Christianity’s Spread: 1000 – 2016 AD

Check out this video: Christianity’s Spread: 1000 – 2016 AD!

Christian Cross
Christian Cross

In a previous blog, I posted this graphic map of Christianity’s spread from its beginnings around 30 AD to the year 1,000.  This sequel video shows its continued global spread until the present time.  Note that the maker of this video (Ollie Bye) includes all branches of Christianity in the video, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Christianity as well as Protestantism.  He does this by using different colors.  Of course the video is simplistic, but it does a great job of showing how Jesus’ words about preaching to all nations is being fulfilled!

The map gives a global perspective

So often we think of Christianity as a European or North American thing that was exported to other parts of the world.  This video showing Christianity’s spread over the past one thousand years gives perspective on that idea.  The truth is that Christianity only reached most of Europe around 400 years after the time of Christ, and spread to eastern Europe just before the year 1,000 (see the previous video).  Christian Faith came to North America with the European colonists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Share your thoughts

Tell me what you think about this visual representation.  Feel free to share the video with your friends, but don’t forget to give credit to Ollie Bye, its creator.

Christianity’s Spread: 30-1000 AD

Check out this video on Christianity’s Spread 30-1000 AD!   I think you’ll find that it will surprise you with how Christianity became established and the timeline it followed.

The value of this video.

This video shows visually how Christianity spread over its first thousand years from a tiny persecuted group in the Middle East  to eventually cover much of Europe and beyond.  It is interesting to see that Southern Europe, as well as parts of Africa and Asia became Christianized first.  It took 600 years for the ancestors of the English to embrace Christianity. The Germans accepted Christian faith at least a century later, and the Russians converted just before 1000 AD.  Notice how Christianity once also covered much of the Middle East and North Africa, but was displaced by Islam around 650 AD.

The next segment

This video was created and originally originally posted by Ollie Bye.  I will follow up this presentation with another post by the same person featuring a video of the spread of Christianity from 1000 AD to the present.  If you are of Christian faith, I think you may find these videos encouraging.  If you are not of Christian faith, you may at least learn some facts that you were unaware of.  Either way, enjoy.

Meanwhile, tell me what you think, and feel free to share this post with your friends.

Watch the Video: Christianity’s Spread: 30-1,000 AD

Passion Week 4: Relating to Jesus’ resurrection

Jesus is risen!

Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday of Passion Week changed everything!  Out of all the followers of Jesus, only a few of the women were able to keep their wits enough to focus on practical things. Several of the women got up very early on Sunday morning, met at an agreed location, and set out together for the tomb to finish embalming Jesus’ body . As the walked through the darkness, the women must have quietly discussed both the heartache they still felt, and the task ahead. Specifically they wondered how they were going to roll aside the great stone that sealed the entrance.

Upon arrival, the women were stunned to find a scene of confusion. The stone weighing several tons, was not only rolled aside, but seemingly tossed aside some distance away. The Roman guard was dispersed and the tomb was empty.  Not knowing what else to do, they began the return journey to inform their friends. Mary Magdalene lingered behind because she wanted to ask what had happened of a man she presumed to be the gardener.  It was only when the man spoke her name that she realized he was actually Jesus, fully alive.

There were other experiences that day. After being urged by the women to see for themselves, Peter and John ran to the tomb and confirmed that it was empty.   Other followers of Jesus had been on their way home to figure out how to restart their lives– only to meet a fellow traveller, who they suddenly recognized to be Jesus at the end of the day’s journey.  Later Jesus appeared to his disciples when they were together in the upper room.  On still another occasion, Jesus appeared among the disciples when Thomas, who had been absent before, was present.

After his resurrection, Jesus seems to have been physically with his disciples a number of times during a period of several weeks, both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. Imagine the emotional swings they must have experienced during those days.  In all of their discussions with Jesus, one thing was certain to these men and women: Jesus had come to life again after dying. His death was no tragic accident, but a supreme payment of human transgression. Most importantly, Jesus had shown himself to be the Son of God by taking on a new kind of life: a life he was offering to share with them.

