Over the past two millennia
after the birth of Jesus Christ, the world has witnessed key events and
leaders who have bravely shaped our Christian faith. Church history professor
Peter Prosser reveals and explains those pivotal moments in light of the
PAT ROBERTSON: Here to share with us about the leaders and events that
have shaped Christianity before and since the turn of the first millennium
is Regent University professor of Biblical Studies, Dr. Peter Prosser.
Peter, it is always good to have you back with us.
PETER PROSSER (Regent University Professor): Thank you, Pat. It is
nice to be here.
P. ROBERTSON: Let's go way back because the millennium began with Rome
and the persecution of Christians, actually if we could consider it,
the birth of Jesus, the Apostles. I suppose we talk about the Book of
Revelation being written around A.D. 90. And then Augustine, we are
looking at, give or take, A.D. 400--what? -- A. D. 430 or thereabouts?
PROSSER: A.D. 390, yeah.
P. ROBERTSON: 390, 400. Okay. But Rome was collapsing and Christianity
was rising up as the Roman Empire was collapsing. Who was the figure,
if you can point to one, in the church who was sort of holding it all
PROSSER: Ironically, as the Roman society was falling apart, the Roman
Catholic Church that was developing basically took over the vacuum.
And you could arguably say, that since Augustine was the Christian thinker
who converted out of heathen philosophy and became one of the world's
great thinkers in his own right and his view, first of all, conversion
in his book called Confessions and then in his large book The City of
God, he set out what it would mean to have a Christian society in the
place of the ruined Roman society, and that basically ruled the church
for the next thousand years until the Reformation.
P. ROBERTSON: So, if you take two towering figures, you are talking
about Martin Luther on the one side, and about Augustine on the other
side. These were the two great pillars.
PROSSER: That's right. Constantine, who allowed Christianity -- some
people think that he forced Christianity on people, but he did not;
one of his sons did -- he brought Christianity in as the regularized
religion of the empire. Augustine really gave the philosophy and the
theology of the church.
P. ROBERTSON: Well, Constantine was really A.D. 323. Isn't that right?
PROSSER: He got converted in 313.
P. ROBERTSON: 313. I have got 10 years on him. So the western part
of the empire, he is in the eastern part, but the western part is collapsing.
The Goths, the Visigoths, the vandals -- they are overrunning Rome
PROSSER: He was in Rome and moved to the eastern part because of the
collapse, and that is how we got Constantinople, or Istanbul. But Augustine
really ruled the thoughts and theology of the church for the next thousand
years. And Luther, of course, if we look back on Luther, Luther was
an Augustinian friar. John Calvin took most of his theological ideas
from Saint Augustine. The ideas of sovereignty, predestination, individual
rights, separation of church and state all come out of those writings
and are developed by later church leaders. Luther, with his salvation
by faith; Calvin, with his ideas of civic responsibility, theology,
and work, the whole theology of work -- really affected our society,
our western society.
P. ROBERTSON: From the visible point, not the philosophical or theological,
but it was a pope, Pope Leo who was the pope with the titular head of
what was the Roman church and a survivor of the empire.
PROSSER: That's right. When the barbarian hoards were pouring in and
attacking Rome, it was largely Leo who stepped forward, actually, and
turned aside the Huns, the Hun tribe, and said, 'Don’t destroy
Rome because the Christians here are trying to preserve society, not
destroy it.' With a word he sent them on their way. It was the only
place that the Huns didn't wreck.
P. ROBERTSON: Look at the period, say, between 400, or thereabouts,
and the year 1000. We've got Charlemagne coming in. But what went on?
There was a Pope Gregory who was a missionary pope. But what else was
happening with Christianity during that period of time? Some of it is
known as the Dark Ages; we went into a period of severe decline.
PROSSER: Yes, the Dark Ages start really after Pope Leo, after he dies.
Saint Augustine can see it coming. That is why he writes The City of
God, one of Rome's most famous books in history. Then the Dark Ages
come in, largely because the barbarian tribes are coming in and wrecking
civilization. Everything goes on hold for six hundred years.
P. ROBERTSON: Six hundred years is a long time! But Roman society literally
collapsed. Rome became just a little swamp
PROSSER: And the only thing in its place was Christianity. You can
see that in the third millennium, what's happening to us.
P. ROBERTSON: But there was corruption in the Roman church.
P. ROBERTSON: And when did that begin to be most manifested? Of course,
you have the so-called Holy Roman Empire at about 800 A.D. and Charlemagne
and they say it wasn't holy and it wasn't Roman and it wasn't an empire
PROSSER: The comments of Winston Churchill.
P. ROBERTSON: But what was going on? I mean, we have a move from that
into the Reformation and the Renaissance where civilization begins to
wake up again. What were the key transitional points around about 1000?
PROSSER: I think that, although the papacy certainly started to fall
apart, it was the monks, especially the monks of Ireland, who went out
and evangelized Germany, what is now Holland, northern Germany, Scandinavia.
It was really the monastic movement that evangelized during the Dark
Ages, and that set up the world for the coming of Saint Francis of Assisi,
for instance, in Italy.
P. ROBERTSON: We've got to fast forward a little bit because our time
is running out. The key events: you've got the Reformation with Luther,
you've got Calvin, and then you've got the great revival of John Wesley
in the 1700s. Move all the way up to our present time. What are the
single events and what do you see?
PROSSER: For our modern time, I think the Pentecostal revival that
began at the beginning of the century, which is now estimated to be
five hundred million people or more; the Charismatic renewal after the
Second World War, which has certainly affected all the churches and
even the Jewish people themselves; at the century, I think the worldwide
missionary movement, which is trying to complete the Great Commission
that God gave to us, which is to go into all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature, everybody needs to hear -- at the end of this
century, I think those are the pivotal things: the power of the Holy
Spirit, the missions movement, doing what God told us to do, completing
the task, so that if Jesus wants to comes back we are ready for Him.
P. ROBERTSON: How do we stand at the end of 2000 vis--vis the way the
church stood at the end of 1000, in your opinion?
PROSSER: We are very different, yet very similar, at the same time.
At the year 1000, many people thought that Jesus would come back and
they were worried, like Y2K. Many people were saying, 'Praise God! So
let Him come.' I think that there was a great sense of expectancy, expectation.
I think that that is happening again. I think that those are the similar
things, the expectation is certainly the thing.
P. ROBERTSON: The church now-- of course, in those days, as far as
Europe, the church was everything. Everybody would say that they were
a Christian. I guess the whole
PROSSER: Yes, Christendom, as you mentioned earlier.
P. ROBERTSON: Christendom. Christianity is the largest religion in
the world. It has one billion -- what?--eight hundred plus million adherents
and it is growing at an incredible rate. Are we as powerful as we were
then as Christians, or are we a beleaguered minority? How do you see
PROSSER: I think that when we live here,
we think that we are a beleaguered minority in America. But as somebody
said, America and Europe are probably the only two areas in the world
where Christianity is not growing much. Everywhere else it is growing
like crazy. I was in China this summer. There are a hundred million
Christians there, and this is after fifty years of being persecuted
by Communism. I think maybe we need to realize that is not so much the
power of number, but what those people are doing: evangelizing, and
so on. That is what is really going to change the Earth and the world.
P. ROBERTSON: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate professor Prosser
who is a professor of church history at Regent University for this overview
of an incredible millennium and the time prior to that. It gives us
a great deal of hope as we move into the third millennium after Christ.
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.