictly 
than had been the custom of the Benedictines. They gave them- 
selves to a regime of plain living, "apostolic poverty," prayer and 
contemplation, and the cultivation of the soil. Though scholarship 
and teaching were not among their main objectives, the shining 
light of their order was St. Bernard (1090-1153), who became 

* Later their chief industry became the manufacture of the famous liqueur 
known as Chartreuse. When the monks were evicted from their ancient 
seat in the nineteenth century they set up their distillery in Spain, where 
they continued to produce the "Liqueur des Peres Chartreuses," which they 
claimed was the only authentic chartreuse because they alone had the 
secret formula. A lay concern at the old location began to market a 
"Liqueur de Grande Chartreuse" which they held to be the only genuine 
article because it included among its ingredients some herbs found only in 
that rather magically picturesque region thirty miles north of Grenoble. A 
judgment between these conflicting claims is beyond the authors' juris- 


eminent and influential above any of his contemporaries, popes 
included, as theologian, mystic, guide to the devotional life, ecclesi- 
astical statesman, and defender of Catholic orthodoxy by the perse- 
cution of all variants. Bernard founded what became the famous 
abbey of Clairvaux and remained its abbot for life, declining all 
other preferment, though he could have had almost anything. 
Within a generation from the founding of Citeaux its abbot had 
rule over some dozens of affiliated monasteries, and after less than 
two centuries their number was reported as 671. The Cistercians 
were the latest and greatest of the "three Cs." 

Admirable as were these efforts toward monastic reform, and 
effective within their limits, the total situation undoubtedly re- 
mained very bad. It became worse through the centuries from the 
twelfth to the fifteenth. The monks became too numerous and the 
monasteries too rich. It was impossible to maintain either moral or 
ecclesiastical discipline. Too many monks had no authentic "voca- 
tion." Too many monasteries were haunts of either idleness or vice, 
and sometimes of both. When Henry VIII confiscated the prop- 
erty of the monasteries in England, his own motives may have 
been no higher than theirs, but he had a point when he said that 
they had become an incubus upon the English people. They really 
had. The Catholic Reformation in the sixteenth century brought 
a great change for the better, not only by the founding of new 
orders but by sweeping away the abuses which had so largely dis- 
credited the old ones. We shall come to that later. 


Back at the beginning of the thirteenth century a new move- 
ment began which, though monastic in a general way, was dif- 
ferent in some of its basic principles. This was the founding of the 
mendicant orders of friars Dominican and Franciscan. The mem- 
bers of these orders were not monks but friars. They were ascetics, 
but not cloistered. They were religious "knights of the open road." 
Vowed to "poverty, chastity, and obedience" like the monks, they 
were not to be immured in monasteries but were to range the 


streets and highways, begging a minimum of subsistence from any 
who would put food into their beggars' bags and preaching the 
gospel to all who would listen. 

Dominic, a Spaniard and a theologically educated priest, had 
contacts with the Albigensian heretics in southern France, who 
were later to be massacred in the crusade that Innocent III insti- 
gated against them. Dominic thought they might be converted if 
they were approached by Catholic missionaries as devoted as they 
were. The crusade against them began before he really got started, 
but he had already formed the idea of an ascetic order of preachers 
whose main business would be to defend the orthodox faith against 
all deviants. The order received papal recognition in 1216, grew 
rapidly in numbers, and spread into most of the countries of 
Europe. Preaching and scholarship were its principal fields of 
activity. Since these do not go well with mendicancy, the practice 
of begging for bread did not long continue to be a conspicuous 
feature. Many learned Dominicans became teachers in the newly 
founded universities. The beggar's bag evolved into the academic 
"hood" which we now see draped around the shoulders of new- 
fledged Ph.D.'s at university commencements and lending its poly- 
chromatic splendor to otherwise colorless faculty processions on 
such occasions. Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, the greatest 
theologians of their time, were Dominicans. So also were the mys- 
tics Eckhart and Tauler. So too was the inquisitor general Tor- 
quemada, who instigated the burning of many heretics and had 
much to do with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the reign 
of Ferdinand and Isabella; and Savonarola, who about that same 
time was burned for heresy in Florence. Dominic's "Order of 
Preachers," closely organized with a "master-general" and with 
provinces and monasteries and appropriate heads for each, was a 
very potent society. 

No disrespect to St. Dominic, but to turn from his austere 
countenance and rigid mind to the winsome figure and lyric voice 
of St. Francis is like moving directly from a November night to a 
May morning. World-renouncing piety as a monastic ideal had 
always been regarded as meritorious; Francis made it gay and 
beautiful. His heart was that of a saint, but also of a troubadour. 


His gospel could be sung as well as preached. An inheritor of 
wealth, which he cheerfully renounced, he carried the practice of 
ascetic poverty to the farthest possible extreme. When, as he put 
it, he "espoused Lady Poverty/' it was no forced marriage, but a 
union entered upon with a lover's enthusiasm. Total commitment 
to God was his basic motive; a childlike faith in the infinite good- 
ness of God was the substance of his theology; identification of 
himself in bonds of brotherhood with all living things, but espe- 
cially with the weak, the despised, the loathsomely afflicted, and 
the desperately sinful, was the principle of his behavior. Francis 
has been almost everybody's favorite saint from then until now. 
Some of his most appreciative biographies have been written by 

Francis did not set out to found an order. He set out to do what 
seemed to him the most natural thing for one to do who loved God 
and man with complete devotion that is, to serve them both with 
absolute disregard for his own comfort or safety. Others had done 
this before him, and still more after him, inspired by his example. 
What was unique about Francis was the blithe and debonair spirit 
in which he did it. Drawn by the magnetism of his personality, a 
few followers gathered about him and imitated his way of life. 
Though they came to be called a "mendicant" order, the plan was 
to depend primarily on working, not on begging. The followers 
were to wear the coarsest of ordinary peasant garb and were to 
do any menial work that came to hand but to accept only food for 
it, not money. As they went among the poor rendering these help- 
ful services, they were to preach, though Francis himself and his 
companions were all laymen. This raised a question. Were they 
ignoring the authority of the church by preaching without its 
authority? The last thing Francis wanted to do was to rebel against 
the church and its constituted authorities. When the number of 
followers reached twelve, he said: "This begins to look like a 
'movement,' even though we have no organization. We ought to 
get the Pope's sanction before we let it go any farther." So they 
went down from Assisi in the Umbrian hills to Rome and saw 
the pope, and came back with his blessing. (Written authority for 
a formal organization came ten years later from another pope.) 


The papacy was then at the height of its worldly power and 
splendor. The pope who sanctioned this movement and authorized 
it to become an order was the mighty Innocent III, who himself 
lived in a palace, had the status and pomp of an earthly sovereign, 
and claimed authority over all the other sovereigns in the world. 
How could such a pope bring himself to sanction a movement that 
preached and practiced "evangelical poverty"? The answer is very 
simple. Francis didn't preach it; he only practiced it. His espousal 
of poverty grew out of a reversal of the values of poverty and 
wealth* He had discovered that for himself poverty, not wealth, 
was to be desired. Poverty was not a Christian duty; it was a 
blessed privilege for those who had discovered where the true 
values of life lay. He did not go about seeking converts to his way 
of life or criticizing the rich for having property* Somebody had 
to have it. For him, poverty was freedom and joy, and it enabled 
him to get closer to the poor people to whom he preached the 
gospel of love. Others did not have to join his company, but any 
who did would have to adopt his way. The wise pope could see 
at once that there was nothing subversive about this. The church 
could always find room for reformers who only reformed them- 
selves and their own comrades and would not try to reform the 
whole church. 

Francis' program was indeed too demanding even for most of 
those who undertook it. The rule was eased, somewhat against his 
will. The extent of the tension is a matter of dispute. Certainly there 
was a rift later between those who followed the easier rule and the 
"Observants," who imitated Francis' strict adherence to poverty; 
and certainly Francis was gently eased out of the leadership of the 
order some years before his death, though he died at the age of 

The order was a great success under the new regime. It 
modestly took the name of "Friars Minor." A second order was 
established for women, the Clares; then a Third Order (usually 
known by that name) for lay men and women. All three grew 
great and popular the most numerous and the most popular of 
all the orders. Because it was popular on account of its good works, 
wealthy citizens began to leave money to the order in their wills. 


That raised a question: Could lands and buildings be owned by 
an order composed of friars whose vow was to own nothing? The 
legal problem was solved (in the affirmative) largely by the in- 
genuity of Bartolo Sassoferrato, an eminent thirteenth-century 
jurisconsult, and the point of conscience was settled by following 
the example of the earlier monasteries, which had solved the same 
problem in the same way but with less hesitation. So the order 
acquired substantial buildings and ample lands quite in contrast 
with the branch-and-bark shelters behind the Portiuncula at Assisi 
and the caves on Mount Subasio that had been the only homes of 
the original band but never an inordinate amount of wealth. 
Though scholarship and statecraft had no place in the program 
that Francis envisaged, the order produced at least four popes and 
a roster of eminent scholars and theologians, among whom were 
Roger Bacon, Bonaventura, Alexander Hales, Duns Scotus, and 
William of Occam. Franciscans became no more strangers to the 
professorial chairs of universities than were the Dominicans. There 
was always a certain rivalry, not to say antipathy, between the 
two, and some of the theological controversies of the scholastics 
can be better understood if one will note who was a Dominican 
and who was a Franciscan. 


Rites and Customs 

The supernatural was not something remote or speculative to the 
medieval man. The world of his thought, and of his experience, as 
he understood it, was permeated by the supernatural. It was not 
merely that ultimate reality is spiritual, that God is the Creator and 
Sustainer of all things, and that Christ exerts a saving power for 
those who will accept it, as modern Christians generally believe. It 
was not merely that the supernatural has sometimes "broken 
through," as some modern Protestant theologians say, into the 
realm of history and human experience. It was more than that. For 
the medieval man, the supernatural was constantly breaking 
through. The air was full of supernatural beings angels and 
devils. Miraculous interventions were so much a feature of the 
expected order of things that any reported miracle was regarded 
as prima facie credible. Evidence seemed superfluous. Priests had 
supernatural powers by which they could perform the miracle of 
the mass and give absolution from sins. The pope had supernatural 
authority as the Vicar of Christ. Every sacrament was a super- 
natural event. Relics, talismans, the sign of the cross, gave super- 
natural protection from bodily injury. Appeals to the saints 


brought supernatural aid in every kind of emergency. The devil 
and his associated demons, exercising a supernatural but malign 
power, made direct attacks on the faithful or teamed up with die 
ill-disposed to produce the phenomena of witchcraft. One cannot 
understand the spirit of the Middle Ages without realizing how 
completely this idea of continuous supernatural and miraculous 
intervention dominated the thinking of the period. The rites and 
customs that are to be briefly described derived their motive and 
meaning from this fact. They were the techniques by which 
favorable interventions of supernatural power could be secured 
and unfavorable ones averted. 

All this is included in the definition of the "age of faith." 
"Faith" had come to mean the faith, that is, the Catholic Christian 
faith and all its accompanying lore. The word infidelis, which had 
originally meant "untrustworthy," came to mean "infidel," or one 
not holding the Christian faith, and was especially applied to Jews 
and Moslems. All other traditions had been either eliminated or 
absorbed into the Christian tradition, and everybody held it. Not 
to hold it made one a social and political as well as a religious 
outcast and was a very dangerous position which few cared or 
dared to occupy. In this respect there was an "integrated society" 
in spite of wide differences in fortune, piety, morals, and culture. 

The basic doctrines of Christian theology had been given 
definitive formulation by the great councils of the fourth and fifth 
centuries. Even the important Council of Trent in the sixteenth 
century did little more in this field than to reaffirm what had been 
done by the councils of Nicaea, Chalcedon, and Constantinople. 
But theology is chiefly for theologians. Then, as now, the laity 
knew little about it. It may be the foundation of a religion but, like 
any other foundation, it is not the most conspicuous part of the 
total structure. Much more evident to the observer are the rites 
and customs and the states of mind that these express. 


The concept of sacraments is an essential in almost all forms of 
Christianity, more highly developed in Roman Catholicism, both 


medieval and modern, than in most others. Peter Lombard, who 
died in 1160, was the first influential writer to fix the number of 
sacraments definitely at seven. When the list was completed the 
seven were: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, extreme 
unction, marriage, and ordination. The first five were necessary 
for all Christians. Marriage was optional. Ordination was only for 

The practice of baptizing infants was introduced long before 
the beginning of the Middle Ages, if it did not exist from the start. 
The postponement of baptism until near the hour of death (as in 
Constantine's case), so as to guarantee the forgiveness of all sins, 
was frowned upon by the church and was early abandoned in 
favor of baptism at the earliest possible moment of infancy, to 
eliminate the curse of original sin. Confirmation naturally followed 
from infant baptism to give opportunity for the candidate's con- 
scious participation and commitment. The Eucharist, or Holy 
Communion, was of such central importance as sometimes to be 
called "the Sacrament." The doctrine of transubstantiation was 
first rather clearly stated by the monk Radbertus in the ninth 
century, and the word was coined in the twelfth. It meant that the 
real substance of the bread and wine was changed into the sub- 
stance of the body and blood of Christ while their qualities (or 
"accidents"), as known to the senses, remained unchanged. Ever 
since Plato and Aristotle there has been philosophical argument 
about the nature of the "substance" or "essence" of existing reality 
in general and of particular things. It is, indeed, one of the funda- 
mental problems of philosophy. One way of looking at it was to 
say that every material object as known consists of an inner "sub- 
stance," which constitutes its reality or essence, and certain "quali- 
ties" which alone can be known by the senses. The "substance," 
as that which "stands under" the qualities and holds them together 
so that they form a knowable object, cannot itself be observed by 
the senses. It was therefore conceivable that, by pure miracle, one 
"substance" could be substituted for another while the sensible 
qualities remained as they had been. Belief that such a "transub- 
stantiation" has actually occurred is an act of pure faith, for it can 
be neither proved nor disproved by observation, since, by defini- 


tion, It is only the unchanged "qualities" of the bread and wine 
that can be observed. 

With this sharper definition of the doctrine and with greater 
emphases on the concept of the Mass as a continuation of the 
sacrifice on Calvary that is, the continued offering of the flesh of 
the victim that had been slain once for all came the more exten- 
sive use of the Mass as a means of conferring spiritual benefits 
upon any to whom they were directed by the officiating priest, 
and as a meritorious offering to God having a definite value 
whether or not any communicants received the elements. Three 
results of this view were: infrequent communion; the giving of 
only the bread to the laity, since the entire substance of the body 
and blood was declared to be present in the smallest particle of 
either the bread or wine when duly consecrated, and the reserva- 
tion of the consecrated bread and wine for worship in the "adora- 
tion of the Host." 

The church had early undertaken to guard the sanctity of 
marriage, and some sharp quarrels grew out of the efforts of bishops 
and popes to check the loose practices of prominent persons who 
wanted to put away their wives and take others for political or 
personal reasons. Marriage was not generally recognized as a 
sacrament, however, before the eleventh century. This clinched 
the claim of the church to have sole jurisdiction over marriage and 
its laws. Simultaneously, the earlier practice of clerical celibacy, 
which had been general but with many exceptions, was more 
strictly insisted upon. Gregory VII found great numbers of mar- 
ried priests, and many more living in concubinage. Remedying this 
situation was the object of one of his most urgent reforms. This 
was a reform that had to be many times repeated. One need not 
regard as history all the bawdy tales that were told about the 
scandalous relations of priests and monks with women, but there 
was too much acknowledged illegitimacy in clerical circles, both 
high and low, to permit brushing off all these stories as mere libels. 

The sacrament of penance, with which absolution was asso- 
ciated, became one of the most important of all the sacraments in 
its effect upon the life of the people and upon the control exercised 
by the church. With it came the practice of private confession. 


The medieval man had a vivid sense of sin and its dangerous con- 
sequences. He also knew what to do about it. The church not only 
kept him reminded of his sins but provided the means of getting 
them forgiven and so escaping the eternal penalties at the cost of 
some temporal sacrifice or inconvenience. The first step was con- 
fession. In earlier days, confession of sin had been public, before 
the whole church, after which the local bishop would declare 
forgiveness and receive the penitent back into communion. The 
publicity of the confession was regarded as a sufficient penance. 
Private confession to the priest and the assignment of a definite 
penance was an established custom by the eleventh century, but it 
had become the usual practice centuries earlier. Secrecy of the 
confessional was a reversal of the earlier mode, in which publicity 
had been of the essence. Techniques of inquiry by the priest were 
developed and manuals of penance for the guidance of confessors 
(i.e., priests receiving confessions) were written by experts. There 
were collections of such rules in Ireland as early as the sixth cen- 
tury containing some rules that were ascribed to St. Patrick. More 
formal manuals appeared in the seventh century and later. They 
were very detailed, describing hypothetical sins of every variety 
and degree and assigning appropriate penances for each. Assigned 
penances as the condition of absolution might be fasting or ab- 
stinence from meat for a specified period, pilgrimages to holy 
places, benevolent gifts, or other meritorious acts. Scanning these 
books, or penitentials, gives a vivid impression of an earnest effort 
to impose moral discipline on a somewhat crude population, both 
lay and clerical, that badly needed it. It was something of a turning 
point when, about the twelfth century, the priest began to say, "I 
absolve thee," instead of declaring that God had forgiven the 
penitent. This was more than a merely verbal change, for it 
reflected a closer control by the priesthood. 

This system could not have developed as it did without the 
accompanying concept of purgatory as a post-mortem state in 
which unabsolved sins might be burned away if they were not 
serious enough to precipitate the sinner immediately into hell. It 
was an essential feature of the disciplinary system. Purgatorial 
penalties, like such earthly penances as fasting, were under control 


of the church and could be shortened or remitted on terms 
prescribed by the church. Letters of indulgence, issued by author- 
ized dignitaries of the church, could provide remission of both 
temporal and purgatorial penalties. Indulgences could be purchased 
for cash. In this case the commutation of penalties to the person 
for a money payment was viewed as comparable to the acceptance 
of a fine in lieu of imprisonment by a criminal court. In theory, 
true penitence was essential to the remission of penalties whether 
by an indulgence or by confession and absolution. Limited in- 
dulgences were granted automatically and without price for the 
performance of certain pious acts, such as visits to shrines. Plenary 
indulgences came in with the Crusades, since taking the cross as a 
crusader was deemed so meritorious as to counterbalance any sins 
that could be purged by even the longest period in purgatory. 

The practice of selling indulgences lent itself easily to abuses 
which the church later had reason to regret and to reform. When, 
as sometimes happened, the main object in pushing the sale was to 
collect money, the .requirement of true penitence as a condition of 
the validity of the indulgence naturally dropped into the back- 
ground or was entirely omitted. To most modern readers the 
abuses are better known than the system itself, for they became the 
immediate stimulus that touched off the Protestant Reformation. 
We shall need to say more of them later. The abuses were no part 
of the original intention when the plan was being developed and 
were not a conspicuous feature of the medieval period with which 
we are now concerned. Indulgences at that time were simply one 
part of the total system in which it was understood that forgive- 
ness of sins and ultimate salvation were to be gained by "good 
works" performed under the direction and with the sanction of the 


No feature of medieval religion was more conspicuous or more 
characteristic than the cult of the saints. The earliest saints were 
the martyrs of pagan Roman times. Every martyr was ipso -facto 
a saint. Then certain persons who had exhibited extraordinary 


virtues and performed conspicuous services for the church were 
given local or diocesan recognition as saints after their death. Some 
became saints by acclamation, so to speak. The first formal canon- 
izations in the name of the whole church were in the tenth century. 
The present process, by which four attested miracles are required 
for canonization, was established by Urban VIII in 1634. From a 
very early time it was believed that beneficent miracles were per- 
formed by the saints or, especially, by divine power operating 
through their relics. The saints became intercessors or advocates at 
the throne of grace on behalf of their devotees. By their "heroic 
virtues" and their services beyond the call of duty, the saints had 
accumulated stores of merit in excess of what was needed for their 
own salvation. This surplus constituted a "bank of merit" at the 
disposal of the church. Devotion to the saints gave access to these 
stores of merit. The saints were also a very present help in frustrat- 
ing the attacks of the demons, those "indefatigable malignant 
spirits" that swarmed in earth and air. For those who could under- 
stand it, a careful distinction was drawn between the adoration 
(latria) that was due only to God and the devotion (dulia) that 
could be rendered to the saints. The Virgin Mary, standing in a 
sense in the category of the saints, since she was a human rather 
than a divine being, yet rose uniquely to a level far above the 
others and was entitled to a special kind of higher devotion (hyper- 
dulia) . 

The element of the miraculous in the cult of the saints included 
the miracles that they themselves were said to have performed 
while alive and the miracles ascribed to their relics after they were 
dead. Legends of the saints multiplied and accumulated. They were 
the favorite reading of that rather small minority of lay people 
who could read, the most popular stories for oral telling, and the 
substance of many sermons. The great collection of stories of the 
saints by Jacopo da Voragine, popularly known as The Golden 
Legend) was the best seller of the Middle Ages. It was translated 
into many languages and circulated in hundreds of manuscript 
copies for two centuries before the invention of printing, and its 
English version was the text of one of William Caxton's earliest 
publications in the fifteenth century. Every saint had a special 


"day" in the calendar. By Jacopo's time there were far more saints 
than days in the year, so that he had to choose among them when 
he arranged the stories in the order of the saints' days from 
January 1 to December 31. By his time the miracles ascribed to 
the saints had expanded even beyond the limits of the uncritical 
credulity of the day, so he does not guarantee the historicity of all 
that he records but often introduces a tall tale with such a phrase 
as "Some said," or "It was reported," or "Many believed." The 
masses were more credulous. If not all the miracles alleged to have 
been wrought by the saints and their relics were held to be verita- 
ble events, they were thought of as at least the kinds of things that 
might easily have happened. The miraculous was regarded as no 
more improbable than the natural; it simply didn't happen quite so 


A similar credulity prevailed as to the identification of relics. 
Responsible leaders of the church sometimes had to intervene to 
give warning against the mania for collecting relics of saints and 
against the fraudulent traffic in fake relics. Yet the church itself 
saw a great spiritual value in relics. Many of the most important 
were lavishly enshrined, and in time it became mandatory that the 
stone table of every altar should contain a relic of some saint in a 
cavity (the "sepulchre") under its front edge* Most churches of 
any importance had bones or parts of the body or other relics of 
one or more saints and exposed them periodically for the venera- 
tion of the faithful. Whatever one may think of this practice, at 
least it was generally carried out with dignity and decent restraint. 
That cannot be said of the exploitation of the popular mania for 
relics by unscrupulous individuals. Relics were produced, not by 
the hundreds but by the tens of thousands, with authentications 
that would have convinced no one who was not prepared to believe 
any fanciful tale without evidence. The stories of their discovery 
were as miraculous as the operations of the relics themselves. They 
were peddled, traded, exchanged, stolen. The successful theft of 
a relic was regarded as no crime because the desire to have it was 


such a holy impulse. There was great rivalry among monasteries for 
the possession of the most and the best relics. The legend of 
Helena's finding the true cross dates from the fifth century, more 
than a hundred years after the alleged discovery. The Holy Spear 
which pierced the side of Christ (now in St. Peter's at Rome) was 
found at Antioch during the First Crusade in 1098, and its genuine- 
ness was established by an ordeal by fire. The seamless coat some- 
how got to Treves, in Germany, and the Sancta Scala (the steps 
by which Jesus climbed up to Pilate's judgment hall) to Rome. 
Mary's house at Nazareth was said to have been transported to 
Dalmatia by angels in 1291, across the Adriatic three years later, 
and in 1295 to Loretto in eastern Italy, where it is now, with 
miracles all along the way. There were twigs of Moses' burning 
bush and samples of the manna. Halle had a collection of forty- 
two bodies of saints and 8,932 fragments of the bodies of others. 
The Church of St. Ursula at Cologne had the bones of the eleven 
thousand virgins who were slaughtered by the pagan Huns. The 
discovery of the body and severed head of the Apostle James in 
Spain early in the ninth century is a shining example of the em- 
ployment of relics in the grand style. A document three hundred 
years later than the discovery mentions the fact that a letter (un- 
fortunately already lost) had been found with the body authen- 
ticating it as that of the apostle and telling of his mission to Spain. 
On that evidence he became St. James of Compostela, the patron 
saint of Spain. 

The age of faith was also the age of cathedral building and of 
the glorious Gothic. Not representation but symbolism was the 
dominant principle of medieval art. Its sculpture, painting, stained 
glass, and mosaic, crude and unrealistic as representations of the 
objective, were splendidly symbolic of spiritual truth and Christian 
lore, and they were often superb in composition and color. They 
had the beautiful naivete and sincerity of the "primitive." The 
highest achievements were in architecture, an art in which excel- 
lence in form and symbolism cannot be corrupted by lack of either 
skill or interest in representation. A Gothic cathedral was at once 
a supreme expression of the dignity of an episcopal see, the civic 
pride of a community, the humility of the anonymous geniuses 


who made the plans, the religious devotion of those who did the 
heavy work, the patience that carried on the construction some- 
times for centuries, the liturgical worship that it was designed to 
house, and the feeling for beauty and symbolism that welded into 
a unit the work of many minds and hands. The mass and height 
of the cathedral dominated its environment as religion dominated 
the lives of those who built it. The lift of its pointed arches sum- 
moned the worshiper to a mood of aspiration. In its vast and lofty 
spaces, man felt the smallness of himself in the presence of the 
infinite. In the intricacy of its aisles, transepts, and chapels for 
one cannot see the whole of any Gothic interior from any one 
point of view he sensed the mystery of all that he could believe 
and worship but not understand. There were many crudities in 
the life and popular religion of the Middle Ages, but remember 
that they built Chartres and Saint-Michel, Cologne and Notre 


Simultaneously with the growth of the cult of the saints was 
the development of the cult of the Virgin Mary. Her perpetual 
virginity became a Catholic doctrine, though not a formal dogma, 
in the fourth century. It required a careful reinterpretation of 
certain passages of scripture (Mark 3:31; 6:3; John 2:12) which 
mention the brothers of Jesus. The title "Mother of God" became 
common later in the same century, and the rejection of it by 
Nestorius was accounted a heresy. The phrase was at first intended 
as a way of affirming that Jesus was God; later its use was to honor 
Mary. Augustine held that she was "born in original sin," but later 
declared that out of respect for the Lord no question ought to be 
raised about his mother's inheritance of this common curse. 
Anselm, the great theologian of the eleventh century, said that she 
was "born with original sin." The Immaculate Conception that 
is, Mary's birth without the taint of original sin was a con- 
troversial question in the early Middle Ages, was generally denied 
by the Dominicans, later was declared to be a "pious opinion" 
which only the Dominicans were permitted to discuss, and became 


a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in 1854. The Assumption 
of the Virgin that is, the removal of her body from earth to 
heaven shortly after her death was first mentioned in certain 
books of the fourth and fifth centuries which were condemned by 
the pope as apocryphal, but had become a pious opinion by the end 
of the sixth century or a little later. It did not become a dogma of 
the Catholic Church until 1950. 

While these specific doctrines were slowly developing and 
were gaining general acceptance long before they became the law 
of the Catholic Church, the Virgin was constantly being given a 
more important place in the Catholic cultus. Soon after the Council 
of Ephesus (431) she began to be considered as a mediator be- 
tween man and Christ. The greater the exaltation of Christ as King 
of Heaven, the greater the apparent need for mediators who, once 
human but now sitting in heavenly places, could understand the 
needs of frail humanity and present their case before the throne of 
grace. Prayer to the Virgin Mary and repetition of the Ave Maria 
became common about 1050 and had become general by the 
thirteenth century. At that time the Angelus was introduced, a bell 
to which all who heard should respond with a triple Ave Maria. 
From 950 to 1350 there was much religious poetry in rhymed 
Latin (with meter based on accent, not on quantity as in classical 
Latin), and much of it consisted of hymns in honor of the Virgin. 

The institution of chivalry encouraged the cult of the Virgin. 
Devotion to a lady came natural to knights whose vows included 
loyalty to feudal superiors and the church and to the lady of their 
choice. In the other sex there was the parallel phenomenon of 
nuns becoming the "spouse of Christ," even with the ring. The 
erotic imagery in such cases should not be grossly interpreted. 

The College de gai Savoir, the oldest literary society in Europe, 
founded at Toulouse in 1324 and still existing, continued the tradi- 
tion of the troubadours, who had passed out of the picture by that 
time, and gave it a religious turn. There had been no Provencal 
poetry in honor of the Virgin Mary before the thirteenth century. 
It began after 1250, stimulated by "the ardent preaching of the 
Orders, especially the Dominicans, the great promoters [zelateurs] 


of the Marian cult," * in spite of their skepticism about the Im- 
maculate Conception. The College de gai Savoir also called the 
College des Jeux fleureaux, and the Gai Consistoire gave (and 
still gives) floral prizes annually for poetry on assigned themes, the 
golden amaranth, the silver violet, and the like. The volume con- 
taining the winning poems for the first one hundred and sixty 
years shows a very large proportion either wholly or partly in 
praise of the Virgin. This theme is seldom absent even when it is 
not the main topic. Poets with the troubadour heritage felt the 
compulsion to sing of love. Making adaptations from the earlier 
chansons $ amour, they could apply to religious uses the romantic 
cliches with which they were already familiar. The religious feel- 
ing of these verses is, in general, better than their poetry. 

Going on pilgrimages to holy places was a favorite occupation 
which had the double advantage of winning religious merit and 
enabling the pilgrims to see the world and enjoy themselves, 
though the risks and hardships of travel were not slight The most 
meritorious of all pilgrimages was to the holy places in Palestine. 
Thousands had made that arduous journey in the century before 
the First Crusade, and others made it during and after the crusades. 
Aside from these Biblical scenes, the principal places of pilgrimage 
were the shrines of the saints. Those who remember the Canter- 
bury Tales as who does not? will not need to be reminded of 
that company's destination or told that pilgrims did not always go 
in the mood of solemn piety. It may be recalled that Chaucer's 
"Wife of Bath" boasted that she had three times made the pil- 
grimage to Jerusalem. 


If the saints were ever-present supernatural forces in the 
medieval world, so also were the demons. That was the reason it 
seemed so necessary to have protecting saints, guardian angels, and 
talismans and relics with magical beneficent powers. Belief in 

* Alfred Jeanroy, La Poesie lyrique des Troubadour^ 2 vols., Paris & 
Toulouse, 1934, p. 310, 


witchcraft grew naturally out of the conviction that men were at 
all times beset and bedeviled by evil spirits, except when they were 
defended by equally miraculous spiritual forces. Witches were 
malevolent persons who had made terms with the Devil to borrow 
his power for the injury of others and to gain pleasure or profit for 
themselves. The Inquisition attacked witchcraft in 1256. If any 
doubted the reality or the demonic origin of the reported phenom- 
ena, their doubts could be put to rest by the decree of Innocent 
VIII in 1484 affirming both. The book Malleus Malificarum 
(1489), by two Dominicans, was not only an incredibly detailed 
description of the nature, powers, and behavior of demons but also 
a legal manual for the guidance of judges in the trial and punish- 
ment of witches. It is a conservative estimate to say that more than 
300,000 women were put to death for witchcraft (generally by 
burning) between 1484 and 1782. Witches were burned in Prot- 
estant countries also. Witchcraft trials continued in England until 
1712, in Scotland until 1722. Why point the finger of scorn 
specifically at Salem, which hanged twenty-one witches in a mad 
period of six months and then repented in sackcloth and ashes? 

Trial by ordeal came to be frowned upon by the church. It 
had been a custom, though never very general, to require a person 
accused of crime or heresy to plunge his hand in boiling water or 
walk through fire if there was lack of evidence in the case, on the 
theory that God would miraculously protect the innocent. Instead 
of this, Innocent IV in 1252 gave his sanction to the use of torture 
to elicit testimony or confession from suspected heretics, and this 
became the standard practice of the Inquisition. 

The influence of the church was generally on the side of peace 
among Christians, It made praiseworthy efforts to mollify the 
rigors of war and to limit hostilities to two or three days of the 
week. War against heretics and infidels was a different matter, St. 
Thomas Aquinas wrote: "It is not injuries to themselves but in- 
juries done to God that the knights avenge." St. Bernard said: 
"The Son of God delights to receive the blood of his enemies; he 
is glorified in the death of pagans." 


Scholars and Mystics 

If the intellectuals those who wrote books and even those who 
could read them were a small minority of the medieval people, 
their influence on their own and later times warrants some atten- 
tion to the character of their thinking. By the time of Charlemagne 
a cloud of ignorance and illiteracy had settled over Europe. That 
many-sided ruler initiated schools which brought about what is 
sometimes called the Carolingian Renaissance, but the term gives 
an exaggerated impression of the extent of the revival. Alcuin, an 
English ecclesiastic, was the chief director of this movement, but 
the schools were palace schools, promoted by the ernperor and 
some of his nobles, rather than church schools. Their light faded 
before the end of the ninth century and left a few monasteries as 
the only centers of what could even loosely be called learning. 
In the eleventh century there was an intellectual awakening 
which culminated in the thirteenth. This had two phases: the 
founding of the universities and the development of scholastic 
philosophy and theology. The two were related, because the 
universities were the homes of scholasticism. With these we must 
think of the mystics, some of whom were scholars, too, but whose 



approach to what they considered the highest truth was by another 

There were schools connected more or less directly with some 
of the cathedrals in the eleventh century and they flourished still 
more in the twelfth. Scholars gathered to teach at such places. 
They were supported by the fees of their students. Students came 
from all over Europe to hear the lectures of eminent teachers. 
Since Latin was the common language of scholarship, there was 
no linguistic barrier. At each center where a university arose there 
was already something to organize before any university was 
formed. The first kind of organization was that of a guild of 
teachers. The students often organized themselves into "nations." 
The degrees of "master" or "doctor" which for a long time 
meant the same thing were certificates of competence to teach, 
or a kind of teacher's license. 

Paris set a pattern of university organization. A body of rules 
was adopted by the teachers in 1208. Three years later they were 
recognized as a corporation by Innocent III. The cathedral school 
of Notre Dame and some private teachers united to form four 
"faculties," one preparatory, teaching the "liberal arts," and three 
for professional studies in theology, canon law, and medicine. The 
liberal arts included the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and 
the quadrivium (astronomy, arithmetic, geometry, and music). On 
completion of the liberal arts the student received the bachelor's or 
baccalaureate degree (meaning "laurel-crowned) and could then 
be admitted to the higher studies of the university proper. Uni- 
versities were under the patronage of the church except the one 
Frederick II founded at Naples in 1225 so their primary interest 
was in theology and its accompanying philosophy. A few had 
other specialties, for example, medicine at Salerno and law at 
Bologna. University students were regarded as "clerics," though 
not priests. The present double meaning of the word "clerical" 
arose from the fact that few except university clerics could write 
well enough to do clerical work. It also accounts for the seating 
plan in the college chapels of the English universities, with all the 
seats sideways to the altar, as in the chancel of a church. The status 


of university students as clerics removed them from the jurisdic- 
tion of the secular courts and made them amenable only to the 
ecclesiastical courts a fertile source of friction between "town" 
and "gown." 


In touching some of the high spots in medieval theology and 
philosophy and mentioning a few of the great names, we can begin 
with Anselm (c. 1033-1109), who lived and died before there were 
any universities. He was called from a monastery in Normandy to 
become archbishop of Canterbury. In philosophy he was what is 
called, in this context, a "realist." This means that he regarded 
classes of objects as more real than individual things. "Horse," as 
a type or category, is more real than any particular horse. Old 
Dobbin or Charlie gets such reality as he has but only a kind of 
secondary or derivative reality from participation in the greater 
reality of the genus Equus. "Horse," in turn, is less real than the 
more inclusive class "quadruped," and so on. The similarity of this 
to Plato's doctrine of "ideas" or archetypal patterns being more 
real than objective things gives assurance that Anselm's theory 
was not as foolish as it may sound at first hearing. Anyway it set 
off one of the greatest controversies of the period. Anselm held, 
further, that the doctrines of the Christian faith, even such as the 
Trinity, the Incarnation, and the resurrection of Christ, can be 
proved by reason. For example, why should there be a God-man? 
(This is the title of his best-known book, Cur Deus Homo.) God's 
justice requires full satisfaction for sin; man's sin is greater than 
man himself can atone for; but atonement must be made by man, 
not by a being of some other order; so the need can be met only 
by a being who is both man and God. Thus, in his view, the in- 
carnation and the substitutionary atonement are rationalized and 
demonstrated. Anselm also used the famous "ontological argu- 
ment" to prove the existence of God. He wrestled mightily with 
the problem of reconciling predestination and free will, but did not 
solve it. (Who has?) 



Abelard (1079-1142), a younger contemporary of Anselm, was 
the enfant terrible of the scholastic era. Romantic interest in his 
love affair with Heloise has diverted attention to some extent from 
his philosophy. Abelard was precocious, brilliant, probably vain. 
He studied under William of Champeaux and Roscelin, and must 
have realized that he had a better brain than either of them. At 
twenty-two he was a popular teacher near Paris. At thirty-six, as 
a canon of Notre Dame, he was by far the most popular lecturer 
in the community of masters and students that was to develop into 
the University of Paris. His was a critical mind that demanded 
evidence before belief. In his Sic et Non (Yes and No) he paral- 
leled contradictory passages from scripture and the Fathers, thus 
raising doubts about the reliability of authority. The scholastics 
always knew the conclusions they had to reach before they started; 
their problem was to find proofs of what was already accepted on 
authority as the truth. Not so Abelard. He said: "The function of 
dialectic [i.e., rational argument] is to discover truth." That was a 
radical idea. Just as radical and rational was his theory of the 
atonement as an act of pure grace not requiring any compensatory 
payment on man's part. God forgives sin as a loving parent does 
his penitent child's misdeeds, and does not exact an equivalent for 
it. Christ's death shows God's love and so awakens love in man, 
thus changing him and making him forgivable. This later came to 
be called the "moral theory" of the atonement. Abelard was 
brought to trial for heresy, at the instigation of Bernard of 
Clairvaux, and his teaching was condemned, but he was permitted 
to die quietly in retirement. He was indeed a dangerous man, for 
his doctrine not only tended to discredit ecclesiastical authority as 
the court of last appeal in matters of theological truth, but it struck 
a blow, perhaps unintended, at the church's whole disciplinary 
system by making penance and priestly absolution seem super- 
fluous. Some who were influenced by Abelard carried his reasoning 
and his individualistic attitudes farther than he did and landed in 
more extreme positions. 



Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was born of a noble family near 
Monte Cassino, between Naples and Rome. It will be a help in 
defining the age in which he lived to remember that he was born 
four years after the death of St. Dominic and the year before the 
death of St. Francis. The two great mendicant orders were then 
in the first flush of their vigorous youth. His life occupied almost 
exactly the middle half of that "greatest of centuries," the thir- 
teenth, and was one of the things that made it great. It was wholly 
between the pontificates of Innocent III and Boniface VIII, the 
pope who exercised the greatest earthly power and the one who 
made the greatest claims to power. Thomas was a cousin, in a not 
very remote degree, of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. His 
father planned for him a great career, but Thomas had other ideas. 
After studying at Monte Cassino as a boy, he joined the Domini- 
cans before he was a man, and continued his studies at Paris with 
Albertus Magnus. (The "Magnus" attached to his name attests the 
esteem of his contemporaries and successors. Yet we mention him 
only in passing, for no more need be said of him here than that he 
was the principal preceptor of Thomas till Thomas overshadowed 
his teacher as Abelard had his.) Thomas lectured at various uni- 
versities. Lacking the precocity and the brilliance of an Abelard, 
his indefatigable industry enabled him to produce, during his 
twenty-five years, an enormous mass of the most solid and closely 
reasoned theological writing. 