There are many truths to be gained from the resurrection of Jesus.  One that should always be emphasized is the almost unbelievable fact that you now have hope.  The gracious God, who loved and pursued us through history, has never given up on your reconciliation. For reasons of his own, God wants you back and has done all that is needed to forgive you, cleanse you, and make you his own. The resurrection proves this almost unbelievable fact.  So, next time life seems hopeless– next time your heart is broken, or weighed down with worry, remember that there is hope in Jesus’ resurrection. Put your full trust in him. Hold onto the gift of life he offers you.  It will guide you through all that life brings your way, and will bring you eternal life with him!

Passion Week 3: Relating to Jesus’ suffering

Jesus’ death and burial

It is on Saturday of Passion Week that fear really took hold.  Jesus’ followers– scattered the day before– have gone into hiding. They were terrified of betrayal by their neighbors or other who might recognize their connection with Jesus.  That Saturday of Passion Week, every footstep in the street, every knock at the house next door, every raised voice, caused the terror to rise to the surface again. The extreme disillusionment and sorrow of Friday is taking its toll on Saturday. Life is not simply flat and gloomy: now it is horrifying.

Had God abandoned them?  Were they heretics as their enemies claimed? Was Jesus a liar or a misguided fool? In their minds, the fishing, or the collecting of taxes, the farming and small businesses of their former lives now appeared to be a respectable alternative to all the talk about the coming Kingdom of God.  What about the miracles, the crowds and the new hope inspired by Jesus’ teaching over the past several years?  These now appeared foolish and even dangerous.  So the followers of Jesus quietly made their plans to slip back north up to Galilee and just disappear.  Fear had caused a sudden abandonment of everything these men and women had so optimistically believed as recently as one week before.

Many of us have experienced (or are experiencing) this kind of fear.  That deep kind of fear is dark and overpowering.  It makes us desperate and irrational.  It can cause us to be suspicious of those around us.  We feel like cornered animals with no way of escape.  So we crouch, ready to fight and flee, abandoning all we once held dear. Threatened layoffs at work, accusations by associates, a medical diagnosis or some huge disillusionment can have this effect on us.  Are you in the grip of fear? Are you considering throwing away some of your dearest commitments?  Do you feel abandoned by God?  Hold on: God isn’t finished.  Hope is just around the corner!

Passion Week 2: Relating to Jesus’ suffering

shutterstock_2885117
The crucifixion

It is  Friday of Passion Week.  Jesus had been awake for more than twenty-four hours.  At this point in what we now call Passion Week, Jesus had endured the difficult interrogation by the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious council) all alone.  Both during and afterward, Jesus was beaten and humiliated.  His friend Peter had managed to enter the courtyard of the High Priest where Jesus was being held, but when Peter was asked if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he strongly denied it in Jesus’ very presence.

Then Jesus was shuffled off to Pilate, who quickly passed him off to Herod Antipas.  Herod humiliated Jesus and then returned him to Pilate for final judgment. We should remember that Pilate was in a difficult spot.  As Roman governor felt blackmailed by the Sanhedrin into sentencing Jesus to death.  Seeing no way out of the predicament, Pilate made it clear Jesus had violated no Roman law.  Even so, after a whipping that left little skin on Jesus’ back and resulting in a catastrophic loss of blood, the Romans forced Jesus to carry a heavy wooden beam through the streets.  Before he reached the place of execution, Jesus stumbled and fell.  A bystander named Simon was then forced to carry the cross on the final leg of the journey.

At the place the Romans called Calvary (Skull Hill), Jesus was nailed to the crossbeam and the crossbeam was attached to post to which Jesus’ feet were spiked.  There Jesus hung from 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon.  At noon a darkness came over the sky as Jesus increasingly lost strength.  With a final cry of agony, he gave up his spirit, causing the veil in the Temple to split from top to bottom.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin who refused to condemn Jesus, asked for and received permission from Pilate to remove Jesus’  body for burial.  Joseph kindly offered his own unused family tomb for the purpose.  The burial party was under the pressure of time due to the commandment not to work on the Sabbath, which would begin at sundown–only a few hours away.  Because of this pressure the burial preparations were only partially completed.  One last caress by Mary, his mother and a mental note of the preparations still to be made, and they sealed the tomb.

