Setting the Stage: The First Millennium
“Volumes have been written giving detailed analyses of the extraordinary things that occurred in the first thousand years of church history, events that influenced everything that came after them.” In this brief article R.C. Sproul distills those volumes into just a few words, setting the stage for an examination of the tenth century, the period of time that is the particular focus of the August edition of Tabletalk.
Sproul points to five dimensions of activity that were particularly important in the first millennium of church history:
- the rise of the papacy,
- the innovations of pope Gregory the Great,
- the rise of the monastic movement,
- the great ecumenical councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and
- the life and ministry of Augustine of Hippo.
He draws an unmistakable contrast between the vitality of the early church and the darkness that marked it by the end. Already by the close of the first millennium of church history “the church was already groping in the darkness and biblical soteriology had declined to such a degree that the gospel was rapidly becoming obscured, even becoming almost totally eclipsed until it was recovered in the sixteenth century Reformation.”
This article provides a brief and useful overview of that vital period in the history of Christ’s church.