During Sunday afternoons I normally go online to learn more about Christian education. This is like my substitute adult Sunday school class.
Recently I came to this 2 part video series that shows church history. I offer this to you for your edification. I have read books on the subject and seen many videos. This is the best overview I have seen. It gives the historical context for our current conditions.
Generally, church history is messy, bloody, and ignored. The time invested in the following materials will give you far more understanding of these matters than the average church attendee.
I noticed that several times Christians were convinced it was the end of the world due to the current events around them. A few times each year I hear a person say that we are in the End Times and Christ is coming soon. I have heard that over and over again for 40 years due to various events in the news.
There was a book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988. I was a member of a small church where many members expected that to come true.
While the End Times is always possible any year it is not probable. Note that Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica about this matter.
What stood out this time was the pivotal importance of Martin Luther and the 95 theses. This was the spark that started the fire of the Reformation. The impacts of that document caused a split with the Roman Catholic church and the birth of Protestants.
We are tragically ignorant of church history and world history. Note that there were millions of people killed in wars due to religious differences between Protestants and Catholics as well as between Protestants. Yet most of that began with the 95 theses.
Here is a Crash Course summary of the religious and political ripples from the Reformation.
I went back to read the 95 theses again on a website about the 500 anniversary of that event.
Each thesis is about 1 sentence. So it is a brief document when considering all it covered. I especially like numbers 33, 45, 56,
Here is the audio reading that starts with a brief historical context then it goes into a very flowery preface to the 95 theses. This reveals that Martin Luther saw himself as merely a humble monk that was addressing the Pope who he greatly honored. He wanted to clarify matters based on what the Bible said and how Jesus lived as contrasted to the imbalances practiced locally. He was not a radical rebel seeking to start a religious war.
There are themes of purgatory, indulgences, and forgiveness. There are matters of faith, works, grace, repentance, etc. It also relates to greed, fundraising, and guilt from a larger perspective.
The Pope in Rome wanted to build St Peters that is a major tourist attraction even today. He used representatives to sell indulgences to raise the funds. When money was given the person get a piece of paper saying that the Pope had granted for them to receive less punishment in purgatory for themselves or a dead relative. Even the best Catholics must go to purgatory for a very long time. The indulgences just made that time of painful punishments less.
I found this college lecture helpful to understand the greater historical context. Note that the local archbishop got half of the profits for the sale of indulgences in the area where Martin Luther lived. He had a huge debt to repay because he had borrowed money to buy his post.
More details are on this Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninety-five_Theses
A search about indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church today yields some insightful articles.
Note that when Martin Luther wrote this the Bible was only available in Latin. The common people could not understand Latin. It was the language of the clergy.
During his lifetime Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. Soon after that William Tyndale translated the Bible into English.
Besides translating the Bible both them wrote extensively about how salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There was no need for confession to priests and attending mass to get forgiveness. And thanks to the recent invention of the printing press both of these Bibles rapidly spread.
There were much opposition and persecution for owning such a Bible. There were those thrown in jails and burned at the stake for just owning such a Bible.
Therefore several times every year I earnestly thank God that I have the Bible available to me in my native language.
I am also grateful for all the preachers, teachers, and professors that went before me. We have a huge warehouse of valuable lessons available to us.
While the study of church history and Christian biographies give useful perspectives here is a simple summary of the state of the church worldwide with statistical predictions about missions into the coming decades. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV7214Qtoas
When I was water baptized the pastor said I was joining not only the local church but also the universal church. That simple statement impacted me deeply.
When I came to faith in Christ in 1977 I was 23 years old. My thirst for Christian education was limited to the books I could afford. Years later cassette tapes came out but they were costly. Then came CDs, VHS, and DVDs. But I could barely afford a fraction of what I wanted to learn.
When I began to work at the student computer help desk of the seminary in 1999, then the new students needed to spend hundreds of dollars on reference books to build a personal research library. Then along came CDs at a much smaller cost. By the time I left the employment of the seminary in 2012 all the basic and most of the advanced reference materials were online for free. That means that today a blue-collar worker, a high school student, and a pastor at an Internet Cafe overseas can have access to most of the same Bible study tools as the pastor of a megachurch before 1999.
My favorite online Bible study site is Bible Hub www.biblehub.com
These days the video biographies of Christians are on Youtube for free. There are millions of hours of sermons and Bible lessons. My challenge is to make time on Sunday afternoons instead of getting swept up in the too many other tasks.
I will grant you that it will require some time to explore these links. And doing this is not as much fun as watching a movie or a TV show. But I suggest that the casual study of church history, as well as Christian biographies, will give you a wider and deeper framework to understand current events both locally and globally.
You will be able to notice the hand of God at work slowly to preserve the truth of His Word against all kinds of attacks. You will be able to witness how God can use individuals and groups to shape missions. You will come to value the grace and mercy of God that comes by faith.
The steady intake of such stories has been used by God to stabilize my faith in Jesus to answer my prayers as I seek first His kingdom.
Just maybe you can make some time on Sunday afternoons or other times to learn about the roots of your Christian faith.
If you put any question about Christianity into a search engine or on Youtube you will gain access to plenty of options. There are no tests, papers with footnotes, grades, or degrees. There is just learning.
My mother was an elementary school teacher. God used her to instill in me the love of learning. May I suggest that the love of learning is a healthy habit for you to gain too.