It was the special function of Thomas to make the transition 
from Plato to Aristotle as a philosophical instrument for Christian 
apologetics, and to draw a clear line between the doctrines that 
could be proved by the natural reason and those that must be ac- 
cepted from the proper authorities on faith. Earlier theology had 
owed much to Platonism. The "realist" philosophy, as already sug- 
gested, had found some support in Plato's doctrine of "ideas" as 
the locus of reality. Aristotle, less known at the time, had seemed 
to be on the side of the "nominalists," who held that reality was 
found only in specific objects that could be observed. Actually 


that was not good Aristotelianism, though Aristotle had been the 
first great advocate and practitioner of scientific observation as the 
starting point of knowledge. Thomas rose above the sterile con- 
troversy between these two schools of thought. He fought his 
battles of the mind on different ground. Neoplatonism, with its 
pantheistic tendency, had been a dangerous rival of Christianity 
with the thinkers of the early Christian centuries, but the spiritual- 
ity of its view of the world continued to be an inspiration even to 
those who rejected it as a system of thought, as of course all 
Christians must. 

Thomas differed from Plato on the nature of being, the nature 
of man, and the nature of knowledge. Being is not static, as in 
Plato's "ideas," and cannot be separated from becoming. Here he 
was both Aristotelian and existentialist. Man is not a soul inhabiting 
a body but a soul-and-body unit. Plato (like some theologians) 
spoke of the immortality of the soul; Thomas (like Paul) spoke of 
the immortality of man. Knowledge is not, as with Plato, the 
apprehension of a pure "intelligible essence" of reality in arche- 
typal ideas; it is, as with Aristotle, based on apprehension of the 
material world through observation by the senses. The complete 
man is not, as with Plato, a being who merely thinks; he is a being 
who also knows and acts. Matter is not, as with Plato, an element 
alien to mind, existing within the realm of potential reality but in 
itself unintelligible and having no definable relation to the causative 
activity of "ideas." In all these ways Thomas was Aristotelian 
rather than Platonic. But he differed from Aristotle, too, especially 
in his concept of the nature of being, and most especially on the 
nature of man's being. For Aristotle, the reality of any object is 
its entelechy, the end for which it exists or that into which it can 
develop, but he could suggest no adequate entelechy for man. 
Thomas could, and did. 

Thomas Aquinas used the Aristotelian logic in proceeding from 
observation to knowledge, in breaking up his arguments into 
propositions, enumerating reasons, and stating and answering ob- 
jections. He did not use the Aristotelian syllogism, and some of his 
"reasons" are only unsupported affirmations. For example, in his 
famous proofs of the existence of God one argument is "from the 


gradation to be found in things." Whatever quality exists any- 
where "more or less," he says, must exist somewhere in the abso- 
lute degree because, as Aristotle says, "the maximum in any genus 
is the cause of all in that genus." His illustration is that since we 
find various degrees of heat in objects, we know that they must all 
be derived from fire, which is absolute heat. Similarly, since we 
observe power in various degrees, we know that absolute power 
must exist somewhere, and that can be only in God. Therefore, 
God exists. 

Central to the system of Thomas was his distinction between 
natural and revealed theology. This was his solution of the prob- 
lem of the relation between reason and revelation. To put it 
briefly, reason should go as far as it can, and revelation go on 
from there. Neither contradicts anything that the other affirms. 
But how far can reason go? It can, he said, go so far as to discover 
and demonstrate the existence of God, his unity and creative 
power, and his dealings with the world and man in the natural 
course of things. It can also discover its own limitations and man's 
need of something which it cannot supply. All this is natural 
theology. He treats of this in one of his two greatest works, Summa 
contra Gentiles, which (except Book IV) is addressed to philo- 
sophic doubters and presupposes nothing. But natural theology 
cannot discover the character of God or prove the distinctive and 
saving doctrines of the Christian religion, which must be learned 
from revelation. These are treated in the other, and still greater, of 
the two great books, the Summa Theologiae, which includes also 
a comprehensive discussion of Christian ethics. There is rather 
common consent that this is the greatest theological work ever 
written. Even those who would criticize some of its details are 
generally agreed that in its monumental qualities and the firmly 
woven texture of its argument it looms above its field. Since it 
was designed for the instruction of readers who are already 
believers, it presupposes the truth of the Catholic dogmas and the 
authority of the sources from which they had been derived. On the 
use o^ authorities, Thomas writes: 

Sacred theology properly uses the authority of the canonical 
Scriptures as a necessary demonstration, and the authority of 


the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, 
yet merely as probable. For our faith rests on the revelation 
made to the apostles and prophets, who wrote the canonical 
books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made 
to other doctors. 

To the basic problems of the scholastics: Is revelation reason- 
able? Is it consistent with reason? Can its content be proved by 
reason? these were Thomas's answers: It is reasonable to believe 
that there has been a revelation. The revealed truths are consistent 
with all the truths discovered or discoverable by reason. Reason 
cannot discover the truths which are the special content of revela- 
tion. Transubstantiation, for example already approved by the 
Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 can be explained by the distinc- 
tion between substance and qualities, but cannot be proved. Nor 
can it be proved, as Anselm had tried to prove, that the death of 
Christ was the necessary way, or even that it was the best way, for 
man's redemption. It must simply be accepted on faith as the way 
God chose. 

St. Thomas Aquinas was not popular in his own time, but his 
prestige increased rapidly. He was canonized in 1323 by John 
XXII, one of the Avignon popes, and his philosophy was made 
official for the Roman Catholic Church by Leo XIII in 1879. 


The clash between the scholastic "realists" and "nominalists" 
continued in spite of the refusal of St. Thomas to side with either. 
The position of the realists has already been indicated. They 
regarded only classes of objects as real, and the more inclusive the 
class the greater its degree of reality. They expressed this thought 
in the slogan "The most general being is the most real being." Most 
of the orthodox scholastic theologians were realists. One advantage 
of this was that it enabled them to think of the church as a whole, 
or the church in the mind of God or as a mystical entity, as being 
more real than any or all of the individuals and institutions that 
made up its visible structure. Realism clearly lent its support to 
centralized religious authority, for those in high place who ex- 
ercised such authority did not profess to be the voice of the 


aggregate of the church's members but of the real church and so of 
God, who was the most real being of all. Conversely it stood 
against every form of individualism. The word "heresy," let it be 
remembered, literally means "one's own opinion," as distinguished 
from an established opinion sanctioned by legitimate authority. No 
wonder then that such an individualist as Abelard refused to align 
himself with the realists. 

The opposing camp was that of the "nominalists," who called 
themselves that from the word "name." It had reference, as did the 
word "real" in this connection, to a conception of the nature of 
classes of things, not to the nature of the things that are the object 
of observation. They held that reality is to be found in individual 
persons and things, and that the words used to denote classes of 
objects are nothing more than names that can be conveniently 
applied to all or any of the things that have enough similarity to 
warrant grouping them together. The word "horse" to revert to 
the previous illustration has no metaphysical significance. It is 
simply a convenient term to use if one wants to mention an animal 
with the general characteristics which it designates but does not 
care whether it is black or white, Charlie or Dobbin. Actually 
there is no such thing as "horse in general"; there are only partic- 
ular horses. Each one is individually real; but "horse" is just a name 
for the resemblance between them, to be used when for the 
moment one pleases to disregard their incidental differences. The 
quarrel, remote and speculative as it may seeni, had profound con- 
sequences. It was never settled by a clear-cut victory of either 
side, but for a long time the scales tipped toward the realist side. 
This was because nominalism inclined toward what was deemed 
heresy and especially toward a degree of freedom of thought and 
individualism inconsistent with that submission to authority which 
was essential to the "medieval synthesis." 

Although Duns Scotus (1265-1308) may be classed as a moder- 
ate realist, he had a keen sense of the reality of particular things and 
of the necessity of considering their individuality. This aspect of his 
thought tended toward nominalism. He was a Scottish Franciscan. 
His admirers called him "the subtle doctor"; his detractors later 
derived from his name the word "dunce," which originally meant 
not a stupid person but one too subtle for his own good. 


Full-blown nominalism came with William of Occam (1280- 
1349), an English Franciscan of the Strict Observant branch who 
taught at Oxford. William's clash with the papacy, then established 
at Avignon, was embittered by his advocacy of poverty not as 
simply an optional practice (as St. Francis had taught) but as 
necessary for all Christians and especially for all the clergy. He was 
tried for heresy, was imprisoned, escaped, and spent his last years in 
Munich. The head and front of his offense, aside from the poverty 
question, was his repudiation of all authorities in philosophy and 
his corresponding demand for complete freedom of thought in that 
field. In attempting (unsuccessfully) to avoid the charge of heresy, 
he set up the defense that there are two kinds of truth, theological 
and philosophical. A proposition could be true in philosophy and 
false in theology, or vice versa. He was willing to accept the whole 
body of Catholic doctrine on the authority of the church; it was 
contrary to reason, yet was theologically true because the church 
said so and the church was master in the field of theology. In 
philosophy, however, the mind must be free, even to the point of 
denying what the church affirmed. 

This double standard of truth was a way of trying to get free- 
dom for philosophical thought at a time when it was impossible 
to get freedom in theology and dangerous to demand it. But it 
was a weak and futile evasion of the real issue. The church was 
not to be taken in by any such flimsy excuse for denial of its 
doctrines. It was, for one thing, in complete antithesis to St. 
Thomas's much more rational explanation of the relation between 
reason and faith, and Thomas was being canonized while William 
was teaching his dangerous doctrine. It was indeed a dangerous 
doctrine, for it would inevitably lead to doubt concerning any 
"truth" that was contrary to reason and had only the support of 
authority. Its tendency was to undermine respect for authority 
even while William professed his submission to it. Back of that 
"double truth" evasion lay a much more genuine philosophical 
issue. The denial of "absolutes" into which his nominalism led him 
opened the way for all kinds of relativism in philosophy, religion, 
and ethics. Since the absolutes he repudiated were at that time 
defended by the sanctions of prison, torture, and fire, it may be 
said that he was, like Abelard, a pioneer in the cause of liberty. 


The continuing issue is between authority, which must always use 
some form of power to enforce its absolutes, and the free operation 
of individual intelligence. It is scarcely surprising that William 
of Occam is even now the bete noire of the neomedievalists who 
regard St. Thomas as the ultimate in Christian philosophy and who 
yearn for a return to the "medieval synthesis." 


To turn from the scholastic theologians to the mystics is to 
enter a different spiritual atmosphere, though there were some who 
could breathe the airs of both worlds. The mystics were those who 
sought an immediate knowledge of God by the soul's direct vision, 
as one knows the physical world not by argument or on authority 
but by observation and experience. Their key word was "imme- 
diate," meaning, not "sudden," but "without intervening media." 
They thought Christianity was self-evidencing to those who 
persistently sought communion with God through contemplation, 
prayer, and works of charity and benevolence. For the most part 
they resolved the tension between the authority of the church and 
the liberty of the individual by humbly accepting the doctrines 
and discipline of the church, yet finding their own spiritual 
satisfaction chiefly in independent and unmediated communion 
with God. William of Champeaux, after Abelard had worsted him 
in debate, retired to the monastery of St. Victor, where he and his 
associates, known as the Victorines, became the forerunners of the 
great mystics of the thirteenth century and later. Bernard of 
Clairvaux, tough-minded enemy and even persecutor of heretics, 
was a mystic in his own religious life. 

The mystics' emphasis upon direct communion with God, 
rising in its climax to an ecstatic sense of complete union with 
God and absorption into him, could sometimes expose them to the 
charge of pantheistic heresy, or even to the danger of it. Meister 
Eckhart (1260-1327), earliest of the great German Dominican 
mystics, believed it possible to receive direct communications from 
God, and claimed to have them. Such messages must, of course, 
take precedence over anything that might seem to conflict with 
them. He continually asserted that he was doctrinally orthodox, 


but John XXII (the same pope who canonized St Thomas) de- 
clared heretical seventeen statements found in his writings. The last 
of this series of German mystics, known collectively as the 
"Friends of God," was Tauler (died 1461), who also was a 
Dominican. He was so little the theologian that he was doubtless 
honestly surprised at being even suspected of heresy. His religion 
was simply to believe and do what he thought God told him and to 
be faithful to the church whenever orders from higher up did not 
prevent it. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), of the Third Order of 
St. Dominic, engaged much in solitary prayer and meditation. 
Besides being a contemplative, she was a practical mystic, like the 
somewhat later Joan of Arc. Toward the end of her short life the 
times were ripening for the return of the popes from Avignon to 
Rome. It was Catherine's campaign of prayer and publicity that, 
as much as any other one factor, brought about the decision to 

A line of Flemish mystics began with Jan Ruysbroeck (1293- 
1381), whose leading characteristic was an immediate sense of the 
love of God. His work was carried on by his younger con- 
temporary Gerhard Groote and by Thomas a Kempis, who was 
born about the time Ruysbroeck died. It is still uncertain whether 
Groote or Thomas a Kempis was the author of The Imitation of 
Christ^ but it became and remains one of the most popular and 
serviceable devotional books ever written. Out of this movement 
came also the anonymous Theologict Germanica, to whose influ- 
ence on his life Luther paid high tribute, and the society known as 
the Brothers of the Common Life. 

The mystical strain was a continuing factor in Catholic life, 
with notable representatives in Spain and France in the sixteenth 
century. Our immediate concern is with the middle and latter part 
of the Middle Ages. The scholastics and the mystics of whom we 
have been speaking in this chapter were always few in number 
compared with the total mass of the church's members, which was 
virtually the entire population. But their impact upon the religious 
life and thought of their own and later times was tremendous. 
Though their forms of reasoning and argument are antiquated, 
their influence continues even to this day. 


Rifts in the Unity 

If it should seem to some that the authors of this book are devot- 
ing too much space to the medieval period in the story of Chris- 
tianity, let it be remembered that this is the period most readers 
know least about; that more than half of the entire history of 
Christianity lies between the years 500 and 1500; that patterns 
were established then that still dominate more than two-thirds of 
the Christian world, while the acceptance of some of these patterns 
and rejection of others goes far toward defining the attitudes of the 
other third; and that this is the period in which the history of 
Christianity is most closely linked with the history of political 
change and all forms of intellectual and cultural activity. 

The medieval unity was never as solid as has often been sup- 
posed. On the political side the Holy Roman Empire, while some- 
thing more than a shadow and a name, was a good deal less than 
an empire. The feudal system, beautifully systematic as a diagram 
of reciprocal rights, duties, and loyalties, was in practice a jumble 
of inconsistencies and became more so as cities developed. Many 
of these were "free cities," and every city was a focus of incipient 
revolt against feudal lordships. The system never did get a good 



hold in Italy. The rise of scores of autonomous and virtually 
sovereign states made the political map of Europe far more intricate 
than it is today. As to religion, there was only one body of ortho- 
dox doctrine west of the Adriatic, and one church defending its 
monopoly by police methods and by the threatened terrors of hell, 
but there were persistent as well as sporadic heresies, and there 
were revolts or "reforms," depending on how one views them 
that won formidable followings and called for fierce, but not 
always completely successful, measures for their repression. And 
there was a schism in the papacy itself which, for nearly half a 
century, divided the loyalty of Christendom between two or three 
rival popes. These are some of the kinds of "rifts" that we must 
now consider. 


Boniface VIII (see Chapter XIII) had overshot his mark. His 
extravagant claims to dominion over all temporal powers claims 
such as no pope of the present century would think of making 
set up a tension that only awaited a weak pope and a suitable 
political situation to bring disaster. Boniface, for all his lofty 
language about the royal "moons" deriving all their light from his 
pontifical "sun," was a weak pope. He emerged frustrated and 
humiliated from a contention with Philip IV of France (Philip the 
Fair). Following his almost immediate death and that of his suc- 
cessor an admirable Dominican whose reign was cut short after 
eight months, probably by poison Philip took matters into his 
own hands and engineered the election of a French pope, Clement 
V, who transferred the seat of the papacy from Rome to the 
pleasant city of Avignon on the Rhone about thirty miles above its 
entrance into the Mediterranean. There it remained, under the 
thumb of France, for sixty-eight years (1309-1377). This is known 
as the Babylonian Captivity of the church. Avignon did not belong 
to France but to the counts of Provence. The papacy bought it 
from them in 1341 and kept title to it until revolutionary France 
took it in 1791. 

The seven Avignon popes were all French. At least four of 


them were excellent men, and the other three were by no means as 
bad as the reputation of the Avignon papacy. The first one, the 
pope who made the move, is described by Catholic writers as "a 
man of grave moral faults," but, in general, papal Avignon was not 
the sink of iniquity sometimes depicted. The worst that can be 
truthfully said is that its court was worldly, luxurious, self-in- 
dulgent, with little interest in spiritual matters and little capacity 
for them. Though not an open scandal, this was no help toward 
regaining the moral authority and international prestige that were 
compromised by subservience to French influence. The complete- 
ness of this loss of prestige was evident when John XXII, the 
second Avignon pope he who canonized St. Thomas, imprisoned 
William of Occam, and burned some Franciscan Observants 
revived the old pretensions to universal dominion by claiming that 
it was the pope's right to administer the affairs of the empire during 
a vacancy due to a deadlock between rival candidates for the 
imperial crown. The German electors not only rejected this idea 
but passed a resolution, which the Reichstag confirmed, declaring 
that the pope had nothing whatever to do with the choice of an 
emperor or with his induction into office. Only a few years earlier, 
but within the Avignon period, Dante had written his De Monar- 
chia, taking the same side that the Germans were now taking in 
the state-versus-church struggle. Marsilius of Padua in his Defensor 
Fads went even farther than Dante and the Germans in demoting 
the popes from their political supremacy. He would not allow 
papal supremacy even over the church. All power on earth comes 
from the people, he said power in the state from all citizens, power 
in the church from all Christians. A general council, with lay rep- 
resentation, is the only authentic voice of the church, as the New 
Testament is its only authority. John XXII excommunicated 
Marsilius, but could not silence him or stop the reading of his book. 
The wide acceptance of such revolutionary ideas indicated a 
serious rift in the medieval unity. One symbol of this was the 
existence of the two warring parties, Guelphs and Ghibellines, 
which, though many other issues came to be involved, basically 
represented acceptance or rejection of the high claims of the 
papacy to supremacy over the emperors. 


During the Avignon period, when many of the former sources 
of papal income were dried up, it became necessary to find new 
revenues and to reorganize the financial system of the Holy See. 
Along with a wide extension of the pope's appointing power came 
a claim to the first year's income (annates) from all papal ap- 
pointees, and also the income of all vacant benefices, many of 
which were left long vacant by inadvertence or design. There was 
extensive development in the collection of fees for all kinds of 
papal documents, favors, dispensations, indulgences, and the like. 
The papacy's financial problem was satisfactorily solved, but these 
methods did nothing to increase its popularity. Some resentments 
began building up that later reached the boiling point. It was at this 
time also that the brilliant adventurer Cola di Rienzi, taking advan- 
tage of the turmoil of conflicting interests of the great families in 
Rome, attempted a revival of the old Roman Republic. Its life and 
his were both brief. The old forms had no vitality, and Rienzi was 
murdered (1354). 

Gregory XI moved the seat of the papacy back to Rome in 
1377 and died the next year. It was unfortunate that the election 
of a new pope came so soon. The cardinals, mostly French, wanted 
a French pope and a return to their pleasant life in Avignon. How- 
ever, holding their conclave in Rome and under strong local pres- 
sure, they chose an Italian, Urban VI, whose anti-French attitudes 
immediately provoked the cardinals who had elected him. After 
four months they met again, voided the election on the ground 
that they had been subjected to violence and duress (a disputed 
question ever since), and elected a Swiss cardinal as Clement VII. 
(He is to be distinguished from the Renaissance Clement VII, who 
was a member of the Medici family.) This rival pope and his 
cardinals moved back to Avignon. Urban VI sat tight, appointed 
some more cardinals, and remained in Rome. Now there were two 
popes, or two claimants to the office, each with his own loyal con- 
stituency: for the pope at Rome, northern and central Italy, most 
of Germany, England, and Scandinavia; for the pope at Avignon, 
France, Spain, southern Italy, Scotland, and part of Germany. 

This was schism on a scale unprecedented since the separation 
between East and West. It proved to be less enduring, but it 


produced much confusion during the forty years that it lasted. For 
a time there were three popes. The "antipope" Clement VII held 
his place at Avignon for twenty-six years and was succeeded by 
the Spaniard Pedro de Luna, as Benedict XIII, one of the most 
remarkable personalities ever to hold or claim the papal office. The 
shift of loyalties was steadily to the side of Rome. Benedict lost 
France and was forced to leave Avignon. He took up residence 
first at Perpignon, then in Spain, where his constantly shrinking 
support forced him to withdraw to a rocky promontory near 
Valencia. Having only a castle and a harbor, he kept up the 
pretense of power by maintaining a tiny navy, so that he came to 
be called "Pope of the Sea." It would have been ruinous to grant 
his claim to the tiara, yet it was too plausible to ignore. After all, 
there was a reasonable doubt as to whether there had been duress in 
the election of 1378, and his claim would be good if there had been. 
The Council of Constance induced two of the three popes to 
abdicate, and the Emperor Sigismund after he had finished burn- 
ing John Huss journeyed to Perpignon to persuade Benedict to 
abdicate also and clear the way for a new election. Benedict was 
willing on one condition. If the election of all three popes had been 
of doubtful validity, as the council said, then all the cardinals they 
had appointed must be equally doubtful. Benedict had been a 
cardinal, and he was now the only surviving cardinal who had 
been appointed before the schism. Consequently he was the only 
cardinal of undisputed legitimacy. So, said Benedict, I will abdicate 
as pope, go into conclave with myself, as the only authentic 
cardinal, and elect myself pope. This may have been a logical 
argument, but obviously it was no help toward settling the schism. 
After that there was nothing to do but ignore him and wait for his 
death and he lived into his nineties, apparently out of sheer 
determination to outlive the opposition as he had already out- 
witted it. 

The settlement of the schism was the work of the reforming 
councils of Pisa, Constance, and Florence. The emergency brought 
into prominence the theory of "conciliar supremacy" that is, that 
the supreme voice of the church was that of a general council, not 
that of a pope. Though this theory seemed to triumph in these 


councils, the victory was brief. The schism was ended when the 
council at Florence deposed Benedict XIII, having already dis- 
posed of the other two claimants, and when a member of the great 
Colonna family of Rome was elected as Martin V by a conclave 
composed of twenty-three cardinals and thirty delegates to the 
council. This was a really revolutionary procedure. Moreover, the 
council had rather positively asserted the superiority of its author- 
ity over that of a pope. Martin did not directly challenge this 
claim, and he was willing to benefit by the council's bold action in 
clearing the field of the rival popes. But the next year he issued a 
formal declaration that there can be "no appeal from the pope in 
matters of faith." Three years passed after Martin's election before 
he could restore turbulent Rome to such condition that he could 
again set up the seat of the papacy there. When he did, he took the 
reins in strong hands. By the time he laid them down eleven years 
later, there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to the supremacy of 
the pope over the church in matters of both faith and discipline. 
The Great Schism was ended and the church had emerged with 
its structure of authority unchanged from a revolutionary move- 
ment that might have transformed it from a spiritual autocracy to 
a constitutional monarchy. The two-sword theory was never dis- 
avowed, but there were no more efforts to put it seriously into 


Even back in the period from Gregory VII to Innocent III, 
when the papacy had been in the heyday of its power, there had 
been subversive movements. Perhaps the most violent was that of 
Peter of Bruys, early in the twelfth century. It is not unfair to say 
that he was a fanatical revolutionist rather than a reformer. He 
rebelled against all ecclesiastical authority, would have no liturgical 
worship or ceremonial acts, denied the validity of infant baptism, 
and held that the church should own no buildings or other prop- 
erty. He had a special aversion to the use of the cross as a symbol, 
and went through the countryside preaching his negative gospel, 
publicly burning crosses, and winning a considerable number of 


followers, who came to be called Petrobrusians. He was himself 
burned, probably by a mob, sometime before 1130. 

Like this Peter, but a little less extreme, was Henry of Lau- 
sanne, who was a kind of latter-day Donatist in holding that the 
sacraments were valid only if the ministering priest were morally 
pure and lived an ascetic life. He preached through western and 
southern France from 1101 until 1145. His followers were called 
Henricians. The movement grew important enough to draw vigor- 
ous attack from Bernard. The wonder is that Henry remained alive 
and active as long as he did, and that he died a natural death. The 
apparatus for the suppression of heresy had not yet been perfected. 
Peter and Henry were leaders of what was largely a proletarian 
revolt against the wealthy and luxurious clergy who controlled 
institutional Christianity, but they also had some intellectual 
motivation. They represented the fanatical fringe of the movement 
of thought initiated by Abelard. 

Arnold of Brescia, a more picturesque character than either of 
those just mentioned, and for a time more dangerous to the existing 
order, agreed with them in attacking the worldliness and wealth of 
the clergy. Like St. Francis, he exalted poverty, but unlike Francis 
he insisted that all the clergy should practice it. The pope should 
have no temporal power, he said, and the bishops should engage in 
no political activity. Bernard had him condemned in 1140 by the 
same council at Sens that condemned Abelard. Arnold got to Rome 
and cast in his lot with a revolutionary movement which had set 
up a temporary republic and banished the pope. The republic 
collapsed. Arnold later returned to Rome to attempt its revival. 
He was hanged in 1155 at the insistence of Pope Hadrian IV, who 
refused to crown Frederick Barbarossa until he had agreed to 
execute Arnold. He was no heretic in doctrine, but was a foe to 
clerical authority, wealth, and temporal power. It will be noted 
that all three of these revolutionary movements came in the half- 
century immediately following Gregory VII and his humiliation 
of Emperor Henry IV at Canossa, and also that all three were anti- 
clerical more than they were doctrinally heretical. Presently there 
came a movement that was very definitely both and on a much 
larger scale. 



The lovely region of the Midi in southern France from 
Toulouse through Carcasonne to Narbonne was the scene of the 
most formidable development of the Albigensians. This was a real 
heresy, and no doubt about it The roots of this heresy were deep. 
It went back to the Paulicians of the seventh century or earlier 
and their claim to teach "simple Christianity," and had in it a 
strain of that Manichaeism to which Augustine had been devoted 
before his conversion. There had been an outcropping of this tradi- 
tion in the tenth century in Bulgaria, where its adherents were 
called Bogomiles, and when they moved westward they were 
sometimes called Bulgars. The collective name for all of them, 
then and later, was Cathari, or "the pure ones." The core of their 
doctrine was metaphysical dualism that Good and Evil were two 
independent powers. These, equally eternal and almost equally 
potent, were engaged in endless conflict for the souls of men. 
Spirit and matter were the manifestations of these two. Around this 
basic concept was woven a tissue of doctrines and practices 
strangely at variance with the common Christian tradition. Yet 
they practiced a strict morality which, for the special class they 
called the "perfecti," was intensified into a monastic austerity. In 
the large communities which they developed in southern France, 
northern Spain, and northern Italy, they were a peaceful, prosper- 
ous, and virtuous people. What made them doubly dangerous was 
that they gave no allegiance whatever to the hierarchy centered at 
Rome but had set up a rival ecclesiastical system, held their own 
councils, and even, as some said, had their own pope. 

The Third Lateran Council voted a crusade against the Albi- 
gensians in 1179, but nothing was done about it until Innocent III 
took up the fight thirty years later. The French king collaborated. 
Simon de Montfort (father of the man of the same name who was 
later to become "Father of the English Parliament") and other 
nobles from the north of France responded to the call and brought 
their forces. It was a war against an unarmed and unresisting 
enemy. The process was wholesale slaughter in which many of the 


orthodox were slain along with their heretical neighbors. It was 
during this operation that a papal legate is said to have uttered the 
famous words: "Kill them all; God will know his own." When 
it was over, the Albigensians as an organized body were extinct, 
though some scattered and went underground. Since they had 
professed to draw their teachings directly from the Bible, a council 
at Toulouse condemned all vernacular translations of the Bible 
and forbade the laity to possess copies of it even in Latin, except 
the Psalms and such passages as were found in the breviary. 

One nineteenth-century historian said that the Albigensians 
would have won Europe away from the papacy and the Catholic 
Church if it had not been for St. Francis and the Franciscans. This 
seems a gross exaggeration of what undoubtedly was a serious sub- 
versive movement that was all the more dangerous because some 
of its propaganda was carried on by undercover men. One char- 
acter in Italy, famed for his piety and good words, was well on the 
way toward canonization as a Catholic saint when it was discov- 
ered that he had secretly been an Albigensian. 


The Roman Inquisition began under Gregory IX (1227-1241). 
The crusade against the Albigensians had swept away any linger- 
ing qualms about the burning of heretics. Hitherto the search for 
and punishment of heretics had been chiefly left to the diocesan 
authorities with occasional aid from provincial councils and a few 
monastic leaders of wide influence and with assistance from the 
civil rulers. Now the heresy hunt was organized. Dominicans 
were generally chosen as inquisitors. The rules of procedure, laid 
down in a bull of Innocent IV, 1252, included: secret proceedings, 
concealment of the identity of informants and witnesses, the use of 
torture to extort confessions, and the confiscation of the victim's 
property, which was shared between the church and the civil 
power that carried out the death sentence. The Spanish Inquisition, 
much later (1480), was aimed at Jews and Moslems, who, after 
professing conversion, were deemed to have lapsed, and afterward 
against Protestants. 


The saintly Thomas Aquinas wrote: "Heresy is a sin worthy of 
death, falsification of the faith worse than false coining, and deserv- 
ing not merely exclusion from the church but also from the 

An Anglican historian has written; 

Nothing that took place in the persecution of the Christians 
under the Roman Emperors can compare in severity and cruelty 
and inhumanity, or as to the number of victims involved, with 
what was achieved by the tribunals of the Inquisition for the 
suppression of heretics.* 

Though the liquidation of heretics was regarded as a solemn 
duty, it was not carried out constantly or consistently. If this 
aspect of medieval Christianity must not be concealed or excused, 
neither should it be exaggerated. Ecclesiastics who were also feudal 
lords or virtual sovereigns had other complicated interests which 
often diverted their attention from this function or prevented the 
performance of it. Italy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries 
swarmed with individual heretics none with any great following 
though some with a good deal of local popularity whom nobody 
took the trouble to check. 


More important in the long run than the heretical and schis- 
matic movements that have been mentioned were the evangelical 
reformers, whose voices began to be heard in the Middle Ages. 
The earliest in this category was Peter Waldo, a silk merchant of 
Lyons who conceived the startling idea that the religion of Christ 
consisted of faith in him, the practice and preaching of the gospel 
as anyone can understand it by reading the New Testament, and 
living a good life. He had a translation of the New Testament 
made into the vernacular, and he and his associates went forth to 
preach repentance, the simple Christian life, and a Sermon-on-the- 
Mount gospel. Not yet in rebellion against the church, he applied 

*A. V. G. Allen, Christian Institutions, New York, Scribner, 1897, pp. 


to the Third Lateran Council for permission to preach, but this was 
refused. It was not that he was a heretic but that he and his col- 
leagues were "ignorant laymen." Besides, the council was already 
anxious about the Albigensians and was in no mood to encourage 
any free-lance evangelistic efforts. Waldo and his men ignored the 
refusal and continued their work. Five years later he was excom- 
municated for "disobedience." A group called the Humiliati in 
Lombardy joined the Waldensians. Their work spread, in Ger- 
many, Austria, northern Italy, and northern Spain. It was success- 
fully repressed everywhere except in the Cottian Alps, west of 
Turin in the northwestern corner of Italy. There the Waldensians 
continued in spite of recurrent persecution. After the Reformation 
they threw in their lot with the Protestant forces, but were still 
exposed periodically to fierce persecution. Milton's famous sonnet 
"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints" had reference to a cam- 
paign against them in the seventeenth century. Now more vigor- 
ous than ever, and essentially Presbyterian, they are the oldest 
member of the Protestant family. 


John Wyclif is commonly hailed as the "morning star of the 
Reformation." The period of his life was that of the Avignon 
papacy and the beginning of the Great Schism. He was a professor 
at Oxford and, by royal appointment, rector of Lutterworth, a 
town not many miles north of Oxford. The papacy, apparently 
tied to France, was at the lowest ebb of its international prestige. 
The rising spirit of English nationalism made it easy for anyone 
who challenged it to find defenders. Wyclif first came to promi- 
nence not as a reformer needing defenders but as himself a de- 
fender of England's position in a quarrel with the pope. The 
Statute of Provisors (1351) had been England's answer to a new 
papal claim to the right to make all appointments to church offices. 
The statute reserved English posts to appointment by English 
authorities. Ensuing controversies led to appeals to Rome. The 
Statute of Praemunire forbade such appeals. Wyclif was a mem- 


ber of a royal commission that went to Bruges to seek some adjust- 
ment of these conflicting claims with the pope's representatives. 
His rather too simple scheme of things regarded God as the feudal 
lord over all, nobles and clergy as his feudal tenants the clergy 
for spiritual things, kings and nobles for temporal, with the proviso 
that the civil powers could take over the property of the church 
if the clergy did not use it properly for spiritual ends. This was 
pleasing to the powerful John of Gaunt and the other nobles who 
viewed the vast possessions of the church with covetous eyes. 
Much of this property was not, in fact, being put to any spirit- 
ually beneficial use but who were they to be the judge? The 
higher clergy, the pope, and the rich orders of poor monks 
were indignant. Wyclif was forced to appear before the bishop 
of London to answer charges. A series of condemnatory bulls 
came from Gregory XI, who, just then moving the papacy 
back from Avignon to Rome and already confronted by a rival 
pope, was in no position to do anything but issue bulls. Popular 
English opinion and John of Gaunt were on Wyclif 's side. 

Meanwhile, the strictly religious side of Wyclif 's teaching had 
developed. It rested on a conviction that the Bible was the only 
valid authority. The voice of the church is the voice of the whole 
company of the faithful, not of the clergy or the pope. The 
worldly power exercised by the clergy and even the existence of 
the religious orders are anti-Christian because not authorized by 
the New Testament. It was therefore important to get the Bible 
into the hands of the common people in a language that they could 
read. Wyclif promoted and supervised a translation of the Latin 
Vulgate into English and probaby did the New Testament him- 
self. It was circulated as widely as it could be in manuscript copies. 
Printing, of course, had not yet been invented. Peripatetic preach- 
ers "poor preachers," they were called carried about copies of 
this first English Bible and preached Wyclif s doctrines, which 
included not only the simple gospel but attacks on the priesthood, 
episcopacy, and transubstantiation. Wyclif 's strength was his schol- 
arship and intellectual power, his courage, his personal piety, his 
appeal to the New Testament, and his English patriotism, which 


won him popularity and powerful support. He died in peace after 
a fairly long life. Thirty years later the Council of Constance 
ordered Wyclif s bones dug up and burned and the ashes scattered 
on the Avon. So it was said: 

The Avon to the Severn run$ y 

The Severn to the sea; 
So Wyclif s words shall spread abroad 

Wide as its waters be. 

Wyclif s words spread in England, too. His followers, called 
"Lollards," formed a Protestant underground which helped to 
prepare the way for the Reformation in England. It is impossible to 
estimate the strength of this group even approximately. Historians, 
guided chiefly by their own sympathies or antipathies, have 
guessed their influence as all the way from "negligible" to "im- 
portant." Our guess would be "considerable but not decisive." 
Probably Wyclif s greatest influence on the Reformation was as 
a memory, -as a name that became a watchword for Protestants, 
and as a translator of the Bible into English. 


The ^ work of John Huss in Bohemia was similar to that of 
Wyclif. It has been well established that the reform in Bohemia 
had its own initiating impulse, independent of Wyclif, but un- 
doubtedly Wyclif s career encouraged it. Huss, also, was an intel- 
lectual, a professor in the University of Prague and for a time 
its rector. He was a priest and the most popular preacher in 
Bohemia. His sentiments, evangelical to some and heretical to 
others, led to' a summons to appear before the Council of Con- 
stance. To induce him to come, and thus put himself in the power 
of his known enemies, the Emperor Sigismund gave him a safe- 
conduct guaranteeing his personal security. Nevertheless, the coun- 
cil condemned him as a heretic and turned him over to the emperor 
to have him burned. The shocking bad faith of this procedure has 
made the episode famous. The teaching of Huss and his colleagues 
did not die out with the fire of his martyrdom. The reform in 


Bohemia continued into and through the Reformation period and 
merged with the Protestant movement. 

The fifteenth century was a time of brilliant confusion and 
contrasting colors. It began with the Great Schism and ended with 
the Renaissance at or near its height. The monastic orders were 
suffering such decay and corruption as never before or after. The 
moral authority of the church was at low ebb. There was a break- 
down of its discipline over both clergy and laity. Yet never was 
papal Rome so indisputably the cultural capital of the world. We 
turn now to that fascinating and controversial theme, the Renais- 


Renaissance and Religion 

Something began to happen in Europe about the beginning of the 
fifteenth century that, whether one is disposed to approve or to 
deplore it, produced a profound change in men's ways of thinking, 
in the values they cherished, in their artistic and cultural activities, 
and in their attitudes toward religion. This total change has been 
called the Renaissance. Its earliest and most brilliant manifestations 
were in Italy. As a period of European history it may be con- 
veniently dated as from about 1400 to 1525. 

These dates are arbitrary and perhaps too narrow. The Renais- 
sance cannot be stretched back far enough to include Dante and 
Giotto, who were thirteenth-century medievalists, but it ought to 
include Petrarch and Boccaccio of the fourteenth. It might be 
extended to include the whole career of Michelangelo, who lived 
and worked until 1564 but with the consciousness in his later years 
that he had outlived his own era. It moved like a "wave across 
Europe, its crest arriving at successively later dates as it went north 
and west into Germany, France, the Netherlands, and England. 
Shakespeare and Bacon were men of the English high Renaissance 
early in the seventeenth century. The term should not be taken too 



seriously as denoting a historical period. It was a state of mind 
rather than the interval between any two dates. Making it a label 
for a period is relatively recent usage. But this is not surprising. 
Caesar did not call his writings "ancient history," and Thomas 
Aquinas did not realize that he was living in the "Middle Ages." 
Every era is "modern" to those who live in it and every period 
thinks it is an "age of transition." This one really was. 

The word "renaissance" means "rebirth"; or, by analogy, an 
awakening from a long, deep sleep. Jakob Burckhardt used the 
phrase "the discovery of the world and of man" as the title of one 
part of his great book on the Renaissance and it expresses his view 
of the movement as a whole. John Addington Symonds called it 
"the attainment of self-conscious freedom by the human spirit." 
Whether these terms represent true evaluations, whether it was 
in reality a cultural advance or a recession, is a debatable question. 
There are those who consider it a great decadence the passing of 
the "age of faith," the dissolution of the "medieval unity," the frag- 
mentation of what had been an "integrated society," an anarchistic 
revolt against legitimate spiritual authority and moral and intel- 
lectual absolutes. The authors do not take this view. In any case, 
we must ask ourselves what, if anything, was reborn or woke from 
sleep, and what were the consequences, both good and bad. 

The things that woke, or were reborn, were these: classical 
scholarship; the Greek ideal of the free individual and the versatile 
personality; intellectual curiosity; a sense of the values to be found 
in the joy of this life and the beauty of this world, unconditioned 
by any theological considerations; an approach to the problems of 
philosophy independent of theology. 