But isn’t Jesus the miracle worker?  Isn’t he the Messiah, the Son of God?  How could God let him be treated like this?  Is God just a myth, or is he like the disciples who abandoned Jesus in his hour of need?  Maybe the skeptics are right when they sneer that nice guys always finish last.  Maybe the cynics are proven correct that evil ultimately crushes good and might trumps right.  The followers of Jesus were in deep shock.  For them, the crucifixion was more than a major disappointment: it was the crushing of all hopes and dreams. They were facing the real possibility that life ultimately favors whoever has the power to force their will on others. These are hardly the thoughts that faithful Jews should have had on the sabbath following Passover.

Have you ever felt abandoned and punished unjustly?  Have you wondered why evil sometimes seems to triumph?  Why is it that selfish and self-righteous people appear to prevail?  Those are truly desolate and terrifying thoughts, and many people have them.  Jesus’ friends and followers certainly felt that way at the foot of the cross and at the sealing of Jesus’ tomb.  But hold on: God isn’t finished. Hope is just around the corner!

Science and the Supernatural

Science and the Supernatural

scientific microscope
Stanislav.nevyhosteny (Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

One of the major reasons why Millennials are skeptical of Christianity is the issue of science. Many Millennials have the idea that science has disproved Christianity. They may think that it shows the miracles in the Bible to be exaggerations or falsehoods. Skeptical Millennials aren’t the only ones who see science as making Christianity outdated—lots of older people feel much the same way.  So here’s my answer: science really isn’t the problem. The real issue is whether the supernatural exists or not.  Many Millennials assume that the physical world is all there is.

What is science?

So why is science the thing skeptics point to as their ultimate proof?   Because many of them have not thought deeply enough to realize that science isn’t the issue.  What is science? Science is just a tool. To be more specific, it is a procedure for gathering reliable information about the natural world. The scientific method begins with observations of how things work, whether its chemical processes, the laws of physics,  or biological functions. Observations lead to hypotheses—working models for what is happening. These hypotheses are then tested through experiments. If the experiments confirm the hypotheses, then we say that scientific facts have been discovered, or that a solid theory has been established. From there, the facts can be applied to practical issues like building better computers, or making better medicines.

Are science and Christian faith in conflict?

Understood like this, science and Christian faith are not in conflict at all. Science is a method for understanding the physical world God has made. The problem is when people try to elevate science to the level of religion. People do this when they say that science is the only reliable tool for understanding reality. In other words, the scientific method can tell us everything we need to know about everything there is.

So we are back to the real issue, which is whether the supernatural exists or whether the natural world is all there is. The answer to that question is always a matter of faith. Modern skeptics have faith that the natural world is all there is. Religious believers, including Christians, have faith that the natural world is only one part of total reality, and that the supernatural realm is just as real.

Science cannot say whether the supernatural exists

So, since the scientific method is a tool for gathering reliable information about the natural world, it really has nothing to say about anything in the supernatural realm.  It like saying that a thermometer is the only measuring tool we need. Thermometers are great for measuring temperature, but they are of no use in measuring length, or humidity, or speed.

To understand the supernatural, you need something other than science. Does the supernatural exist? Humans from all times and cultures seem to think so. Certain things that happen regularly to us as humans seem to defy ordinary explanation. But although we may sense the supernatural, we don’t have the tools for understanding much about it. What we need is someone who is from the supernatural realm to explain what we need to know about it. That someone is Jesus. John 1:18 tells us, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

Jesus makes God known

Of course you can accept that Jesus and the Bible give an accurate picture of reality, or you can reject that belief. Personally, what I see is that every time Jesus speaks about what we humans experience, he is right on target. He is right about what happens in the natural world and about what we seem to sense about the supernatural world. I choose to trust him. How about you?

Michael Bogart