Christianity is one of the world religions. The Christian practices have been changing throughout their history. The social and historic events influenced the Church and the Church influenced the political process in many countries as well. There were certain reasons for the changes in the Christian practices as well as the certain direction of these changes depending on the context.
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The history of christianity and the major changes in its practices
The history of the Christian religion began in the period of the disintegration of the Greek-Roman Empire. That period was also characterized by the religious instability. In the early stages of its development, the Christianity was represented by the separate communities consisted of primarily the poor people.
At that time the development of Christianity was based on the common idea of the virtue and compassion which united the people and gave them the hope for the achievement of happiness and freedom. “Traditional Christian beliefs include the belief in the one and only true God, who is one being and exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the belief that Jesus is the divine and human Messiah sent to the save the world” (“Christianity” n.pag.).
The view of Christianity on the education and work can be found in the words of Abba Arsenius, one of the Desert Fathers. Abba Arsenius mentioned that we essentially got nothing from secular education but rather acquired virtue by hard work (Ward 9).
The Christians believed that the labor and hard work were vital for being saved. They considered the laziness as a sin and encouraged everyone in the community working and making their own contribution to the community well-being. The work was thought to be a virtue as Abba Arsenius said.
In the II century, the wealthy people began actively join the Christians. At that time, the complete break-up of the Christianity with Judaism occurred. First of all, the Christians rejected the Old Testament. Secondly, the Church organization had been developing at that time. Undoubtedly, these facts contributed to the first changes in the Christian practices. The Bible including the chapters from the Old Testament as well as New Testament became the sacred text of the Christians.
The sacred texts were considered the guidelines for right doing and the faithful life. In the Sayings of Desert Fathers, we can find what Abba Anthony said on how we could please God. He mentioned three most important rules which the Christians should follow including the acting in accordance to the testimony of the holy Scriptures (Ward 7).
Abbey Anthony also mentioned the crucial Christian philosophical teaching of the importance of repentance of the sins and taking the blame for own sins before God (Ward 7). The practice of confession had been based on this teaching.
“Many Christians have testified to dramatic, miraculous cures, and missionaries and theologians have often pointed to them as evidence of the power of Christian faith and the truth of Christian doctrine” (Porterfield 4). However, the persecution and tortures influenced the rise in the social significance of the Christian religion.
Answering the question of Rusticus, perfect of Rome, on what is dogma Justin Martyr said, “That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples” (Richardson & Pick 306).
These words showed the strong faith to God of Justin Martyr and they represented the central philosophy of Christianity.
The extraordinary success of Christianity as a world religion can be attributed, in part, to its social practice of building families out of strangers (Porterfield 6). The family played a substantial role in the Christian beliefs and teachings. The value which the Christians gave to the family and the importance of the unity of people explained the formation of the Christian communities. They associated the communities with the kind of social peace related to the harmony of the human body (Porterfield 6).
The changes that occurred in Christian practices were also connected with the historic times, the events happening in the history of mankind, and the world perception of people at that period. The interpretation of Bible had also been changing. Very often the political leaders tried to use the text to achieve their own purposes and tried to misinterpret the original text.
And sometimes event the representatives of the Church itself manipulated the sacred text and used their authority to promote their own decisions and to gain the benefits from the social conflicts. Undoubtedly, such kind of actions was contrary to what the Christian religion thought. That is why we should interpret the original text from both the basic postulates and teaching of Christianity and from the reality of the world in which we live.
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“The notion that we read the New Testament exactly as the early Christians did, without any weight of tradition coloring our interpretation, is an illusion. It is also a dangerous illusion, for it tends to absolutize our interpretation, confusing it with the Word of God” (Gonsalez 17).
“Jewish life and culture in the first 70 years of the first century centered in the Second Temple, one of the many massive public works projects of Herod the Great” (Astle n.pag.). A lot of people went to the temple in order to make a ritual animal sacrifices which were considered to be one of the important practices at that time (Astle n.pag.).
Pilgrimage is one of the important Christian practices the roots of which can be found in the first century AD when the first pilgrims appeared in the Christian communities. “Pilgrimage is as much a part of the ongoing drama of European history as are wars, revolutions, the rise and fall of empires, industrialization, and urbanization.
Pilgrimages have influenced and been affected by developments in the arts, sciences, literature, and philosophy” (Nolan & Nolan 3). Communities supported the Christian belief in the supremacy of love, peace, and virtue as the highest values (Gill 11).
“Understanding the centrality of Temple worship to first-century Jewish life makes it more plausible that Jesus’ family would have made a pilgrimage to the Temple to offer the prescribed animal sacrifice of thanksgiving for his birth, as described in Luke 2:25-40” (Astle n.pag.).
The scholars argue that there were the substantial differences in the philosophical life of the Christians and non-Christians (Clark 75). In particular, Christianity was accessible for everyone and the poor often adhere to it. In contrast to many other philosophies, it did not differentiated people on the basis of their education as well (Clark 75). “Philosophers were expected to live simply, but not to abandon their wealth or status” (Clark 75).
The philosophic views and the world perception of the Christians changed throughout the history. The early Christians lived waiting for the Last Judgment. In this respect, the material side of life seemed to them far less important than to the Christians of the future generations. The early Christians had the strong faith to God and all of their hopes and wishes were addressed to the God.
In order to sum up all above mentioned, it should be said that the Christian practices had been changing during the history. These changes were caused by the certain social and historic reasons. The social transformations influenced the attitude of people to the Christian postulates.
The Christian teachings can be found in the sacred texts, the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, and in the life of martyrs and saints. Nowadays, the Christianity is represented by three main branches each of which has its own practices which are based on certain teachings of Christianity and which reject some early postulates of the Church.
Overall, the Christianity is one of the world religions and its development is an ongoing process. Despite the inherent stability of the views and traditions, the Christian church adjusts its norms and ethics in accordance with the changes in the way of life of people, their needs and challenges which the modern environment creates. They reflect the progress of the mankind development.
Astle, Cynthia. How the Jews Lived in Jesus’ Time. n.d. Ancienthistory.about.com. Web. https://www.learnreligions.com/how-jews-lived-in-jesus-time-117385
“Christianity” n.d. Patheos.com. Web.
Clark, Gillian. Christianity and Roman Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
Gill, Robin. Churchgoing and Christian Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Print.
Gonsalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity, San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. Print.
Nolan, Mary Lee, and S. Nolan. Christian Pilgrimage in Modern Western Europe, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Print.
Porterfield, Amanda. Healing in the History of Christianity, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.
Richardson, Ernest and Bernhard Pick. The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The apostolic fathers. Justin Martyr. Irenaeus, New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1985. Print.
Ward, Sister Benedicta. Selections From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. 2nd ed., London: Oxford University Press, 1981. Print.