The rebirth of classical scholarship, commonly called the "re- 
vival of learning," involved the rediscovery of the lost manuscripts 
of many forgotten classics of Latin and Greek literature, the study 
and publication of these works, the imitation of their style, the 
recovery and popularization of knowledge of the Greek language. 
Scholars at that time could become as much excited about anything 
Greek as scientists are today about jet propulsion or atomic fission. 
Men of fashion who were not scholars felt the contagion of that 
enthusiasm. Browning's bishop, in "The Bishop Orders His Tomb 


at Saint Praxed's Church," spoke to the condition of his worldly 
nephews when he promised that the saint would get them "brown 
Greek manuscripts" as well as beautiful mistresses. The popes be- 
came the greatest of all the collectors of classic manuscripts, and the 
Vatican Library founded by Nicholas V, the first "Renaissance 
pope" the greatest of all collections. Aldo Minutius, Venetian 
printer, employed Greek servants, made his household speak Greek, 
and announced his ambition to issue editions of all the known Greek 
classics and to make them "accurate, beautiful and cheap." (What 
better slogan could any publisher have?) Newly found pieces of 
Greek sculpture quickened the sense of bodily beauty and rein- 
forced the other influences that were guiding artists toward its 
realistic representation. The reported finding of the perfectly pre- 
served body of a beautiful Roman girl in a tomb on the Appian 
Way seemed a symbol of the resurrection of classic antiquity. 

The ideal of the free individual, as portrayed in Graeco-Rornan 
history and literature, was a stimulus to impulses that had long 
been in abeyance. Here was the picture of a culture in which there 
was no regimentation of minds. The Greeks had had their con- 
ventional religious beliefs and practices, to be sure, but they had 
neither dogmas nor creeds. They had priests but no hierarchy, 
temples but no apparatus for compelling conformity to any cult. 
Membership in the mystery cults was voluntary and unrestrained. 
The Romans had insisted only on a ceremonial gesture of recogni- 
tion toward the "genius of the emperor"; beyond that, one could 
believe and worship as one pleased. Men of the Renaissance who 
read the ancient classics found in them more than an antiquarian 
interest. They heard a call to a kind of freedom that they had 
not known. The ideal of versatility found its exemplars in the per- 
sonnel of the classics. Plato had been the best writer as well as the 
best philosopher, and a political scientist and the designer of an 
ideal state besides. Aristotle was the universal man, his works an 
encyclopedia in everything but alphabetical arrangement. Cicero 
was lawyer, philosopher, statesman, orator, essayist. The originally 
whimsical statement of a character in a Latin comedy, "I am a 
man and nothing human is alien to me," was taken seriously as 
encouragement to a multiplicity of interests and activities. This 


became one aspect of Renaissance culture. Consider Alberti 
architect, painter, athlete, author of a Latin comedy good enough 
to be mistaken for a lost work of Plautus; or Michelangelo 
sculptor, painter, poet; or Leonardo da Vinci painter, sculptor, 
musician, military engineer, inventor. Others less notable achieved 
excellence in many fields, and no doubt many more cherished the 
ideal but lacked the requisite talent. 

Intellectual curiosity is probably one of the essential conditions 
of versatility. Add to it a sense of freedom from outer or inner 
compulsion to conformity with established institutions and ideas, 
and the result is a critical attitude toward whatever may be pro- 
posed for one's acceptance. Presuppositions are examined. Authori- 
ties are scrutinized. Time-honored assumptions are questioned. The 
scientific spirit is in the making, though its processes may still be 
crude and its immediate results erroneous. Nothing is more char- 
acteristic of the Renaissance than this attitude of free inquiry. It 
can be very dangerous to existing institutions. To say that it is the 
spirit of individualism challenging authority and custom is only 
another way of describing the same attitude. The Renaissance man 
felt himself to be first of all a free individual. Later, the very classi- 
cism that had spurred him to demand freedom became a new 
norm to check the exercise of it, but it had not yet come to that 
and when it did it was only in limited fields of culture, such as an 
artificial and pedantic Ciceronianism in literary style. 

It would be an insult to the medieval spirit to say that it put 
a low valuation upon man. On the contrary, it constantly held that 
man has infinite value, but this was man as a child of God and the 
church and therefore as a candidate for everlasting life. Because 
that value was so great, no earthly joy or beauty could be allowed 
to interfere with it as they usually did if indulged to any degree, 
for "the flesh warreth against the spirit and the spirit against the 
flesh." The Middle Ages did not originate that thought, but they 
gave it heavy emphasis. Undoubtedly the medieval man had many 
innocent joys with the sanction of the church, and others not so 
innocent which could be enjoyed with a bad conscience but with- 
out too much risk because the church provided the means of 
expunging the guilt of indulging in them. The Renaissance spirit, 


by contrast, revived a sense of the value of the natural man and the 
life that now is. Men imbued with that spirit lost interest, more 
than they lost belief, in what the church was saying about future 
bliss and the conditions of attaining it. "One world at a rime" 
might have been their motto, and this present world absorbed their 
attention. Their mood was "secular" in the sense that their con- 
cern was with the present saeculum (age), because it provided 
resources of joy and beauty that were rewarding in themselves. 
It was natural that the arts should flourish in such an atmosphere if 
this appreciation of the value of beauty were accompanied, as it 
was, by an outburst of creative energy. 

For those who applied the new-found freedom in an intel- 
lectual approach to fundamental problems rather than to the visual 
arts, the result was a development of philosophy independent of 
theology. Medieval philosophers had been primarily theologians. 
For them, philosophy had been the handmaiden of theology, the 
"queen of the sciences." Renaissance philosophers were primarily 
philosophers. Their impulse was to hew to the philosophical line 
and let the theological chips fall where they might. Plato became 
the chief stimulus to Renaissance philosophy, especially after 
Ficino's translation of his work into Latin. Neoplatonism had an 
allure for those whose temper was at once speculative and mystical, 
such as Pico della Mirandola. When a synthesis of philosophy with 
Christian doctrine was attempted it was not by the Thomist 
method of setting limits to reason and letting revelation take it 
from there, but, rather, on the assumption that whatever in Chris- 
tian doctrine did not parallel the findings of philosophy did not 
greatly matter. 

The Renaissance man, whether philosopher or not, assumed 
man's competence to learn the truth and to find the fulfillment of 
his deepest needs by his own unaided efforts. Experience proved 
that this blithe self-confidence needed some discipline, but mean- 
while it released a flood of intellectual and artistic energy which 
found expression in creative activities in painting, sculpture, archi- 
tecture, secular literature, scientific research, philosophical thought, 
and geographical discovery. The recovered classical heritage made 
specific contributions in the fields to which it was relevant, but its 


general effect in all of them was to promote the sense of freedom 
to use new methods and reach new conclusions. 


Neoclassic Renaissance architecture supplanted the Gothic, 
which had never been at its best in Italy. If not better, the new was 
at least different. It drew its inspiration from Roman rather than 
Greek buildings. Its heavy rounded arches, its massive pillars, 
decorative pilasters, elaborated architraves, and swelling domes 
lent themselves to the construction of buildings expressing worldly 
splendor and human power. The church was the best client for the 
architects and builders of such structures. Brunelleschi's dome at 
Florence signaled the opening of an era. The Vatican, first occu- 
pied by the popes as their regular residence after the return from 
Avignon (1377), was rebuilt almost from the ground (beginning 
in 1447) as a Renaissance palace. The new St. Peter's, begun soon 
after and under construction for nearly a century, attained the 
maximum in sheer magnificence. Both carried out the determina- 
tion of the first pope after the Great Schism to surround himself 
with such pomp and splendor at Rome that there could never 
again be any thought of moving the habitat of the Holy See or 
setting up a rival to its occupant. They are still the largest palace 
and the largest church in the world. Palaces also arose for the 
newly powerful and the newly rich. Italian nobles had palaces in 
the cities rather than castles on hilltops as in Germany or rural 
chateaux as in France. 

Painting and sculpture, hitherto symbolic rather than repre- 
sentational and entirely religious in subject matter, became realis- 
tic and partly secular. The artists used models. All of them used 
their eyes. Some of them even studied anatomy. Pictures, even if 
intended for altarpieces, glorified physical beauty rather than the 
ascetic life. The saints became athletes, recognizable as saints by 
their "attributes" (gridiron, arrows, lion, etc.), not by their emacia- 
tion. The Christs were now healthy and sometimes heroic human 
beings, and the Marys were beautiful young Italian mothers. Thus 
the church took into its bosom the influences against which it had 


warred in its teaching and, by "visual education" through the 
media of the pictures above its altars, the sculpture in its aisles, and 
the very architecture of the edifices that housed its ceremonies, 
inculcated the humanistic doctrine that its dogmas denied. Adam 
and Eve and Susanna and the elders became favorite subjects be- 
cause they gave opportunity for studies of the nude while still 
conforming to a popular preference for religious themes. Classic 
lore and mythology furnished an abundance of subject matter for 
pictures ordered by private patrons. There was also much por- 
traiture, as always in a time when there is much recently acquired 
wealth. Private patrons often gave pictures to churches, generally 
of a "saint with donor," and there were civic commissions in 
sculpture as well as in architecture. In many an Italian city-state 
the prince who only yesterday had been a rough soldier of fortune 
felt the need of enhancing his prestige and proving the respectabil- 
ity if not the legitimacy of his status by becoming a patron of art. 
It was a good time for artists. Their main motivation was aesthetic 
or economic or both. This was true even of those who, like Michel- 
angelo and Raphael, were truly devout and served the church for 
a mere pittance of pay. 

As to literature, the most conspicuous fact is the appearance of 
a host of secular writers and lay readers. Medieval authors, with 
very few exceptions, had been priests or monks and their themes 
had been religious. Reading had been drastically limited no less by 
the prevalent illiteracy of laymen than by the shortage of manu- 
script books. Latin was the only literary language until late in the 
Middle Ages. Few laymen and not all priests could read it. The 
vernaculars, which were developing into the modern languages, 
were little used for written communication. Dante felt it necessary 
to defend himself for writing the Divina Commedia in Italian 
instead of Latin. Boccaccio more than any other was the creator of 
Italian prose style. With the Renaissance came the popularization 
of the vernacular for literary use, and this in spite of the new en- 
thusiasm for the classical languages in intellectual circles. After 
the invention of printing there was a vastly larger audience of 
readers and a greater number of lay authors producing poetry and 
prose on every conceivable secular theme. Any history of Italian 


literature will furnish details to document these general statements. 
Literary humanism began with Petrarch. He and Boccaccio lived 
in the century before the main period of the Renaissance, but they 
both manifested its spirit. Members of the clergy, and even of the 
papal secretariat, contributed to the vernacular as well as to the 
Latin literature of the Renaissance, including some of its most 
secular examples. Under his own name, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolo- 
mini, Pope Pius II gained in early life a wide reputation as a poet 
and as the author of some very gamey literature, somewhat to his 
later embarrassment. In summary it may be said that Renaissance 
literature reflected the entire range of human interests in a secular 
and humanistic spirit, often using the patterns and imagery of 
pagan classical antiquity even when dealing with Christian themes. 

What was the effect of all this on the church and religion? 
Absolutely none upon the church's basic structure and its system 
of doctrine. General public opinion had never been a decisive 
factor in determining these. They were now too firmly fixed in the 
minds of the ruling hierarchy and too strongly fortified by long 
usage and the conviction of their divine authority to be subject 
to change with the changing temper of the time. The influence of 
the Renaissance was indeed to play a part in a great revolt against 
this system in the sixteenth century. We shall come to that in the 
next chapter. One reason for the revolt was that the system itself 
resisted change from within. The Council of Trent, which was 
held just after the end of the period that is called the Renaissance 
(insofar as it was a period), further solidified the doctrinal and 
structural system of the Roman church precisely as it had been 
before the Renaissance. In these respects the church was impervi- 
ous to change. 

The church underwent great changes, however, in its externals 
and in the character of its leadership. Its worship and ceremonials 
took on an unprecedented degree of splendor. The Vatican be- 
came as luxurious as any court in Europe, and by far the most 
magnificent. The popes and cardinals and many of the other higher 
clergy from the middle of the fifteenth century to the middle of 
the sixteenth were worldly and sophisticated men. The bishop who 
"orders his tomb in St. Praxed's" is no caricature. Some of these 
men were splendid examples of Renaissance culture. Such were 


Pope Leo X and Cardinal Bembo. This is not to impugn the 
sincerity of their belief in the doctrines of the church, but other 
interests determined their personalities and their behavior. Not 
since the tenth century had any pope laid himself open to such 
moral censure as did Alexander VI (1492-1503), the scandals of 
whose personal life and the malfeasance of whose administration 
made the name of Borgia a hiss and a byword to later generations. 
His case was too bad to be typical, but it fully exhibited the possi- 
bilities of moral deterioration when complete worldliness and free- 
dom from restraint coincide with almost unlimited facilities for 
indulgence. On the credit side it must be recognized that many 
of the Renaissance popes were intelligent patrons of art, literature, 
and scholarship. 

For the cultured laity, as well as for the clergy both high and 
low, the actual standards and the most cherished values of life 
tended to become those of Graeco-Roman paganism. As some of 
these standards and values were better and some were worse, the 
practical results were various and contradictory. For fine spirits, 
preoccupation with the temporal scene and the acceptance of un- 
accustomed liberty for the individual did not exclude a sense of 
spiritual realities and a moral order. We find, for example, Vit- 
torino da Feltre the teacher, Michelangelo the artist, Castiglione 
the courtier. For base spirits, the "discovery of the world and of 
man" meant release for indulgence in lavish luxury, ruthless power, 
worldly pride, indecency, and the sins of the flesh. So we find 
Ludovico Sforza, the usurper of Milan; Aretino, the foul-mouthed 
and blackmailing "scourge of princes"; Filelfo, the racketeer of 
humanism; and Roderigo Borgia, the ecclesiastic willing to disgrace 
the church in order to win place and power for his illegitimate 
children. To put it mildly and generally, the relaxation of re- 
straint upon thought was paralleled by a degree of laxity in be- 
havior. There were probably as many sins, and of as many kinds, 
before as during the Renaissance, but more people now committed 
them openly, nonchalantly, and with no pretense of penitence. 

As a partial corrective of excessive individualism amounting to 
lawlessness in conduct:, there arose the ideal of the cultivated "gen- 
tleman." This found expression in many books which may be 
classed as books of etiquette though they were more than that. 


The most famous, though not necessarily the first, of these was The 
Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione, a guide to the behavior, accom- 
plishments, and moral principles that should be expected of a 
gentleman moving in polite society. 

The fundamental characteristics of the Renaissance were a 
predominant interest in the values to be found in this present 
world, a sense of the individual's right and power to seek these 
values for himself, and a critical attitude toward any institutions or 
authorities that stood in his way. There was a consequent loss of 
interest in religion as represented by a church that was dogmatic 
and authoritarian on principle, and that was itself deeply pene- 
trated in its personnel and administration by the secularity of the 
Renaissance, but that still resisted its demand for intellectual liberty. 
There was no general revolt against the church in Italy, because 
at that time it imposed no effective barrier to freedom of thought 
outside of the area of its dogmas, and few laymen were enough 
interested in these even to deny them. There was less real heresy in 
Italy during the Renaissance than in the thirteenth century. Few 
men were antireligious or antiecclesiastical, but many were nonre- 
ligious and regarded the church as an important part of the total 
sociopolitical structure but as entitled to no special reverence. 

The church presently swept away its corruptions by a drastic 
house cleaning, known as the Catholic Reformation (see Chapter 
XX), and at the same time consolidated and reinforced its posi- 
tion on its historic ground. If immorality and worldliness are bad 
and if religious and intellectual liberty are good, then it can be 
said that the Roman church swept out both the good and the evil 
of the Renaissance. Those who think that the spirit of independence 
from hierarchical authority, the untrammeled search for truth, and 
a rational approach to the fundamental problems are themselves 
evil will necessarily consider the Renaissance as a disastrous period 
in the history of religion and culture. Those who regard these 
things as good will think that the movement is properly named a 
Rebirth. In any case, the fruitful development and application of 
these attitudes came later and elsewhere. It may be that the conse- 
quences of the Renaissance were more important in the nineteenth 
and twentieth centuries than in the sixteenth. 


The Protestant Reformation 

When Martin Luther, Augustinian monk and professor of theology 
at the new University of Wittenberg in Saxony, posted his historic 
Ninety-five Theses (topics for academic disputation) on the door 
of the castle church the evening of October 31, 1517, he had no 
suspicion that he was precipitating a revolution that would divide 
Christendom. The act was like the dislodging of a stone that starts 
an avalanche. Posting the theses was pulling the trigger of a 
loaded gun. It was the occasion, not the cause, of the Protestant 

The Reformation began near the end of the period of the 
Renaissance and was to some extent a product of the forces that 
collectively bear that name. Not all the Renaissance characteristics 
were adopted, and other ingredients had to be added to make the 
mixture as explosive as it quickly became. The reformers rejected 
the pagan abuses of Renaissance classicism and the moral laxity that 
grew out of exclusive preoccupation with the beauties, joys, and 
values of this present world, but they followed the lead of the 
Renaissance men in claiming their right as individuals to form their 
own judgment as to the meaning of life, the values to be sought, 



and the ways of attaining them. If the ancient classics were to be 
taken as the guide of life, they chose as the object of their atten- 
tion that ancient classic known as the Bible. If the "revival of learn- 
ing" was to make ancient standards the norm for modern men, they 
would take the Scriptures as the authoritative classics of the faith 
and, relying on them as containing a standard more certainly valid 
than any of later origin, would restore the essentials of primitive 
and therefore perfect Christianity. 

Italian humanists, with their critical attitude toward contem- 
porary institutions, had satirized ecclesiastics and flouted the au- 
thority of the church even while remaining within its membership 
and sometimes in its pay. Consider Lorenzo Valla's devastating 
critique of the "Donation of Constantine" and his no less damning 
judgment upon the misgovernment of the "patrimony" which, as 
he proved, Constantine did not donate; Petrarch's almost libelous 
descriptions of the papal court at Avignon, his home town; Boccac- 
cio's hilarious and bawdy mockery of licentious monks and clergy; 
Guicciardini's caustic comments on Vatican politics and morals; 
Michelangelo's sonnet on the apostasy of Rome, where "the blood 
of Christ is sold so much the quart"; Pomponazzi's general chal- 
lenge of Christian doctrines and his specific denial of immortality. 
The freedom of criticism that these men and multitudes of others 
claimed, and could not be prevented from exercising, was now 
claimed and exercised by those who, not satisfied with criticizing 
abuses, felt compelled to undertake a reformation of the church in 
doctrine and practice. Every revolution from the beginning of 
time has been the defiance of constituted authorities by individuals, 
either separately or in association. The Renaissance had applied this 
method in the intellectual and cultural life. The reformers applied 
it in religion. As is usual in successful revolutions, the reformers 
checked the individualism of their movement and set up other 
authorities when they had gained freedom from the old ones; but 
the liberty that had been their initial assumption, and without 
which they could never have made a start, remained a potent 
though long latent factor in the institutions that developed. 

The Renaissance also furnished the reformers with the ap 


paratus and methodology of classical scholarship for use in the 
fulfillment of their purpose. Luther and Melanchthon knew their 
Greek and, what was rarer, their Hebrew. Zwingli and Calvin 
were linguistic humanists before they were religious reformers. 
The English reformers were practically all university men well 
trained in the new learning. Even the generally despised Ana- 
baptists had their competent scholars who could match their 
knowledge of the classical languages against all comers. 


The impulse that started Luther on the path that led to the 
Reformation was an intense anxiety about the salvation of his own 
soul. It was not from the Renaissance but from the teaching of the 
Catholic Church that he derived a sense of the terrible nature of 
sin and its eternal consequences. While still a monk he was brought 
to the verge of despair by the consciousness of his own sinful state. 
It may be said parenthetically that it is not the people who commit 
the most sins but those who have the tenderest consciences who 
are most vividly conscious of sin. Luther's problem, then, was how 
to get his sins absolved. Study of the epistles of Paul and the 
writings of Augustine led him to doubt that this could be done by 
confession and priestly absolution and that salvation could be 
purchased by good works, penance, and appropriation of the 
merits of the sacraments and the saints. He became convinced that 
salvation was the free and unmerited gift of God conditioned only 
on man's appropriation of it by faith in Christ as Saviour through 
his atoning death. Such faith, he said, led to that inner transforma- 
tion which St. Paul had called "newness of life" and to assurance 
of salvation. Man had direct access to God without the need of 
any intermediary sacrament, priest, or saint. Virtuous living and 
the performance of religious duties were not the price by which 
man could purchase salvation, but were the natural result of the 
inner change that God wrought in the heart through faith. 

Luther had got thus far in solving his own religious problem 
and discovering what he considered the true way of attaining for- 


giveness of sins and acceptance by God without the meritorious 
"works" prescribed by the church, when peddlers of indulgences 
put on an especially intensive campaign in Germany. This was 
what touched off his revolt against the whole system of which 
they were a part. 

Pope Leo X needed money to carry on the building of St. 
Peter's at Rome, designed to be as it became and still is the 
costliest, largest, and most magnificent church in the world. Prince 
Albrecht, who had recently bribed his way to election as arch- 
bishop of Mainz, needed a papal dispensation to enable him to hold 
this post because he akeady had two other bishoprics and was 
under canonical age, and he also needed money both to repay 
to the great Fugger banking house what he had borrowed to 
finance his election and to pay the pope for the dispensation and 
for the pallium as archbishop. Between them they made a contract 
by which Albrecht was to be general commissioner for the sale 
of indulgences in Germany and the proceeds were to be equally 
divided between the pope and the prince. A secret clause in the 
contract had provided for Albrecht's getting his share, but the 
fact soon came to public knowledge. The whole sales campaign 
was handled very badly and not in conformity with sound Catholic 
doctrine. The theory of indulgences was that the purchaser must 
evince true penitence and that the cash payment was made in lieu 
of some other form of penance. There had been abuses of the 
system before, but none so notorious as when the Dominican 
Tetzel set forth as chief agent in what was a purely financial enter- 
prise. The principal appeal was to buy release from purgatory for 
deceased relatives and friends thus obviously eliminating the re- 
quirement of penitence from the transaction. Many good Catholics 
were indignant at this scandalous campaign, some on religious and 
some on other grounds. Conscientious priests found it demoralizing 
to their people, some of whom were led to believe that they could 
even buy forgiveness in advance for the sins they intended to com- 
mit. There were Dominicans who protested that it was giving their 
order a bad name. Merchants complained that their wares went 
unsold because the customers spent too much money for indul- 
gences. Princes did not take it kindly that money was flowing out 


of their states into Albrecht's pocket. All these "nontheological 
factors" converged to create a wave of popular protest in northern 
Germany and there were rumblings of discontent elsewhere. 

Luther's Ninety-five Theses, though technically only an an- 
nouncement of propositions for discussion, were really an attack 
upon the theory as well as the practice and abuses of the sale of 
indulgences and the presuppositions behind it. Indulgences, when 
properly used and not exploited by ecclesiastical racketeers like 
Tetzel, were an integral part of the church's disciplinary system, 
which included confession, absolution, penance, the "bank of 
merits" accumulated by the saints, purgatory, and masses for the 
souls of the departed. To attack them was to deny the authority of 
the church that issued them. By implication it was to bring into 
question everything else that the church had authorized in both 
doctrine and discipline. Whatever the intention, the theses were an 
inflammatory manifesto. A German version of the Latin original 
went through Saxony and the adjacent German states like a prairie 
fire. Its religious appeal was reinforced by political, economic, and 
moral considerations, and the popular response was great and spon- 
taneous. Pope Leo X had at first been inclined to consider the 
whole thing a mere tempest in a beer pot, stirred up by the tem- 
porary exuberance of a "drunken German monk." He was soon 
convinced that the matter was more serious, and in 1518 he sum- 
moned Luther to Rome. Luther evaded the summons by gaining 
strong political support for the claim that he ought to be examined 
or tried in Germany if anywhere. Consultations between Luther 
and representatives of Rome got nowhere. The reforming party 
had quickly come to the conviction that the church needed not 
only a correction of administrative abuses it got that a little later 
from within but a thorough reformation of its doctrine and struc- 

In 1520 the pope issued against Luther the bull Exsurge Domine, 
denouncing forty-one errors in his writings, the "pestiferous virus" 
of which he could no longer tolerate, and threatening, rather than 
actually pronouncing, excommunication. Luther burned the bull 
when it finally reached him. In that year also he wrote and pub- 
lished three brief treatises, in two of which he violently attacked 


practically every doctrine and practice that now distinguishes 
Roman Catholicism from what can be regarded as the common 
ground of Protestants. This is where he really crossed his Rubicon 
and reached the point of no return. 

The next year Luther was summoned before a Diet of the 
empire, at Worms, by the young Emperor Charles V, a grandson 
of Spain's Ferdinand and Isabella. He went to Worms under the 
emperor's safe-conduct and the protection of Elector Frederick 
of Saxony; replied to the charge of departing from Catholic ortho- 
doxy by saying he would recant if, and only if, he could be proved 
wrong by the authority of Scripture; summed up his defense by 
the famous dictum "Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, 
amen"; and got away alive. 

How did it come about that a man already excommunicated, 
and now flinging such defiance into the faces of an emperor and a 
papal legate, could escape the flames that had consumed so many 
lesser heretics? It was not the emperor's safe-conduct that saved 
him. John Huss had carried with him to the Council of Constance 
a similar guarantee from the Emperor Sigismund, but he was 
burned nonetheless. The explanation is to be found in the political 
changes, and to some extent in the religious changes, of the inter- 
vening century. The German states had gained more independence; 
the German princes were more nearly sovereign in their territories; 
their allegiance to the emperor, never more than a vague respect 
for the high dignity of his office, did not include any obligation to 
support his policies. The feudal empire was dissolving into nations. 
Spain itself, of which Charles had been king before he became 
emperor, was a nation outside of the empire. This circumstance 
further weakened his authority over the states that were the 
empire's constituent parts. Furthermore, Luther's program of 
reform had already won a significant following among the com- 
mon people, the scholars, the knights, and the princes of some of 
the German states. Most important of all, Luther had the backing 
of his own prince, the Elector Frederick of Saxony. 

Luther's situation at the Diet of Worms was dangerous but not 
desperate. Apprehensive that assassination might accomplish what 
formal condemnation could not, his friends kidnaped him as he 


started on his return journey to Wittenberg and hid him in 
Wartburg Castle for eight months. While there he translated the 
New Testament from Greek into German. This was not the first 
German version, but it was the first to gain wide circulation. This, 
with the later addition of the Old Testament, became one of the 
cornerstones of the Reformation and also the most important 
monument of modern German prose. 

The political factor was of crucial importance in the Protestant 
Reformation. Church and state had been working together ever 
since the days of Constantine and Theodosius for the defense and 
support of what was deemed the true religion. In Saxony now, and 
soon in other German states, the civil powers came to the aid of 
what, under Luther's tutelage, they had come to consider the true 
religion. So rapid was its spread that, when another imperial diet was 
held at Speyer five years after the one at Worms, it was agreed that 
Lutheran states might remain Lutheran and Catholic states Catholic 
and each should be tolerant toward followers of the other faith. This 
was going pretty far in legalizing the new movement. Three years 
later another diet at Speyer modified this arrangement to the advan- 
tage of the Catholic side by destroying this legal equilibrium. The 
new plan was that Catholics should be tolerated everywhere but that 
followers of the reform need not be tolerated in Catholic states. 
Several princes and cities that had adopted the reform protested 
ineffectually against the inequity of this program and thereby 
earned the name of "Protestants," which was later extended to 
cover the whole reform movement. 

We need not trace the tensions and conflicts of the next few 
years. Luther always insisted that he was not at war with the 
church and had never left it, but, on the contrary, that he was 
trying to save it from a hierarchy that had usurped control of it 
and to cleanse it of the corruptions of doctrine and practice that 
had crept into it. He and his colleagues were reluctant to give up 
hope of a reconciliation with Rome, but any such hope was so 
obviously foredoomed to disappointment one wonders that it could 
ever have been entertained for a moment. Its fulfillment would 
have meant the abdication of the pope and the radical revision of 
what had become established doctrines and practices of the 


Catholic Church. Meanwhile, the parries were solidifying in Ger- 
many, and always along political lines. States whose rulers were 
Lutheran became Lutheran states; those whose rulers were Catholic 
remained Catholic. This principle was clearly stated in the Peace 
of Augsburg (1555), which fixed the rule Cuius regio elus religio 
(He who rules the territory determines its religion). This is a 
basic doctrine in the state-church system. Its presupposition was 
that all the citizens of any state must profess the same religion. The 
same principle was reaffirmed nearly a century later in the Peace 
of Westphalia (1648), which ended the Thirty Years' War. 

Luther himself, the undisputed leader of the German Reforma- 
tion, was a compound of strangely contrasting qualities. His 
physical and mental vigor were such that he evidently seemed to 
many observers to be a bigger man than he actually was. An eye- 
witness of his debate with Eck at Leipsic in 1519 described him as 
"of middle height, emaciated from care and study so that you can 
almost count his bones through his skin," but immediately adds 
that "he is in the vigor of manhood." One can see that, whether in 
his youthful emaciation or in his middle-aged corpulence, he 
exhibited a high degree of both somatic and cerebral energy. In 
his prime he seemed bursting with animal spirits and intellectual 
dynamic. His sermons and tracts seemed to erupt from him in a 
torrent. His clarion voice could summon to spiritual battle in tones 
that echo across the years as one reads his greatest writings. At 
home with his wife and family for he dramatized his repudiation 
of clerical celibacy by taking a wife sitting at his table drinking 
"good Wittenberg beer" while he regaled his countless guests with 
the "Table Talk" that still makes good reading, playing his flute 
in the orchestra he formed with his children, or like a good pastor 
visiting the sick and poor, he was a Luther of infinite fascination. 
But there was also the Luther who could fly into a towering rage, 
who could vilify his opponents with abusive language dredged 
from the gutter, and who could call upon the princes to crush with 
the utmost ferocity the social uprising of what he called "the 
murderous and thieving rabble of peasants," who had been driven 
by starvation to disorderly and desperate measures. There was the 
Luther of deep inner devotion spending hours in prayer before 


dawn, the author of the battle hymn of the Reformation, Bin feste 
Burg 1st unser Gott, the scholarly and voluminous Biblical com- 
mentator, and the dogmatist who would not take the hand of a 
fellow reformer because they differed as to the mode of Christ's 
presence in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. 

The Protestant Reformation was not one movement that later 
divided. It was at least four movements which never united. Luther 
was the leader of the first, John Calvin of the second. The third 
was the English Reformation. These three gave rise to state 
churches all of which perpetuated as long as they could the 
medieval design of permitting no rival or dissenting church to exist 
within their respective areas of jurisdiction. The fourth, with roots 
reaching farther back, gave rise to those Protestant communions 
which on principle stressed voluntary membership, religious 
liberty, and separation between church and state. 


John Calvin was as different from Luther in personality as one 
man can well be from another. He was a wispy intellectual with a 
rigidly logical mind, with a Frenchman's clarity of thought and 
expression, and with the legalistic bent which training as a lawyer 
had given him. He belonged to the generation after Luther. Ref- 
ormation ideas had filtered into France while he was a student at 
Paris, and they appealed to him. Forced to flee from France, he 
stopped overnight at Geneva and stayed there the rest of his life. 
The city had recently gained freedom from its overlord and driven 
out the bishop who had been on the losing side of this little 
revolution. The city was ripe for reorganization, and Calvin 
reorganized it as a theocratic community with such insistent over- 
sight of the morals of its citizens that at one time, before he was 
well set, the more worldly element drove him into banishment. 
After three years they were glad enough to call him back from 
Strasbourg, where he had been carrying on a similar but less 
strenuous program. He never held public office but, since the 
members of the church and the voting citizens were identical 
bodies, and since the advice of the council of ministers to the civil 


authorities was considered mandatory, John Calvin, as chief min- 
ister, was virtually the ruler of Geneva until his death. 

Calvin's great contributions were the systematization of Protes- 
tant theology and the development of a presbyterial form of 
church government. His formulation of the Reformed doctrine 
began with his Institutes of the Christian Religion, written in its 
first form when he was only twenty-six years old and addressed to 
the king of France. Its primary purpose was to convince the king 
that the Protestant faith was not heretical and that its adherents 
should not be persecuted. In subsequent editions the original six 
chapters were elaborated into eighty-one and it became and has 
remained the greatest of all Protestant theological treatises. The 
central thesis of this system of theology, the Augustinian doctrine 
of the absolute sovereignty of God, was developed with remorse- 
less logic to the conclusion that before the beginning of time God 
had determined the precise number and chosen the particular 
individuals who were to be saved and had either consigned the rest 
of the human race to everlasting damnation (the "double decree") 
or at least permitted them to drop into hell by the weight of the 
guilt of their "original sin" inherited from Adam. This is the 
famous doctrine of election and predestination in its absolute form. 
Presbyterian and Reformed churches today, still cherishing Calvin- 
ism as their spiritual heritage, have found ways of interpreting it 
in less rigorous terms and of stressing the sovereignty of God with- 
out such ruthless damnation of "non-elect infants" dying in 
infancy. Whether or not Calvin's doctrine of irresistible predestina- 
tion is logically consistent with human freedom and responsibility, 
the historical fact is that nowhere has the demand for freedom been 
stronger or the sense of moral responsibility more rugged than 
among the spiritual heirs of Calvin. 

Out of the Geneva church came also a form of church organ- 
ization and government which, by the place it gave to elders 
("presbyters") elected by the congregation, not only recognized 
the laity as the source of ecclesiastical authority, but also set a 
pattern for a republican form of representative government. 

The figure of Calvin in history remains as cool, remote, 
desiccated, and repellent of familiarity as was the living man when, 


accosted by an enthusiastic refugee as "Brother Calvin," he 
answered frostily that the proper form of address to him was 
"Monsieur." Calvin's Geneva was, nevertheless, hospitable to 
refugees, and there were plenty of them as Protestants fled to 
escape their persecutors in many parts of western Europe. For this 
reason Geneva became a school of theology. Returning refugees 
carried the Institutes with them in their baggage and in their heads 
when they returned to their former homes. Calvinism became the 
doctrine and Presbyterianism the polity of Protestantism west of 
the Rhine, and in no small degree east of it. In England and in 
colonial America it became Puritanism. 

It was consistent with Calvin's idea of the "holy state" that the 
heretical Servetus should be brought to trial, condemned, and 
burned (1553) when he trespassed on the soil of Geneva. This 
bold Spaniard was a scientist ahead of his time and a free-lance 
theologian of rationalistic temper. He had already been condemned 
by the Inquisition in Spain but had escaped from its prison. While 
a fugitive, he had engaged in acrimonious correspondence with 
Calvin and had been warned to stay away from Geneva, but he 
came. Calvin did not actively instigate his trial and condemnation, 
but he approved and consented. His associate, Theodore Beza, 
published an extended defense of the action but the event shocked 
the larger Protestant community. It was never repeated, though of 
course that was not the end of either Protestant or Catholic perse- 
cution. Sebastien Castellio wrote a reply to Beza which, though 
Castellio himself was regarded as a heretic, had far-reaching influ- 
ence in turning Protestants away from the use of inquisitorial meth- 
ods in the defense of their faith. Years later, Genevan Calvinists 
erected an "expiatory monument" on the site of the burning, not 
to signify approval of Servetus's views but as a testimony to their 
disapproval of violence as an instrument for the defense of ortho- 

There were other liberal thinkers, somewhat akin to Servetus 
and Castellio, who were on the side of religious reformation but 
did not come within any of the three groups of orthodox and 
"respectable" reformers. Faustus Socinus or, in its original Italian 
form, Fausto Sozzini was one of these. Unlike the leaders of the 


three great groups of reformers (Lutheran, Calvinistic, and 
AngUcan), Socinus did not regard Nicene trinitarianism and the 
supplementary decisions of the so-called Ecumenical Councils as 
theological bedrock beneath which reforming thinkers could not 
drill. His views were by no means identical with those of fourth- 
century Arius, which the Council of Nicaea had rejected, but the 
similarity was such that the two terms, Arianism and Socinianism, 
have ever since been linked as designating denial of the "deity of 
Jesus" and of the "identity of substance" between the Father and 
the Son. Socinus became the progenitor of modern Unitarianism. 
Other influences, especially in English thought in the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries, were more directly responsible for the 
development of this phase of Christian "liberalism." Socinus was 
never in any sense its "authority," but he was its best known fore- 
runner. Dissatisfaction with traditional trinitarianism ran as a 
current of thought beside or at times inconspicuously beneath 
the main stream of Protestant orthodoxy. It found an ally in deism 
and an intellectual resource in the philosophy of the Enlighten- 
ment. It gave its own coloration to a large segment of English 
Presbyterianism in the eighteenth century, and came conspicuously 
to the surface in the revolt against New England Calvinism and 
the establishment of Unitarianism as a distinct denomination early 
in the nineteenth century. Though this denomination has remained 
small in numbers, it has included many American intellectuals, and 
the influence of its type of thought has been out of proportion to 
its statistics. 


The Reformation in England was less revolutionary, less 
radical, and more complicated than the movements led by Luther 
and Calvin. The insular position of England encouraged her 
nationalistic spirit and her resentment toward any interference 
from the continent. Patriotic Englishmen, the laymen more than 
the clergy, had a sense of the distinctive character of the church 
in England for centuries before separation from Rome made it the 
Church of England. Henry VIII had personal and dynastic reasons 


for desiring the annulment of his marriage with Catherine of 
Aragon so that he might marry another. The pope had political 
reasons for refusing to annul it, since Catherine was the aunt of 
Emperor Charles V, whose friendship and help he desperately 
needed. The only kind of "reformation" (if one can call it that) 
that interested Henry was the transfer of the supreme ecclesiastical 
authority for England from Rome to England. When that was 
accomplished by act of Parliament, there was an independent 
Church of England. 

But the matter was not so simple as this might suggest. Other 
reformatory influences had been at work. There was the "evangeli- 
cal underground" of Wyclif's successors, the Lollards. There was 
the new learning of the Renaissance, flourishing at both Oxford 
and Cambridge and partly devoted to the study of the New 
Testament in Greek. There was William Tyndale translating the 
New Testament from Greek into English. There was a strong 
infiltration of Lutheran ideas so strong, indeed, that Henry him- 
self felt called upon to write a book against them, for which the 
pope gave him the title "Defender of the Faith." Before the end of 
Henry's reign which was the year after Luther's death leading 
clergy and laity in England were embarked on a vigorous reforma- 
tion of doctrine and cultus, though Henry had done little to help 
it except to repudiate the authority of the pope and confiscate the 
property of the monasteries. It advanced still farther under the 
boy king Edward VI, who succeeded Henry. The five-year reign 
of Mary Tudor, daughter of the divorced Catherine, brought a 
violent restoration of Roman Catholicism, with the burning of 
something like three-hundred prominent Protestants. Many fled to 
Geneva, whence they presently returned more Protestant than 
ever and with a pronounced coloration of Calvinism. Thereafter 
there were two main parties those who wanted a conservative 
reform maintaining bishops in continuity with their long line of 
predecessors and a liturgical service according to the Book of 
Common Prayer, and those (the Puritans) who would do away 
with both and Presbyterianize the Church of England. The 
Elizabethan Settlement, which was itself a middle Way between 
Roman Catholicism and Puritanism, established episcopacy. Even 


then the matter was not finally determined, for the Puritans were 
a continuing and increasing factor until their very success during 
the fifteen-year interregnum between the execution of Charles I 
and the return of Charles II became their undoing. 

