PODCAST: Imperial Restoration & Continuing Decay: Charlemagne’s Reign, Part 2 (History of Christianity #203 with Daniel Whyte III)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #203, titled, “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay: Charlemagne’s Reign, 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 Matthew 28:18-20 which reads: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Augustine of Hippo. He said: “You are surprised that the world is losing its grip? That the world is grown old? Don’t hold onto the old man, the world; don’t refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you: ‘The world is passing away; the world is losing its grip; the world is short of breath. Don’t fear, your youth shall be renewed as an eagle.'”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay: Charlemagne’s Reign, Part 2” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

As emperor, Charlemagne felt called to rule his people both in civil and in ecclesiastical matters. He appointed bishops just as he named generals, although always seeking men of worth. He also enacted laws ordering that there be preaching in the language of the people, that Sunday be kept as a day of worship and rest, and that tithes be collected as if they were a tax. Monasticism had lost a great deal of its original zeal, with many abbots who viewed their office as a means to riches and power, and Charlemagne decided that the entire institution was in need to reform. For this he counted on Benedict (not to be confused with Benedict of Nursia [NUR-SEE-AH], who wrote the Rule) a man respected for his wisdom and piety who had abandoned the court in order to become a monk, and whom now Charlemagne appointed to head the royal abbey of Aniane [AH-NEE-YAHN], which was to serve as a model to bring other monasteries in Charlemagne’s domains into compliance with the Benedictine Rule.

Charlemagne, although not himself an educated man, was a patron of learning. He revived and reformed the schools that already existed, and called to his court deacon Alcuin [AL-KUNE] of York, whom he had met in Italy, and who reintroduced among the Franks the knowledge that had been preserved first in Irish and then in British monasteries. From Spain, Charlemagne brought Theodulf, whom he made bishop of Orleans, and who ordered that throughout his diocese there should be a school in every church, and that these were to be open to the poor as well as to the rich. Soon other bishops followed Theodulf’s example, and there was a significant revival of learning that was aided by the many scholars who flocked to Charlemagne’s domains.

The glory of Charlemagne’s empire did not last long after the great emperor’s death. His son Louis “the Pious” was a conscientious ruler, but not a good judge of character. Louis was committed to monastic reform, and even before he became emperor in 814 he had requested Benedict of Aniane [AH-NEE-YAHN] to undertake the reform of monasteries in Aquitaine [AEK-WIH-TAIN], over which Louis ruled as king. After Louis became emperor, the imperial diet of 817, following his wishes, ordered that all monasteries be reformed under the leadership of Benedict of Aniane [AH-NEE-YAHN], and that bishops and other clerics should not wear jewels or ostentatious attire. The same diet also declared tithes to be obligatory for all, and ordered that two-thirds of the money received as tithes be given to the poor. Finally, the diet sought to give the church more autonomy by reverting to the old custom of allowing bishops to be elected by the people and the clergy. But there were many, including some bishops, who took advantage of Louis’s good nature, and the last years of his reign were marred by civil wars in which Louis’s sons and their partisans fought each other as well as the emperor. Repeatedly, after defeating various rebellious groups, Louis would forgive his adversaries; but rather than gaining wider support, such magnanimity encouraged additional rebellions, and even those who had been forgiven rose again against the emperor. When he died, his possessions were divided among his three sons. Under his grandson Charles “the Fat” of France, emperor from 881 to 887, most of the ancient empire was reunited, only to be divided again after Charles’s death. To these inner divisions and internecine warfare were added raids and invasions by Norsemen and others.

Next time, we will continue looking at “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay: Charlemagne’s Reign.”

Let’s pray.


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.

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