Exploring Church History

Exploring Church History

Copyright Date: 2014
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Exploring Church History
    Book Description:

    Fortress Press’s Foundations for Learning series prepares students for academic success through compelling resources that kick-start their educational journey into professional Christian ministry. In Exploring Church History, Derek Cooper invites readers to consider the purpose and significance of church history in the lives of individuals and communities today. Rather than offering an exploration of bygone eras and outdated events, Cooper brings history to life by emphasizing how past events, individuals, and movements shape how we understand the world around us. Exploring Church History is divided into three convenient sections. While the first and second sections explain why and what we study in church history, the last section teaches readers how to study church history. The combined effect of the book is to present a clear and accessible introduction to the field of church history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8960-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Part 1: Why We Study Church History—Purpose
    • Chapter 1 The Church Strives to Be One Family
      (pp. 5-14)

      Several years ago, I attended a family reunion. Although held in Texas, where my father’s side of the family has called home for six generations, relatives from other states and even foreign countries attended. During the two-day event, I spent most of my time with those I had known since childhood: my two brothers (of course), my first cousins, their parents, and my grandparents. However, I also socialized with second and third cousins, distant granduncles and grandaunts, and many other relatives reportedly once or twice removed from family members I scarcely knew existed.

      At the reunion, I watched videos of...

    • Chapter 2 The Church Strives to Be a Holy People
      (pp. 15-26)

      Recently, I stood atop the Mount of Beatitudes in the northern part of Israel, the site where many Christians believe Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.¹ I would have liked to have forged an eternal memory that day with the way the Sea of Galilee glistened in the sun in the distance below or how the birds lined themselves atop the beautiful Franciscan church adorning the hill. Instead, I am haunted by the pointed words of our guide immediately after our group solemnly read aloud the Sermon on the Mount. “You want to know why I’m not a Christian?”...

    • Chapter 3 The Church Strives to Be a Catholic Body
      (pp. 27-38)

      The year was 1867. The Civil War had recently ended in the United States, and the country was attempting to resurrect itself from the ashes of corpses and devastation. President Abraham Lincoln, whose tenure as commander in chief from 1861 to 1865 coincided with the years of the war, had just been assassinated, and the new president, a Southerner who would soon face impeachment, sought to “reconstruct” the infrastructure of the southern states and rehabilitate the economy in the midst of the South’s continued poverty, confusion, and deep bitterness. It would be a long road toward recovery.

      The country, in...

    • Chapter 4 The Church Strives to Be an Apostolic Church
      (pp. 39-48)

      In 1704, a woman living in modern Angola prepared for death as she lay in her bed with a severe fever. Baptized in the Catholic Church as a child, she was a proud Kongolese noblewoman whose ancestors had adopted the Christian faith from Portuguese missionaries two centuries earlier. The woman’s name was Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita, and she was twenty years of age. Though tightly gripped by death’s hands, she miraculously recovered upon sight of an angelic figure that approached her bed. It was Saint Anthony of Padua, a celebrated Portuguese priest of the Franciscan order, who had died in...

  5. Part 2: What We Study in Church History—Content
    • Chapter 5 A Tomb in Italy Illumines the History of Christianity in Western Europe
      (pp. 53-65)

      In around 325 CE, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire examined plans for the construction of the most elaborate church in the ancient world. A dozen years had passed since Emperor Constantine (r. 306–337) had legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire, and several churches of varying conditions and styles were scattered across the Mediterranean. In the capital of the empire, these unimpressive churches paled in comparison to the grand temples and public basilicas that adorned the pagan-laden “Eternal City.” Before long, Constantine landed on the location of the project: Vatican Hill, formerly a pagan cemetery, on the...

    • Chapter 6 An Icon in Egypt Illumines the History of Christianity in the East
      (pp. 67-79)

      It was the sixth century. Justinian (r. 527–565) was ruling over an expanding Byzantine Empire from the enchanted city of Constantinople.