During that stormy hundred years between the Elizabethan 
Settlement and the restoration of the Stuarts, it was a settled cer- 
tainty that the Church of England was going to be Protestant, but 
one could never be sure whether it would turn out to be Episcopal 
or Puritan. One of the strongest infusions of thoroughgoing 
Puritanism in its Presbyterian form flowed southward over the 
border from Scotland. There John Knox a blazing reformer who, 
after escape from the Catholic Scotland of his youth, a term in the 
French galleys, and a short period in England, had drunk deep of 
the Calvinistic waters of Geneva had carried through a strictly 
Presbyterian reformation of the Church of Scotland. He had 
forced the abdication of the beautiful but willful Mary Queen of 
Scots and driven her to seek asylum (and another throne) in 
England. Elizabeth could scarcely thank him for that, for Mary 
had many Catholic friends who pressed her adverse claim to 
Protestant Elizabeth's crown. To Knox as much as to anyone is 
due the Puritan tradition of defiance of the secular powers when 
these set themselves against what Puritans deemed their religious 
and civil rights. English dissenters and American colonists of later 
times learned much from Knox. 

When James VI of Scotland, Mary Stuart's son, became James 
I of England, it was the hope of English Puritans that he would 
revise the Elizabethan Settlement and Presbyterianize the Church 
of England. He did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, the 
terms of the settlement were more strictly enforced. It was not, 
however, until his son Charles I came to the throne that the lot of 
the Puritans became insufferable. Two contrasting results fol- 
lowed: the great Puritan migration to New England in the 1630's, 
and the alliance of English Puritanism with the parliamentary party 
that grew up in opposition to the royal autocracy which the 
bishops were supporting. Parliament and Puritans triumphed 
together. Charles and Archbishop Laud went to the block. It was 
in this period that the Westminster Assembly, summoned by 


Parliament and thus ostensibly representing the Church of Eng- 
land, drafted the Westminster Confession, which is to this day the 
standard of Presbyterian orthodoxy. 

Not all Puritans were Presbyterians. Of almost equal historical 
importance, though less in numbers, were the Independents, pro- 
genitors of modern Congregationalism. Countless minor groups 
complicated the situation. Some of them, such as the Levelers, were 
such sturdy fighters for individual liberty and democratic rights 
that they seemed to their own time revolutionaries, and to ours, 
prophets. John Milton, hard to classify ecclesiastically, was one of 
these left-wing Puritans. It fell to the lot of Oliver Cromwell to 
rule the realm as Lord Protector, suppress revolt, end a civil war, 
and hold in leash the conflicting forces that could not be 
harmonized. The task was impossible for anyone but him. When 
death loosened the grip of his strong and often ruthless hand, the 
Commonwealth was doomed and England was glad to restore its 
monarchy. Charles II came back from France. 

The Elizabethan Settlement was restored along with the Stuarts 
with the addition of even stronger measures against Puritanism in 
all its forms. All dissent from episcopacy was outlawed. Almost 
to the end of the seventeenth century England remained as firmly 
committed as Rome had ever been to the principle that only one 
form of religion could be permitted to exist and that it was the 
business of the state to apply what pressure might be necessary to 
prevent any other from existing. But England was never very good 
at practicing a consistent and continuous policy of religious perse- 
cution. A good many nonconformists were imprisoned but there 
were no burnings or hangings under the restored Stuarts. 

The end of England's long regime of religious intolerance 
seemed to come almost as a by-product of the "bloodless revolu- 
tion" of 1689 just a hundred years before France's bloody one 
when the autocratic rule of the Stuarts was followed by the liberal 
reign of William and Mary. The fact that Mary was the daughter 
of James II provided the "legitimacy," and the statesmanship of 
her Dutch husband furnished the liberalism. The Toleration Act in 
the first year of their reign suspended the penal laws against non- 
conformists and introduced the modern era of religious tolerance. 


Episcopacy remained firmly established as the structure of the 
Church of England, but dissenting bodies of Presbyterians, Inde- 
pendents, and Baptists could exist and function with security, 
though still with some social disadvantages and some restrictions on 
civil rights. Just four years earlier (1685) Louis XIV, moving in 
the opposite direction, had outlawed Protestantism in France by 
revoking the Edict of Nantes, by which Henry IV had given legal 
status and a limited measure of religious liberty to Protestants. In 
the preceding years Louis had done his best to exterminate them. 
He explained the revocation of the edict by saying that protection 
of Protestants in France had become unnecessary because they no 
longer existed! This may be one reason why Roman Catholics in 
England, though still not persecuted, got no restoration of full civil 
rights from the Toleration Act. 

What was earlier referred to as the "fourth movement" that 
contributed to the totality of the Protestant Reformation included 
the Socinians, who have already been mentioned, but it began with 
the Anabaptists, Even before Luther had sounded his note, there 
were some little groups of earnest souls who had become convinced 
that the church should consist only of those who voluntarily joined 
it by making their personal commitment to Christ, that the Church 
should have no connection whatever with the civil power or the 
state, and that the Roman Catholic Church with its hierarchical 
dignitaries, worldly power, sacramental system, and elaborate 
rituals had fatally departed from the primitive pattern. There are 
no reliable historical data upon which to base a judgment as to 
how many of these radically dissenting groups there had been, how 
early they arose, how continuous had been their testimony, or how 
complete had been their acceptance of the points that have just 
been enumerated. They were, at best, a religious underground in 
the times when nonconformity with the existing order was 
punishable by death, and they were humble people whose thoughts 
and actions would not have been conspicuous enough to attract 
much attention even if considerations of safety had not made it 
wise to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Some Baptists of today 
believe that there had been an unbroken succession of such from 
Apostolic days, but the evidence is too fragmentary to convince 


any except those who consider it important that it should be so. 

Certainly the three basic beliefs mentioned above do not seem 
terribly shocking to Protestants of today, especially American 
Protestants, but they were violently revolutionary in the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries. Catholics, of course, regarded all three as 
nothing short of religious anarchy. The first two gave offense alike 
to Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anglicans, all of whom held that the 
church is an institution into which the infant children of believers 
should be inducted at the earliest possible moment, and that it was 
right and proper for the state to lend its support to the "true" 
religion and to suppress all others. Zwingli approved the judicial 
drowning of the Anabaptists when they appeared in Zurich. Luther 
sanctioned the death penalty decreed against them by that same 
Diet of Speyer (1529) at which the resistance of his followers to 
what they deemed unfair treatment won them the name of "Protes- 
tants." Melanchthon instigated the execution of some Anabaptists 
at Jena in 1536. They were long regarded as an embarrassment to 
all the respectable reformers, as left-wing extremists are likely to be 
in any liberal or reforming movement. 

This intolerance was bad enough, but not quite as reprehensible 
as it may seem. Although the Anabaptists included in their number 
some men of sober character and sound scholarship, and although 
they embodied an idea that was destined to be of decisive impor- 
tance in the development of Protestantism, democracy, and civil 
rights, they had a lunatic fringe which attracted more attention 
than their basic ideas, and it was a very broad fringe. First, they 
became entangled with the Peasants' Revolt, which appeared to 
involve them in a campaign of terrorism against landlords. The 
connection was incidental rather than fundamental. Many Ana- 
baptists were peasants, and the lot of the peasants was so bleak that 
their violent measures to obtain redress of grievances are under- 
standable now, though then they seemed subversive of the whole 
social order. Further, many of the Anabaptists became obsessed 
with chiliastic ideas the end of the world was just around the 
corner, the Second Coming of Christ was at hand, they were the 
prophets of the New Age, they would soon be sitting on thrones 
of glory while the rest of the world would be groveling at their 


feet. John of Leyden and his colleagues undertook to set up an 
apocalyptic kingdom at Miinster. Though this was actually only a 
minor episode precipitated by a crazed enthusiast, the scandalous 
proceedings gave the Anabaptists such a bad press that, under that 
name, they virtually faded out of the picture. 

The real ideas back of their movement did not fade out. A 
former priest, Menno Simons, salvaged the movement and gave his 
name to the continuing representatives of its basic principles the 
Mennonites. What was more important in the long run, there was 
an element among the English Puritans that adopted the Anabaptist 
principle of separation of church and state. These Separatists are 
conspicuously represented by the members of the Scrooby con- 
gregation, who, after a stay in the Netherlands, migrated to New 
England and became the Pilgrim Fathers. Hence arose Congrega- 
tionalism, combining the ideas of independence from the state (an 
idea that was in abeyance in colonial New England) and the 
autonomy of each local congregation. Some of the Separatist 
Puritans adopted also the first item of the Anabaptist doctrine, 
individual responsibility for the Christian decision, and, therefore, 
"believers' baptism." They became the Baptists. 

It would be an exaggeration indeed, a perversion of history 
to say that the free church idea and the American pattern of 
separation of church and state were derived chiefly from the 
Anabaptists, but it is only doing them belated justice to say that 
they were the first in modern times to assert these ideas, and that 
they exercised an influence at a crucial point in the development of 


Catholic Reformation and Expansion 

The Catholic Church needed a reformation in the sixteenth cen- 
tury no doubt about that. An able French Catholic historian who 
has written an excellent book on this subject* states this fact very 
positively and adds: "There was no need, however, of reformation 
such as the Protestants understood it." That is a question about 
which, of course, opinions differ. Since we have considered the 
Protestant movement toward reforms in the doctrines and struc- 
ture of the church, let us now look from the Catholic point of 
view at the reformation in the life and work of the church which 
was carried through by leaders who held that no change in its 
doctrines or structure was either necessary or possible because they 
were already infallibly right. This latter movement is sometimes 
called the Counter Reformation. But that is not a fair name for it 
because it seems to imply that it was only a reaction against 
Protestantism, and this is not true, though certainly one of its 
motives and objectives was to check the Protestant advance and 
win back some lost ground. More fundamentally it was an inner 
awakening, a self-cleansing, and a revitalizing of the Catholic 

* Pierre Janelle, The Catholic Reformation, Bruce Publishing Co., 1944. 



Church a Catholic revival in contrast with the Protestant Ref- 
ormation and the Renaissance, stimulated by both but not a mere 
reaction to either. Its proper name is the "Catholic Reformation/' 

Conditions within the church in the fifteenth century had 
become very bad. The low morals of the higher clergy were an 
open scandal. Many of the Renaissance popes were wicked and all 
of them were worldly. Simony, nepotism, luxury, and sins of sex 
were rife. Of course there were faithful bishops and pious abbots 
probably more than the other kind but the proportion of the 
other kind was outrageously high. Good moral character was not 
among the required qualifications for ecclesiastical advancement. 
The lower clergy were for the most part ignorant and untrained. 
The modern high standards of education for the priesthood had 
not been thought of. It would be mere guesswork to say anything 
of the average level of priestly morality. General belief in the 
importance of the sacraments together with the theory that the 
efficacy of the sacraments was independent of the moral character 
of the ministrant a sound and sensible doctrine under any condi- 
tions made it possible for the laity to employ the services of 
priests for whom they had no respect as persons. This was a 
dangerous and demoralizing detachment of religion from life. The 
monastic orders, also, were in a sad state of deterioration. The 
Cluniac and Cistercian reforms were in the distant past. The 
monasteries had become too rich for their own good, had admitted 
too many candidates with no pretension to any authentic "calling" 
to the religious life, and could, find nothing useful for them to do. 
The one who traditionally finds work for idle hands to do did not 
neglect this shining opportunity. Here we are not left to rumor 
or conjecture, for the reports of official "visitations" to the 
monasteries paint a dark picture of their demoralization, revealing 
at the same time that many of the visitors had the conscience to 
discern, even if they had not the power to correct, the evils that 
they found. 

Ecclesiastical order and discipline were in a sad state of confu- 
sion. At the very time when Martin V and his successors were 
rescuing the papacy from schism and from conciliar supremacy, 
the administrative authority of the popes was being whittled away 


by secular patronage in appointments to benefices, by the inde- 
pendence of monasteries from episcopal oversight, and by the 
growing spirit of nationalism which challenged some papal pre- 
rogatives. All this cut into the income of popes, bishops, and parish 
priests. The pinch had been felt by the papacy in Avignon days, 
but the emergency had been met then by inventing new sources 
of revenue and a more effective system of collection. But as luxury 
and lavish expenditure increased it became necessary to put a 
tighter squeeze on laymen by exacting higher fees for every form 
of service. The abuses in connection with the sale of indulgences 
were part of this process. Every thoughtful Catholic knew that a 
reformation was needed. 

The Catholic Reformation was promoted chiefly by three 
agencies: the papacy itself and the papal court; the Council of 
Trent; and the religious orders. The first and third of these were 
fields for reform as well as centers of reforming activity. 

The papal court was shocked and sobered by the sack of Rome 
in 1527 by the army of Charles V, but the new era at the Vatican 
began a little later with the election of Paul III as pope in 1534. He 
and his successors, with varying degrees of earnestness and energy, 
took up the work of removing the flagrant abuses that were closest 
to them. The Renaissance frivolities and worse were swept away. 
There were no more boy cardinals, no more infant or adolescent 
"nephews" holding rich benefices. There was a revived sense of the 
dignity and responsibility of high office in the church. It was no 
longer possible for any pope to say, or even to think, as Leo X is 
reported to have said, "God has given us the papacy, therefore let 
us enjoy it." Discipline was tightened and administration made 
more efficient. The deeply devotional life of Catholic Christianity 
always continuing though it had been eclipsed by luxury and 
worldliness in high places came again to its proper prominence. 
With the quickening of religious zeal came also an access of 
energy for the suppression of heresy. There had been stirrings of 
liberal religious thought in Italy. The ideas of Luther and Calvin 
had crossed the Alps and found some acceptance in literary circles, 
though none among the common people, so far as the record 
shows. The Protestant impulse, if it can be called that, was con- 


fined to literary cliques and coteries. It never reached the grass 
roots as it did in the north. Moreover, it had no political protec- 
tion, as it had in the states that became Lutheran or Calvinist. The 
Inquisition was re-established, and Renaissance freedom of thought 
was swept out along with Renaissance secularity and paganism. 

Paul III (1534-49) was not at heart a reformer. He would have 
preferred to be a Renaissance prince. He was a member of the 
noble Roman family of the Farnese, and he had gained his first 
preferment in the church through the relations of his sister Giulia 
with Alexander VI, in grateful remembrance of which her semi- 
nude figure in marble adorns the base of the tomb of Paul III in 
St. Peter's. He showed litde personal interest in the reform of 
abuses, but the movement of the times was in that direction. He 
was more concerned with the development of agencies for fighting 
the tendencies toward free religious thought. It was he who gave 
official recognition to the Jesuit order (1540), established the 
Inquisition in Italy (1543), and at last, after much pressure from 
the emperor, called the Council of Trent (1545) but insisted that 
it should give its first attention to the reaffirmation of Catholic 
doctrine and postpone the reform of abuses until the doctrinal 
formulations had been completed. He was pressured into the 
appointment of a commission to report on the abuses and possible 
methods of curing them. Almost in spite of himself, Paul III 
initiated the Catholic Reformation. 

Paul IV (1555-59) was a reformer in heart as well as act. This 
noble Neapolitan, Giovanni-Pietro Caraff a, was a person of mystical 
temper but powerful initiative. He ran away from home at four- 
teen to join the Dominican order, but did not. Presently he became 
an official of the papal curia. At Rome, says an eminent Catholic 
scholar, "he lived chastely and purely throughout the scandalous 
pontificate of Alexander VI." He became a bishop, then a member 
of the pious society of the Oratorians. As pope he gave the papal 
court the house cleaning that was long overdue. His unbending 
hostility to all "heretics" led him to denounce the Peace of 
Augsburg (1555), which gave Protestants a legal right to exist in 
German states with Protestant princes, but he was a man of deeply 
devout spirit and pure life. 



The Council of Trent met intermittently for eighteen years 
(1545-63). At one time Luther had clamored for a general council 
before which he could argue his case. There were some Catholics, 
including Emperor Charles V, who still hoped that the Protestants 
could be won back and the church reunited if some concessions 
were made. Paul III was reluctant to call a council, doubtless being 
realistic enough to know that the Protestants would not be satisfied 
with a mere reform of abuses or with any concessions that a 
council could offer. Charles V wanted to have the Protestants 
represented at the council and to take up first the reform of the 
abuses, which he still thought were the chief ground of their 
separation. Paul III excluded them by the terms of the call and won 
his point that the matter of abuses should be postponed until the 
council had reaffirmed the Catholic doctrines, which as he knew 
and the emperor did not were the real ground of the Protestant 
separation from Rome. 

The first thing that the Council of Trent did, therefore, was to 
restate the Catholic doctrines in a more uncompromising form than 
ever and thus to shut, lock, and double-bolt the door against any 
possible return of the Protestants unless they came in complete 
surrender which, of course, there was not the slightest chance of 
their doing. It required years of intermittent sessions to produce the 
full set of doctrinal canons. Though the council was constituted 
in 1545, it was not until October, 1551, that the decree concerning 
the sacrament of the Eucharist was adopted, and the ones covering 
purgatory, the veneration of saints and their relics, and use of 
images and the validity of indulgences were adopted on the last 
two days of the council, December 3 and 4, 1563. 

After the first few years, and when the possibility of doctrinal 
compromise had been completely foreclosed, and when the council 
had bestowed copious anathemas upon any who did not accept its 
doctrinal pronouncements, attention was directed to the reform of 
abuses and the improvement of administration. The achievements 
here were very substantial. Control over dioceses was restored to 


the bishops, absenteeism of priests from their parishes and the 
holding of a plurality of benefices were forbidden, seminaries were 
established for the education of priests (a step of incalculable 
importance), simony and nepotism were condemned, the granting 
of benefices to boys (except those studying for the priesthood) 
was checked, and many abuses were corrected in connection with 
the sale of indulgences, the worship of images, and high-pressure 
methods of collecting fees and alms. In warning against abuses, the 
council took occasion to reaffirm the validity of all the religious 
practices that the Protestants rejected. Thus in both ways in 
restating with emphasis and elaboration the traditional doctrinal 
and hierarchical system, and in purifying but defending the whole 
program of religious practice the Council of Trent built higher 
and stronger walls around the position of the Roman Catholic 
Church. By recognizing the equality of "tradition" (that is, the 
teaching of the church) with Scripture as a source and guarantee 
of truth, the council prepared the way for later dogmatic declara- 
tions, especially those defining the infallibility of the pope and the 
Immaculate Conception and bodily Assumption of the Virgin 


While providing for its defenses, Catholicism was also prepar- 
ing for attack. The most effective instruments of its aggressive 
action were the religious orders the old ones, improved and 
invigorated, and the new ones that were being formed. The glory 
of the Catholic Reformation, as seen from the Catholic point of 
view, was the organization, growth, and achievements of the 
Society of Jesus. This order, commonly called the Jesuits, stopped 
Protestantism in its tracks in Hungary, almost annihilated it in 
Poland, won back to the papal allegiance much of Germany, 
blocked the reform movement in France, and virtually wiped out 
its beginnings in Italy except for the continuing Waldensians, who 
survived by hiding in Alpine fastnesses. At the same time, it 
scattered over Europe its excellent schools, which specialized in 
enrolling the children of titled and wealthy families, gave the 


Catholic community an organized system of moral teaching, which 
standardized the working of the confessional, and spearheaded the 
thrust of Catholic missions into India, Japan, China, and the New 

Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, is as 
fascinating a figure as any that his age of picturesque personalities 
produced. A Spanish grandee whose military career had been 
ended by battle wounds, he had a revolutionizing religious experi- 
ence during his months of recovery and resolved to become a 
soldier of Christ. With patience and industry he made good his 
lack of early education. Later, as a student at the University of 
Paris, he gathered half a dozen devoted companions, one of whom 
was Francis Xavier, afterward to become the great missionary saint 
to India and the Far East. One day in August, 1534, in the church 
of St. Mary on Montmartre in Paris, this little group, fired by 
Loyola's contagious enthusiasm, formed an oath-bound band which 
became the Society of Jesus. Pope Paul III gave this company 
formal recognition and authorization as a religious order in 1540. 
As a former soldier who had dedicated his armor to the Virgin, the 
founder created a military company with discipline as strict and 
demand for obedience as unquestioning as in any army. Ignatius 
Loyola was its "general" until his death. By that time his order had 
grown into a great company in which every recruit was sworn in 
only after long mental and spiritual preparation. The Spiritual 
Exercises of Ignatius Loyola are the world's most famous manual, 
not only for the devotional life, but for the discipline of the 
individual wiU to absolute obedience. Once trained and enrolled, 
the Jesuit was ready to go anywhere on earth instantly on com- 
mand and undertake any task to which he might be ordered. 

Some other new religious orders must be passed over with 
brief mention, though they deserve more. The Capuchins were a 
derivative from the Observants, who had seceded from the Con- 
ventuals, the strictest division of the Franciscans. They practiced 
rigorous asceticism, and many of them became effective preachers. 
Their churches were plain and bare. Some of them even yet are 
notable for the amazing display of skeletons in their crypts. The 
Theatines, taking their name from the original see of their most 


eminent member, Giovanni-Pietro Caraffa (Paul IV), were a devel- 
opment from the Oratorians. They specialized in the intensive train- 
ing of exceptionally able young men, so that their houses became, 
as Caraffa's biographer says, "seminaries for bishops," not for mere 
priests. Naturally they remained a small order. The Barnabites, on 
the contrary, were expansive and missionary. The Oratory grew 
out of the work of St. Philip Neri, about whom gathered a group 
of young men who formed a confraternity for spiritual exercises. 
It became an association of secular priests and clerics who prac- 
ticed devotion with cheerfulness and, avoiding worldliness, made a 
point of avoiding also any appearance of supersanctimoniousness. 
These are but samples of the many movements that embodied a 
genuine determination to cultivate the spiritual life. Some of them 
began, in a small way, a litde before the period that we have 
designated as that of the Catholic Reformation. 


The times were ripe for missionary expansion, for the known 
world was expanding. Dreams that seemed as imaginative as today's 
"space travel" were being realized when Portuguese ships crept 
around the tip of Africa into the Indian Ocean, Columbus and 
Vespucci found the shores of new continents, and Magellan's ship 
sailed around the world. The Far East was indeed known to exist. 
Marco Polo had brought incredible (but true) reports about it, and 
other traders had come back with travelers' tales, but all this was 
as misty and mysterious as the legendary Prester John. America 
was something absolutely new. So little did even the most advanced 
geographers suspect that there was room for a continent between 
Europe and Asia that when they found it, not knowing what they 
had found, they called its inhabitants "Indians." 

Catholic Christianity expanded in both directions, east and 
west, to fill what seemed to be a religious vacuum. The eastward 
drive, a Jesuit enterprise, was the most spectacular; the westward, 
in which Dominicans and Franciscans also played an important 
part, was the most fruitful and permanent. From the beginning, it 
was Jesuit policy to exercise influence on and through the ruling 


classes of society. Remember that Luther, too, had addressed the 
first of his three Reformation treatises to "the Christian Nobles of 
the German Nation," since, though all laymen were true priests 
in his view, the nobles were the laymen who could help most in 
doing what needed to be done. Similarly, the Christian conquest 
of barbarian Europe had been accomplished chiefly by first 
winning the tribal or national leaders, whose subjects then accepted 
the new religion of their chiefs as a matter of course. The same 
method was applied in the mission to the Far East, with the addi- 
tion that, since these lands had ancient cultures of their own, with 
scholars and priests, the approach was now to the intellectual and 
religious leaders as well as to the rulers and nobles. The results 
were highly encouraging. When the reports of what was being 
done got back to Europe, many thought that the missionaries had 
permitted their message to be corrupted by adapting it too cleverly 
to the ideologies and vocabularies of the Indian and Chinese reli- 
gions. The controversy grew heated and there were warnings from 
Rome. This was only one among several things that brought 
criticism upon the Society of Jesus from other Catholics and 
especially from other orders that may have been jealous of their 
conspicuous efficiency and growing influence. After flourishing for 
a time, the Jesuit missions in the Far East were wiped out by a 
wave of anti-Christian and antiforeign reaction which added to 
the roll of the church's martyrs and saints. 

The expansion of Christianity into the Western Hemisphere 
had begun before any of those changes that together constituted 
the Catholic Reformation, but the missionary effort in America 
derived fresh impulse from them. When Columbus sailed from 
Palos it was only a matter of months since Ferdinand and Isabella 
had completed the task of driving the Moors out of Spain by the 
conquest of Granada. The Jews, also, had been driven out. The 
Spanish Inquisition was working at top heat and that quite 
literally to make Spain, now politically united, a solidly Christian 
and soundly Catholic nation. The operation had something of the 
character of a crusade. The discovery and military occupation of 
new lands with pagan populations opened a vast new field for the 
extension of this process. The method was necessarily different 


from that which had been employed either in the Far East, where 
the missionaries were entirely without military backing and had 
to make their way by persuasion with the leaders of highly ad- 
vanced civilizations, or in Spain, where the problem had been to 
intimidate or eliminate a non-Christian minority. In the Caribbean, 
in Mexico, and in South America, the Spaniards were a minute 
minority which quickly gained complete domination. The gather- 
ing of gold and the creation of a Spanish empire may seem to have 
been the principal motives both of the crown and of the con- 
quistadors and explorers, but it was unthinkable that there should 
be a Spanish empire that was not Christian. Even the gold-hungry 
conquerors knew that, and with them went monks and friars who 
had no other interest than the salvation of souls and the extension 
of the church's domain. No help was asked from the political or 
religious leaders of the conquered peoples. Neither Montezuma in 
Mexico nor the Incas in Peru were expected to lead their subjects 
to the acceptance of Christianity. They were simply killed, the 
indigenous social and political organizations were destroyed, and 
the ceremonials and apparatus of the pagan religions were wiped 
out as quickly and completely as possible. Crosses were erected, 
Masses were said, and the monks and friars set about the work of 
converting the people and teaching them the rudiments of Chris- 
tianity. As compared with later Protestant missionary efforts 
among the American aborigines, Catholicism had the advantage of 
presenting symbols and ceremonies that made a strong appeal to 
the eye and the ear. The result in the long run was that Latin 
America became Catholic. Until the nineteenth century all other 
forms of religion were prohibited by law. There were relatively 
few martyrdoms, because the Spanish power was so overwhelm- 
ingly dominant that resistance seemed impossible. An exception 
was the Pueblo revolt in New Mexico (1680), which cost the lives 
of many priests and drove all Spaniards out of that area. Diego de 
Vargas effected the reconquest twelve years later. 

There were some great characters among the missionary priests. 
Bartolommeo de las Casas, a Dominican, began in the Caribbean, 
where he became the first champion of Indian rights. When he saw 


that the enslaved Caribs were being killed off by the excessive labor 
demanded of them and that his protests were of no avail, he made 
the unfortunate suggestion that African natives might be imported 
as slaves. Later he was in Guatemala. His bust may still be seen 
topping a fountain in the old capital, Guatemala Antigua, once the 
seat of government for all Central America. Again he protested 
against the harsh treatment of the Indians, and was told that there 
was no other way to handle them. When he offered to prove the 
efficacy of kindness under even the hardest conditions, they sent 
him to what is now the state of Chiapas in Mexico, then a far 
frontier where the natives had the worst possible reputation for 
stubborn hostility. He went, and saw, and conquered by his own 
mild methods. 

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, not a priest but one of the rare 
Spanish lay humanitarians of his time, was wrecked on the coast 
of Florida; made an almost impossible journey along the Gulf 
Coast to Mexico, taking with him a company of Indians who had 
held him in friendly custody for several years somewhere near 
Corpus Christi; successfully resisted efforts of the Spaniards to set 
his Indian friends to work as slaves in the silver mines of Zacatecas, 
and sent them home with gifts. Then he went back to Spain to beg 
the crown to protect the Indians of Mexico from those who were 
exploiting them. After that he went to Paraguay to start another 
campaign for Indian welfare. The Jesuits, also, set up a humane 
though thoroughly paternalistic regime in Paraguay, without mili- 
tary protection, and conducted it successfully for many years. 

Father Kino, a Jesuit, was the missionary pioneer in what is 
now Arizona. His monument is the beautiful mission of St. Xavier 
near Tucson. New Mexico was first explored by Pedro de Alva- 
rado in 1540-42, but the first permanent settlement, Santa Fe, was 
not made until about 1605. Its full name, translated, is "The Royal 
City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi," for the Fran- 
ciscans founded the missions and converted the Pueblo Indians. 
Almost by chance it was the Franciscans who became the mission- 
aries in California. The Jesuits were ready to start, late in the 
eighteenth century, when the pope dissolved their order. The 


Franciscans, led by Fra Jumpero Serra, took up the task and 
established the line of missions (including Los Angeles) from San 
Diego to San Francisco. 

No amount of legitimate criticism of the manners and morals 
of the Spanish conquerors, or of some of the techniques of evan- 
gelization that were employed, should be allowed to cast a cloud 
upon the heroic devotion of the many friars and priests, some 
known but many more unknown to fame, who endured the labors 
and dangers of those years. They gained the result that they and 
the soldiers and administrators all sought. They did make Latin 
America Catholic. 

There can be only passing mention here of the French explora- 
tion and occupation of Canada. On its religious side this, too, was, 
of course, Catholic. The Society of Jesus furnished the forces for 
the conversion of Canada. There the problem was in every way 
different from that which the Spaniards faced in the south. The 
native population was sparse and primitive. There were no such 
mature and literate cultures as those of the Aztecs, Mayas, and 
Incas and no such substantial pagan religious institutions. The 
economic interest of the French was in furs. They wanted the 
Indians to bring in beaver skins to trade for tin whistles and glass 
beads, and then go back to the forest to trap more beavers and 
bring in more skins. That meant that they must be treated kindly. 
There could be no slaughtering of them for their gold and emeralds 
as in Peru or enslaving them to work in the mines or cultivate the 
encomiendas as in Mexico. Since the profits were less immediate 
and spectacular, the influx of fortune seekers and the military 
forces of occupation were less. The Jesuit missionaries, fired with 
zeal and with the enthusiasm of their order's youth, forgot con- 
siderations of safety and carried their message of salvation into the 
depths of the forests. Many of them met martyrdom. The many- 
volumed Jesuit Relations tells in detail the story of their exploits. 

The expansion of Catholic Christianity into Asia and America 
could scarcely have occurred without the prior features of the 
Catholic Reformation, but it also contributed to that Reformation 
by bringing to the church a widened outlook, a fresh sense of 
mission, enlarged resources, and a heightened morale. 


Protestantism Reaches America 

The transplanting of Protestant Christianity to American soil was 
a feature of the English colonization movement from its very 
beginning. Without exaggerating the importance of the religious 
motive to the exclusion of all others, as some of the pious writers 
of American history were formerly inclined to do, one must not 
go to the other extreme and write it off as something secondary 
and incidental. It is probably true that a majority of the colonists 
who came to America in the seventeenth century came primarily 
to improve their economic situation. The expectation of finding 
sudden wealth along the Atlantic Coast, as the Spaniards had found 
it in Mexico and Peru, may have inflamed the minds of early 
investors in the Virginia Company and some of the first colonists 
who came to Jamestown, but this hope soon faded. More sub- 
stantial and significant was the prospect of getting land. The 
feudal system had been operative so long in continental Europe 
and in England that for the ordinary citizen there was no possi- 
bility of becoming a landholder. The middle and lower classes were 
land-hungry. The promise of a "freehold" in a new continent, 
sometimes described as virtually a duplicate of the Garden of 



Eden, was a potent lure. Even in the most religious of the early 
English colonies, there were many whose motivation was chiefly 
economic. It was wholly so for the Dutch and Swedish colonists. 

Nevertheless, the religious motive was a powerful factor in 
American colonization as a whole. In some colonies it furnished 
the initial impulse and the controlling force. To understand the 
nature and the varieties of this appeal, one must look at the Euro- 
pean background as well as the American situation. 

As to America, the parts of it that had been explored and 
settled before 1600 were solidly Roman Catholic. England and the 
other Protestant powers were a century late in starting. Pope 
Alexander VI had assumed the right to divide the whole of 
America between Spain and Portugal. His Line of Demarcation 
did not stand, but between them the two countries had taken 
everything south of the Rio Grande and a good deal north of it, 
and Florida as well. The French had begun to occupy Canada. 
(Santa Fe, Quebec, and Jamestown were all founded within a 
period of three years.) The "colonization sermons" preached in 
England late in Elizabeth's reign on behalf of the Virginia Com- 
pany stressed the necessity of erecting a "Protestant rampart" 
against a threatened closing of the gap between the Catholic 
colonies to the north and south. It may be doubted whether this 
was ever the decisive argument with any prospective colonist in 
the absence of more personal considerations. Such personal reli- 
gious reasons for migration were not far to seek. 

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, every country in 
Europe had its established church and put forth every possible 
effort to suppress dissent or to prevent the open profession and 
practice of any other form of faith. The theory was that religious 
homogeneity was essential to the stability of the social order and 
the strength of the state. This heritage from the Middle Ages had 
become common to Catholic and Protestant countries. The prin- 
ciple that "he who rules the territory determines its religion" had 
been explicitly avowed in the Peace of Augsburg (1555) and was 
to be reiterated and confirmed in the Peace of Westphalia (1648). 
Obviously there is no place for religious toleration in such a system. 
Yet within the preceding century Protestant movements had 


sprung up in Catholic countries, various types of Protestants had 
come into existence with representatives in Protestant countries, 
where they constituted illegal minorities, and there were remain- 
ders of Catholic populations in countries that became Protestant. 
For all these people who were at outs with the intolerant religious 
establishments in their native countries there was one road of 
escape to America. 

It was not that these seekers of religious liberty necessarily 
believed in religious liberty for everybody. The Puritans who came 
to Massachusetts Bay certainly did not if they were good Calvin- 
ists, for Calvin did not believe in it. The Catholics who came to 
Maryland certainly did not if they were good Catholics, because 
religious liberty for all is contrary to basic Roman Catholic prin- 
ciples and is acceptable only as a compromise when the proscrip- 
tion of non-Catholics is impracticable. With no convictions as to 
the fundamental human right to religious liberty, these oppressed 
ones could come in the hope of finding a new field in which they 
could establish a regime in which they could worship God in the 
way they deemed right. This actually was the guiding motive of 
the founders of those colonies in which religion was a primary 

In England the Elizabethan Settlement had fixed on a some- 
what ritualistic episcopacy as defining the character of the Church 
of England, but even then there was a large Puritan element in the 
church. In the reign of James I and the early years of Charles I 
that element became stronger and the measures for its elimination 
became more violent. The Virginia Company, which founded 
Jamestown, was formed while it was still possible for Episcopal 
Anglicans and Puritans to co-operate; both elements were repre- 
sented in the directorate of the company. The motivation of its 
investors and colonists was chiefly economic and patriotic; it was 
religious only in the general sense of building a "Protestant 
rampart" and in the announced purpose, never very seriously 
pursued, of converting the natives. They were not specially con- 
cerned about religious liberty. There, as in most of the other 
colonies, the European state-church system was transferred to 
America so far as the conditions of colonial life permitted. Angli- 


can Episcopacy was established in Virginia, but popular interest in 
religion was mild. A "gentlemanly conformity" with the form of 
worship "authorized by the laws of England" was expected, but 
even this could scarcely be enforced on the residents of plantations 
scattered all along the rivers of eastern Virginia and the Tidewater 
country. In the earliest days there were fines seldom collected 
for failure to attend church twice on Sunday. After the tightening 
up of intolerance in England with the Act of Uniformity (1661) 
there were penalties for failure to have an infant child baptized by 
a "lawful minister/' and for a time heavy fines were imposed on 
Quakers and any who might harbor them. In general, Virginia and 
the other southern colonies represented efforts to import the Euro- 
pean system of compulsory uniformity and do the best that could 
be done with it under the circumstances. 


Radically different was the Plymouth colony. The little con- 
gregation at Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire, was regarded even by 
its fellow Puritans as a left- wing group. Rejecting the state-church 
idea, they affirmed the autonomy of the local church and, instead 
of trying to capture Parliament and make the Church of England 
Puritan by law, as the Presbyterians did, affirmed the policy of 
"reformation without tarrying for any." They escaped the hostile 
climate of England by seeking asylum first in the Netherlands and 
then in lands that had been granted to the Virginia colony, but 
landed by mistake near Cape Cod. Their little settlement at 
Plymouth became an exemplification of the Congregational order. 
Even after it merged with the larger Massachusetts Bay colony, it 
maintained a more tolerant attitude than was common among early 
Puritan communities. 

The more rigorous enforcement of English laws against the 
Puritans by the autocratic Charles I, aided and abetted by Arch- 
bishop Laud, brought about the great Puritan migration that led 
to the founding of Salem, Boston, and the Commonwealth of 
Massachusetts. Most of these Puritans were not "separatists" 
that is to say, they had not wanted to withdraw from the Church 


of England; they wanted to capture it, if possible. A few years 
later in England they did just that and controlled it under Crom- 
well and the Commonwealth. But no such good fortune as that 
could be foreseen when Charles and Laud were giving the screw 
another turn every day. These Puritans came to America with the 
intention of creating a "holy state," a society in which it would 
be safe to be a Puritan and unsafe to be conspicuously anything 
else. Nothing was farther from their thought than the establish- 
ment of liberty for all communions. They brought with them what 
we are persistently calling "the European system" because it had 
been the universal pattern of church-state relationship for a thou- 
sand years and still persists to a great extent in the European 
churches. The wonder is not that the Puritans were intolerant of 
forms of religion not authorized by the state and its one church. 
The wonder is that they so soon relaxed the compulsions of that 
system and began to develop the "American system" of free and 
legally equal churches and of complete religious liberty. Even in 
the period of their stiff est intolerance, the Puritans did not try to 
force everyone into their church. In fact, they made it rather 
difficult to get into it. The worst they did was to require church 
attendance, to prevent the establishment of any other church, to 
limit the exercise of full civil rights to church members, to exile 
a few of their own vociferous heretics, and to bar some wandering 
Baptist and Quaker preachers. Even these measures did not outlast 
the first generation. The sturdy partisans of the old order were 
all immigrants who had brought it with them. For example, John 
Cotton, stoutest of all the New England defenders of the practice 
of religious persecution, was almost fifty years old and had been 
minister of a Puritan church at old Boston in Lincolnshire for 
twenty years before he ever set foot in the new Boston. 

The earliest and most conspicuous rejections of the theory of 
compulsory conformity were in Rhode Island, Maryland, and 
Pennsylvania. These colonies were, respectively, Baptist, Roman 
Catholic, and Quaker in their initial impulse. 

