How far the church had removed itself from Jesus! And the institutionalization continued resulting in the church becoming more and more a complex religious system with a multitude of offices, titles and regulations, all foreign to the New Testament.
The formalizing and ritualizing of the church's worship marked the end of dynamic gatherings where spiritual gifts would flow freely in the congregation. A. J. Gordon, Baptist pastor and founder of Gordon College in Boston, was correct when he wrote:
It is not altogether strange that when the Church forgot her citizenship in heaven and began to establish herself in luxury and splendor on earth, she should cease to exhibit the supernatural gifts of heaven (Hyatt, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity, 36).
Lacking a church with the strength and vitality of a personal, dynamic faith in Jesus, the Empire found itself weakened and vulnerable when Islam came with its armies. I confess that I am alarmed when I see how Europe and North America have dispensed with a Christian worldview and replaced it with a secularist mindset that denies objective truth and attempts to be accepting of everyone and critical of no one. Such a politically-correct mindset cannot withstand the millions of Muslims who are committed to an Islamic worldview and dedicated to imposing that worldview on the rest of humanity.
Doctrinal Rigidity & Strife
The church's rise to political affluence and power marked the beginning of many fierce doctrinal battles. Free from the threat of persecution and enjoying the favor of the emperor, church leaders now gave their attention to theological questions that usually became litmus tests of one's orthodoxy.
Many violent struggles ensued, producing sharp divisions in the church. Basil of Caesarea, bishop of Cappadocia (A.D. 370–379), likened it to a great naval battle being fought by men who "cherish a deadly hate against one another." He wrote:
But what storm at sea was ever so wild and fierce as this tempest of the churches. In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of opinion has been shaken; everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken down. We attack one another. If our enemy is not the first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side (Eddie Hyatt, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity, 36).
One of the most famous and destructive doctrinal controversies was over the filoque clause in the creed of the Roman (Western) Church. After Constantine removed the government apparatus of the empire to Constantinople, the Roman bishop (later known as the pope) filled the power vacuum that was left with claims of supremacy. There thus developed a rivalry between Old Rome and the New Rome of Constantinople, and this rivalry was expressed in conflicting claims of authority and in doctrinal controversies such as the filoque controversy.
Filoque means "and from the Son" and the Western Church, centered in Rome, confessed the Holy Spirit to have proceeded from both the Father and the Son. The Eastern Church, based in Constantinople, insisted that the Holy Spirit proceeded only from the Father.
This seemingly trivial doctrinal difference became a major source of strife and division and eventually led (along with political strife) to a formal division of East and West when, in 1054, Rome and Constantinople formally excommunicated each other.
Both were drastically weakened by this separation but Byzantine would suffer the most from this division. When the Ottoman Turks began rattling their swords toward Constantinople in the fifteenth century, the city, in desperation, signed an agreement with Rome in which it agreed to recognize the authority of the pope in return for Rome's help against the Turks.
But when the Muslim invaders attacked the city, Rome did not send help and after a long siege the great city of Constantinople fell to the Muslim invaders. For three days the city was plundered and many of its inhabitants slaughtered. Priceless art and manuscripts were destroyed. Magnificent churches were turned into mosques and all Christians who were unwilling to convert to Islam were placed under a heavy tax known as the jizya. The great Byzantine Empire came to an end after a thousand years of existence. The region—now present day Turkey—is under Islamic control to this day.
How We Must Respond
I do not write this to create fear, but to inculcate a seriousness and soberness about the time in which we live. I write that we might learn from the past and not repeat the same mistakes and suffer a similar fate. I write this to hopefully inspire Christians to rise up and be the church. It is not enough to "find" a church or "go" to church; this is a time when we must "be" the church.
Finally, the churches of North America, Europe and every nation must pray for a great spiritual awakening that will produce in its members a new heart commitment to the truth that is in Jesus. Only the truth will set us free and only the truth presented in the power of the Holy Spirit will change the hearts of Muslims all over the world for whom Christ died and rose again.
This article was derived from the books 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity and Pursuing Power, both by Dr. Eddie Hyatt and available from Amazon and from his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html. Learn more about his ministry and his vision for another Great Awakening at his website, www.eddiehyatt.com.
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