      Although he had inherited a kingdom plagued by religious division, he was making a name for himself. Besides influencing the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, working tirelessly to unite the divided churches in his kingdom, and constructing a law code that would endure for centuries, Justinian is probably known best for the many building projects he commissioned. Chief among these buildings was the incomparable church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, dedicated in 537. On a more unassuming...

    • Chapter 7 A Stele in China Illumines the History of Christianity in Asia
      (pp. 81-93)

      In or around 1625, men digging a grave in the central Chinese countryside discovered a two-ton slab of limestone buried deep in the ground. Carved in the front with nineteen hundred Chinese characters as well as almost 150 personal names and words written in Syriac—a Semitic tongue akin to the language Jesus spoke—this stele measured nine feet high by three feet wide. The beautiful Chinese calligraphy inscribed on the stele was to be read from top to bottom and from right to left. At the trunk of the slab rested a giant tortoise, and at the top stood...

    • Chapter 8 A Crucifix in the DRC Illumines the History of Christianity in Africa
      (pp. 95-107)

      It was the 1600s. After obtaining the extracted metal from the ore that a miner had dug in the earth, the African metallurgist began making art from the copper alloy. Before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1480s, Kongolese metallurgists had made sculptures and other objects for adoration. But everything changed in the year 1491. That’s the year the king converted to Christianity. Thereafter, the king ordered the destruction of local temples as well as physical symbols connected to paganism. Such pagan artifacts, he decreed, were to be replaced by large public crosses throughout the kingdom in imitation of...

    • Chapter 9 A Cloak in Mexico Illumines the History of Christianity in Latin America
      (pp. 109-119)

      Cuauhtlatoatzin, a name that means “eagle that speaks”¹ or “one who talks like an eagle,”² lived during the height of the encounter between the Spaniards and the native peoples of Latin America. Like many other villages and people groups, Cuauhtlatoatzin’s had recently come under the authority of the mighty Aztec Empire, a kingdom that consisted of an alliance of several tribes. Cuauhtlatoatzin belonged to the largest and lowest-ranking class of Aztec society and made a living by selling crops from his small farm and weaving mats. In 1525, at around the age of fifty, he was baptized into the Catholic...

    • Chapter 10 A Warehouse in California Illumines the History of Christianity in North America
      (pp. 121-135)

      The year was 1906. Los Angeles was a large town by contemporary standards but nothing like the bustling and sprawling metropolis that it is today. It was growing each day, however, as up to three thousand people were arriving monthly to eke out a living in the fastest growing city in the newly engrafted state of California. As scholar Harvey Cox remarks about Los Angeles, “The city was populated by people who came from somewhere else because they were looking for something different.”¹ Some of the thousands who entered Los Angeles in the first decade of the twentieth century visited...

    • Chapter 11 A Boot in Fiji Illumines the History of Christianity in Oceania
      (pp. 137-150)

      At 3:00 P.M. on July 20, 1867, an English-born Australian missionary entered a tiny village in the western highlands of Viti Levu in Fiji. He was accompanied by a Fijian minister, local teachers, and several Christian students. They were unarmed. The missionary immediately sent a message to the chief of the Navosa tribe, requesting to meet with him. Without much delay, the chief arrived with a retinue of armed tribesmen. The chief promptly sat down on a stone in the village courtyard. The missionary approached the chief alongside his native guide, shook his hand, ceremoniously presented the tooth of a...

  6. Part 3: How We Study Church History—Method
    • Chapter 12 A Medieval Forgery Illumines How to Write a Paper on Church History
      (pp. 155-166)

      It was the spring of 1440. Not unlike professors today, an academic from Italy was wandering from place to place in search of a stable position. By most accounts, the man was not very pleasant. He was, however, a master philologist and textual critic. His area of specialization was the Latin language—a tongue long since dead other than in the mouths of Catholic priests or in classical pagan and Catholic writings. This man made many enemies, for he had a habit of “not only [going] against the dead, but against the living as well.”¹ For the time being, the...

  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-167)