Rhode Island owed its founding as a "shelter for persons dis- 
tressed in conscience" to one of those perennial "seekers" whose 
consciences cannot endure any restraint upon their search for 


truth or their utterance of it when found. Roger Williams, a 
graduate of Cambridge University and an ordained Anglican 
clergyman, had some training in law under the celebrated Sir 
Edward Coke and imbibed some Puritan ideas before coming to 
Boston in 1631. Among his subversive ideas were these: that 
church membership should be voluntary; that the state had no right 
to compel church attendance or Sabbath observance or to restrict 
the freedom of thought and utterance about religion; that, since 
the land in the New World belonged to the Indians, the king of 
England had no power to grant a charter for the possession of it 
The colony gave him more latitude than might have been expected, 
but finally banished him. He fled to the shores of Narragansett Bay 
and there put his principles into practice by buying land from the 
Indians and founding the settlement of Providence on the basis of 
complete tolerance and equal civil rights for all regardless of their 
religion or lack of it. Together with other rebels against the 
theocratic rule in Massachusetts, he formed the first Baptist church 
in America. It is doubtful whether he ever actually joined this 
church; if he did, he withdrew after a few months to pursue his 
independent way. While on a visit to England, where he became a 
friend of Milton (five years his junior) and won the esteem of 
Cromwell, he came upon a pamphlet by John Cotton, the "un- 
mitred pope of Boston," denouncing the dangerous idea of grant- 
ing religious liberty. Williams replied with The Bloudy Tenent of 
Persecution for the Cause of Conscience (1644). Cotton replied to 
Williams, and Williams replied to Cotton, but the gist of the argu- 
ment was in his first pamphlet. It was that the true principles of 
Christianity and the peace and security of the civil order alike 
demand that the minds and consciences of all men whether 
Christian, Jew, or Turk be left free from compulsion, and that 
all these can live together in a "firm and lasting peace" in a state 
or kingdom that will grant such liberty. Let error be fought 
against with no other sword than the Sword of the Spirit, "which 
alone, in soul matters, is able to conquer." Roger Williams and 
the Baptists were the pioneers and prophets of religious liberty. 
They sounded their note and set up their standard at a time when 


Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Episcopal Anglicans, and all Puritans 
except a few radical individuals and groups stood stoutly for com- 
pulsory uniformity of religion. 


Maryland, the second tolerant colony, was under a Catholic 
proprietor. Actually, its proprietor, Lord George Calvert, was a 
gentleman of mild and tolerant temper, but his tolerance was never 
put to the test. He held his grant from a Protestant king and there 
was no possibility of getting religious liberty for Catholics in his 
colony except by granting liberty to all. It is rather surprising that 
Charles I let him go so far. Moreover, Calvert needed Protestant 
colonists, and he could not get them if his colony were rigidly 
Catholic. A majority of the colonists from the start were Protes- 
tants. Later, about the time when Louis XIV was cracking down 
on the Protestants in France, Maryland became a royal colony 
with established Episcopacy, and Catholics were the victims of 
Protestant intolerance. Because of the peculiar circumstances of its 
founding a colony with a Catholic proprietor under a Protestant 
king it does not illustrate any real progress toward what was to 
be the American system of religious liberty. 

Pennsylvania made a real contribution in that direction. It was 
a Quaker colony. The Quakers were the followers of George Fox, 
who was one of the great religious geniuses of all time. His basic idea 
was that religion is a matter of the individual's direct relation with 
God. Consequently the highest authority is the voice of God as 
each man hears it, not the decision of any ecclesiastical authority 
or even the word of such a useful book as the Bible. Fox won many 
followers in England and on the European continent. One of them 
was William Penn, the son of a British admiral to whom the crown 
was indebted to the amount of a good many thousand pounds. 
That debt was discharged, without any strain on the treasury, by 
giving the son a huge grant of land in America that had cost the 
crown nothing. Since it was believed to be a wooded area, Penn 
proposed to call it "Sylvania," but without his connivance this was 


enlarged by the addition of his name, so it became "Pennsylvania." 
Penn and George Fox visited continental Europe, especially the 
Netherlands and northern Germany, seeking converts and colo- 
nists. The fortunes of the colony need not be traced further than 
to say that, with such principles of religious individualism as those 
of Fox and Penn, it is obvious that the colony could have nothing 
like an established church and that there could never be any ques- 
tion of making any citizen's civil rights dependent upon his con- 
formity to some authorized standard of doctrine or worship. 
Pennsylvania never had an established church. More persons "dis- 
tressed in conscience" came to Pennsylvania than to Rhode Island 
chiefly because there was more room for them. In the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries there were successive waves of 
immigration of persecuted minorities from central Europe. Some 
were Mennonites (Anabaptists), a group from which President 
Eisenhower is a direct descendant. Some were Lutherans who fled 
from persecution in Catholic German states, such as those who 
escaped from the principality ruled by the Archbishop of Salzburg. 
These and others became the "Pennsylvania Dutch" (really 
German), whose very presence was a testimony to that colony's 
hospitality to Europe's persecuted religious minorities and whose 
industry and stalwart character added to both the economic and 
the moral resources of their new home. 

French Protestants (Huguenots) furnished another valuable 
element, though more of them came to other colonies than to 
Pennsylvania, Louis XIV had first persecuted them to the point of 
extinction (as he supposed), then took away all their legal rights by 
revoking the Edict of Nantes (1685), then forbade their emigra- 
tion from France. Consistency was never Louis' strong point. 
Though forbidden to emigrate, they came to America in thousands. 
The restrictions placed on Catholics, and especially on priests, in 
many of the colonies were rather directly related to the fact that 
everybody in America knew what Catholic France was doing at 
that very time to its Protestant population. Many had learned about 
it at first hand from Huguenot neighbors. 

More than any other of the incipient American common- 
wealths, colonial Pennsylvania had such a diversity of religions that 


the establishment of any one of them as the state church would 
have been impossible even if it had not been contrary to the 
principles of a majority of its citizens. 


What was true of Pennsylvania was true of the colonies as a 
whole when the time came to organize a national government after 
the Revolution. Nine of the thirteen colonies still had established 
churches, but when the colonies are viewed as a group, no com- 
munion had a majority of all the church members and all the 
church members together were only a minority of the total popula- 
tion. Further, it is almost certainly true that not one of the nine 
established churches commanded the allegiance of a majority of 
the people in the colony that gave it legal sanction and support. 
The establishment of an American state church for the new nation 
would have been a political impossibility. Moreover, the very idea 
of legal compulsions and restraints in the field of religion had 
become an odious anachronism in the minds of the people gen- 
erally. The concept of civil and political liberty, which was also 
an import from England, had so far developed in the American 
climate that the separation of church and state was inevitable and 

Virginia led the way. Its Declaration of Rights adopted two 
weeks before the signing of the Declaration of Independence 
asserted that "all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of 
religion according to the dictates of conscience." Ten years later 
and just a year before the writing of the Federal Constitution 
the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, drafted by 
Jefferson, declared that the state has no right to tax a citizen for 
the support of any religion, even his own, and that civil rights and 
eligibility to public office "have no dependence on religious 
opinions." This meant absolute disestablishment. The act was all 
the more emphatic because before enacting it the Virginia law- 
makers had defeated a compromise proposal to set up a sort of 
establishment of Christianity in general and levy church taxes that 
would be prorated among all the churches. The widely publicized 


debate on this latter proposition should dispose of the argument 
sometimes heard in our own times that the framers and sup- 
porters of the First Amendment could not have thought of pro- 
hibiting tax support for the churches if only it were fairly 
distributed among them* 

The Articles of Confederation (1777), which created "The 
United States of America," had declared that the thirteen states 
enter into a firm league "for their common defense . . . against 
all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, 
on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence 
whatever." The inclusion of religion, and at the head of the list 
of the possible grounds of attacks that are to be resisted, is not 
without significance. In view of the religious diversity of the 
Americans and the steps already taken and about to be taken to 
guarantee complete religious liberty, it is obvious that what they 
were banding together to defend was not some one preferred 
church but the vital principle of freedom in religion. 

Next came the Ordinance of 1787, in which Congress, still 
under the Articles of Confederation, decreed religious liberty 
throughout all the territory held by the United States outside of 
the several states the old Northwest Territory. Then came the 
Constitution, which, by its silence on the subject, implied the 
absence of any establishment of religion by the new nation. This 
was followed by the First Amendment, which absolutely forbade 
it. Most of the colonial establishments of churches were abolished 
either shortly before or soon after the colonies became states. In 
two or three there were vested interests and contractual obligations 
of such a nature that the abolition took a little longer. The "stand- 
ing order" in Connecticut lasted until 1818. Massachusetts, follow- 
ing tardily in 1834, disestablished the last state church on United 
States soil. 

For the first time in history a people entered upon its career as 
a nation composed of religious minorities all free and legally equal, 
none (except the disappearing vestiges of establishments just 
mentioned) enjoying any special favor from the state governments 
or from the Federal government, and with no citizen's civil rights 
limited or conditioned by his religious faith or his lack of it. It 


was a revolutionary event in both political and religious history. 
It was possible only because of the preceding immigration of so 
many left-wing Protestants who had been not members but victims 
of the European state churches, and because of the growth of 
concepts of civil liberty (of which religious liberty is simply a 
special case) in England as well as in America. Thus was born the 
"denominational system," which still prevails. The freedom that 
it implies is fundamental to the American ideal, but it did not solve 
the whole problem or guarantee the success of the Christian enter- 
prise in the new nation. 


Religion on the American Frontier 

The United States was practically all frontier at the beginning of 
the nineteenth century. This might have been denied by the proud 
residents of Boston, with its 24,000 inhabitants, or of Philadelphia, 
with 28,000, the country's capital during the decade ending in 
1800, or of New York, with 60,000. Let us grant to these and some 
other towns along the Atlantic Coast with an honorable colonial 
history whatever of culture and urbanization they may claim. 
Even so, their nearness to the frontier was the most important fact 
about them. Their earlier outlook had been to the east, while they 
barely glanced over their shoulders to notice occasionally the 
wilderness behind them. Now they were facing westward with 
growing awareness of the vast open spaces and unknown resources 
that lay in that direction. Ninety per cent of the country's 
5,300,000 population (by the 1800 census) was east of the Alle- 
ghenies, and more than half of the other ten per cent was in 
Kentucky and Tennessee. The whole Northwest Territory 
which was later to become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, 
Michigan, and Wisconsin had only 51,000 inhabitants. The 


Mississippi River was the country's western boundary, but three 
years later the scope, the mystery, and the lure of the great open 
spaces were to be increased by Jefferson's reckless purchase of the 
vast Louisiana Territory, the exact limits of which no man knew. 

All this created a unique set of problems, as well as of oppor- 
tunities, for the nation and also for the churches. It was a situation 
without known precedent for a young nation, the offspring and 
heir of a mature culture and strong enough to have won its inde- 
pendence from the parent country, to find itself in possession of a 
vast and habitable hinterland into which it might expand beyond 
the limits of imagination. Young America had more lebensraum 
than it knew what to do with, and more than any other nation, 
young or old, had ever had before. The space into which the 
United States was about to expand was a vacuum except for the 
Indians. That seemed a negligible exception, or at most a minor 
and temporary obstacle. It must be admitted that the Indian matter 
was handled badly, and at times ruthlessly, yet the main course 
of events was inevitable. In a clash between a hunting economy 
and an agricultural economy the outcome is never doubtful. The 
Indian population was sparse and impermanentiy settled, as always 
in a hunting economy. The invading settlers wanted nothing from 
the aborigines except their land. As always in such a conflict of 
cultures, the more intensive users of the soil prevailed and the 
permanent drove out the nomadic. It might have been done more 
kindly and more honestly, but it had to be done. The population 
of the states on the Atlantic seaboard was pressing forward to 
occupy and cultivate the western lands. For some years the growth 
of the eastern states was checked because the number of those who 
migrated to the west was greater than the natural increase plus the 
number of immigrants from Europe. 

The situation in America posed a unique problem for the 
churches, too. In the first place, since there remained only a few 
vestiges of the European system of church support by taxation 
and by accumulated endowments, support by voluntary offerings 
was the only possibility. Even good Christians who have been 
accustomed to regarding their church as either independently 


wealthy or a financial ward of the state do not find it easy to dig 
into their own pockets to finance its work, and that is just what 
the Americans had to learn to do. In the second place, and even 
more important, the church members were a surprisingly small part 
of the population. Estimates range from five to ten per cent. The 
Great Awakening in the middle of the eighteenth century an 
evangelistic movement in which the great names were those of 
Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield had seemed to set the 
colonies on fire with religious zeal, but the fires had died down. It 
was not merely that there was widespread indifference to religion. 
The rationalistic mood induced by the philosophy of the Enlight- 
enment found popular expression in a wave of skepticism. French 
thought of the Revolutionary period made a powerful impact. 
Though the effort to found a deistic church in New York never 
got far, deism had many followers. While out-and-out infidelity 
and atheism never became formidable, there were thousands to 
whom "natural religion" seemed sufficient and by whom Chris- 
tianity and its institutions were regarded as superfluous. Against 
these obstacles as well as the hardships of the frontier, the divided 
church had to make its way as best it could. 

Under these conditions, and since religion was now entirely a 
voluntary matter under the new American regime, the church had 
either to evangelize or die. Since the people were moving by 
thousands into the western lands where there were no churches, 
the church also had to go west. Here was a new kind of missionary 
expansion not, as in Christianity's first three centuries, the infiltra- 
tion of an old established pagan culture by preaching and persua- 
sion; not, as in the conversion of northern Europe and the lands 
that were to become Latin America, by the use of political pressure 
or military conquest in addition to moral suasion to Christianize the 
existing population of an area in which the church was a new- 
comer; but a migration in which the migrants themselves were the 
object of the evangelizing effort and the church was one of the 
institutions that traveled with them into the unknown and shared 
with them the pioneering venture. The church, though often in 
a rudimentary form, became part of the basic social structure of 
almost every new settlement and village. 



Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists plunged into the wilder- 
ness with almost reckless zeal. These became the great "popular 
churches" in the early stage of occupying the frontier and pushing 
it ever westward. Their preachers went wherever pioneering 
settlers went. Self-supporting churches with full-time ministers 
were still far in the future in the new country, but various devices 
met the needs of the transition period. 

It is notable, but natural, that the formation of national organi- 
zations by several denominations so nearly coincided with the 
beginning of the nation. The Methodists, who had been only the 
left wing of the Evangelical Revival in the Church of England 
until the American Revolution cut them loose, organized them- 
selves as a church in 1784 (see Chapter XXIII). They at once 
adopted a system of centralized control which seemed strangely 
out of keeping with young America's passion for individual liberty 
but worked marvelously well. Francis Asbury was the principal 
architect of this system. He may have been an autocratic master, 
but he was such a prodigious worker and was so indefatigable in 
the toilsome tasks and perilous travels of a peripatetic frontier 
ministry that his example counted for even more than his com- 
mands. Methodist bishops, presiding elders, circuit riders, and class 
leaders formed a network which expanded to keep pace with the 
advancing edge of settlement and provided nurture and control 
for the infant communities as they moved toward maturity. 

The Presbyterians, who had formed presbyteries and synods in 
colonial days, organized their general assembly in 1787. They had 
a vigorous evangelistic tradition, partly a heritage from the Great 
Awakening, which sometimes strained the tethers of the church's 
courts and creeds but more often utilized its organization to give 
stability and maintain standards of culture. While the churches 
were still weak, ministers often divided their time between two or 
three within easy reach. In any case, the Presbyterian minister was 
expected to be a gentleman of sound education and some theo- 
logical training, and it was the business of the presbytery to see 


that he met its criteria before locating him with one or more 

The Baptists, who had been the pioneers in the demand for 
absolute religious liberty for individuals as against the government 
and independence for the local congregation as against control by 
any higher ecclesiastical authority, carried on their expansion with 
little system but with great zeal. A despised minority during most 
of the colonial period, they had outdistanced the Episcopalians in 
numbers and almost overtaken the CongregationaHsts and Pres- 
byterians by the opening of the new century and were about to 
pass these. Their division into "General Baptists" and "Particular 
Baptists" need not detain us as, indeed, it did not greatly detain 
them in their numerical and geographical advance. Though they 
had no courts or synods, they had "associations" of churches, on 
about the scale of the Presbyterian "presbyteries"; and though 
they prided themselves on having no creed, they had a highly 
Calvinistic "Philadelphia Confession," allegiance to which was 
required for membership in most associations. The Baptist device 
for coping with the sparsity of population and the smallness of the 
frontier churches was the "farmer-preacher." While the Methodists 
had circuit riders who were full-time preachers giving part-time 
service to each of several communities, the Baptists had part-time 
preachers living where they served and supporting themselves 
largely by farming. 

Out of the evangelistic activities of these three denominations 
grew that characteristic early American institution the camp 
meeting. It really began among the Presbyterians, and was a feature 
of that surge of emotional religion known as the Western Revival 
which flourished especially in Tennessee and Kentucky about 
1800-1803, but the Methodists soon took it over, reduced it to a 
standardized pattern, and gave it as much sobriety as it ever had. 
It did exhibit some traits of primitive religion, and in the back- 
woods it developed abuses which have invited satirical comment, 
but for a time it served a religious purpose while also alleviating 
the isolation of the frontier and furnishing a temporary change of 
scene for people who had never heard of taking a vacation trip 
purely for recreation. 


A native American movement with Presbyterian and Baptist 
backgrounds was that of the Disciples of Christ. Beginning with a 
revulsion against the division of Christians into sects and against 
the creeds which they considered the grounds for these divisions, 
they preached "Christian unity," but, by formulating a specific 
basis of union which they considered scriptural but others did not, 
they became a separate denomination in spite of themselves. They 
developed a type of rational evangelism which had a strong appeal 
for many who were unmoved by the emotional methods of the 
time. During and after the 1830's they took a place of increasing 
prominence among the "popular churches" on the advancing and 
maturing American frontier. 

The Congregationalists, who still had nearly all their con- 
stituency in New England, did their migrating chiefly along 
isothermal lines. Their first home missionary work was done in 
co-operation with the Presbyterians, with whom they formed a 
Plan of Union for that purpose which lasted during the first third 
of the nineteenth century. They did not profit much denomina- 
tionally from this, but it was a great help to the Presbyterians. 
Then, moving slowly but building solidly and founding colleges 
as well as churches, they penetrated Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and 

The Episcopalians, recovering rather quickly from the unfor- 
tunate position in which the toryism of most of their clergy had 
involved them, formed a national organization in 1785 and got 
their first American bishops the next year. They were in no hurry 
about westward expansion. A generation had gone by before their 
pathbreaker, Philander Chase, acting on his own initiative and at 
his own risk, took to the winding trail which led him to establish 
a church in New Orleans, do missionary work in Michigan, be- 
come a bishop in Ohio, and found two colleges in Ohio and 
Illinois, for both of which he successfully solicited funds in 
England. After that it was easier for the church to appoint its first 
official missionary bishop, Jackson Kemper, whose diocese included 
a considerable part of the upper Mississippi Valley and had no 
western boundary. 

The reader of American history must give due weight to the 


fact and the influence of the frontier, but he must not so linger 
upon it as to forget how rapidly the conditions were changing 
behind the rapidly advancing line of continuous settlement. The 
churches did indeed "follow the frontier," but they also grew up 
with the country, and they were among the chief agencies in the 

One of the ways in which they effected its transformation 
was by the establishment of colleges. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, 
and the other early colleges on the East Coast had been founded by 
the churches. This was in line with a long tradition, for the 
medieval universities, with one or two exceptions, had been reli- 
gious foundations. As new communities sprang up west of the 
Alleghenies, the churches planted new colleges among them. Soon 
the prairies were dotted with colleges. Meagerly equipped at first 
and inadequately staffed by ill-paid faculties, many of them 
rendered invaluable service before they died of starvation, but 
many survived to become strong centers of sound learning. They 
bore the chief burden of giving the churches an educated ministry 
and an educated laity, insofar as these objectives could be attained, 
and of lifting the cultural level of the heart of America. Half or 
more of the country's colleges today owe their existence to the 


Roman Catholics were less than one per cent of the country's 
population at the end of the Revolutionary War, Their number 
is estimated at 18,000. Most of them were English, with a sprin- 
kling of French who had filtered down from Canada by way of 
Detroit and along the Mississippi and the Wabash. The Irish had 
not yet come. (The Irish who gave such valiant support to the 
Revolution were all Presbyterians from Ulster.) Most of the reli- 
gious intolerance in the colonies in the eighteenth century had 
been directed against Catholics regrettably, but understandably, 
because Protestants were still being persecuted in every Catholic 
country in Europe. Yet during the Revolution the bitterness faded 
out, and after it the new nation began business on the principle of 


equal civil rights for Catholics, Protestants, and unbelievers alike 
a program then unparalleled elsewhere. The first Catholic bishop 
in the United States, John Carroll (1790), was a gentleman and 
scholar of the finest type. The church got off to a good start. Its 
growth was not rapid until the great potato famine in Ireland 
brought a flood of Catholic Irish pouring into the country in the 
early 1840 7 s. What had previously been a fairly steady but never 
great flow of immigration became a torrent, and all of one kind. 
After the Irish came the Germans; later the Italians, the Poles, 
and multitudes from other countries of eastern Europe. With 
increasing numbers and with constant reminder by Catholic 
authorities that education is the function of the church, began the 
establishment of the system of parochial schools and the continu- 
ing campaign to secure public money for the support of these, 
schools. Concordats between the Vatican and many European 
states had secured either virtual control of public education by the 
Catholic Church or at least the inclusion of Catholic religious 
teaching in tax-supported institutions. Neither of these arrange- 
ments was possible in the United States, a country predominantly 
Protestant in its beginnings and with the unique principle of 
separation of church and state and complete religious liberty for 

Most of the early Catholic immigrants remained in eastern cities, 
where their competition in the labor market was the more resented 
because there were as yet no effective labor organizations. The 
resultant "nativist" movements, which were primarily antialien, 
automatically became anti-Catholic because all the aliens in ques- 
tion were Catholics. This shift of emphasis was the easier because 
for a time most of the priests were also recent arrivals, since there 
had been no time to train American priests and few bishops to 
ordain them, because it was commonly believed that the be- 
wildered new Catholic citizens took orders from their priests 
(who got theirs from Rome) in regard to their political activities, 
and because the papacy was then in its most reactionary mood. 
For one brief period there was a Catholic party, organized by 
Archbishop John Joseph Hughes, which had its own slate of 
candidates in a New York State election. The nativist organizations 


always had a tinge of fanaticism about them* They were a fever 
which burned itself out, partly because political power was shifting 
toward the trans-Allegheny West, which was not confronted by 
the real or supposed perils that were their reason for existence. The 
last of the series was the Know-Nothing Party, which flashed into 
prominence because it seemed to offer a way of side-stepping the 
slavery question, and disappeared as suddenly when that became 
the inescapable issue. 


Up to this time the churches had had little to say about any 
social question. The early documents are full of records of church 
trials in which members were disciplined or expelled for such sins 
as drunkenness, gambling, profanity, adultery, fighting, and various 
breaches of the peace. There was a large segment in which the 
"works of the devil" were succinctly defined as, chiefly if not 
exclusively, "dancing, card-playing and theater-going." Political 
skulduggery and offenses against social justice had not drawn the 
attention of the churches. Neither did slavery until it loomed 
large as a social, economic, and political problem. Then slavery 
became the first great social issue upon which the churches 
developed a conscience. In fact, they developed two contrasting 
consciences. In the North, slavery was seen as a sin; in the South, as 
a divinely established institution opposition to which was sheer 
infidelity. Julia Ward Howe voiced the sentiment of the northern 
churches when she wrote: 

In the beauty of the lilies Christ 'was born across the sea . . 
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free. 

The Alabama Methodist conference declared in January, 1861: 
"African slavery is a wise, humane and righteous institution 
approved by God." Bishop Elliott, Episcopalian, in a sermon at 
Savannah, Georgia in 1862, described opposition to slavery as 
"presumptuous interference with the will and ways of God." The 
general assembly of the southern Presbyterian Church voted in 
1864: "We hesitate not to affirm that it is the peculiar mission of 


the southern church to conserve the institution of slavery and to 
make it a blessing to both master and slave." 

Slavery and secession became the occasion for division in the 
national bodies of the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Only 
the Methodists, who were the first to divide, have healed their 
Civil War schism, after almost a century. Among the Episco- 
palians, committed by tradition to the theory that units of govern- 
ment are units of church organization, the southerners calmly 
organized a Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States 
of America in 1861, and as calmly disbanded it and returned to 
the fold in 1865 when the fortunes of war had proved that the 
Confederate States of America did not exist as a separate nation. 
Since the northerners did not admit that the secession had ever 
been a political reality, they had not recognized the withdrawal of 
the southern dioceses, so the reunion was automatic and immediate. 
The Disciples of Christ did not divide because their organization 
was so loose that there was virtually nothing to divide. During the 
war years their southern members and ministers could not attend 
the annual conventions, then always held in Cincinnati; after the 
war they did; and that was all there was to it. The Congrega- 
tionalists did not divide because they had no churches in the south. 
The Roman Catholic Church had taken no position on slavery 
either before or during the war. "By their silence," says Peter Guil- 
day, "our prelates divorced this burning political question from 
Church affairs." Immediately after the war the Second Plenary 
Council of Baltimore said: "We could have wished that a more 
gradual system of emancipation could have been adopted." But 
since it had expressed no sentiments about emancipation by any 
system until it was an accomplished fact, naturally it did not divide 
on this issue. 


The end of the Civil War left the South disorganized and 
depleted, and during the next decade the unwise policies of recon- 
struction imposed upon it made bad conditions worse. The North 
was not only flushed with victory but buoyant with energy and 


hope. It was for the most part energy for the pursuit of wealth and 
hope of getting it. Again the West beckoned. The westward move- 
ment of population beyond the Mississippi and the Rockies and 
the expansion of the churches to keep up with the advancing 
frontier were a continuation of the great trek that had its impetus 
in the discovery of gold in California in 1848. The panic of 1857 
had destroyed for many in the East every reason for staying where 
they were, and new discoveries of gold and silver in Nevada, 
Colorado, and Idaho had alerted them to the call of the West. 
Meanwhile, the railroads were building. The last link in the trans- 
continental line was closed in 1869. These circumstances destroyed 
the earlier pattern of migration, which could be represented 
with some oversimplification, to be sure as the steady westward 
movement of the outposts of settlement forming an irregular but 
continuous north-and-south line across the country. The Santa Fe 
Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail with its continuation, 
the rise of settlements on the Pacific Coast, and the growth of 
mining camps wherever precious metals were found had already 
greatly disturbed that pattern. The railroads destroyed it. Home- 
steaders and town builders could now overleap empty spaces and 
establish nuclei of settlement at any accessible spot that seemed to 
possess natural advantages. As the Union Pacific, building west- 
ward, and the Central Pacific, building eastward, had met at 
Promontory Point to form a continuous railroad from the Missis- 
sippi to the Pacific, so the frontiers of settlement moved in both 
directions to close the gap between them until by 1890 it had come 
about that the frontier, in the old sense, no longer existed though 
it must be admitted that there were still some "great open spaces" 
and that it was a very loose and uneven network of settlements 
that covered the great plains and the mountains. 

The churches accepted the challenge of the new needs and 
opportunities and created new agencies to promote their work of 
expansion. New home missionary societies and church extension 
boards were formed. The strategy of the Christian campaign to 
evangelize the West and plant churches in the new towns along 
the railroads became more systematic and had more adequate 
financial backing from the East. Individual missionaries penetrated 


to remote spots, and devoted laymen often started churches 
wherever they happened to be, but the national organizations 
determined the main lines of development. When Robert G. 
Ingersoll, the most militant infidel of his time, declared that the 
church was dying out, Chaplain C. C. McCabe, assistant secretary 
of the Methodist Church Extension Society, gave a reply that 
became a slogan: "We're building two a day*" That was, in fact, 
an understatement, for before 1890 that society had aided in build- 
ing 9,000 churches. 

Some great personalities emerged in this campaign for the 
Christian conquest of the West. Some of them also performed 
notable services of other kinds. Going back to the early days, there 
was Peter Cartwright (Methodist), a rough-and-ready frontier 
evangelist who became such a "character" that before his death in 
1872 he was made the subject of two articles in the French 
magazine Revue de Deux JMondes. Marcus Whitman (Congrega- 
tionalist), apostle to the Northwest, played a part in bringing the 
importance of the Oregon country to the attention of the govern- 
ment in Washington and preventing our claim to it from going 
by default. Pious legend may have exaggerated the importance of 
his contribution in this matter, but it was substantial even if not 
crucial. His heroic ride from Oregon to the nation's capital was a 
supermarathon, executed not to bring tidings of a victory but to 
give warning against a threatened diplomatic defeat. When he was 
murdered by the Indians in 1847, the case for doing something 
about Oregon got an emotional stimulus that helped to stir Wash- 
ington to decisive action the next year. William Taylor, a 
Tennessee backwoods Methodist preacher, went to San Francisco 
in 1848, was a street preacher there for several years, and then 
evangelized widely in all directions, but his later labors on five 
continents were so remarkable that he rates a larger entry in con- 
nection with the story of foreign missions. Starr King (Unitarian) 
went from Boston to San Francisco in 1860, became the most 
popular preacher in the city, and was so influential in keeping 
California in the Union that he is commemorated by a bronze 
statue in Golden Gate Park. Sheldon Jackson (Presbyterian), a 
graduate of Union College and Princeton Theological Seminary, 


superintendent of Presbyterian missions in the Rocky Mountain 
area, ranged from Montana to New Mexico and founded many 
churches. In 1884 he went to Alaska, where the next year he 
became superintendent of public instruction and organized a 
public-school system. He held this office until his death twenty- 
five years later. Meanwhile, he had helped to lay out mail routes 
(since he knew the country better than anyone else), had assisted 
in organizing the territorial government, and had introduced the 
domestic reindeer, which became an important element in the 
economy of the Alaskan natives. But he always remained at heart 
a missionary. 

Revivalism continued to be a favorite American method for 
the promotion of religion even after the camp meeting passed 
away. It had begun earlier. The Great Awakening before the 
middle of the eighteenth century, in which George Whitefield 
and Jonathan Edwards were the outstanding figures, echoed 
through the colonies for many years. The Great Western Revival 
of 1800-03, in which the camp meeting was born, initiated a series 
of waves of revivalism in which some of the notable names are 
Charles G. Finney, Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey, Sam Jones, 
Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. In most of these "campaigns" 
many churches and many denominations co-operated. There was 
also continuing revivalism on a smaller and more local scale. 
Several denominations regarded it as part of the normal calendar 
of every congregation to have a revival, or "protracted meeting," 
every year, with preaching every night for two or three weeks. 
The pastor might do the preaching, but the preferred practice was 
to engage the services of a traveling evangelist. There were 
hundreds who made this work their profession. This procedure 
was at its height in the latter part of the nineteenth century and 
the early years of the twentieth. 

Not all the growth of the churches came by evangelization and 
natural increase. As immigration increased the population of the 
country, so also it increased the number of church members. The 
percentage of church members among the immigrants was larger 
than in the country as a whole. The reason for this was that most 
of the immigrants came from European countries having state 


churches of which a vast majority of the people were at least 
nominal members. The churches that gained most in this way 
during the years of heaviest immigration in the nineteenth century 
were the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran. Ireland, Italy, southern 
Germany, and Poland have furnished the largest Catholic immigra- 
tion. Northern Germany and the Scandinavian countries sent 
throngs of Lutherans, The immigrants from Ireland before the Rev- 
olution were almost all Presbyterians from Ulster. The German im- 
migrants in colonial days had come chiefly under the spur of reli- 
gious persecution in their old homes. They included Mennonites 
and other dissenters from established Lutheranism (these became 
the "Pennsylvania Dutch") and Lutherans who had been driven 
out or escaped from German states under Roman Catholic rule. 
It is to be remembered that Germany was then not yet one 
country, but many autonomous principalities, and that it was still 
an accepted principle, confirmed by the Peace of Westphalia, 
which ended the Thirty Years' War in 1648, that "he who governs 
the territory determines its religion." The later and greater 
German immigration in the nineteenth century had an economic 
and political, rather than a religious, motivation. 

The Lutheran immigrants from whatever source tended to 
retain the language of the country of their origin, at least for 
religious purposes, and to retain their church organizations on the 
same lines. For this reason, American Lutheranism has continued 
to have a strongly foreign coloration. Its growth has been chiefly 
by natural increase reinforced by successive waves of immigration. 
Its many divisions are largely based on linguistic differences or on 
issues having their origin in Europe, such as acceptance or rejec- 
tion of the union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia 
and Hesse under governmental pressure in and shortly after 1817. 
All the Lutheran groups have remained stoutly conservative theo- 
logically, though with enough variation to impede the process of 
unification which has been making headway among them. The 
most rigidly conservative, the least co-operative, and one of the 
strongest is the Missouri Synod, organized in 1847. 

The Roman Catholic Church, though profiting by immigration 
even more than the Lutherans, has not been equally limited by this 


fact. It is true that many congregations, institutions, and schools 
continue to use the language of their constituents' country of 
origin. This fact and the tremendous development of the separate 
system of Catholic schools and colleges, the conditions imposed 
upon the intermarriage of Catholics with non-Catholics, and the 
fundamental allegiance of priests and people to an overseas 
ecclesiastical authority have tended toward the establishment of 
a cultural pluralism and to the imposition of limits upon com- 
munication between Catholics and other Americans. Nevertheless, 
Roman Catholicism, with no change whatever in doctrine or 
discipline, has in many respects been Americanized to a remarkable 
degree. This is a broad generalization to which many exceptions 
could be cited and, from the Catholic point of view, justified. It 
is not based on the record of such universally honored characters 
in the 1880's and '90's as Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishops 
Ireland, Keane, and Kain, for the liberal and co-operative 
practices of these men were checked by instructions from Rome 
and they have no contemporary parallels. It is, rather, that, by and 
large, Catholics in America are not generally regarded by non- 
Catholics as primarily persons of foreign origin. 

In recent years immigration has brought from the Near East 
enough members of Eastern Orthodox churches to give the 
twenty-one churches of this order as listed in the 1957 Yearbook 
of the Churches a claimed membership of more than two million. 

Two other religious movements of magnitude and importance 
have originated on American soil. The Mormons (Church of 
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) began with the alleged discovery 
of The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith near Palmyra, N. Y., 
in 1827. The book was a record, amounting to several hundred 
pages, inscribed on golden plates in characters of "Reformed 
Egyptian/' which were translated through a pair of miraculous 
spectacles that automatically turned them into English with a 
strong flavor of the King James Version of the Bible. Organized 
into a church in Ohio, the Mormons became a compact and 
exclusive group not merely a church but also a social and 
economic unit and, so far as possible, a governmental unit. They 
migrated first to Missouri, then to a site on the Mississippi River 


in northern Illinois, where they founded the town of Nauvoo, 
which, under the autocratic leadership of their prophet, became 
the largest town in Illinois, the center of a strong community with 
its own standing army, and a political power in the state. The 
murder of Joseph Smith and the armed hostility of the surrounding 
population indicated the impossibility of carrying out their ambi- 
tious plans in that location. Brigham Young led them across the 
plains and mountains to Utah and the site of what was to become 
Salt Lake City. When the first settlers arrived (July, 1847) this 
area was a part of Mexico, but so remote from its seats of govern- 
ment that there could be a lively hope of soon breaking away and 
forming an independent state, as Texas had recently done. Six 
months later the treaty ending the Mexican War brought it within 
the boundaries of the United States. Missionaries sent to Europe 
won many converts, especially in England and Sweden. Migration 
to Utah, the new Promised Land, was part of the gospel they 
preached. Polygamy until it was outlawed by the church in 1890 
increased the population but intensified the antipathy of non- 
Mormons. Industry and good management made the entire Utah 
enterprise as successful a colonization project as history records. 
Religious zeal, the careful indoctrination of the young, and con- 
tinued missionary efforts have brought the Mormon Church to a 
membership of more than a million and a quarter, with a con- 
centration in Utah and the mountain states but with congregations 
throughout the country. The radio concerts of the superb Taber- 
nacle Choir and the "spoken word" of Richard Evans, over a 
period of thirty years, have won the admiration of all who hear 

Christian Science is a system of religious teaching and drugless 
healing discovered and organized by Mary Baker Eddy in succes- 
sive steps about 1866. Its Textbook, Science and Healthy was 
published in 1875. Keeping a closely knit central control in Boston, 
and using none of the traditional evangelistic techniques of propa- 
ganda and expansion, it has gained a body of adherents which, 
though no statistics are given out, must be of the order of a 
million. One of the agencies by which it has gained the respect 
even of those who reject its philosophy and regard its opposition 


to medical research and practice a menace to public health is the 
highly intelligent and widely circulated daily Christian Science 
Monitor, which contains a minimum of distinctively Christian 
Science material. 

An important feature of contemporary American Christianity 
is the large number of independent and energetic religious groups 
about which scarcely any descriptive statement can be made that 
will apply to all except that they stand apart from the older historic 
denominations and from one another. They enter into no con- 
ferences, are members of no councils of churches, co-operate with 
nobody, but promote their own programs with great zeal and 
devotion. All are basically Fundamentalist in their theology, but 
with many variations in detail. There can be only bare mention of 
a few: Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Amy Semple 
McPherson's Four-Square Gospel, the Churches of God (fourteen 
listed organizations), Nazarenes, the various Pentecostal Holiness 
bodies, and the Churches of Christ. No similarity in doctrine, 
worship, or methods of promotion, except as indicated above, is 
implied by listing these together in a single sentence. In general 
these movements are not in the slightest degree aif ected by anything 
that could be called modern scholarship, and the more successful 
of them are growing more rapidly than either the old-line Protes- 
tant denominations or the Roman Catholic Church. 

So by natural diffusion, by the work of missionaries who were 
half explorers, by the systematic efforts of national church boards 
and societies, by planting churches and colleges which both shared 
in and promoted the growing culture of what had only lately been 
frontier settlements, and by education, evangelism, revivalism, and 
the proliferation of new and unconventional movements, religion 
had more than kept pace with the development of the country. If 
mere statistics mean anything, it may be noted that between the 
beginning and the end of the nineteenth century, while the 
population of the United States had increased from 5,300,000 to 
75,900,000, the percentage of church members in the total popula- 
tion had increased from less than ten to thirty-six per cent. 


Christianity in Europe 

While Christianity was making a place for itself in the New 
World, it was in danger of losing that which it had held in the Old. 
It had already lost in England, and was about to lose in most 
countries of continental Europe, the status of an institution to 
which the state compelled conformity. The question was whether 
it could hold the allegiance of the minds of men who were assert- 
ing their freedom in all other fields. Empirical science, fore- 
shadowed by Aristotle, had entered its modern phase with Galileo 
and Bacon. The way to find truth was to study observed facts* 
John Locke had declared that "sensation and reflection" were 
man's only means of gaining knowledge. Almost simultaneously 
with the release of Locke's principal work, Sir Isaac Newton 
published (1687) his Principia (The Mathematical Principles of 
Natural Philosophy). These marked the dawn of what was hailed 
as the Age of Enlightenment. Bacon and Locke told how all true 
knowledge must be obtained, and Newton explained everything! 
As Alexander Pope, the poetical spokesman for the Enlightenment, 
hymned it: 



Nature and Nature's laius lay hidm night; 
God said> Let Newton be, and all was light. 

For the men of the Enlightenment there remained problems 
but no more mysteries. The belief spread that man could be lifted 
to perfection by using his own mental powers in accordance with 
scientific method, that such religions teachings as could not be 
certified by observation or reason were to be rejected, and that if 
God had created the world and its inhabitants before Hume it 
did seem that the law of causation required the assumption of a 
First Cause he had left the world to run according to natural law 
and man to work out his own salvation with the aid of an inquisi- 
tive mind to whose achievements no limits could be set. The con- 
sequence, in Newton's nation, was a cool Deism which, rejecting 
the supernatural and worshiping natural law, produced a somno- 
lent church with neither the power nor the will to exercise moral 
leadership or to minister to the spiritual needs of men. On the 
Continent, and especially in France, which was then the center of 
European culture, it led to the polished skepticism that, in Vol- 
taire's phrase, made God a character to whom he bowed but with 
whom he was not on speaking terms. 

