Tree of Life Lessons
Level 1 Lesson 7 World Religions
CHURCH OF ROME
last lesson, we studied Ancient Apostolic Christianity from the Pentecost to the
Council of Nicea. This lesson is about the growth of the church at
The Master told Peter, who is considered by the Roman Church to be the founder of the Church of Rome: “...thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” And it is from this that the Church of Rome claimed supremacy over all other sees in Christendom.
however, the Church at
second century, the Church at
It is not
hard to trace the development of authority. Records and minutes of synods,
councils, and meetings contain letters and other correspondence from the Bishop
of Rome stressing this point or that point with authority! This also had
political motives; for as the power was moved to Constantinople by
Through all the many divisions and so-called “Christological
controversies”, the church at
the Church at
Third, because of the first two reasons, the Church in the East was never allowed to grow outside the protection of the state while the Church of Rome was forced to fight tooth and nail for everything, and, at times it seemed, against everything.
By the 7th
century, the Eastern Church would lose to the zeal of the prophet Mohammed,
Thus, in the East the Emperor was the final arbitrator in both political and spiritual matters. And it followed that after the Emperor’s death, the Church would not have the authority since it was based upon the throne and who ruled.
Justinian became Emperor of the
By the time of
Between the Fall of Rome and the year 800 CE, the faith was kept alive
in monasteries. They were the centers of learning, not only for the Church, but
for all of
The year 800 is important for it was then that the Pope crowned Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor. By this move, two things were accomplished.
First, the Pope hoped that by making Charlemagne Emperor, he would
increase his control through the only developed state in Europe, and thus, be
able to spread Christianity to
Second, by raising the banner of the Empire again to that of being consecrated by the Church, the state could gain the use of the knowledge of the monks and Church scholars and its structure. This is the way it worked.
Yet, the kings and popes quarreled. This is called the “Investiture Controversy”. Simply, it centered on who had the right to invest clergy and bishops -- the pope or the king. There is a long chronology of events, but it finally ended with the state having its say over the Church. This did not happen until the 19th century.
We must remember that from before the fall of
The teachings of the Church, based upon what the Master said, were painfully copied by monks in monasteries (including the Bible). By the 12th century, scholars and teachers were using a large written body of lessons on the scriptures. One of the most famous of these works was called the Sentences. It was written by a monk named Peter Lombard. He stated in this work that there were seven sacraments.
By the time of the great scholar St. Thomas Aquinas, a period called “Scholasticism” had reached its peak. Everything was studied using Aristotle’s philosophy as its norm. Here, even the Lord’s Supper was broken down into philosophical parts. The doctrine that emerged from this was called “Transubstantiation”. This was given full dogmatic authority at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 where many of the doctrines were defined.
Besides these writers, who were called “schoolmen”, there existed both within their ranks and without a large number of mystics.
It is said that when St. Thomas Aquinas was finishing his theology, which ran into forty volumes, he had a “mystical experience” one day at his office. Soon after, he dismissed his secretaries and quit writing stating that there were no more words to be said!
most influential mystics was Meister Eckhart (1260 - 1327). He was a German
Dominican serving in
He was Neo-Platonic; for he believed that which was real in all things was divine. The soul of man was a spark of God. This was the true reality in man and all individualizing qualities were mostly negative.
Man should, therefore, lay these aside and struggle to have God born within his soul and enter into full communion with it to come under the control of the indwelling God. Christ was the pattern and example. Eckhart also said that good works did not make one righteous since the soul was already righteous.
A pupil of Eckhart, John Tauler (c. 1300 - 1361) traveled throughout
Many of the German mystics leaned towards pantheism. They were, on a whole, neutral on rites and rituals although some were openly against anything that had to do with the Church.
Perhaps the best-known book which came out of this movement was Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. The book, in simple language, is a handbook on the mystical devotion to Christ. It has been used ever since as a handbook for those seeking The Way.
time of the Council in 1215, learning was still in the hands of the Church, but
it had emerged from the monasteries into small schools called
“universities”. These were located in
The beginnings of what is called the Renaissance, or re-birth of the West, began at this time (c. 1250 CE). Trade increased due to the rise of the nation-state. Men had more time in which to pursue the study of the arts and sciences (including the occult sciences).
This was also the period of the Crusades. They were stimulated by economic conditions; for there were 48 famine years between 1058 and 1095, plus an urge to migrate within the populace as a whole.
troubles led people inward to find a deeper meaning in life. Religious feelings
were high. This was added to by the capture of
that time, the fight to wrestle
did succeed in capturing
and Third Crusade followed with bitter feelings towards the Eastern rulers since
were other Crusades among the most famous of which was the “Children’s
Crusade”. On the whole, though, they were failures. They divided the Eastern
Empire so that it was rendered ineffective; it failed to stop the advancement
of Mohammedanism and it showed
Yet, without the Crusades,
year 1300, the popes had become very corrupt. They were more interested in
building kingdoms on earth rather then guiding the spiritual growth of
Christianity. The popes knew they could no longer hope to rule Europe, so they
tried to build a state within
this through treaties, concordants and promises. Things became so bad that in
1292, when the hermit Peter Morrone was elected Pope and called himself
Celestine V, he quit and went back to his cave outside
pontification of Innocent III, when the papacy reached the height of its
temporal power, it fell apart. The Pope moved to a city called “
each group had their own pope. At one time, there were four popes all claiming
to hold the keys of Peter! A Hundred Years War had drained both
Finally, at the Council of Constance in 1414, the church had one pope again. But, most of the reforms made at this council were soon forgotten. The popes became even more interested in worldly affairs. It was not unnatural that reformers of the church should come forth.
Wycliffe, an Englishman, was born in 1330 and studied at
He said that the church was becoming too institutionalized. It was no longer the servant of mankind. Wycliffe also said that the pope should profess poverty and should no longer try to become a secular ruler. He attacked the institution, not the doctrine. He also made an English translation of the Bible.
In De Ecclessia, he stated that the congregation of the church is made by hope, faith and charity through Christ Jesus. Huss also said that the pope was not infallible. We can see why the actions of the popes led him to this conclusion. He also said indulgences were not valid. He was killed by the church at the Council of Constance in 1414 by being burned alive after being given a safe conduct guarantee.
The different events were slowly being drawn together. The rise of the nation-state, the Renaissance, the reformers -- all were pointing to something. It came to a head in the person of an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther.