Saturday, April 7, 2007

Where Church Practices Came From

The Church Building – Started by Constantine around 327 AD. The first church buildings were patterned after the Roman basilicas which were modeled after Greek temples.

The Pastor – Ignatius of Antioch around 115 AD. was the predecessor to the modern pastor. Ignatius’ model of one-bishop-rule did not prevail in the churches until the third century. Constantine brought the hierarchal leadership style of the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans into the church in the fourth century.

Order of Worship – Evolved from Gregory’s Mass in the sixth century to the revisions made by Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, the Free-church tradition, the Methodists, the Frontier-Revivalists and the Pentecostals.

The Sermon – Borrowed from the Greek sophists, who were masters at oratory and rhetoric. John Crysostom (347-407) and Augustine (354-430) popularized the Greco-Roman homily (sermon) and made it a central part of the Christian faith.

The Pulpit – Used by the Christian church as early as 250 AD. It came from the Greek ambo which was a pulpit used by both Greeks and Jews for delivering monologues.

The Choir – Provoked by Constantine’s desire to mimic the professional music used in Roman imperial ceremonies. In the fourth century, the Christians borrowed the choir idea from the choirs used in Greek dramas and Greek temples.

Chapter and Verse – Chapters were added to the New Testament by University of Paris professor Stephen Langton in 1227. Printer Robert Stephanus added verses to the New Testament in 1551.

The Altar Call – Invented by 17th century Methodists and popularized by Charles Finney (1792-1872).

The Pew – Evolved from the 13th through the 18th centuries in England.

Reading Scripture just before the Sermon – Pagan Greek orators, dressed in an orator’s gown, would read a portion from well-known Greek writings, such as Homer prior to an event-drama beginning.

Sunday School – Invented by Robert Raikes from Britain in 1780. Raikes did not found the Sunday School for the purpose of religious instruction. He founded it to teach poor children the basics of education.

The matter of all Protestants going to church on Sunday at 10 or 11 am – This practice came into being through the efforts of Martin Luther who had a hard time getting up early on Sunday mornings because of his alcohol drinking habits on Saturday nights.

Sunday as the Lord’s Day – Invented by Justin Martyr in 100-165 AD. It never had widespread acceptance until well into the 4th and 5th centuries.

For more detailed analysis you can read Gene Edward’s book, “Beyond Radical”.
Or just google to your heart's content.


Jamie A. Grant said...

Nicely summarized. Of all of these things, the church building seems to be key to providing the forum for the sermons and Sunday School. Neither of those things work easily inside a normal home.

The church building also seems to be the means for easy replication of church services across centuries and continents.

Well, those two thoughts are just suggestions on my part.

Ashleigh said...

Interesting....I wasn't aware of much of this information.

Everytime I come here, I always learn something...whether it be interesting fact, as in this particular post, or just a new perspective.

Well done.

Leonard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leonard said...

As I was reading your post I had a thought that perhaps you are thinking that just because someone thought up these practices that they are wrong. But you also say that people need to be free to act on their own sense of God's leading without a "Word From Heaven."

One day some one may point back to the act of blogging as an innovation that helped to destroy the church by giving it one more way to be fragmented and individualized. They might say that using Blogs to communicate taught people that they need not be related in genuine ways to each other in a face to face relationship.

Obviously each generation finds ways that it can legitimately communicate the gospel and express the communal life of the believers.

I doubt if I would ever find you going door to door to evangelize your neighbors but at one time in my life I did and it was an extremely powerful way to do it. If it had become a practice that they church did for centuries and one day lost meaning would it have been wrong for me to have done it?

I had neighborhood barbeques and invited everyone in my neighborhood. It could have become a practice that other did that went on for centuries. Would it be wrong to have done it?

Or is it just that we have a tendency within faith communities to be slow on realizing that what we are doing no longer meets the needs that they once met.

Do we have to suspect anything that was done in a new way from the first century? Or is it that we simply have to recognize if it still is meeting that need?

You have a very different family structure than someone living two hundred years ago in the same area as you live today. Historical revisionism wants to judge the structure of then with the present demands but they cannot be compared. Your family structure can be as godly or demonic as any that has ever been. The underlying values of love (agape), friendship (phileo), kindness and so on will determine if it is godly.... not its structure or traditions.

Until the industrial revolution the society that the church was in was fairly homogeneous. The radical changed in church structure began shortly after the industrial revolution. Never forget that the move to put the Bible into the hands of the people only started after the common people could actually read. There were those who by the time mass printing began tried to keep the church monopoly on the scriptures at all costs.

But in the beginning one very simple reason why people gathered to hear the bible read and taught by a learned man was that it was the only way they would ever know what it said. The mass of the people were illiterate. Having their own bible would have meant nothing to them. But hearing it did. And when that began to change the whole structure began to change - as it should have..... But to go back and judge practices from the past that had a totally different context is not good science.....
I may not agree with the decision they made but the whole of the Roman Empire was used to going to a building to worship their pagan gods. After Constantine made Christianity the state religion they decided to use the same religious practices that they had been used to. They had all these shrines where they people used to worship false gods. They thought the best thing to do was make them into places for God to be worshiped.

Same thing went with the veneration of saints. The people were so used to holidays being commemorations of some god that they took those holidays and christianized them. It was there answer to a problem they had. Was it the right answer.... I would say no. But I have taken my children to alternate nights for halloween and know that it was no different than what they were trying to do.

The information revolution has once again caused a complete rethinking of all of our social structures. I imagine that one day people will look back on this time and say, "No wonder!"

The church is always part of the society it lives in. As such it will do things in a way that will be different than others did in a different society.

I guess the most important question then is, "Are these practices consistent with the values of the gospel."

Some will see that in a very narrow fashion. Others will have an extremely broad way. For instance the primary difference between the reformers and the anabaptists concerning the very things you are speaking of is, the anabaptists said that we were permitted to do only what the New testament commanded us to do. Since nowhere in the New Testament was the use of musical instruments mentioned they forbid them. Since nowhere in the new testament did anyone every paint a picture they forbade all visual art. The list went on to every aspect of life.

The Reformers said, freedom in all things except what scripture (all of it) forbids.

This is one place where I actually agree with the reformation. The Anabaptist stand created a community of people who so denied the common experiences of humanity and held it with such suspicion that I believe it hindered them greatly in their own personal lives as well as their mission.

So I conclude with the thought that Martin Luther taking an evergreen tree from the woods of his forest and decorating it as a reminder of the joy of Jesus's birth has been turned into a sham, but I don't think it was so when he first did it. So I think that most of the things that you correctly indicate have lost their purpose need to be discarded but, I don’t think because they were began for what people believed to be legitimate reason that no longer makes sense means they were wrong.

David Grant said...

Concerning methodology I don't think that any practice is wrong. I was just writing about where the traditions come from.

Sometimes people hold on to the tradition or make the tradition equal to the gospel and when that happens there is a problem. There have been innumerable numbers of people ensnared in legalism (traditions) because of poor teaching of the gospel.

An example of the misapplication of traditions were the Sunday laws (the Lord's Day act) that were put into place in the U.S. and Canada. This was primarily done by well meaning Christians to reflect their interpretation of the Lord's Day.

The problem was Sunday as the sabbath or as the Lord's Day is not a biblical teaching. To cause this much confusion over a tradition of man seems to miss the mark of the gospel message and confuse people of how to even approach the Bible.

This is not to say that any society would not benefit from a weekly rest day. It just cannot nor should it be done as if it is Biblically mandated.