The 1700's in Europe have been called "the glittering century." 
The term does the period some Injustice by implying that its 
brilliance was wholly superficial. The truth is that there was much 
solid intellectual substance beneath its brilliant surface. One cannot 
speak lightly of the century of Leibnitz and Hume, of Addison, 
Swift, and Gibbon, of Rousseau, Goethe, a-iid Schiller, of Handel, 
Bach, and Mozart, and of the opening of tie British Museum and 
the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Brmanica. It was in a sense 
a revival of the spirit of the Renaissance, with its intellectual liberty 
tending toward a self-sufficient rationalism, its appreciation of 
beauty and joy (for those in fortunate circumstances), and its 
declining interest in either faith or morality, The state of organized 
religion and of personal morals was low in every country of 
Europe. To speak only of England, which concerns us most 
nearly, the church paid by loss of moral authority and spiritual 
leadership for its long preoccupation with the externals and 
temporalities. Alike among the common people and in high society, 


the general level of morality had perhaps never been lower.* In 
Germany the state-dominated church had consciously adopted the 
policy of noninterference with anything outside of the narrow 
circle of its own doctrines and sacraments. Its theologians were 
either bogged down in a stultifying Protestant scholasticism or 
frustrated by accommodation to the prevailing rationalism of the 
time. Roman Catholicism in such Catholic countries as France, 
Spain, and Italy had suffered a decline from the high level of the 
Catholic Reformation to a painful position from which it was later 
to be rescued by the conservative reaction to the French Revolu- 
tion and Napoleon. 


In Protestant Germany, Christianity's recovery from formalism 
and sloth was largely due to the rise of Pietism an emphasis upon 
the individual's direct communion with God, the validity of reli- 
gious experience, and the necessity of not only nurturing the 
devotional life by prayer but also giving it expression in deeds of 
mercy and benevolence. In England, the saving event was the 
breaking out of that Evangelical Revival with which the name of 
John Wesley is forever linked. These two reinvigorating move- 
ments met at the point where Wesley, the high church Anglican, 
in his early gropings found himself in Moravian company, first on 
a ship in distress during an Atlantic storm and later in the quiet of 
a Pietistic meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, from which he 
emerged with his "heart strangely wanned." 

In many ways John Wesley is reminiscent of Ignatius Loyola, 
He was as completely a child of his age and culture, eighteenth- 
century England, as was Loyola of sixteenth-century Spain. Like 
the founder of the Jesuit order, he cared less for theology than for 
religious results. When, after his preaching had begun to win con- 
verts by the thousands, he was reminded of the doctrine of pre- 
destination with its teaching that most of mankind has been 

*For details and documentation, see J. W. Bready, England Before and 
After Wesley, Harper, 1938. For more scandalous particulars, L. C. Jones, 
The Clubs of the Georgian Rakes, Columbia University Press, 1942. 


elected by God's decree to eternal damnation, Wesley swept 
Calvin aside and gave slight heed to his own church's somewhat 
milder assertion of the limitation of God's mercy to the elect (Art. 
XVII of the Thirty-nine Articles), and cried: "What will you 
prove by Scripture? That God is worse than the Devil? It cannot 
be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never can prove this; what- 
ever its true meaning may be, this cannot be its true meaning. 
. . . No Scripture can mean that God is not love." 

In every sense of the word, Wesley was a general. (Geneticists 
might find interest in the fact that his distant cousin, whose name 
was Arthur Wesley until the spelling was changed to Wellesley, 
was to become the Duke of Wellington, the victor at Waterloo.) 
He demanded absolute obedience from his lay preachers and laid 
down rules for the conduct of the members of his societies so 
detailed that the name "Methodists," first flung in derision at 
Wesley and his companions at Oxford, became fastened on the 
entire Wesleyan movement He was not as "moving" a preacher 
as others in the Evangelical Revival, such as George Whitefield, 
but he saw to it that his converts were organized into disciplined 
companies which would become something permanent. To this 
day Methodist churches and clergy are governed by a Book of 

Wesley drove himself incredibly an average of 4,500 miles 
every year on horseback over what then passed for roads; at least 
45,000 sermons preached in his lifetime, the first each day at five 
o'clock or earlier; 450 books either written or edited; and a volume 
of correspondence conducted that would weary a modern tycoon 
equipped with dictograph and a bevy of secretaries. Then, at the 
end of each day, there had to be the entry in that Journal which 
historians acclaim as the best picture we have of the England of 
the first three Georges. In fifty years Wesley with his followers 
broke up the cold formalism of English church life, made Chris- 
tianity a transforming power for hundreds of thousands of miners, 
artisans, farm laborers, and small tradesmen, and set in motion 
philanthropic and reform impulses that led to John Howard's 
crusade against prison horrors, William Wilberforce's against 


slavery, and Robert Raikes's Sunday schools, originally intended 
to lighten the mean and stunted lives of children in the slums. 

Wesley was no separatist. He was an ordained clergyman of the 
Church of England and wanted to work within that church. Even 
to the end of his life he was never quite willing to admit that he 
had left it When his adherents became numerous they were 
organized not into local churches but into "societies." But the 
actual functioning of these societies, the conferences of Wesley's 
preachers, and the total disregard of the Anglican authorities made 
it more and more difficult to maintain the fiction that Methodism 
was only a movement for the revival of religion in the Church of 
England. Affairs were in this tentative state when the first Meth- 
odist lay preacher came to America in 1760. Twenty years later, 
when there were more than a hundred preachers and almost 10,000 
Methodists, they still regarded themselves as extrazealous and free- 
wheeling members of the Church of England under the special 
direction of John Wesley. The winning of American independ- 
ence (to which Wesley had been opposed) made it impossible for 
American Methodism not to assert its independence. This was 
done, with Wesley's approval, at the famous Christmas Eve con- 
ference, 1784, at Baltimore. Then and there was born the Meth- 
odist Episcopal Church, which became a potent factor in evangeliz- 
ing America. 


The Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century did more 
than produce German Pietism, which remained within the bosom 
of Lutheranism, and the Methodist Church, which ultimately 
separated from its parent, the Church of England. It became a 
permeating influence in all the churches. Its warm devotional life, 
its deep concern for the salvation of souls, and its active interest 
in the betterment of living conditions for the common people all 
these worked for good at a crucial time. The mystical and humani- 
tarian qualities of the Evangelical Revival furnished no answer to 
the Enlightenment's empirical philosophy or its rationalistic argu- 


ments against revealed religion, but they were a steadying and 
sustaining influence for thousands, ultimately for millions, of the 
common people, who, knowing litde about the intellectual issues 
involved, were in danger of being swept along by the popular cur- 
rent of unbelief, which was the Enlightenment's most immediate 
but least admirable consequence. 

It is no mere coincidence that the beginnings of the great 
modern missionary expansion of Christianity came just as the 
Evangelical Revival was reaching its crest. German Pietists and 
Moravians had sent some missionaries to Greenland, Labrador, and 
the Danish West Indies early in the eighteenth century. The 
Church of England's Society for the Propagation of the Gospel 
in Foreign Parts, organized in 1701, had worked in the British 
West Indies as well as in the American colonies. It was toward 
the end of the century, and under the influence of the Evangelical 
Revival, that the missionary impulse began to reach out beyond the 
limits of colonial possessions. When William Carey, an English 
Baptist minister, joined with others in forming a Baptist missionary 
society in 1792 and soon thereafter went to India, it was the be- 
ginning of a new era of Christian expansion. We shall sketch the 
development of this wider expansion in a later chapter, at present 
only noting that it was largely the result of that revival of evan- 
gelical zeal which strangely, it may seem paralleled the Age of 

England's "bloodless revolution" of 1689 had put that country 
a century ahead of the European Continent in civil and religious 
liberty and in democratic government. In France until late in the 
eighteenth century royal absolutism prevailed, Protestantism was 
legally nonexistent but only driven underground, not exter- 
minated, by the dragonnades and the revocation of the Edict of 
Nantes and the higher Catholic clergy were solidly on the side 
of the privileged class, to which they belonged, though the parish 
priests were generally on the side of the oppressed, among whom 
they belonged. The French Revolution was antiroyalist and anti- 
clerical, but not antireligious except in one brief period of mad- 
ness. When the Revolution was over, and when Napoleon had 
risen and fallen, the badly frightened powers of Europe joined in 


a Conservative Alliance to restore the old order of things and to 
defend all "legitimate" monarchs against the threatening rise of 
liberal sentiments. 


Catholicism profited greatly by this reaction. Napoleon had 
carried off the pope to Fontainebleau and compelled him to sign 
away his sovereignty over the Papal State. When Napoleon fell, 
the pope naturally returned to Rome and to the exercise of his 
temporal sovereignty. This gave general satisfaction, for even those 
who did not love the pope hated Napoleon and were glad to 
see his redrawing of the political map of Europe erased as com- 
pletely as possible. But with the pope back in the Vatican, ac- 
knowledged as the absolute monarch of a state covering a consider- 
able part of central Italy, and acting in close alliance with the 
reactionary governments of Europe, new troubles arose. The 
French Revolution, in spite of some appalling excesses, and Napo- 
leon, in spite of his imperialistic ambitions, had left a residue of 
advanced political thought a stronger demand for the recognition 
of basic human rights, and the concept of a secular society in 
which all men would enjoy freedom of religion and no ecclesiasti- 
cal authorities should dominate the civil government. Italy was 
seething with this new spirit. It was the achievement of the Vatican 
in the nineteenth century that it fought off these revolutionary 
forces until the progressive political unification of Italy ended its 
temporal sovereignty in 1870, and that simultaneously it was reviv- 
ing its inner strength, decreeing new dogmas, reasserting its abso- 
lute refusal to compromise with the liberal spirit of the times, and 
putting the capstone on its pyramid of power by the decree of 
papal infallibility. 

The church was fortunate in having successively two strong 
popes with unprecedentedly long pontificates: Pius IX (1846-78) 
and Leo XIII (1878-1903). The decree of the Immaculate Concep- 
tion of the Virgin Mary (1854), the first promulgation of a dogma 
on the authority of the pope alone, foreshadowed the non ex con- 
sensu ecckslae ("not from the consent of the church") which was 


included, sixteen years later, in the definition of the pope's infalli^ 
bility in matters of doctrine and morals. The Syllabus of Errors 
(1864) served notice that the Vatican adhered in principle to the 
medieval position that governments should co-operate with the 
"one true Church" and should protect their citizens from the 
poisonous teachings of any other. One of the "errors" denounced 
in this document is the claim "that the church ought to be sep- 
arated from the state and the state from the church." Leo, more 
diplomatic in his approach to the problems of the modern world, 
showed himself a no less stalwart defender of the same position 
in his great encyclical Immortale Dei (On the Christian Constitu- 
tion of States, 1885), in which he deplored the "lamentable rage 
for innovation" that has led to the false modern theory "that every- 
one is to be free to follow whatever religion he prefers, or none at 
all if he disapproves of all," and that has brought it about in 
states embracing such principles that "the Catholic religion is 
allowed a standing in civil society equal only to societies alien from 
it" that is, other churches. While thus condemning the American 
principle of religious liberty as strongly as his predecessors had 
done, Leo recognized that it was not always practicable for the 
church to insist upon its unique prerogatives and that, where it 
does not have the power to enforce what it considers its rights, 
it may temporarily concede the legal, if not the theological, right 
of other "churches" to exist. In more modern mood, Leo XIII 
championed the cause of labor and was among the first religious 
leaders perhaps the very first to demand social and economic 
justice for the common man. 

When the popes lost their temporal sovereignty in 1870, by the 
withdrawal of the French troops from Rome to meet the demands 
of the Franco-Prussian War, they became, in their own view, 
"prisoners in the Vatican," and so remained until by the treaty and 
concordat with Mussolini in 1929 the independent state of Vatican 
City was established, with an area of 108.7 acres. 


Christianity and Modern Thought 

What is commonly called "modern thought" is, to a great extent, 
a delayed result of the Renaissance. Then men began to break 
away from established authority, question what had hitherto been 
accepted without questioning, and seek for truth by reliance on 
their own powers of observation and reasoning. Modern science 
and modern philosophy were both born of that revolt against 
authority. The Renaissance, checked in Italy, the land of its origin, 
burst forth with fresh vigor in England and then in France. There 
its chief manifestations were not in painting and sculpture, but in 
science and philosophy. The resulting prevalence of empiricism 
and rationalism did indeed create a peril for the Christian faith. 
Faith had built upon some unquestioned and unquestionable pre- 
suppositions. For Protestants, the chief of these were revelation 
and the Bible as its infallible channel. But science and philosophy 
felt free to question everything, including these. In reality they 
rather ignored than investigated them. 

We have already spoken of the intellectual movement that is 
called the Enlightenment in England, the Eclaircissement in France 
and the Aufklarung in Germany, the threat that its skeptical tern- 



per offered to Christian faith, and the defense against this threat by 
Pietism and the Evangelical Revival. In secular thought the Ro- 
mantic movement furnished a somewhat similar escape. These 
movements all stressed emotion more than reason and tried to find 
a cognitive value in "feeling." They were evasions rather than 
solutions of the issues presented by the Enlightenment. There was 
nothing discreditable about this, for few philosophical battles are 
fought out on the ground on which they originate. But it was not 
long until some Christian thinkers began to reflect that there were 
in these new and apparently dangerous movements some elements 
that might be a positive resource for the Christian faith. Perhaps 
one might get a truer knowledge of what God has done and said 
by studying the evidence by the same methods that the critics of 
Christianity were using. 

The Enlightenment contained an element that was not crude 
rationalism or materialistic empiricism. This was a common-sense 
demand that beliefs should be examined, and if necessary revised, 
in the light of the known or knowable facts. Modern science was 
born out of this respect for evidence as the necessary ground of 
any conclusions that can be held with assurance. What did this 
mean for religion? Some, enchanted by the new methods of 
science, would now believe nothing that could not be proved as 
Newton's law of gravitation was proved. Religion became for 
them a mass of superstitions to be put away along with the other 
playthings belonging to the infancy of the human race. On the 
other hand, there were those pious ones who thought it little less 
than sacrilege to subject to the test of evidence any of the cher- 
ished beliefs they had received on authority. But there were some 
also who felt that, though the basic truths of Christianity might be 
neither provable nor disprovable by scientific methods, there was 
a great body of Christian lore and tradition that stood in need of 
just such a clearing up as the principles of the Enlightenment 
might furnish. Here was the beginning of what may be called 
evangelical liberalism. 

The Enlightenment, from the English Hume to the French 
Encyclopedists, had carried itself entirely outside the orbit of 
Christian thought. The early years of the nineteenth century saw 


a new series of intellectual events which had more significance for 
Christian thought because they were not anti-Christian. 

These new ideas and discoveries were scientific rather than 
philosophical. All of them involved, directly or indirectly, ques- 
tions as to the nature of the Bible: What kind of book is it? What 
is the nature and extent of its inspiration? What is the scope and 
what are the limits of its authority? These questions were espe- 
cially important for Protestants because, when they had rejected 
the authority of the church as constituted in the Middle Ages, they 
had reaffirmed with emphasis the authority of the Bible. William 
Chillingworth's phrase "The Bible and the Bible alone is the re- 
ligion of Protestants," originally intended only as a denial of the 
co-ordinate authority of ecclesiastical tradition, had come to be 
an assertion that the Bible was the very bedrock of all truth. The 
Reformers and their followers for the next two or three centuries 
had not realized that the theory of Biblical infallibility was itself an 
item in that Catholic "tradition" which they thought they were 
rejecting completely. 

The first issue had to do with the age of the earth. Archbishop 
James Ussher (Anglican, Dublin) had arranged a chronology, 
drawn from the data given in the Old Testament, which acquired 
such prestige that it was printed in all standard editions of the 
King James version until recent years. By this chronology the 
earth was created in the year 4004 B.C. In any case, since Genesis 
says the world was created in six days and the line of the patriarchs 
begins on the sixth day, it could not have been much earlier than 
that. Yet the new science of geology was saying that certain fossils 
were millions of years older, and that the strata of sedimentary 
rock indicated a vast age for the earth. Which was right Genesis 
or geology? It became a hotly debated issue. Books were written 
on both sides. Clerical reputations were made and lost. The belated 
thought that the "days" of Genesis might mean geological epochs 
furnished a rather narrow avenue of escape. It had never occurred 
to any exegete until geology gave its testimony to the earth's 
antiquity, but it served the purpose for those who could not bring 
themselves to deny facts as hard as rocks but who felt it necessary 
that Scripture should be infallible on every subject it mentions. 


The real issue, of course, was not the age of the earth but the 
nature of the Bible. This preliminary skirmish suggested to many 
that perhaps it was not intended to serve as an infallible guide 
in science. But strict orthodoxy long maintained that the Bible 
would be "untrustworthy" in religion if it contained any statement 
in the area of science or history that is not absolutely correct.* 


The fight over evolution was longer and more serious. The idea 
of organic evolution had been stated by many earlier scientists, 
but Darwin's great book The Origin of Species (1859) presented 
massive evidence in support of the hypothesis. In this and in The 
Descent of Man (1871) was a theory of the origin of the human 
race and of man's relationship with the rest of the animal world 
which was radically different from the account given in Genesis. 
No ingenuity of exegesis could make it appear that the author of 
Genesis really meant what Darwin said. Furthermore, the idea 
of evolution quickly began to be applied in fields other than 
biology in the study of the development of social institutions, 
of law, of language, of religion itself. In the first forty years few 
religious leaders dared face the implications of the scientific doc- 
trine and the philosophy that grew out of it. One who did was 
Henry Drummond, natural scientist of Edinburgh University and 
for a time the associate of Dwight L. Moody, the evangelist. 
Drummond wrote The Natural Law in the Spiritual World and 
The Ascent of Man. He was the first conspicuous "Christian evo- 
lutionist." Another was Henry Ward Beecher, who, being then 
the most popular preacher in America, contributed a proevolution 
article to the North American Review in 1880. From this, most 
pious Americans probably reached the conclusion not that evolu- 

* My own boyhood Bible, the flyleaf of which testifies that it was given to 
me by my father on Christmas Day, 1890, not only carries the Ussher 
chronology at the head of every page of the historical books including 
the date of creation as September 1, 4004 B.C. but also asserts, in the 
"Helps'* at the back of the book, that the religious "ideas" in the Bible 
cannot be believed unless all its statements of "facts" are accepted as true. 


tion was compatible with Christianity but that Beecher, though 
an incomparable preacher, was just a loose-thinking liberal. Bee- 
cher's more scholarly successor, Lyman Abbott, lectured widely on 
"The Evolution of Christianity" and wrote a book entitled The 
Theology of an Evolutionist (1897). 

The idea of evolution as "God's way of working" gradually 
won acceptance by most Christian scholars, but so heavy was the 
conservative drag that most ministers cautiously refrained from 
saying a good word for evolution and left their flocks to assume 
that it must be contrary to their religion since they never heard 
it defended except by "infidels." The continuing conflict was 
dramatized by the Scopes case in 1925 when William Jennings 
Bryan and Clarence Darrow faced each other in the trial of a 
high-school science teacher for violation of a Tennessee law for- 
bidding teaching in any tax-supported school "the theory that 
denies the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible." Immedi- 
ately thereafter antievolution laws were enacted in Mississippi, 
Arkansas, and Texas. The crux of the question was still whether 
or not denial of the inerrancy of the Bible is an attack on Chris- 


A few had approached the question of the nature of the Bible 
on a broader front and in a scientific spirit long before Darwin 
and evolution took the spotlight. Even in the eighteenth century 
there were Christian scholars who, as they read the Bible, saw 
that it did not exhibit a constant level of divine inspiration, that 
its writers seemed to express diverse and not always harmonious 
views, and that some of the books appeared to be of composite 
origin and to have been written later than the dates traditionally 
assigned to them. By the early years of the nineteenth century, 
methods of more rigorous historical research and literary analysis 
had been developed in Germany, and it was inevitable that these 
should be applied to the Bible. To scholars on whom the spirit of 
the Enlightenment had made its impress it seemed reasonable and 
necessary that the most intelligent processes of historical and liter- 


ary analysis should be applied for the better understanding of the 
world's most important body of literature. The result was what 
came to be called "higher criticism." 

"Lower criticism" was the study and comparison of manu- 
scripts to determine the most accurate text of die Biblical books. 
No one objected to that, but to the more conservative minds it 
seemed presumptuous to continue the research by examining these 
texts as other pieces of ancient literature are examined with a view 
to discovering their authorship, dates, structure, and relation to the 
periods that produced them. Some of the results of such study were 
radically at variance with traditional views. Among them were the 
"documentary theory" of the Pentateuch, the division of Isaiah 
into at least two parts separated by about one hundred and fifty 
years, and the late date of Daniel These and other discoveries in- 
volved a thorough revision of earlier ideas about the course of 
Hebrew history and the development of Hebrew thought. What 
was even more important, this "new view of the Bible" made it 
impossible to prefix "The Bible says" to a verse taken at random 
from any part of it on the assumption that this settled the matter. 
The application of the same principles to the New Testament was 
even more disturbing to many. 

There was lively and continuing controversy on these themes, 
in England as early as the 1860's, in the United States beginning 
almost a generation later. It was long before this new method of 
Biblical study and its results reached any considerable numbers of 
the laity (if they have even yet), but the denominational leaders, 
the seminary professors, and most of the clergy knew enough 
about them to take sides. In many circles one's attitude toward 
"higher criticism" became the touchstone of orthodoxy. The con- 
servatives were quite right in saying that much more than a ques- 
tion of literary history was involved. If this new view prevailed, 
the Bible could no longer be used as an "arsenal of proof-texts." If 
it were agreed that the Biblical writers viewed truth from the 
standpoint of their own time and place, then moderns might feel 
themselves free to see it from the point of view of the best culture 
of their own day, including its scientific and philosophical insights. 
It was quite certain that there would be revisions of some of the 


doctrines that had been formulated in the fourth century and in 
the sixteenth. And so, indeed, there were. It is rather surprising that 
there were only a few heresy trials. By the end of the nineteenth 
century, a strain of "evangelical liberalism" ran through the lead- 
ing Protestant denominations. The root of it was a demand for 
freedom of thought on the basis of unrestricted scholarship, not 
only in interpreting the words of the Bible (that had been an 
original principle of Protestantism), but also in determining what 
kind of book the Bible is. 

A similar tendency in the Roman Catholic Church was 
promptly checked. Its first manifestation was the rise of liberal 
political and social movements in Catholic European countries. 
Leo XII had already denounced the democratic movement and the 
principles of religious liberty before Pius IX in his Syllabus of 
Errors (1864) made clear the church's continued claim to abso- 
lute control over the intellectual life of mankind. His promulga- 
tion of the dogma of papal infallibility (1870) made clear the 
locus of the church's authority. Leo XIIFs encyclical Aeterni 
Patris (1879) established the thirteenth-century system of St. 
Thomas Aquinas as the permanent standard of Catholic philoso- 
phy, and his frovldentlssimus Dens (1893) was directed against 
critical methods of Biblical study. This was followed by a decree 
prohibiting doubt as to the textual authenticity of the "three heav- 
enly witnesses" passage in I John 5:8 (1897). Under Pius X, the 
first pope to be canonized in almost two and a half centuries, the 
condemnation of independent scholarship came to a climax with 
a decree of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (1906) and 
two encyclicals (1906, 1907) completely crushing "Modernism," 
which included Biblical criticism and much more. This was fol- 
lowed by the requirement that a special "anti-Modernist oath" shall 
be taken by all teachers in Catholic seminaries and colleges by 
which they bind themselves to agreement with "all the condemna- 
tions, declarations and proscriptions" in regard to Biblical interpre- 
tation that have been put forth by the church's constituted authori- 
ties. To bring the record down to date, in 1950 the question of the 
transfer of the Virgin Mary's body from earth to heaven was taken 
out of the hands of the theologians and historians by Pope Pius 


XII when he promulgated the dogma of the Assumption; and 
in the same year the encyclical Humani Generis, while speaking 
appreciatively of the work of Christian scholars, reminded them 
that they must stay within the boundaries prescribed by the Vati- 
can and that, for example, they must regard the early chapters of 
Genesis as neither myth nor legend but as literal and accurate 

Paralleling the line of "liberal" development which derived its 
impulse and method largely from science, and which aimed to 
apply scientific methods to the study of the data of religion while 
remaining within the boundaries of evangelical Christianity, there 
were other streams of thought which were less concerned about 
maintaining their evangelical status and diverged from the ortho- 
dox current. The rise of the Unitarian movement has been men- 
tioned in an earlier chapter. It gained new vigor on American soil 
as a revolt against New England Calvinism, but it was a revolt 
against much more than that. It was a rejection of the concept of 
a "redemption religion" in which the cross and the atonement were 
central features, a general repudiation of the miraculous, a strong 
ethical emphasis, and a declaration that the untrammeled quest of 
truth and "salvation by character" were the highest objectives of 
the religious man. Many of the oldest churches in Boston and its 
neighborhood became Unitarian, and Harvard came under Uni- 
tarian control. William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), the saintly, 
eloquent humanitarian and tolerant apostle of Unitarianism, took 
the lead in forming the American Unitarian Association (1825). 
Emerson and his associates in the Transcendentalist movement 
represented a different phase of liberalism, but found Unitarianism 
congenial to their mood and consistent with their doctrine. Uni- 
versalism, which had had a long history of the reaction of in- 
dividual thinkers against the doctrine of eternal torture for sinners, 
became an organized religious body at about the same time. 

The failure of the Unitarians and Universalists to gain any large 
number of adherents for neither group has ever had more than 
100,000 members in the United States was doubtless due in large 
part to the wide spread of the liberal movement of which they 
were the most extreme exponents. With the slackening of in- 


sistence upon a strict interpretation of the traditional creeds, it 
became easily possible for ministers and laymen to maintain their 
connection with their "orthodox" churches while questioning the 
authority of the Nicene homoousion terminology, rethinking the 
meaning of Christ's "Sonship," emphasizing the ethical teaching of 
Jesus more than his redemptive function, and letting the blood 
atonement and eternal punishment drop out of their thought. 


Protestants both enjoyed the benefits and paid the penalties of 
liberty when they confronted the issues posed by the "new view 
of the Bible" and other phases of contemporary thought. Since 
they recognized no ruling power which, itself immune to the im- 
pact of modern thought, could impose its restrictions upon them 
by arbitrary authority, they were free to accept or reject these 
newer views as individual judgment might direct, subject only to 
such restraints as general opinion in the several denominations 
might impose. Few denominations cared to bring the matter to a 
sharp issue in their highest judiciaries. Those of higher educational 
standards and closer contacts with the currents of modern thought 
were deeply permeated with the more liberal views. Even in such 
soundly "evangelical" bodies as the Congregationalists, Presby- 
terians, Methodists, and Northern Baptists, there came to be a great 
host of ministers and laymen who, without becoming avowed par- 
tisans of either higher criticism or the evolutionary philosophy, 
found themselves thinking more about the natural goodness of 
human nature and how it could be developed by the influence of 
"the teachings of Jesus" than about original sin, the election of a 
favored few to be saved by the power of a "substitutionary atone- 
ment," and the sharp distinction between the "saved" and the 
"lost." Hell was seldom mentioned in the "better pulpits." Dean 
Shailer Mathews said that the reason the Universalists did not grow 
more rapidly was that now they "would first have to prove that 
there is a hell before proving that nobody goes to it" These nega- 
tive aspects do not fairly represent the moral and spiritual vigor 
of evangelical liberalism. It had these qualities. It stirred the Chris- 


tian conscience in regard to economic questions, the rights of 
labor (before the unions had grown strong enough to take care of 
themselves), the problems of the slums, and the issues of social 
justice. It is notable that interest in these practical and present-day 
applications of Christian principles to the betterment of the social 
order found its most active expression at what seemed to be the 
church's opposite poles on the one hand, evangelical liberalism; 
on the other, American Anglo-Catholicism and Roman Cathol- 
icism. The "social gospel" became the word to conjure with in 
liberal Protestant circles. From the standpoint of the older Protes- 
tant orthodoxy, the "social gospel" seemed to be an evasion and 
the liberal theology a complete surrender of the essentials of the 


The organized opposition to "modernism" in all its forms came 
from the Fundamentalist movement. This arose, late in the nine- 
teenth century, in various "Bible conferences" and "prophetic con- 
ferences." These were undenominational. All of them stressed the 
inerrancy of Scripture, blood atonement, and the predictive ele- 
ment in prophecy, certain passages of which when literally inter- 
preted could be made to indicate the imminent end of the world. 
Out of these conferences issued the "five points" of Fundamental- 
ism. These were: the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scrip- 
ture, the deity and virgin birth of Jesus, the substitutionary blood 
atonement, the bodily resurrection, and the premillennial second 
coming of Christ. Jems Is Coming was the tide of a book which 
had a subsidized circulation of millions of copies both in America 
and abroad in many translations. A popular slogan was "Millions 
now living will never die." This emphasis on the Second Coming 
as something now to be expected at any time gradually lost its 
centrality though it was not abandoned. The stress was upon the 
infallible truth and divine authority of every word of Scripture 
and upon the classic doctrines of atonement, redemption, and sal- 
vation. "Bible institutes" were established, and some of them very 
substantially financed, to prepare preachers of this conservative 


gospel, now that the theological seminaries of the principal de- 
nominations were deemed to have been fatally infected with the 
heresies of Biblical criticism and modern thought. The institutes 
continued to function usefully, especially in training religious 
workers who lacked the college education required by the theo- 
logical seminaries as prerequisite to admission. 

Long before the middle of the twentieth century these also 
had lost their fighting temper, though not their basic convictions, 
and had reverted to the type of conservative doctrine that was 
practically identical with that of seventeenth-century Protestant- 
ism but with less emphasis on the specific tenets of Calvinism and 
with more evangelistic drive. Popular evangelism the case of 
Billy Graham is the most conspicuous example has rested on this 
theological foundation. The results of a century of Biblical study, 
now accepted by the vast majority of accredited scholars in this 
field, are neither denied nor discussed but are blandly ignored, 
and "the Bible says" is assumed to be bedrock authority. The term 
"Fundamentalism," however, as carrying with it the connotations 
derived from its earlier use, has become an anachronism except in 
very limited circles. 


At the same time, partial eclipse has overtaken the "liberalism" 
of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The tragic 
events connected with two world wars, and between the two and 
after the second, seemed to render implausible its optimistic view 
of man and its hope of a progressive realization of the kingdom of 
God on earth through a growing application of "the teaching of 
Jesus" and the social gospel. Leading theologians found the liberal 
estimate of man's inherent goodness and the accompanying phi- 
losophy of history shallow and unrealistic. The fact of sin a term 
that had become almost taboo to the thoroughgoing liberals was 
brought back and restored to its earlier prominence, with fresh 
and profoundly thoughtful interpretations of Christianity as a 
"redemption religion." In this movement the initiative was taken 
by Germans, who had seen their world collapsing around them 


and to whom the "naive optimism" of the earlier liberalism, espe- 
cially as it had found expression in prosperous America, seemed 
particularly odious. There was more to it, however, than an 
equally naive pessimism derived from generalization on their own 
misfortunes. There were authentic insights into the human situa- 
tion. The suggestion was quickly taken up by British and Amer- 
ican thinkers. "Neo~orthodoxy" and "neo-Reformarion theology" 
are terms that have become familiar, but neither is acceptable to 
those who take this position. It is certainly neo-something, for its 
leaders have frankly accepted the results of critical study of the 
Bible while still finding in the Bible, as well as in the study of man 
and history, the basis for their conviction that even the good are 
fatally sinful, that the church as well as the world "stands under 
the judgment of God," and that the grace of God is their only 
hope. Karl Earth and Emil Brunner are eminent among those who 
have contributed to the formulation of a new and thoroughly 
evangelical Biblical theology which yet accepts the findings of 
modern Biblical scholarship. 

The rediscovery of Kierkegaard after almost a century of 
oblivion has added new depth some would say new confusion 
to theological thought. While the great Dane launched his most 
direct attacks against the Hegelian philosophy and the lethargy of 
a church that had come to comfortable terms with the world, the 
acid of his criticism bit deeply into the complacency both of 
optimistic liberals and of tradition-bound conservatives. He found 
in man's condition and in the divine imperatives paradoxes that 
defy smooth rationalization. From Kierkegaard came Existential- 
ism in all its manifold varieties from the atheist Sartre to the 
Roman Catholic Gabriel Marcel not a system of thought but, 
rather, a mood of "concern" for the total human situation, or 
"anguish" for one's own, together with the conviction that Life 
and Truth are such that no rational conceptual system is possible. 
Such sensitive awareness of the irreducible complexities and con- 
tradictions of the "existential" situation skirts the edges of a new 
and fashionable type of anti-intellectual obscurantism. Strong 
minds do not fall into that pit, and weak ones can do no more 
than use the novel terminology as conversational catchwords. 


Among the strong who have been stimulated but not dominated 
by this influence are such thinkers as Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul 

Modern Biblical scholarship has produced not only a "new 
view of the Bible" but new translations which are widely accepted 
and used even by those who do not accept the "new view." The 
Revised Version of 1882-86 never went far toward replacing the 
King James Version of 1611, and the American Revised Version 
of 1902 had even less popular appeal in spite of scholarly approval. 
Among many private translations the most notable were the Mof- 
fatt Bible (1822-26) and the Smith-Goodspeed "American Trans- 
lation" (1927-31). More recent is the Revised Standard Version 
(1946-52), which certainly carries as much "authority" as the so- 
called "Authorized Version" of 1611 ever had, since it was made 
by a widely representative company of scholars under the auspices 
of the International Council of Religious Education, an organiza- 
tion embracing about fifty denominations and now constituting the 
educational division of the National Council of the Churches of 
Christ in America. 

Since the beginning of the modern Protestant ecumenical 
movement, which may be dated from 1910, there has been an 
almost continuous series of theological conferences involving rep- 
resentatives of a great number of religious bodies in all parts of 
the world. The coloration of these conferences has been basically 
that of the older confessional theologies of the participating groups, 
but greatly affected by the movement of which we have just been 
speaking. The visible influence of the older liberalism has been 
slight, probably because of the preponderant representation of 
continental churches into which it never penetrated, but it cannot 
be assumed that it has become a negligible factor in Christian 
thought. A striking result of these ecumenical conferences and of 
the present free circulation of theological literature across sec- 
tarian lines and of the training of thousands of ministers in un- 
denominational seminaries (such as Yale, Union, and Chicago) is 
the blurring of the theological lines between the denominations. 
There is now no telling what a minister's theology may be from 
the fact that he is a Methodist, a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, a 


Baptist, or a Congregationalist. For some denominations the lines 
are still fairly clear, but it is a matter of some significance that the 
planes of cleavage in Christian thought now so seldom coincide 
with the historic issues upon which Protestantism became divided, 
and that this is even truer of the laity than of the clergy. 

Every European observer comments unfavorably, as a rule 
on the multiplicity of sects in the United States. The Yearbook 
of American Churches for 1958 gives the number as 268. It is in 
many ways a distressing phenomenon, yet the explanation is not 
wholly discreditable. Because there has been religious liberty, there 
has been freedom to divide and for separatists to form new or- 
ganizations. The weakened hold of traditional authorities and the 
independence in thought and action characteristic of a new coun- 
try have given rise to a great variety of religious views. Immigra- 
tion from every country in Europe has brought representatives of 
every form of religion that existed in the countries of origin. The 
one traditional idea generally retained was that every pattern of 
religious thought and practice should have a separate "church" to 
maintain and propagate it. The result could not fail to be a multi- 
plication of sects. But with all the divisions and subdivisions, the 
situation is not so bad as may at first glance appear. Of those 268 
sects, 213 have less than 100,000 members; 120 have less than 
10,000 each. About eighty per cent of all who are counted as 
church members are in one of six groups: Baptist, Lutheran, 
Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic. 

The process of denominational fission seems to have stopped 
and the reverse tendency has set in. It began early in the nineteenth 
century with the co-operation of Christians across denominational 
lines in such practical matters as temperance and antislavery so- 
cieties, the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. Then in Bible societies, and in 
such voluntary associations as the Evangelical Alliance. Denomina- 
tions co-operated in the Sunday School Association, and in the 
Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor. The modern de- 
velopments in religious education could furnish material for a 
chapter. The Sunday school began as an undenominational enter- 
prise, but that phase soon passed. The apostle of co-operation for 
the improvement of the Sunday schools and Heaven knows they 


needed it was Methodist Bishop John H. Vincent, the founder of 
Chautauqua. (And why not a chapter on that, too, "the most 
American thing in America"?) The Sunday School Association's 
"uniform lessons" furnished a beneficent revolution in a curriculum 
that had usually begun with the first chapter of Genesis and usually 
petered out by the time it got to Moses. Later, the Religious Edu- 
cation Association, fathered by President William R. Harper, en- 
listed the interest of educational experts in making Christian educa- 
tion really educational. The International Council of Religious 
Education inherited the task and the resources of both and had the 
co-operation of about fifty denominations in the United States and 
Canada. This was the solidest piece of co-operative religious work 
that had been undertaken in the entire history of Protestantism, 
and it was carried forward with great efficiency. 

The rising tide of interest in foreign missions overflowed sec- 
tarian dykes in the Student Volunteer Movement, which had far- 
reaching effects in creating bonds of unity among Christian youth. 
Denominational missionary societies gave expression to their com- 
mon interests by forming the Home Missions Council and the 
Foreign Missions Conference of North America. From these it 
was but a step to the World Missionary Conferences at New York 
(1900) and Edinburgh (1910). Issuing directly from the last of 
these were the Faith and Order and the Life and Work organiza- 
tions, which merged in 1948 to form the World Council of 

Meanwhile, the discovery of Christian duties in the field of 
social betterment and the appeal of what was called, not too aptly, 
the "social gospel" gave rise to the Federal Council of Churches 
(1908), the first full-scale co-operative organization of leading 
American denominations as such. By the union of this with the 
International Council of Religious Education and other interde- 
nominational agencies, the National Council of Churches was 
formed (1950). Beginning with the opening years of the twentieth 
century and even earlier in a few cases city, county, and state 
councils of churches were being formed until, by mid-century, 
there were literally hundreds of them. All these were co-operative 
agencies rather than unions. But in the past half-century there have 


Baptist, or a Congregationalist. For some denominations the lines 
are still fairly clear, but it is a matter of some significance that the 
planes of cleavage in Christian thought now so seldom coincide 
with the historic issues upon which Protestantism became divided, 
and that this is even truer of the laity than of the clergy. 

Every European observer comments unfavorably, as a rule 
on the multiplicity of sects in the United States. The Yearbook 
of American Churches for 1958 gives the number as 268. It is in 
many ways a distressing phenomenon, yet the explanation is not 
wholly discreditable. Because there has been religious liberty, there 
has been freedom to divide and for separatists to form new or- 
ganizations. The weakened hold of traditional authorities and the 
independence in thought and action characteristic of a new coun- 
try have given rise to a great variety of religious views. Immigra- 
tion from every country in Europe has brought representatives of 
every form of religion that existed in the countries of origin. The 
one traditional idea generally retained was that every pattern of 
religious thought and practice should have a separate "church" to 
maintain and propagate it. The result could not fail to be a multi- 
plication of sects. But with all the divisions and subdivisions, the 
situation is not so bad as may at first glance appear. Of those 268 
sects, 213 have less than 100,000 members; 120 have less than 
10,000 each. About eighty per cent of all who are counted as 
church members are in one of six groups: Baptist, Lutheran, 
Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic. 

