Hello, everyone, David Withun for Pious Fabrications, as always. And this is the first entry in my new series on the history of Christianity. In this video, I will be introducing both the history of Christianity and my new series on the subject.
First, I think it’s good to be up front and honest about my historiographical assumptions and how they relate to my intentions for this series. First and foremost, I am myself a Christian in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. My religious beliefs, of course, affect the way I view history. Everyone’s religious, philosophical, and even political beliefs affect the way they view history, and vice versa. If yours don’t, you are a master of cognitive dissonance, and that’s not a good thing…
That being said, however, this series is not an exercise in apologetics. I will strive here to be fair to all sides of any of the great controversies and debates of Christian history, from theological disputes such as those between Trinitarians and Unitarians to scholarly disputes such as the modern debate concerning the relationship between the Christ of Faith and the Jesus of history. While not compromising my own beliefs, I will seek in this series to be fair to all.
To the same end, I will also adopt a very broad definition of “Christianity.” For the purposes of this series, “Christianity” includes any intellectual movement or historical group which has adopted the figure of Jesus Christ as its central figure as well as any offshoots of those movements and groups. This means we will be looking at a very broad swathe of history, encompassing such diverse places as Asia Minor in Late Antiquity, Ethiopia in the Middle Ages, Italy in the Renaissance, and modern China, and such diverse people as Ignatius of Antioch, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to the more well-known and so-called “mainstream” movements in Christianity, such as the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant movements, we will also be looking at groups whose beliefs and practices may seem bizarre to most Christians, such as the Ophites and Encratites in the ancient world as well as more recent religious movements such as Vodun and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The purpose of this series is to give a sense of the amazing scope, depth, and, I believe, beauty of the traditions of faith and thought that have been spawned as a result of the life and teachings of one man who lived two thousand years ago and never, as far as we know, wrote anything in his entire life. This man is, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. But the history of Christianity more properly begins, and so this series will begin, thousands of years before the birth of Jesus with the work of people in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Persia, and other regions. Ultimately, the story of Christianity is the fascinating and unlikely story of a faith which centered on a single historical figure, insignificant to the great men of his day, made seemingly absurd claims about this figure, and had its greatest gains, especially early on, among some of the least significant members of society – women and slaves, especially – but which, nonetheless, became, in time, the official religion of some of the greatest empires the world has ever seen, brought together some of the greatest intellectual traditions the human mind has ever known, and forged a new and enduring civilization which continues to be, arguably, the greatest intellectual and spiritual force in the world.
Now I want to end this video by encouraging everyone viewing it to participate in this exploration of the history of Christianity. For my part, I will, in addition to making at least a video a week in this series, be posting frequently to my blog, which you can view at piousfabrications.com. As we progress through the history of Christianity, I will post artwork, reading recommendations (including both primary and secondary sources), selections from historical writings, and other supplementary material related to the eras, persons, groups, and so on that we are covering. So, to get the full experience, make sure you check back at piousfabrications.com frequently. In addition, if you have specific questions or concerns, please send them my way. If there is any topic from the history of Christianity that especially interests you, let me know what that is so I can make sure to cover it in this series. Any resources you can recommend are also very welcome. I am looking forward to jumping in to this series and you can be on the lookout for the next video in this series by the end of the week.
As always, thank you very much for watching and I look forward to reading, hearing, and seeing your comments.