This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #198, titled, “The Dissident Churches of the East, Part 2.”
When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our Scripture for today is John 10:27-28 which reads: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from William Saroyan [SAR-OY-AN]. He said: “I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of un-important people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Dissident Churches of the East, Part 2” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
The other major “Monophysite” [MO-NOF-UH-SITE] body is the Armenian church. By 450, when the Persians tried to impose their religion on Armenia, Christianity–which had arrived there through the work of Gregory the Illuminator–had become the rallying point of Armenian nationality. This was just before the Council of Chalcedon [KAL-SI-DON], and the Armenians hoped that the Roman Empire would come to their aid as fellow Christians. But then Theodosius II [THEE-UH-DOH-SHUS], who had promised such aid, died, and his successors Pulcheria [PUL-CHER-EE-AH] and Marcian [MAR-SHEN] simply let Armenia be invaded by the Persians. With 1,036 soldiers who fought to the last man, the Armenians defended the mountain passes, hoping that this delay would give the Romans time to intervene. But it was all in vain, and the country was overrun by the Persians. Since it was precisely at that time that Pulcheria [PUL-CHER-EE-AH] and Marcian [MAR-SHEN] called the Council of Chalcedon [KAL-SI-DON], it is not surprising that the Armenians rejected the decisions of that council. For that reason, they were dubbed “Monophysites.” [MO-NOF-UH-SITES] They in turn declared that those who had gathered at the council–who had declared that in Christ there are “two natures,” the divine and the human–were not only traitors, but also heretics.
Under the Persians, the Armenians proved unwilling to give up their religion and traditions, and were granted a measure of autonomy. Then came the Arabs, under whose regime, in spite of sporadic persecution, Armenian Christianity flourished. In the eleventh century, the Turks took the country, and their harshness led many Armenians to emigrate to Asia Minor, where they founded Little Armenia. But eventually this region was also taken by the Turks, who ruled it with an iron hand. Early in the twentieth century, they massacred thousands of Armenians. Entire villages were wiped out. The survivors scattered throughout the world. Meanwhile, the older Armenia continued its traditions, first most of it under Soviet rule, and then as the independent Republic of Armenia.
While these various bodies continued existing into the present, by the second half of the twentieth century they had been touched by the ecumenical movement, and there were in all of these churches–as well as in those that had always held to the Definition of Chalcedon [KAL-SI-DON]–growing numbers that felt that many of their disagreements were verbal rather than real, and thus a rapprochement had begun.
Next time, we will continue looking at “The Dissident Churches of the East.”
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.