The process of denominational fission seems to have stopped 
and the reverse tendency has set in. It began early in the nineteenth 
century with the co-operation of Christians across denominational 
lines in such practical matters as temperance and antislavery so- 
cieties, the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. Then in Bible societies, and in 
such voluntary associations as the Evangelical Alliance. Denomina- 
tions co-operated in the Sunday School Association, and in the 
Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor. The modern de- 
velopments in religious education could furnish material for a 
chapter. The Sunday school began as an undenominational enter- 
prise, but that phase soon passed. The apostle of co-operation for 
the improvement of the Sunday schools and Heaven knows they 


needed it was Methodist Bishop John H. Vincent, the founder of 
Chautauqua. (And why not a chapter on that, too, "the most 
American thing in America"?) The Sunday School Association's 
"unif orm lessons" furnished a beneficent revolution in a curriculum 
that had usually begun with the first chapter of Genesis and usually 
petered out by the time it got to Moses. Later, the Religious Edu- 
cation Association, fathered by President William R. Harper, en- 
listed the interest of educational experts in making Christian educa- 
tion really educational. The International Council of Religious 
Education inherited the task and the resources of both and had the 
co-operation of about fifty denominations in the United States and 
Canada. This was the solidest piece of co-operative religious work 
that had been undertaken in the entire history of Protestantism, 
and it was carried forward with great efficiency. 

The rising tide of interest in foreign missions overflowed sec- 
tarian dykes in the Student Volunteer Movement, which had far- 
reaching effects in creating bonds of unity among Christian youth. 
Denominational missionary societies gave expression to their com- 
mon interests by forming the Home Missions Council and the 
Foreign Missions Conference of North America. From these it 
was but a step to the World Missionary Conferences at New York 
(1900) and Edinburgh (1910). Issuing directly from the last of 
these were the Faith and Order and the Life and Work organiza- 
tions, which merged in 1948 to form the World Council of 

Meanwhile, the discovery of Christian duties in the field of 
social betterment and the appeal of what was called, not too aptly, 
the "social gospel" gave rise to the Federal Council of Churches 
(1908), the first full-scale co-operative organization of leading 
American denominations as such. By the union of this with the 
International Council of Religious Education and other interde- 
nominational agencies, the National Council of Churches was 
formed (1950). Beginning with the opening years of the twentieth 
century and even earlier in a few cases city, county, and state 
councils of churches were being formed until, by mid-century, 
there were literally hundreds of them. All these were co-operative 
agencies rather than unions. But in the past half-century there have 


been fifteen denominational mergers in the United States, besides 
such more comprehensive unions as the United Church of Canada, 
the United Church of South India, and united churches on a 
national scale in other countries in which Protestant Christianity is 
a minority religion. 

The tide of division has definitely turned; the flow is now in 
the direction of unity. The goal may be far distant, but the direc- 
tion is sure. 


The Field Is the World 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Christianity scarcely 
existed outside of Europe and America. Asia was untouched by 
it, except for a fringe of the Moslem Near East, a slight residue 
from very early evangelization (perhaps by St. Thomas) in south 
India, and the still smaller trace in the East Indies where the Dutch 
had taken over from the Portuguese. Africa was a completely 
"dark continent" from the Christian standpoint except for the 
Copts in Egypt and Ethiopia and the negligible results in South 
Africa deriving from the Dutch occupation and from the English 
who succeeded them in 1795. White settlement in Australia did 
not begin until the last years of the eighteenth century, and the 
first effort to give the gospel to the natives was some time after 
that. On the map, Christianity was far from being a world religion. 
It was not even seriously trying to be that. But a new era was at 
hand an era of earnest effort to win converts to Christianity 
among the adherents of the ancient and highly developed religions 
of Asia and also among the nature-worshiping and magic-monger- 
ing primitive peoples of Africa and the islands of the sea. This 
tremendous surge of missionary action was a characteristic of the 



nineteenth century continuing into the twentieth. It was not al- 
together unrelated to the expansion of the political power and 
economic interests of the great Christian nations. 

In this new aggressive expansion of Christianity into non-Chris- 
tian lands, the new thing was not the mere fact of expansion. What 
was new was the methods employed, which were radically unlike 
those by which Europe and Latin America had been Christianized. 
This new wave of expansion advanced wholly by persuasion and 
by the conversion of individuals. There were no mass conversions 
of entire populations by military or political pressure or by police 
methods. The result was that Christianity became a minority re- 
ligion in almost every "pagan" land but none of these lands (with 
a few very small exceptions) became a Christian country. To get 
the full meaning of this contrast, let us look again at the whole 
sweep of Christianity's advance through the centuries and across 
the map. 

Christianity had been from the start an expanding religion, 
conceiving of itself as having a mission for all mankind. The Gos- 
pel of Matthew had quoted Jesus as saying, "Go ye into all the 
world and preach the gospel to every creature." Even in its earliest 
days, when some thought of Christianity as a kind of reformed 
and improved Judaism, the question was not whether Gentiles 
should be admitted but whether they had to become Jewish 
proselytes in order to qualify. This limitation did not last long. 
The expansion of Christianity in the Graeco-Roman world during 
the first three centuries remains one of the marvels of history. The 
records of the details of that growth are sadly incomplete, but we 
do know that no sort of social or political compulsion played any 
part in it. There are reasons to believe that even before Christianity 
had escaped the perils of persecution it had won something like 
five per cent of the population of the Roman Empire. Then came 
a tremendous acceleration of its growth, first by imperial favor, 
then by the compulsion of imperial laws. As the barbarian tribes 
came on the scene, they, also, were the object of mass conversion 
in which the preaching of the missionaries was always backed by 
pressures of an entirely secular sort. So it was with the conversion 
of the parts of Europe more remote from the older centers of i 


ence. It was not until after the year 1000 that it could be said that 
all the tribes and nations of Europe including Russia, the Balkan 
and Baltic lands, and Scandinavia were Christian territory. In 
every case the conversion had been a mass operation. 

The discovery of America opened a new continent for evangel- 
ization as well as for conquest and colonization. These processes 
went on together. In Mexico and in Central and South America, 
where there were large native populations with cultures and re- 
ligions far above the primitive level, the old cults were swept away 
by the conquest, except insofar as some features could be assimi- 
lated. Devoted priests and friars taught the new converts how to 
practice the religion of their conquerors, but the acceptance of it 
was not optional. So these vast areas were added to the territory 
that could be called Christian. In the parts of America that were 
occupied by the English and the French the parts that were to 
become the United States and Canada the native population was 
sparse, nomadic, and relatively primitive. The colonization of these 
regions by Europeans soon reduced the natives to a small per cent 
of the total population. For a long time they were so far beyond 
the reach of the invading whites that compulsory conversion 
would have been impossible even if it had been attempted as it 
was not. The expansion of Christianity in this part of America 
was achieved by the influx of Europeans who brought Christianity 
with them and whose descendants became the people of these 
lands. Whether or not the United States can be called a "Christian 
country" depends on the definition of terms. The point to note in 
this connection is that here Christianity did not expand by winning 
a previously pagan population, as it had done in all previous ex- 
pansions, but by moving into a vacuum. 

The new feature of the expansion of Christianity in the nine- 
teenth century was that it was a concerted and organized attempt 
to convert individuals in non-Christian countries, and to do this 
without employing any apparatus of compulsion. To be sure, noth- 
ing is ever absolutely new. There had been earlier missionary 
efforts which approximated this character. Such was the Nestorian 
effort in central Asia in the sixth century and after, and the Jesuit 
missions in China and Japan in the sixteenth, and the work of some 


heroic Jesuits, Dominicans, and Franciscans who pioneered in early 
America far beyond the reach of any military protection. In spite 
of their ultimate failure, these deserve honorable mention. But 
even so, there was a new quality in the nineteenth-century mis- 
sionary enterprise which did not aim first to gain the favor of the 
political and religious leaders and through them gain status in the 
country, but went directly to the common people with a presenta- 
tion of the Christian message. 

Actually this nineteenth-century movement began late in the 
eighteenth. The Evangelical Revival in England furnished the 
impulse, as German Pietism had done a little earlier on a smaller 
scale. The London Missionary Society (interdenominational) , the 
Church Missionary Society (Anglican), the Baptist Missionary 
Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, and the British and 
Foreign Bible Society all got their start at this time. Much earlier 
there had been the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 
Foreign Parts (Anglican), but this had been concerned chiefly 
with the religious welfare of British colonists and gave only 
marginal attention to such natives as might be within easy reach. 
The new missionary societies began with great zeal but with 
meager resources and with only vague ideas as to methods of pro- 
cedure. It could not have seemed a very important event when 
young William Carey who had been first a shoemaker and 
then a Baptist preacher took ship from England to India under 
the auspices of the Baptist Missionary Society which he had helped 
to organize, nor did the significance of the event quickly become 
evident. He had been in India seven years before he won his first 
Indian convert to Christianity. The day was December 28, 1800. 

William Carey discovered that the first problem of a mission- 
ary in the field was one of communication. India had many lan- 
guages and dialects. Missionaries going out from England knew 
none of them, and there were no grammars or other textbooks 
from which to learn them. Fortunately, Carey had a gift for lan- 
guages. He cultivated this gift so assiduously that in his thirty-four 
remaining years he became eminent as linguist and philologist. 
Besides writing much Christian literature in the Indian languages, 


he compiled dictionaries or grammars in at least six of them. If his 
own work was more linguistic than evangelistic, he furnished the 
language tools to the many missionaries who came after him. 

Pioneer missionaries in all parts of the world have found them- 
selves confronted with this same necessity to become pioneers also 
in the study of languages previously unknown in the Christian 
world. They have reduced to writing hundreds of dialects of pre- 
literate tribes in the more primitive areas. The British and Amer- 
ican Bible societies have played a great part in this. It was no exag- 
geration when a volume containing samples of Bible translation 
was called The Book of a Thousand Tongues,* for the actual num- 
ber was about eleven hundred. The first publication of any part of 
Scripture in a non-European language for evangelistic purposes 
was a Malay version of Matthew in 1629, and the first such com- 
plete Bible (and the first Bible printed in America) was John 
Eliot's Algonquin translation, 1663. Though this linguistic work 
began so early, its great development was in the nineteenth cen- 

The British East India Company, which had been the virtual 
ruler of India since 1763, was exercising its full power in Carey's 
time. It was not enthusiastic about missions. Its interest was in 
profits. Most of its representatives, living free and easy lives and 
enjoying to the full their sense of racial superiority, regarded the 
missionaries as meddlesome interlopers who sometimes even had 
the effrontery to defend the native peoples against exploitation and 
abuse by their white masters. After the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 the 
British government took control, to the great advantage of Indians 
and missionaries alike. Missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, 
European and American, came in greater numbers, and the infiltra- 
tion of Christianity became more rapid through educational and 
medical as well as evangelistic activities. 

During the years of British rule in India, Christianity derived 
some advantage from its association with Western power and 
prestige, though there was never any attempt to force it upon the 
Indian people. But for the same reason it labored under the dis- 
* American Bible Society, 1938. 


advantage of being regarded as a foreign religion. With the rising 
sense of Indian nationalism, and especially since the attainment of 
independence, the disadvantage was intensified. 

These two themes run through the whole story of the modern 
missionary advance. On the one hand, Christianity and its spokes- 
men have been respected as representatives of nations more ad- 
vanced in literacy, medical science, agriculture, industry, eco- 
nomic sufficiency, and general welfare. Schools, hospitals, and 
social services have, therefore, been acceptable offerings by the 
spokesmen for Christianity. The "missionary doctor," in particular, 
has become one of the most admirable types on the modern mis- 
sionary scene. In most cases these humanitarian services have been 
all the more acceptable because they were offered in the spirit of 
pure Christian compassion for the needy and were not used as mere 
propaganda devices. But on the other hand, the "white superiority" 
idea bred a natural resentment among dusky peoples sometimes 
with such ancient and mature cultures as the Indian and Chinese 
though with less literacy and industrial know-how than the great 
Christian nations especially after contact with the more-or-less 
democratic West had quickened the desire for such national inde- 
pendence and such popular rights as they had really never known 
in the old days. The growth of this latter spirit has profoundly 
affected the character of Christian missions in the twentieth cen- 
tury. We shall come back to that. 

A new field was opened, and one destined to absorb more mis- 
sionary funds and energies than any other, when the London Mis- 
sionary Society sent Robert Morrison to Canton in 1812. China 
was not then hospitable to Western culture. This first Protestant 
missionary in the Far East became a pioneer in almost every kind 
of missionary work: in linguistics, for he published a grammar and 
a monumental dictionary of the Chinese language and a transla- 
tion of the Bible; in education, for he founded a school with the 
double purpose of teaching the classics of Chinese and European 
literature and training native evangelists; in medicine, for he estab- 
lished a dispensary and provided for the training of native attend- 
ants. Other missionaries followed, living dangerously and subject 
to the variable moods of local mandarins. In the Opium Wars of 


1840 and 1858-60 the British got title to Hong Kong and trade 
concessions in several coastal cities and, incidentally, secured a 
guarantee of the right of missionaries to operate freely in any part 
of the country. It was an unfortunate combination of military 
power, commercial interests, and evangelization. The missionaries 
had no responsibility for these campaigns that blasted a way for 
them into the interior and at the same time made their task more 
difficult by embittering those whom they had come to convert. 
A flood of missionaries now poured into this most ancient empire. 
Practically every missionary society in the world sent its repre- 
sentatives. Schools and hospitals were established as well as 
churches. The appeal was chiefly to the lower classes, but many 
bright young men presently discovered the advantage of a Western 
education and many of them accepted the religion of their teachers. 

Christian forces could not enter Japan until after the doors of 
that "hermit nation" had been opened by the treaty that Commo- 
dore Matthew Perry negotiated in 1854. 

Robert Moffatt went to Africa in 1816 under the auspices of 
that same London Missionary Society that had sent Morrison to 
China four years earlier. Himself one of the great, Moffatt scarcely 
more than touched the fringe of the continent as compared with 
the stupendous labors of his son-in-law, David Livingstone, who 
explored it from ocean to ocean. After a few years of missionary 
work in a fairly limited district, though never long in one place, 
Livingstone became convinced that what was most needed was 
knowledge of the geography of Africa, the terrain, topography, 
and river systems of which were unknown to the civilized world. 
He took the assignment of opening the way for whatever Chris- 
tianizing influences might follow. He did not bother too much 
about making converts, but he established friendly relations with 
many tribes, aroused world sentiment against the barbarity of the 
slave trade, traveled with incredible hardship through vast areas 
that no white man had ever seen, making careful scientific observa- 
tions as he went, and opened the Dark Continent for those who 
would come after him. Many came, and there are now many 
thousands of both Protestant and Catholic Christians in central 


Except for the Moslem nations, which then as now sternly 
repressed all efforts to proselyte the adherents of the Prophet to 
any other religion, the whole world seemed to lie open to those 
who would go to "preach the gospel to every creature." The 
Pacific islands, made known largely through the voyages of Cap- 
tain James Cook late in the eighteenth century, had already become 
missionary fields. Among some jungle tribes the missionary's call- 
ing might still be full of hazard but, with the exceptions men- 
tioned, the world was an open field. A favorite text for missionary 
sermons was Matthew 9:37: "The harvest truly is plenteous but 
the laborers are few." 

Organized American foreign missions began when the Amer- 
ican Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, an unde- 
nominational organization but chiefly supported by Congrega- 
tionalists, sent Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice to Asia in 1812. 
Their conversion to Baptist views while on the voyage led to the 
formation of a Baptist missionary society to support them. They 
went to Burma, where Judson became the most memorable of mis- 
sionary pioneers in southeast Asia. His colorful career included a 
period in prison in France after the English ship on which he was 
making his first voyage was captured by a French privateer, and 
two years of imprisonment in Burma during a period of hostilities 
between that country and the British East India Company. But 
these were only minor episodes in his forty years of missionary 
work. Like Carey, he became a linguist, and translated the Bible 
into Burmese and wrote a grammar and a dictionary of the lan- 
guage. A century after his death Judson's name is still one to con- 
jure with in the promotion of missions. 

Within a few years after these American beginnings, every im- 
portant denomination in the United States had organized its for- 
eign missionary society, and the conversion of the "heathen" be- 
came one of the major concerns of local congregations in every 
city and town in the country, stimulated by the continuous activ- 
ity of local societies and women's organizations, "children's days 
for foreign missions," occasional visits from missionaries on fur- 
lough, periodical campaigns for offerings, and, more recently, the 
inclusion of support of foreign missions as a large item in regular 


church budgets. This has come to be one of the most characteristic 
features of American church life. It is not that America has any 
monopoly on foreign missions. On the contrary, every Christian 
country has been active in this kind of work, and many churches 
in non-Christian countries have become "sending" churches for 
still needier areas even while they themselves are on the receiving 
end. A glance through any recent edition of the World Christian 
Handbook (World Dominion Press, London) reveals a bewilder- 
ing number and variety of organizations in many countries en- 
gaged in promoting and conducting foreign missions. But it may 
be doubted whether this cause has occupied as large a place in the 
thought and action of the laity and the local churches elsewhere 
as in the United States. While the American churches have done 
much for foreign missions, foreign missions have also done much 
for the American churches in widening their horizons and quick- 
ening their zeal. 

Secular events necessarily have a profound effect on missionary 
work. For example, after the Spanish- American War the assump- 
tion of some national responsibilities for regions outside of the 
country's continental territory was accompanied by a fresh burst 
of energy for a corresponding expansion of Christianity. More 
recently, and more importantly, the passing of the colonial era and 
the world-wide rise of the spirit of independence and the demand 
for nationhood among previously dependent peoples have pro- 
foundly altered the missionary situation. Christianity no longer 
enjoys the prestige of being the religion of the master race or the 
superior people. The masters have lost their mastery, and their 
superiority has become a discredited assumption. The white man's 
religion now has to overcome, as best it can, the disadvantage of 
being the religion of those whose mastery is resented even where 
it has not yet been thrown off. Many native churches which were 
controlled and financed by missionary boards have become, or are 
on the way to becoming, "indigenous" churches. The term is in- 
accurate, but its meaning in this connection is clear. The Roman 
Catholic Church has taken the lead by appointing natives as bishops 
in every country sufficiently advanced to provide competent 
candidates. Protestant churches have adjusted to the demand for 


native leadership, and have generally welcomed it. The expansion 
of Christianity thus enters on a new phase, in which the spirit 
of colonialism and foreign control tends to disappear, and the 
enterprise becomes one of the strong helping the weak without 
that odious assumption of dominance and tutelage. 

Perhaps the missionary must always be the zealous propagandist 
convinced that his religion is right and all others wrong, but direct 
evangelization has not always been his immediate aim. Because 
Christianity has in it a strong element of humanitarianism, the mis- 
sionary has been concerned about the relief of physical suffering 
and the improvement of standards of living. This has led to medical 
work and the establishment of hospitals and orphanages, and in 
some cases to agricultural missions (like that of Sam Higginbotham 
in India) and other efforts to improve economic conditions. Be- 
cause Christianity is also a system of ideas the appropriation of 
which requires a certain level of culture and is facilitated by liter- 
acy, the missionary has often become a teacher. So schools have 
been conducted in almost every mission field, and colleges in many 
of them. Frank Laubach is at heart a Christian missionary, but his 
amazingly successful world-wide literacy campaign has been car- 
ried on as a disinterested service to humanity without regard to 
any advantage that might accrue to the Christian cause. 

The changed conditions in the modern world, together with 
the changing ideas in many minds as to the essentials of the Chris- 
tian message and the apparent futility of expecting ever to con- 
vert the populations of such countries as China and India, since 
only about one per cent of them have been converted by a cen- 
tury and a half of missionary effort, suggested that the whole 
project needed a fresh study to see whether a different approach 
might not be indicated. The Laymen's Foreign Mission Inquiry, 
headed by Professor W. E. Hocking of Harvard, undertook such 
a study (1930-32). The result, published in the book entitled 
Rethinking Missions, proved to be too controversial to serve as a 
guide to action. Its critics felt that it was predicated on a too liberal 
view of Christianity. It was clear that the mission boards and the 
greater part of their supporting constituencies regarded direct 
evangelization as an indispensable feature, indeed the basic feature, 


of missionary work. Yet it was evident that the enterprise of for- 
eign missions which has always had more angles than most of its 
critics realize had been feeling its way along new paths in the 
work of such men as C. F. Andrews, the intimate friend of Gandhi, 
in India; Albert Schweitzer, the many-sided Alsatian genius, in 
Africa; Kagawa, the Japanese saint plying back and forth between 
his country and ours to the enlightenment of both; and E. Stanley 
Jones, evangelizing alternately in India and America and at the 
same time promoting his own plan for the union of all the 
churches. Embodying the missionary spirit, though not specifically 
missionary in the traditional sense, is the work of the great Chris- 
tian relief agencies Church World Service, the American Friends 
Service Committee, the Unitarian Service Committee, the Lutheran 
Service Committee, the relief division of the World Council of 
Churches, and the various Catholic relief organizations. 

Out of Christianity in non-Christian lands has come one of the 
most powerful influences in the making of the contemporary 
ecumenical movement. To native Christians in India or on the 
Congo, the historic grounds of separation that keep apart the 
denominations in Europe and America do not seem profoundly 
significant. United churches have come into existence under native 
leadership in several such countries, with the full approval of the 
missionaries. The important mission boards work in close co- 
operation. The International Missionary Council is their most 
comprehensive agency. The organizations that led to the formation 
of the World Council of Churches in 1948 were direct outgrowths 
of the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910. What 
has been said of the reciprocal relations between the American 
churches and their missionary enterprises can be repeated in more 
general terms. If the Christian lands have done much for foreign 
missions, the missions have done no less for them. They have made 
it difficult for Christianity to be either sectarian or parochial. 


Christianity in the Modern World 

What is the status, what are the problems, and what are the pros- 
pects of Christianity in our day? 

Of the two and one half billion people in the world, one third 
are Christian, one third of the Christians are Protestant, and one 
third of the Protestants are in the United States, These statistics are 
very inexact. Some of the figures that enter into the total for 
Christianity are the total (or almost the total) populations of 
countries in which a certain church had been long dominant and is 
established by law. Some churches in the United States count all 
the members of their families as members of the church. Others 
count only communicants. The totals therefore are only rough 
approximations. They doubtless exaggerate the numerical strength 
of Christianity. Figures for the adherents of the other great reli- 
gions are no more accurate, being entirely based on population 
statistics. However, these statistics are not without value. Some 
inferences that can be safely drawn from them are: that Chris- 
tianity has more adherents than any other religion in the world; 
that in a world-wide view none of the great religions is making 
serious inroads on the constituency of any other; and that there 


is no statistical ground for an expectation that Christianity or any 
other religion will "take the world" within the predictable future. 

More detailed reports for the United States, though open to 
the same doubt as to their accuracy, indicate on their face that the 
nearly ninety-five million counted as Christians constitute fifty- 
seven per cent of the population, that this percentage is steadily 
increasing, that a little less than two thirds of these are Protestant 
and a little more than one third Roman Catholic, and that the rate 
of growth of the larger churches is near enough the same to dispel 
any reasonable hope or fear that any one of these will capture the 
whole field. Even if all the statistics that have been cited are even 
more inaccurate than the authors think they are, it is obvious that 
institutional Christianity in the United States is a going concern. 
People go to church in great numbers a larger proportion of 
them, it seems, than in any other country that is reputed to be 
Christian and they give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to 
support the local operations of their churches and many millions 
more to finance their missionary, educational, and benevolent 
activities. The expenditure for new church buildings in the United 
States in 1957 came to not much less than one billion dollars, the 
largest amount on record. If it is true that "where a man's treasure 
is, there will his heart be," it cannot be said that the American 
people have lost interest in religion. Any intelligent student of 
society, whether sociologist or historian, ought to be able to see 
that organized religion is one of the major factors in American life. 

In the British Isles it is no less true, though for somewhat 
different reasons, that Christianity is a conspicuous and significant 
element in the total scene. Institutionally and ceremonially it is 
even more conspicuous. As an American president takes the oath 
of office at his inauguration he kisses the Bible whatever that may 
mean. But the coronation of a British sovereign is a high religious 
ceremony from first to last, with Westminster Abbey as its scene 
and the archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops in key roles. 
One cannot picture an England without its cathedrals and its 
hundreds of beautiful old parish churches. Though these are monu- 
ments of an age when religion was a more universal interest than 
it is now, the sight of them can scarcely fail to be a reminder even 


to those who seldom see the inside of them, and this means the 
great majority of the people in England. A survey in 1957 found 
that only fourteen per cent of the population went to church even 
occasionally. This is probably an underestimate, for the church 
membership is about eighteen per cent, of which the Church of 
England has a little more than one third and the rest is divided not 
very unequally between Protestant Nonconformists and Roman 
Catholics. Though data of every kind suggest that the secular 
attitude predominates, those who know the English people cannot 
avoid the conviction that there is a deep undercurrent of religion 
which continuously influences social action and comes to the 
surface in times of emergency. It is the judgment of many who are 
not prejudiced in favor of Christianity that the frankly socialist 
British Labor Party and the whole program of the British "welfare 
state" is a derivative not from Marxism but from the Christian 
socialism of the nineteenth century and the humanitarianism of 
British Nonconformity. 

Scotland is much more obviously religious. And the tensions 
between Eire and Northern Ireland, based in a large degree on 
religious differences, testify that both still take their faith seriously. 

Continental Europe presents a complex situation that cannot 
be briefly analyzed. Though established churches still exist every- 
where, except in France, and their reported membership approxi- 
mates the total populations in most of the countries, the number 
who "practice" the religions in whose ranks they are counted is 
conjectural. This is no less true in a Protestant country like 
Sweden than in Catholic countries like Italy and Spain or in coun- 
tries where Eastern Orthodoxy is the official religion, as in Greece. 

Any estimate of the continuing vitality and influence of Chris- 
tianity must be based on other than statistical grounds, and such 
an estimate will probably depend largely on the point of view of 
the one who makes it. Such facts as the following must at least 
be taken into account. Governments find it politically expedient 
to continue the formal recognition of religion and the establish- 
ment of their traditional churches. The Communist power, which 
has done what it could to obliterate religion in Russia, finds it more 
advantageous to permit the churches to exist and to try to make 


them its allies in the iron-curtain countries than to suppress them. 
Czechoslovakian Protestants make a brave but not wholly success- 
ful effort to show the world that they are as free as ever while mak- 
ing the necessary adjustments to a Communist-dominated regime. 
The Vatican continues its policy of protecting its own status and 
maintaining what it considers the unique rights of the Catholic 
Church by making concordats with governments wherever pos- 
sible, especially with a view to maintaining the freedom of its 
episcopate from secular control, protecting its property and the 
functions of the religious orders, and controlling public education 
wherever that can be done. In several countries there are specifi- 
cally "Catholic" political parties, either with or without that word 
in their names. As of December, 1957, the Vatican had diplomatic 
relations with forty-eight national governments more than ever 
before. There is a substantial body of opinion and this not only 
in the churches that the Christian ideology is the strongest anti- 
dote to the Communist poison that threatens to enter the West by 
infiltration when it cannot by force of arms. Add this to the 
admitted fact that it was only the churches that offered any 
organized opposition to the Nazi madness when Hitler was at the 
top of his power, and that it is only certain men with a Christian 
motivation some Protestant, some Catholic who can be remem- 
bered now as the heroes of the resistance movement in Germany. 
Add also the fact that Christian scholarship is vigorous in the 
higher intellectual circles and that there is a solid body of the 
faithful and the devout in the middle ranks of society. It would be 
misleading to paint too rosy a picture of Christianity in Europe, 
but it would be even more erroneous to depict it as in a state of 

Though sociologists and historians usually give to religion far 
less attention than its actual prominence in the social scene 
deserves chiefly because they do not know what they can say 
about it without offending some group by exalting another or giv- 
ing still more offense by criticism the influence of Christianity 
as a force in social progress has been immense. Every promoter of 
a "good" cause knows where he can find a ready-made con- 
stituency from which he can expect support. Christianity at its 


best has been, from the beginning, on the side of social better- 
ment, and its programs have been oriented toward the com- 
mon welfare and social justice. Often it has fallen far short of the 
ideal, but for long centuries it was virtually the only force operat- 
ing in that direction. The European state churches in Protestant 
countries have tended to limit their concern to doctrine, worship, 
and sacraments. In England, however, the "nonconformist con- 
science" became a powerful influence in support of social reforms 
of every kind. 

American churches have often been accused of "activism" by 
overseas critics because of their participation in movements for 
social betterment even though these sometimes required political 
action. Their reply is not to deny that they have been active but 
to assert that it is an essential part of Christianity's business to 
Christianize the social order. There is nothing essentially new 
about this. The preceding chapters must have made it clear that 
this purpose has run through the whole stream of Christian history, 
however varied may have been the concepts of a Christian social 
order and the methods employed for its realization. In America 
both the concepts and the methods have been in large measure 
determined by the prevalence of the democratic ideal, which has 
itself found support in the Christian understanding of the nature 
of man. When the founding fathers of this republic were laying 
down the first principles of freedom, they gave to these principles 
a religious sanction by declaring that all men were "created equal" 
and that they were "endowed by their Creator with certain 
unalienable rights." Citizens, including church members, claim 
these rights as against any possible attempt by either state or 
church to control their political actions, and most of the churches 
have themselves practiced the democratic process. There has there- 
fore been little temptation for the churches to lay down the law 
to the government in regard to such social reforms as can be 
effected only by legislation. They cannot even control the votes 
of their own members and they repudiate any desire to do so. 
Church conferences and councils often make pronouncements on 
social questions that are also matters of public policy. These, 
together with the general body of opinion in a denomination and 


exhortations from its pulpits, may produce a certain concentration 
of sentiment which is registered at the polls. But this is far short 
of being bloc voting by churches, and farther still from any sort of 
undemocratic determination of public policy by ecclesiastical 

It is a reasonable conclusion that no church or combination of 
churches will impose its will upon society in our time. American 
Protestant churches, at least, are ill adapted to act as pressure 
groups even if they had the desire to do so. Yet the churches in 
the aggregate do exercise an influence on public opinion, and thus 
on the determination of public policy in matters that involve moral 
issues and human values. They do this because there is, in general, 
a higher degree of humanitarianism in the churches than outside 
of them. Christians do not automatically have any gift of superior 
political or economic wisdom that would enable them to select the 
most effective programs for promoting the general welfare, but 
their religion is a force that moves them in that direction. History 
supports the generalization that those who love their God with all 
their heart, soul, and mind have a more than average inclination 
to love their neighbors as themselves. At least from the time of the 
great social encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, and 
the Social Creed of the Churches to go no farther back the 
churches have taken advanced ground in the demand for social 

Nevertheless, in such a time as this it is not enough for the 
churches to be a little ahead of the secular public in their concern 
and to contribute some slight amelioration to the dire condition of 
the world. The question still remains whether Christianity has in 
it the spiritual power to "save civilization" in these perilous times. 
For the times are perilous and the threat to the entire structure of 
Western civilization that has been built up through nearly two 
thousand years of thought and toil is imminent and unprecedented. 
It is beset by confusion within and by attack from without. No 
interpreter of recent and contemporary history fails to note the 
radical change from the tranquillity and confidence of the last years 
of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth to 
the present sense of insecurity and crisis. The dream of peaceful 


progress toward a terrestrial paradise and an era of perpetual 
prosperity and universal brotherhood ("the kingdom of God on 
earth") was rudely shattered by a shot at Sarajevo. That was indeed 
"a shot heard round the world." Christian missionaries found their 
sermons mocked by the spectacle of Christian nations tearing one 
another to fragments. The "peace" from 1918 to 1939 was a long 
armistice in which moral relaxation accompanied preparation for 
future wars. The wave of disillusion that swept over the world did 
not abate when World War II, having extinguished one menacing 
madness, placed opportunity in the hands of another with an un- 
limited program of expansion. 

While the "white" peoples of earth have been and are 
engaged in these titanic struggles, they have lost the proud position 
of dominance that had been theirs ever since they made effective 
contact with the darker peoples outside the traditional limits of 
Christendom. What the favored nations had slowly and painfully 
learned of human rights and independence became common 
knowledge among those who had enjoyed neither, and their 
smoldering discontent burst into flames of hope and action. With 
lines of transportation and communication spanning every ocean, 
crisscrossing every continent, and penetrating in a flash to the 
remotest corners, the news got around that there were whole 
nations where almost everybody had three meals a day. Resent- 
ment equally against the white man's assumption of racial superior- 
ity and against his rule, reinforced by plain and persistent hunger 
for there are countless millions with whom hunger is a constant 
companion and from whom starvation is never more than arm's 
length away brought on that rising of the dark peoples which is 
an ominous element in the world's present turbulence. These 
peoples are three fourths of the earth's population. 

Can Christianity save civilization in such a time as this? There 
are those who say that Christianity's business is not to save civiliza- 
tion but to save souls, to pluck a few brands from the burning and 
let the catastrophic end come when it will. It has been saving souls 
for a long time, but it has done more than that. It has done what 
it could to save the social order. Can it do that now? 

It may be said that Christianity alone can save the world, but 


Christianity cannot save it alone. That is a gigantic and precarious 
task requiring the co-operation of many factors. Christians cannot 
but feel that their religion has an indispensable part to play. It can 
be an agency of reconciliation and a bearer of spiritual light and 
material help to peoples among whom Christianity is, and for 
centuries perhaps will be, the religion of a very small minority. It 
can influence the attitudes and actions of the powerful nations that 
call themselves Christian. It must do this, if at all, in spite of the 
tensions and divisions that exist within its own ranks. 

Christians, as we have seen, have never been united in doctrine, 
polity, worship, or action except when they were united by the 
use or threat of violent compulsion. Union on those terms is a 
present impossibility. In the Christian world tensions exist between 
Protestant and Catholic, between liberal and conservative, between 
Christianity itself and a benevolent secularism that denies all its 
doctrines but accepts its moral principles without recognizing 
their source, as well as between the forces that make for man's 
spiritual and material welfare and those that make for moral chaos. 
If the resources of Christianity are to be effectively deployed to 
win the war against chaos, it must be by co-operation with all those 
who are on its side on the basis of those things that are relevant to 
the dangers it opposes. 

A generation ago it was being asked, u Can Christianity survive 
the changing order?" It may now be asked, "Can Christianity 
survive the present crisis?" The answer is: It can, if the world 
survives. The world and Christianity have survived many crises. 
The world is very durable unless we bomb it into obliteration 
and there is that in Christianity which can never die. If Christianity 
is responsible for the character of civilization, then its task is hardly 
more than begun. The prevalent sense of spiritual needs among 
men is even more poignant than their economic needs and their 
political demands. The insufficiency of other answers to their 
deeper problems is obvious. These facts make this the hour of 
opportunity for religion. Freud and the neo-orthodox theologians 
are agreed in locating man's ills far below the outer layers of his 
life. Can the Christian churches now persuade him that the grace 
of God can penetrate deeper, and with more saving power, than 


any analyst's probing? Scholarship may despair of ever completely 
recovering the figure of the historical Jesus, but never has the 
figure of Christ risen higher or in more compelling majesty over 
the debris of human failure. Never has the cross stood out more 
clearly as the symbol of man's ultimate hope. 


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Goguel, Maurice, The Birth of Christianity, trans, by H. C. Snape, Mac- 
millan, 1954. 

Goodspeed, Edgar J., A History of Early Christian Literature, Univ. of 
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Greenslade, S. L., Schism in the Early Church, Harper, 1952. 
VGrimm, Harold J., The Reformation Era, 15QQ-16$Q, Macmillan, 1954. 

Haller, William, The Rise of Puritanism, Columbia Univ. Press, 1938. 

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Henson, Herbert H., The Church of England, Macmillan, 1940. 

Highey, John D., Jr., Religious Freedom in Spain, Its Ebb and Flow, Broad- 
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Hill, R. T,, and Bergin, T. G. (eds.), Anthology of the Provencal Trouba- 
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Hollis, Christopher, Saint Ignatius, Harper, 1931. 

Hudson, Winthrop S., The Great Tradition of the American Churches, 

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Janelle, Pierre, The Catholic Reformation, Bruce, 1949. 
Jordan, W. K., The Development of Religious Toleration in England, 4 

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Kelly, J. N. D., Early Christian Creeds, London, Longmans, 1950. 
Kenton, Edna (ed.), The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610-1791, 

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Kerr, Hugh T., Jr. (ed.), A Compend of Luther's Theology, Westminster 

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Landis, Benson Y., Yearbook of American Churches, issued annually by 

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Latourette, Kenneth S., A History of Christianity, Harper, 1953. 

, History of the Expansion of Christianity, 7 vols., Harper, 1937. 

Laymon, Charles M., The Life and Teachings of Jesus, Abingdon Press, 


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Macchioro, Vittorio D., From Orpheus to Paul, Holt, 1931. 
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Abbott, Lyman, 263 

Abelard, 160, 166, 175 

absolution, 147, 148 

Act of Uniformity (1661 ), 226 

"activism," American, 290 

Acton, Lord, 18; quoted, 49 

Acts of the Apostles, 2, 5, 36 

Adventists, Seventh-day, 250 

Aeterni Patris, encyclical, 215 

Africa, mission field, 275; missions in, 281 

"age of faith," 145; passing of, 184 

Alaric the Goth, 73, 82, 84, 93 

Alaska, 246 

Alberti, Leon Battista, 186 

Albertus Magnus, 140, 161 

Albigensians, 176-77 

Albrecht of Mainz, 196 

Alcuin, 157 

Aldo Minutius, 185 

Alexander VI, Pope, 191, 214, 224 

Alexandria, 39, 43, 53, 54, 55, 59; 

patriarchate of, 65 
Algonquin version of Bible, 279 
Allegorizing of Scripture, 69 
Allen, A. V. G., quoted, 178 
Amboise, 118 
Ambrose, 65, 74 
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign 

Missions, 282 

American Friends Service Committee, 285 
"American system," 227 
American Unitarian Association, 266 
Anabaptists, 195, 208, 210, 230; persecution of, 

209; and Second Corning, 209 
anchorites, 134 
Andrews, Charles F., 285 
Anencletus of Rome, 75 
Angelus, 154 
Anglo-Catholicism, 268 

Anselm, 159; denies Immaculate Conception, 153 
Anthony of Egypt, St., 132, 134 
anti-Catholic movements, 241 
antimodernist oath, 265 
Antioch, church at, 24, 25; patriarchate of, 65 
Apocrypha, 27 
Apollos, 24 
Apostles, 6, 8, 9, 11 
Apostolica Sede, 129 
Aretino, Pietro, 191 

Arianism, 40; barbarians converted to, 107 
Arians, 83 

Aristotle, 161, 162, 185 
Arizona, Father Kino in, 221 
Arius, 42, 43, 53, 54, 59, 204 
Aries, council at, 58, 85, 87 
Armenian Church, 67 
Arnold of Brescia, 175 
Arthurian cycle, 98 
Articles of Confederation, 232 
Asbury, Francis, 237 
Ascent of Man, 262 
Asceticism, 78, 135 
Assisi, 141 

Assumption of the Virgin, 154, 216, 266 
Athanasius, 43, 53, 55, 59, 76 
Athens, school at, closed, 63, 135 
Attila the Hun, 82, 93 
Aufklarung, 259 

Augsburg, Peace of, 200, 214, 224 
Augustine, monk, 90, 135 
Augustine, St., 20 t 39, 42, 58, 59, 73, 74, 79; 

denies Immaculate Conception, 153; and 

Luther, 195 

Augustinian Rule, 134 

Augustus, Emperor, 29 

Australia, 275 

Ave Maria, 154 

Avignon, 170, 213; papacy, 179; popes, 169-172 

Aztecs, 222 

Babylonian Captivity of Church, 170 

Bacon, Sir Francis, 183, 251 

Bacon, Roger, 143 

Balearic Islands, 97 

"bank of merit," 150 

baptism, 19, 50, 146-47 

Baptists, 208, 210, 282; divided on slavery, 243; 
on frontier, 237, 238; persecuted, 227; 
pioneers of religious liberty, 228 

barbarian threat to Rome, 44 

Barbarians, conversion of, 81-84 

Barnabites, 218 

Barth, Karl, 270 

Basil, St., 68, 134 

Beecher, Henry Ward, 262 

Belisarius, 93 

Bembo, Pietro Cardinal, 191 

Benedict XIII, 173, 174 

Benedict of Nursia, 134 

Benedictine Rule, 135, 138 

Bernard of Clairvaux, St., 115, 138-39, 156, 160, 
167; as pursuer of heretics, 175 

Bettenson, Henry, 38 

Bevan, Edwyn, 57; quoted, 19, 32 

Beza, Theodore, 203 

Bible in English, Wyclif's, 180; new translations 
of, 271; Roman Catholic, 27; Societies, British 
and American, 279; Society, British and 
Foreign, 278; what kind of book, 261 

biblical criticism, 263; Catholic view, 265 

bishops, 35, 75 

"bloodless revolution,'* England*s, 207, 256 

Bloudy Tenant of Persecution, 228 

Bobbio, monastery, 89 

Boccaccio, Giovanni, 183, 189, 194 

Bogomiles, 176 

Bohemia, 181; converted, 112 

Bologna, University of, 158 

Bonaventura, St., 143 

Boniface (Winfrid), 91, 94 

Boniface VIII, Pope, 128-30, 160, 170 

Book of Common Prayer, 205 

Borgia, Roderigo, 191 

Boris of Bulgaria, "Czar," 110 

Boston, 226, 234 

Bready, J. W., 253 

Britain, 47, 80; Christianity enters, 86, 87 

British Museum, 252 

British West Indies, missions in, 256 

Brothers of the Common Life, 168 

Browning, Robert, 184 

Bryan, William Jennings, 263 

Brunelleschi, Filippo, 188 

Brunner, Emil, 270 

Bruno, St., 137 

Bulgaria, 176; prince of, 127 

Bulgarians, 110 

Bulgars, 176 

Burckhardt, Jacob, quoted, 49, 56, 184 

Burgundians, 84, 85 

Burma, missions in, 282 

Byzantine Emperors, 60; Empire, 63 

Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar Nunez, 221 
"caesaropapism," 64 
California missions, 222 




Calvert, Lord George, 229, 299 

Calvin, John, 195, 201-03, 213 

camp meeting, 238, 246 

Canada, French explorers in, 222; United 

Church of, 274 

canon, New Testament, 26; Old Testament, 27 
Canossa, 124, 175 
canonization, 150 
Canterbury, See of, 90, 135 
Canterbury Tales, 155 
Cappadocian fathers, 68 
Capuchins, 217 

Caraffa, Gian-Pietro, Paul TV, 214, 218 
cardinals, college of, 123 
Congregationalists, 196 
Caribbean, missions in, 220; Spaniards in, 220 
Carlovingians, 94 
Carolingian Renaissance, 157 
Carroll, Bishop John, 241 
Carthage, 58 

Carthusian reform, 137-38 
Cartwright, Peter, 245 
CastelUo, Sebastian, 203 
CastigUone, Baldassare, 191, 192 
Cathari, 176 
Cathedral schools, 158 
cathedrals, Gothic, 152 
Catherine of Aragon, 205 
Catherine of Siena, 168 
Catholic Church, 72; in America, 240-42, 247-48; 

on slavery, 243; relief organizations, 285 
Catholic Reformation, 139, 192,211-18 
Caxton, William, 150 

celibacy, of monks, 135; of priests, 123, 135, 147 
Celtic Britain, 88; missionaries, 88-91 
cenobites, 134 

Central Pacific Railroad, 244 
Cerularius, 108 

Chalcedon, Council of, 61, 66, 108, 145 
Channing, William Ellery, 266 
Chanson de Roland, 99 
Charlemagne, 63, 106, 120; age of ignorance, 

157; anointed in childhood, 96; crowned 

emperor, 97; cycle, 98; Emperor, 91; in legend, 

98; reign of, 97 ff 
Charles I, King, 206, 225, 226 
Charles II, King, 206 

Charles V, Emperor, 213, 215; at Worms, 198 
Charles Martel, 94, 100 
Charterhouse, 138 
Chartres, 153 
Chase, Philander, 239 
Chaucer, Geoffrey, 155 
Chautauqua, 273 
Chester, England, 87 
Chillingworth, William, 261 
China, missions in, 110, 280-81, 284; 

Nestorians in, 110 
chivalry, 104, 154 

Christ, nature of, 16, 37, 40, 53, 61, 66 
Christian Science, 249-50 
Christian unity, 239 
Christmas Eve conference, 255 
Church World Service, 285 
Churches of Christ, 250 
Churches of God, 250 
Chrysostom, St. John, 64, 68, 106 
Cicero, 185 
circuit riders, 238 
circumcision, 22 

Cistercian reform, 115, 138-39, 212 
Citeaux, monastery of, 138 
City of God, The, 73 
Civil War, end of, 243 
Clairvaux, abbey of, 139 

Clares, Franciscan, 142 

Claudius, Emperor, 25 

Claudius Gothicus, Emperor, 82 

Clement III, Pope, 125 

Clement V, Pope, 170 

Clement VII, "antipope," 172, 173 

Clement of Alexandria, 39 

Clement of Rome, 75, 106 

Clericis Laicos, 128, 130 

Clermont, council at, 1 14 

Cletus of Rome, 75 

Clovis the Frank, 94; baptism of, 85 

Clubs of the Georgian Rakes, 253 

Cluniac reform, 137, 212 

Cluny, monastery of, 137, 138 

Coke, Sir Edward, 228 

College de gai Savoir, 154 

Colleges, on frontier, 240 

Cologne, 90 

Colonization, economic motives of, 223; 
religious motives of, 224 

Columba, 88 

Columbanus, 89 

Columbus, Christopher, 218, 219 

Communism, 288-89 

Communities, early Christian, 19 

Compulsory Christianity, 73 

conciliar supremacy, 173 

concordats, 241 

confession, private, 148 

confirmation, 146 

Congregationalists, 207, 210, 274, 282; on fron- 
tier, 239 

Conservative Alliance, 257 

Constance, Council of, 173, 181, 198 

Constans, Emperor, 72 

Constantine, 44, 48, 53, 56, 71, 74; and Arians, 
59; and Council of Nicaea, 55; born in Britain, 
86; character of, 49; Donation of, 70, 129-30, 
194; Edict of Toleration, 70, 71; reign of, 51; 
sons of, 61, 72 

Constantine II, 62 

Constantinople, 130; Council of, 145; 
patriarchate of, 65 

Constantius, Emperor, 72, 76 

Constantius Chlorus, 47 

Constitution of the United States, 232 

Conventuals, Franciscan, 217 

Cook, Captain James, 282 

co-operation of churches, 272, 292, 293 

Coptic Church, 67, 109, 275 

Cordova, 101 

Corinth, church at, 24 

Corsica, 97 

Cotton, John, 227, 228 

councils, ecumenical, 61 

Counter Reformation, 211 

Creed, Apostles', 41 

Creed, Nicene, 57 

Creeds, 20, 35; beginning of, 41 

criticism, higher, 264; textual, 264 

Croatians, 110 

Cromwell, Oliver, 207, 227, 228 

Crusades, 101; First, 113, 115, 152; Second, 115; 
Third, 115; Fourth, 116, 127; Fifth, 116; 
Sixth, 116; Seventh, 116; children's, 116; 
effect of, 116-17; indulgences for, 149 

Cuius regio eius religio, 200, 224 

Cyprian, 75 

Cyril, 108 

Cyril, of Alexandria, 67 

Czechoslovakia, 289 

Damasus, Pope, 13, 76 
Danes, 112 
Daniel, date of, 264 



Danish West Indies, missions in, 256 

Dante Alighteri, 171, 183, 189 

"Dark Ages," 102 

Darrow, Clarence, 263 

Darwin, Charles, 262, 263 

De Monarchia, Dante, 171 

De Vargas, Diego, 220 

Dead Sea scrolls, 3, 26 

Decius, Emperor, 29, 82 

Declaration of Independence, 23 1 

Decretals of Isidore, 102 

DefensoT Pacts, 171 

Deism, 252 

demons, 150, 155 

denominational mergers in United States, 274 

denominational system, 233 

Descent of Man, 262 

Diocletian, Emperor, 31, 45, 52, 106 

Disciples of Christ, 239, 243 

discipline, church, 79 

Divina Commedia, 189 

Dominic, St., 140, 160 

Dominicans, 140, 154-55, 161; as Inquisitors, 177; 
missions in America, 218, 220; as mystics, 
167; and Tetzel, 196; on Virgin Mary, 153; 
on witchcraft, 156 

Dornitian, persecution by, 29 

Donation of Constantine, 102, 129, 194 

Donation of Pippin, 95, 102 

Donatism, 40, 58 

"double decree," 202 

Drummond, Henry, 262 

dualism and asceticism, 133 

Duns Scotus, 143, 165 

East India Company, British, 279, 282 
Eastern Christianity, national churches, 111 
Eastern Empire, shrinkage of, 109 
Eastern Orthodoxy, 105, 288; in United States, 


East-West division, 105-09 
Ebionites, 23 
ecclesia, 20, 24 
Eck, Johann, 200 
Eckhart, Meister, 140, 167 
ecumenical movement, 271 
Eddy, Mrs. Mary Baker, 249 
Edinburgh, 273 
Edward VI, King, 205 
Edwards, Jonathan, 236, 246 
Egypt, church in, 108, 109, 275; and hermit 

monks in, 78 
eighteenth century, 252 
Eire, 288 

Eisenhower, President Dwight D., 230 
election, in Calvinism, 202 
Eliot, John, 279 
Elizabeth I, Queen, 206 
Elizabethan settlement, 205, 206, 207, 225 
Elliott, Bishop, 242 
emperor worship, 29 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 266 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, first ed., 252 
Encyclopedists, French, 260 
England, Church of, 90 
England Before and After Wesley, 253 
England, modern religion in, 287-88 
Enlightenment, age of, 251, 259; philosophy of, 

236, 255 

Ephesus, 11; council at, 66, 110 
Episcopalians, 239, 243 
Erastus, 31 
Essenes, 3 

Ethiopia, church in, 67, 109, 275 
Eucharist, 146, 215 
Eudoxia, Empress, 64, 69 

Europe, modern, religion in, 288 

"European system," 227 

Eusebius of Caesarea, 48, 49, 50, 58, 72 

Eusebius, of Nicomedia, 54, 55, 56, 59 

evangelical liberalism, 265, 267 

Evangelical and Reformed Church, 274 

Evangelical Revival, 237, 253, 255, 260 

evangelism in America, 236 

Evans, Richard, 249 

evolution, 262-63 

existentialism, 270 

expansion of Christianity, in America, 277; in 

ancient world, 276; among barbarians, 276; 

in 19th century, 277 
Exsurge Domine, 197 

Faith and Order, 273 

farmer-preachers, 238 

Farnese family, 214; Giulia, 214 

Federal Council of Churches, 273 

Ferdinand and Isabella, 140, 198, 219 

feudal system, 102, 103, 121, 127, 169 

Ficino, Marsiglio, 187 

Filelfo, Francesco, 191 

filioque clause, 84, 107 

Finney, Charles G., 246 

Finns, converted, 1 12 

First Amendment, 71, 232 

Florence, Council of, 108, 173 

Florida, Cabeza de Vaca in, 221 

Fontainebleau, 257 

Foreign Missions Conference of North 

America, 273 
Four-square Gospel, 250 
Fourth Gospel, 1 1 
Fox, George, 229 
France, 85; beginnings of, 94; lost to Empire, 

102; Protestantism in, 256 
Francis, St., 140, 160, 166 
Franciscan Observants, 171 
Franciscans, 141, 177, 217; missions in America, 

218; in California, 221-22; in New Mexico, 


Franks, 85, 94 

Frederick Barbarossa, Emperor, 115, 161, 175 
Frederick, Elector, of Saxony, 198 
Frederick II, Emperor, 116, 158 
French Revolution, 256, 257 
Freud, Sigmund, 293 
friars, 139 
Friars Minor, 142 
Friends of God, 168 
Frisia, pagan, 91 
Fugger bank, 196 

Fundamentalism, 268; five points of, 268 
furs, trade in, 222 

Galerius, 47, 52; edict of toleration, 48 

Galileo, 251 

Gall, St., monastery, 89 

Gamaliel, Rabbi, 12 

Gandhi, Mahatma, 285 

Gaul, 48, 80, 84; monks in, 134; taken by 

Clovis, 85 

Genesis, Catholic view, 266; and geology, 261 
Geneva, 201, 203, 205, 206 
George, St., 47 

German New Testament, Luther's, 199 
Gerrnanus, Bishop of Auxerre, 88 
Germany, 288; conversion of, 90; pagan, 80 
Gibbon, Edward, 53, 54, 93; quoted, 51 
Gibbons, James Cardinal, 248 
Giotto, 183 

gladiatorial contests, 58 
Glastonbury, 86 
Gnostic dualism, 133 



Gnostics, 37, 39, 40, 42 

Godfrey of Bouillon, 115 

Golden Legend, The, 150-51 

Gospel, Fourth, 26 

Gospels, 5; Synoptic, 26 

Goths, invasion by, 82, 84 

Graham, Billy, 246, 269 

Granada, 101 

Grande Chartreuse, La, 137 

Great Awakening, 236, 237, 246 

Great Western Revival, 246 

Greece, 288 

Greek, as language of church, 106 

Greenland, 112; missions in, 256 

Gregory I, Pope, 89, 135 

Gregory VII, Pope (Hildebrand), 122-25, 138, 

175; on celibacy, 147 
Gregory XI, Pope, 172, 180 
Gregory of Nazianzus, 68 
Gregory of Nyssa, 68 
Groote, Gerhard, 168 
Guatemala Antigua, 221 
Guatemala, Las Casas in, 221 
Guelphs and Ghibellines, 171 
Guicciardini, Francesco, 194 
Gypsies, 86 

Hadrian, Emperor, 18 

Hadrian IV, Pope, 175 

Hales, Alexander, 143 

Haroun al Raschid, 100 

Harper, William R., 273 

Harvard College, 240, 266 

Hebrews, Epistle to the, 27 

Hebrides, 89 

Helena, St., 50, 64, 86, 152 

Heloise, 160 

Henricians, 175 

Henry II, King, of England, 1 15 

Henry III, Emperor, 108 

Henry IV, Emperor, 124, 175 

Henry VIII, King, 139, 204, 205 

Henry of Lausanne, 175 

heresies, early, 40 

hermit monks, 78 

Higginbotham, Sam, 284 

higher criticism, 264 

Hildebrand, Gregory VII, 76, 122, 138 

Hincmar, 122 

Hitler, Adolf, 289 

Holy Communion, 146 

Holy Lance, 115 

Holy Roman Empire, 80, 92, 97, 98, 101, 122, 169 

Holy Spear, 152 

Holy Spirit, gift of, 20 

"holy state," 203 

Hocking, William E., 284 

Home Missions Council, 273 

homoousion, 53, 56 

Hong Kong, 281 

Hosius, 53 

Howard, John, 254 

Howe, Julia Ward, quoted, 242 

Hughes, Archbishop John Joseph, 241 

Hughes, Philip, quoted, 36 

Huguenots, 230 

Humani Generis, encyclical, 266 

humanism, literary, 190 

Humiliati, 179 

Hume, David, 252, 260 

Hungary, 97, 111, 216 

Huns, 82, 84 

Huss, John, 173, 181-82, 198 

Immaculate Conception, 153, 216, 257 
image-worship, 107 

Imitation of Christ, the, 168 

Immigration, 241, 249; as aid to churches, 246-49 

Immortale Dei, encyclical, 258 

In hoc signo vinces, 48 

Incarnation, 37 

Independents (Congregationalists), 207 

India, early evangelization of, 275; missions to, 

278, 279, 284 
Indians, American, 235 
indulgences, 149, 215; sale of, 149; theory of, 

196, 197 
infidels, 114 

Inge, Dean William R., quoted, 57 
Ingersoll, Robert G., 245 
Innocent I, Pope, 69 
Innocent III, Pope, 125-28, 130, 140, 160; 

and Albigensians, 176; authorized Franciscan 

order, 142 

Innocent IV, Pope, 156, 177 
Innocent VIII, Pope, 156 
Inquisition, 156, 214; in Italy, 214; Roman, 177; 

Spanish, 177; use of torture by, 156 
Institutes, Calvin's, 202, 203 
International Councfl of Religious Education, 


International Missionary Council, 285 
investiture controversy, 104, 124, 129 
lona, 89 

Ireland, 80, 87, 134; Northern, 288 
Ireland, Archbishop John, 248 
Irenaeus, 37, 75, 85, 106 
Irene, Empress, 98 
Islam, rise of, 100 
Italy, 288; barbarians in, 93 

Jackson, Sheldon, 245-46 

Jacobite Church, 67 

James, Apostle, 11 

James, brother of Jesus, 11, 15, 23 

James I, King, 206, 225 

James II, King, 207 

James, St., of Compostela, 99, 152 

Jamestown, Virginia, 224, 225 

Janelle, Pierre, 211 

Japan, 281; Christianity in, 285 

Jeanroy, Alfred, quoted, 154-55 

Jefferson, Thomas, 231, 235 

Jehovah's Witnesses, 31, 250 

Jerome, St., 27, 39, 58, 74, 79 

Jerusalem, early church at, 22; Kingdom of, 
115; patriarchate of, 109 

Jesuit Relations, 222 

Jesuits, 214, 216-17; in Canada, 222; in Para- 
guay, 221; missions in Far East, 218, 219 

Jesus, 4; baptism of, 4; biography impossible, 5; 
historically real, 5; ministry of, 6; return 
expected, 6; the Messiah, 9 

Jesus Is Coming, 268 

Jewish background, 3 

Jews, 114, 140; and Rome, 30; and Spanish 
Inquisition, 177; driven from Spain, 219 

Joan of Arc, 168 

John, Apostle, 11 

John the Baptist, 3, 78 

John, Epistles II, III, 27 

John, Gospel of, 16 

John of Gaunt, 180 

John, King, of England, 127 

John of Ley den, 210 

John XXII, Pope, 164, 168, 171 

Jones, E. Stanley, 285 

Jones, Sam, 246 

Joseph of Arimathea, 86 

Josephus, 5 

Judaism, 23 

Judson, Adoniram, 282 



Julian, Emperor, 61, 62, 63 
Julius Caesar, 86 
Julius II, Pope, 95 
Justin Martyr, 29, 35 
Justinian, Emperor, 65, 84, 93 
Juvenal, 18 

Kagawa, 285 
Kain, Archbishop, 248 
Keane, Archbishop, 248 
Kemper, Jackson, 239 
Kentucky, 234, 238 
Kierkegaard, Soren, 270 
Kiev, 110 
King, Starr, 245 
Kino, Eusebio Francisco, 221 
Know-Nothing Party, 242 
Knox, Prof. John, quoted, 38 
Knox, John, Reformer, 206 
"Koran or the sword," 101 
KublaiKhan, 110 

Labrador, missions in, 256 

Lactantius, 71 

Las Casas, Bartolommeo de, 229 

Lapps, converted, 112 

Lateran Council, Third, 176, 179; Fourth, 

116, 164 

Latin America, conversion of, 220, 222 
Latourette, K. S,, 81 
latrocinium council, 66 
Laubach, Frank, 284 
Laud, Archbishop William, 206, 226 
Laymen's Foreign Missions Inquiry, 284 
Lazarus at Marseilles, 86 
Leo I, Pope, 66, 76, 77, 83 
Leo III, Emperor, 107 
Leo III, Pope, 96, 97, 120 
Leo IX, Pope, 108 

Leo X, Pope, 191, 196, 213; and Luther, 197 
Leo XII, Pope, 164, 257, 265, 291 
Leo XIII, Pope, 257, 258 
Leonardo da Vinci, 186 
Lerins, monastery of, 88 
Les Baux, king of, 86 
Les Trois Saintes Maries, 86 
Levelers, 207 
liberalism, 266; partial eclipse of, 259; in 16th 

century, 203-04; evangelical, 265, 267 
Liberius, Bishop, 76 
Life and Work, 273 
Licinius, 55 

Line of Demarcation, 224 
Linus of Rome, 75 
Livingstone, David, 281 
Locke, John, 71,251 
Logos, 26 

Lollards, 179-81, 205 
Lombards, 94; raid Monte Cassino, 135 
Lord's Supper, 21 
Loretto, 152 
Lorraine, king of, 121 
Los Angeles mission, 222 
Louis IX, King, 116 
Louis XIV, King, 208, 229, 230 
Louis the Pious, 103 
Louisiana Purchase, 235 
Loyola, Ignatius, 33, 217, 253 
Low Countries, pagan, 90 
Luke, St., 2, 5; Gospel of, 26 
Luther, Martin, 193, 195-200, 208, 209, 213, 219 
Lutheran Service Committee, 285 
Lutherans, 201, 247 
Lutterworth, 179 
Lyons, 178 

McCabe, Chaplain C.C., 245 

McPherson, Amy Semple, 250 

Magellan, Ferdinand, 218 

Magyars, conversion of, 111 

Malay version of Bible, 279 

Malleus Malificarum, 156 

Manichaeism, 40, 176 

Mar Thoma Church, 1, 11 

Marcel, Gabriel, 270 

Marco Polo, 218 

Marcus Aurelius, 29 

Mark, Gospel of, 25 

marriage, 147 

Marseilles, 86 

Marsilius of Padua, 171 

Martha at Tarascon, 86 

Martial, 18 

Martin V, Pope, 174, 212 

Martin, St., of Tours, 80 

martyrs, 28, 32, 33; as saints, 149 

Mary Queen of Scots, 206 

Mary Tudor, Queen, 205 

Maryland, 225, 229 

Mass, the, 147 

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 225 

Maternus, Julius Firrnicus, 72 

Mathews, Shailer, 267 

Matthew, Gospel of, 25 

Matthias, 14 

Maximian, Emperor, 46, 47 

Mayas, 222 

mayors of the palace, 94 

Mecca, 100 

medieval synthesis, 167 

Medina, 100 

Melanchthon, Philip, 195, 209 

Menno Simons, 210 

Mennonites, 210, 230 

Mensurius, Bishop, 48 

Merovingians, 94, 96 

Messiah, 6, 14 

Messiahship, 24, 26 

Methodists, 253-55; and campmeeting, 238; 

divide on slavery, 243; on frontier, 237; 

origin of name, 254 
Mexico, 222; Spaniards in, 220 
Milan, Edict of, 49; seat of Empire, 106 
Michelangelo, Buonarroti, 183, 186, 191, 194 
Milton, John, 179, 207, 228; quoted, 112 
Milvian Bridge, battle at, 48 
miracles in Middle Ages, 144 
Missionary Conferences, World, 273 
Missionary Society, 278, 280, 281 
Missions, Catholic, 218; and linguistics, 278, 280, 


Missouri Synod, Lutheran, 247 
modern thought, 259 
modernism, Protestant, 268; Roman Catholic, 


Moffatt, Robert, 281 
Mohammed, 100 
Monasticism, 74, 132-39; abuses of, 136, 137, 

139; Eastern, 132; motives for, 136; reforms 

in, 137, 212; rise of, 78; Western, 134 
Mongol invasion, 110 
monks and friars, 132 
Monophysites, 61, 66, 108 
Montanism, 40 
Monte Cassino, 134, 135, 16t 
Montezuma, 220 
Moody, Dwight L., 246, 262 
Moors, driven from Spain, 219; and Spanish 

Inquisition, 177 

morality, Christian, 20; Roman, 18 
Moravians, 256 
Mormons, 248-49 



Morrison, Robert, 280 

Moscow, 110 

Moslem, invasion of Europe, 94; nations, 282; 

Near East, 275 
Moslems, 100, 109, 114 
"Mother of God," 67, 153 
Minister, 210 
mystery religions, 18 
mystics, medieval, 167-68 

Nantes, Edict of, 208, 230 

Naples, University of, 158 

Napoleon, 257 

Narses, 93 

National Council of Churches, 271, 273 

nativist movements, 241 

Natural Law in the Spiritual World, 262 

natural religion, 236 

Nauvoo, Illinois, 249 

"Nazarenes," 20 

Nazarenes, Church of, 250 

Nazareth, 4 

Nazis, 289 

Negro slavery, introduced, 221 

Neo-orthodoxy, 270, 293 

Neoplatonism, 62, 162 

Nero, 10, 25, 29 

Nestorianism, 40, 67, 110 

Nestorius, 67, 153 

"new Israel," 24 

New Mexico, explored by Alvarado, 221; Pueblo 

revolt, 220 
New Testament, 14; formation of, 25; Luther's 

German, 199; Tyndale's English, 205 
New York City, 234 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 251 

Nicaea, Council at, 53, 55-57, 60, 83, 107, 145 
Nicholas I, Pope, 102, 108, 121-22 
Nicholas V, Pope, 185 
Nicomedia, 46, 47, 55 
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 271 
Ninety-five Theses, 193, 197 
Nominalism, 161, 164-67 
Normandy, Normans, 112 
North Africa, held by barbarians, 93 
Northmen, 112 
Northwest Territory, 234 
Norway, conversion of, 112 
Notre Dame, 153 
Nubia, church in, 108 

Observants, Franciscan, 142, 217 

Odoacer, 84 

Olaf Tryggvesson, King, 112 

Old Testament, 25, 26 

"only begotten Son," 42 

Opium Wars, 280 

Oratorians, 214, 218 

ordeal, trial by, 156 

Order of Preachers, 140 

Ordinance of 1787, 232 

Oregon, 245 

organization, early Church, 35 

Origen, 39, 69, 75 

Origin of Species, 262 

"orthodox" doctrine, 40 

"Orthodoxy," Eastern, 111 

Ostrogoths, 84 

Oxford, 179 

Pachomius, 79, 134 
Pacific islands, missions in, 282 
Pagan Revival, 62 
paganism, death of, 63 
paganism, Roman, 17 

papacy, finances of, 172; at low ebb, 122; rise 
of, 75 

papal infallibility, 257, 258 

papal sovereignty, beginning of, 95; loss and 
restoration of, 258 

Papal State, 96 

Paraguay, Cabeza de Vaca in, 221 

Paris, University of, 158 

parochial schools, 241 

patriarchates, rival, 65, 106-07, 108 

Patrick, St., 87; rules for penance, 148 

Paul, Apostle, 5, 12, 15, 20, 23, 24, 32, 39, 78; 
commission as apostle, 13; conversion of, 13; 
legends of, 86; martyred, 13; missionary jour- 
neys, 13; personality of, 14; wrote Greek, 106 

Paul HI, Pope, 213, 214, 215, 217 

Paul IV, Pope, 214 

Paulicians, 176 

peace, 156 

Peasants' revolt, 209 

Pelagianism, 40 

Pelagius, 88 

penance, 147-48; manuals of, 148 

Penn, William, 229 

Pennsylvania, 229, 230; Dutch, 230, 247 

Pentateuch, documentary theory of, 264; Mosaic 
authorship of, 265 

Pentecost, 10, 14 

Pentecostal Holiness, 250 

Pentopolis, 95 

Perpignon, 173 

Persecution of Christians, end of, 72; by Decius, 
29; by Diocletian, 31, 46, 56; by Domitian, 
29; by Nero, 29; of pagans and heretics, 72; 
by pagan Rome, 21, 28, 30 

Persia, Nestorians in, 110 

Persians, 62 

Peru, 220, 222 

Peter, Apostle, 8, 9, 14, 15, 23, 24; burial place, 
10; and Mark, 25; martyrdom, 10; and Paul, 
at Rome, 75; primacy of, 77; at Rome, 10 

Peter II, Epistle, 27 

Peter of Aragon, 127 

Peter of Bruys, 174 

Peter the Hermit, 114 

Peter Lombard, 146 

Petrarch, Francesco, 183, 190, 194 

Petrobrusians, 174 

Philadelphia, 234 

Philadelphia Confession, 238 

Philip Augustus, King, 115, 125 

Philip IV (the Fair), 130, 170 

Philip Neri, St., 218 

Photius, 108, 121 

Piccolomini, Aeneas Sylvius (Pius II) , 190 

Pico della Mirandola, 187 

Picts, 87 

Pietism, 253, 255, 260 

Pisa, Council of, 173 

Pilgrim Fathers, 210 

pilgrimages, 148, 155 

Pippin, King of Franks, 71, 94, 96; crowning of, 
96; Donation of, 95, 96, 119 

Pius II, Pope, 190 

Pius IX, Pope, 257, 265 

Pius X, Pope, 265 

Pius XII, Pope, 120, 265 

Plan of Union (1801), 239 

Plato, 18, 63, 161, 162, 185, 187 

Pliny the Younger, 5; quoted, 21 

Plymouth, 226 

Poland, 112, 216 

politics and the churches, 290 

Polycarp, 29, 34, 37; martyrdom of, 33 

polygamy, Mormon, 249 

Pomponazzi, Pietro, 194 

Pontifex Maximus, 50 



Pontius Pilate, 6 

Pope, Alexander, 251 

Portiuncula, 143 

poverty, evangelical, 142, 166, 175 

Praemunire, Statute of, 179 

Prague, University of, 181 

predestination, in Calvinism, 202 

Presbyterian Church, United, of U.S. A., 274 

Presbyterians, 179, 203, 204, 207, 208 

Presbyterians, in America, 237; divided on 

slavery, 243; on frontier, 245-46; General 

Assembly, 237; from Ireland, 240 
Prester John, 218 
Princeton College, 240 
Promontory Point, 244 
"prophetic conferences," 268 
"Protestant," origin of name, 199, 209 
"Protestant rampart," 224, 225 
Protestant Reformation, 149, 193-210 
Protestantism, 105 
Provencal legends, 86; poetry, 154 
Providence, Rhode Island, 228 
Providentissimus Deus, encyclical, 265 
Provisors, Statute of, 179 
Prussian Union, 247 
pseudo-Isidorean decretals, 122 
Pueblo revolt, 220 
purgatory, 148 
Puritan, migration, 206, 226 
Puritans, 205 

Quahal, 24 
quadrivium, 158 
Quakers, 226, 227, 229 
Quebec, 224 
Quo vadis, 10 

Radbertus, 146 

Raikes, Robert, 254 

railroads, 244 

rationalism in 18th century, 252 

Ravenna, exarchate of, 93, 94; given to the pope, 
95; taken by Lombards, 94; taken by Pippin, 
95; Ostrogoth Kingdom of, 84; seat of empire, 

Realism, Scholastic, 159, 164 

Reformation, Catholic, 211-18; English, 204-08; 
Protestant, 193-210; and Renaissance, 193-95; 
in Scotland, 206 

reincarnation, 39 

relics, 155 

religious education, 272 

Religious Education Association, 273 

Renaissance, 182, 183-92; art, 188; characteris- 
tics of, 192; delayed results of, 192, 259; 18th- 
century revival of, 252; in England, 205; litera- 
ture, 189; paganism, 191; philosophers, 187; 
popes, 185, 191, 212; and Reformation, 193- 
95; and religion, 190-92; spirit of, 186 

Rerum Novarum, encyclical, 291 

Rethinking Missions, 284 

Revelation, book of, 27, 29 

revival of learning, 184 

revivalism, 246 

Rhode Island, 227 

Rice, Luther, 282 

Richard I, King of England, 115 

Rienzi, Cola di, 172 

Roland, 99 

Roman law, Justinian's Code, 135 

Rome, 13; bishops of, 74, 75, 106; fall of, 93 

Romulus Augustulus, 93, 96 

Roncevalles, Battle of, 99 

Roscelin, 160 

Russia, 288 

Russian church becomes independent, 110-11 

Russians, converted, 110 
Ruysbroeck, Jan, 168 

Sabellianism, 40 

Sacraments, 145-48 

St. Peter's cathedral, 188, 196, 214 

Saint Michel, 153 

saints, cult of, 149-51; legends of, 150-51; mira- 
cles of, 150-51; pilgrimages to shrines of, 155; 
relics of, 151-52 

Saladin, 115 

Salem, 226; witchcraft, 156 

Salerno, University of, 158 

Salt Lake City, 249 

Salzburg, Archibishop of, 230 

San Diego mission, 222 

San Francisco, 245; mission, 222 

San Vitale, Church of, 93 

Sancta Scala, 152 

Sankey, Ira D., 246 

Santa Fe, New Mexico, 221, 224 

Santiago, Cult of, 99 

Sarajevo, 292 

Sartre, Jean-Paul, 270 

Sassoferrato, Bartolo, 143 

Satan, 39 

Saul of Tarsus, see Paul 

Savonarola, 140 

Saxons and Angles, 89 

Saxon emperors, 101 

Scandinavia, pagan, 80 

Scandinavians, 112 

Schaff, Philip, quoted, 85 

Schism, Great, 105-09; Great Western, 170-74, 

scholasticism, 157 ff. 

Schweitzer, Albert, 5, 285 

science, empirical, 251 

Science and Health, 249 

science and religion, 260-65 

Scotland, modern, 288; Reformation in, 206 

Scots, of Ireland, 87 

Scrooby congregation, 210, 226 

See of Peter, The, 75 

separation of church and state, 210, 231 

Separatists, 210 

Sepoy mutiny, 279 

Septirnius Severus, Emperor, 29, 44 

Servians, 110, 111 

Serra, Fra Junipero, 222 

Servetus, Michael, 203 

Seventh-day Adventists, 250 

Sforza, Ludovico, 191 

Shakespeare, 183 

Shinto, 30 

Shotwell, James T., 75 

Sic <at Nan, 160 

Sigismund, Emperor, 173, 181, 198 

Simeon, 11 

Simeon Stylites, St., 79, 132 

Simon de Montfort, 176 

slavery, division of churches on, 243 

slavery question, 242 

Slavs, conversion of, 110, 112 

Smith, Joseph, 248 

Smyrna, 33 

Social Creed of the Churches, 291 

social gospel, 268; questions, 242 

Society of Jesus, see Jesuits 

Society for Propagation of the Gospel, 256, 278 

Socinians, 208 

Socinus, Faustus, 203 

Socrates, 18, 78 

South America, Spaniards in, 220 

South India, United Church of, 274 



Spain, 13, 48, 84; expels Jews and Moors, 219; 

held by barbarians, 93 
Spanish-American War, 283 
Speyer, Diets at, 199, 209 
spread of Christianity, in Roman Empire, 17 
States of the Church, 95 
States General (French), 130 
statistics, 286-87 
Stephen, 13 

Stephen II, Pope, 94, 96 
Stoics, 18 
Student Volunteer Movement, 273 

substance, 146 

Suetonius, 5, 18, 25 

Summa contra Gentiles, 163 

Summa Theologiae, 163 

"sun and moon," 126, 129 

Sunday, Billy, 246 

Sunday school, 272; origin of, 254 

Sweden, conversion of, 113; modern, 288 

Swedes, in Russia, 112 

Syllabus of Errors, 258, 265 

Sylvester, Pope, 70, 130 

Symmachus, 73 

Symonds, John Addington, quoted, 184 

Tacitus, 5, 29, 90 

Tarsus, 12 

Tauler, 140, 168 

Taylor, William, 245 

Tennessee, 234, 238 

Tertullian, 38, 39, 71, 106 

Tetzel, Johann, 196 

Theatines, 217 

Theodora, Empress, 64, 93 

Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, 84 

Theodosius I, Emperor, 51, 63, 72, 73, 74; and 

Ambrose, 65 
Theodosius II, 72 
Theologia Germanica f 168 
theology, 18; beginnings of, 15 
Theology of an Evolutionist, 263 
Third Order of St. Francis, 142 
Thomas, Apostle, 11; in India, 275 
Thomas Aquinas, St., 140, 156, 161-64, 166, 265; 

on death for heretics, 178 
Thomas a Kempis, 168 
Tillich, Paul, 271 
time, creation of, 42 
Titus, 36 

Toleration, Act of (1689) , 207; Edict of, 70 
Torquemada, 140 
torture in trial of heretics, 156 
Toulouse, 154 
Toulouse, Council at, 177 
Tours, 85; Wattle of, 94, 101 
Toynbee, Arnold, quoted, 58 
tradition, validity of, 216 
Trajan, Emperor, 21 
Transcendentalists, 266 
transubstantiation, 146-47, 164 
Trent, Council of, 145, 190, 213, 214 
Treves, 90 
triple tiara, 120 
trivium, 158 

True Cross, finding of, 152 
Tucson, St. Savier Mission, 221 
Turks, 108, 114 

Turpin, Archibishop of Rheims, 99 
"Two Swords/* The, 119, 121, 129 
Tyndale, William, 203 

Ulfilas, 83 

Unam Sanctam, 129, 130 

Union Pacific Railroad, 244 

Unitarians, 61, 204, 245, 266 
Unitarian Service Committee, 285 
United Church of Christ, U.S., 274 
Universalists, 39, 266, 267 
universities, founding of, 157 
Uppsala, 113 
Urban II, Pope, 114 
Urban VI, Pope, 172 
Urban VIII, Pope, 150 
Ursula, St., Church of, 152 
Ussher, Archbishop James, 261 
Utah, 249 
Utrecht, 91 

Valens, Emperor, 82 

Valentinian III, Emperor, 77 

Valla, Lorenzo, 71, 194 

Vandals, 84 

Varangians, 112 

Vatican, 188, 190; diplomacy, 289; Library, 185 

Vatican City State, 258 

Vespucci, Amerigo, 218 

Vienna, siege by Turks, 101 

Vincent, Bishop John H., 273 

Virgin Mary, 4; Assumption of, 153; Cult of, 
150, 153-55; hymns to, 154; as mediator, 154 

Virginia, 226; Company, 225; Act for Establish- 
ing Religious Freedom, 231; Declaration of 
Rights, 231 

Visigoths, 84 

Vittorino da Feltre, 191 

Vladimir, Prince, 110 

Voltaire, 252 

Voragine, Jacopo da, 150-51 

Vulgate, 27, 79 

Waldensians, 178-79, 216 

Waldo, Peter, 178 

Walker, Williston, quoted, 42, 68 

Wand, J. W. C., 12 

Wartburg Castle, 199 

Wellesley, Arthur, 254 

Wesley, John, 253-55 

Western Revival, 238 

Westminster Assembly, 206 

Westminster Confession, 207 

Westphalia, Peace of, 200, 224 

westward movement in United States, 243 

Whitefield, George, 236, 246, 254 

Whitman, Marcus, 245 

Wilberforce, William, 254 

William, Archbishop of Tyre, 117 

William of Champeaux, 160, 167 

William and Mary, 207 

William of Occam, 166-67 

Williams, Roger, 228 

Willibrord, 91 

Winfrid (Boniface), 91 

Witchcraft, 155-56 

Wittenberg, University of, 193 

World Christian Handbook, 283 

World Council of Churches, 61, 273, 285 

World Missionary Conference, 285 

Worms, Diet of, 198 

worship, early Christian, 35 

Wyclif, John, 179-81, 205 

Xavier, Francis, 217 

Yale College, 240 

Yearbook of American Churches, 272 

York, 48 

Young, Brigham, 249 

Yugoslavia, 82 

Zacatecas, silver mines, 221 

Zurich, 209 

Zwingli, Ulrich, 195, 209