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History of Christianity–An Outline

Throughout its history, Christianity has been the greatest force for good the world has ever known. With the rise once against of Islam’s attempt to dominate the world, the question of the Christian Crusades has once again arisen. Superficially, it would seem that this question would deny the legitimacy of such a high appreciation of Christianity. However, Christianity did not attempt to conquer the world with the edge of the sword, as did Islam. Rather, Islam conquered Christian lands with the point of the spear and edge of the sword, and this continues into the twenty-first century. In 638, Jerusalem was the first major city to fall to the onslaught of Islam. Many centuries later Christians attempted to answer the call of fellow Christians for help against Islam, and the answer came in the form of the Crusades. It was too little, too late. Though it is not accurate to say that Christianity, in every place, has maintained its evangelical purity, it has, nevertheless, created the greatest climate for good the world has every known. The outline below is a chronological attempt to describe the movement of the Christian faith around the world, in its purest moments as well as those occasions when it donned sullied attire.

Titles below that are linked will navigate to additional articles.

Table of Contents


I. Forms of Theology

To appreciate any discipline beyond a superficial level, a working knowledge of that discipline’s terms and concepts is necessary. This fact is no less true of the discipline or study of Christian theology. While it is true that the terminology associated with Christian theology is ever developing, it is also true that many terms are foundational and, therefore, not as fluid and open to subjective interpretation. This article attempts to introduce the reader to some of the most fundamental aspects of Christian theology and related studies.

II. Literature Survey

This literature survey is a bibliography of some of the most important works concerning the history of Christianity. As is true of every bibliography, it is by no means exhaustive, and though it is classified, most of the works are not annotated. It should go without noting that though various type of materials are listed within the bibliography, not all works are endorsed by the author as representative of the very best in evangelical thought.

III. A Survey of the Christian Church

This article provides a brief overview of the life of the Christian Church. As an outline, it may not be relied upon as a detailed description of the history of Christianity.

IV. Historical Setting of the Christian Church

In Galatians 4:4, the Apostle Paul indicates that God sent his Son into the world “when the time had fully come.” At just the right moment, God sent Christ into the world to redeem it. When considering the historical milieu in which Christianity arose, it becomes apparent that history itself corroborates this truth taught by the Apostle.

To consider the depth of the Apostle’s teaching, consideration must be given to three cultures in which Christianity was birthed. The Jewish, Grecian, and Roman cultures each contributed significantly to the emergence of the Christian faith and created a climate in which it could flourish. Each culture contributed in different ways to the rise and progress of Christianity. To appreciate the earliest developments of the Christian faith, a brief study of the contributions and chronology of these three cultures will prove instructive.[1]

A. The Influence of the Hebrews

Of the cultures that most immediately influenced the life of early Christianity, the Jews contributed most to the religious life of the environment of the early Church.

B. The Influence of the Greeks

Though the political boundaries of the Greek Empire had dissolved by the time of Jesus Christ, its cultural influence had not. The single greatest cultural influence upon the early Church was Grecian.

C. The Influence of the Romans

Though the Romans had conquered the Greeks militarily, but the Greeks conquered the Romans culturally. Yet, the Romans contributed to the life of the early Church through the political environment that it created and in which the early Church thrived.

Ancient Church History (5 BC-590)

I. Christ and the Apostolic Age (ca. 5 B.C.-100)

A. A Chronology of the New Testament Era (ca. 5 BC-100 AD)

The outline provided in this article is intended to provide only a skeleton of the historical development of the Christian Church in the first century. While it is true that much more could be said about the various eras of the life of the church, this outline allows students of the history of the Church to observe its most basic developments in the first century. Committing basic dates and concepts from this outline to memory will allow students of Scripture to appreciate more deeply the New Testament and its impact upon the rise of the Church.


B. The Family and Life of Christ (ca. 5 BC-30 AD)

C. The Lives of the Apostles (?-ca. 100)

D. The Expansion of The New Testament Church (ca. 30-95)

E. Worship in the Apostolic Church to 100

F. The Calendar of the Church

G. Church Government in the Apostolic Age

II. Early Development of the Church (ca. 100-590)

A. The Catholic Imperial Church Struggles for Survival (100-313)

B. Persecution of the Church by Imperial Rome (64-311)

C. Worship in the Ante-Nicene Church (ca. 100-325)

D. The Apostolic Fathers (ca. 100-150)

E. The Apologists (ca. 120-220)

F. The Polemicists (ca. 180-250)

G. Symbols of the Church

The Supremacy of the Catholic Imperial Church (313-590)

I. Controversies and Heresies in The Early Church (ca. 100-681)

II. Canonization of the Bible (ca. 140-397)

III. The Rise and Progress of Monasticism (ca. 271-500)

IV. Constantinople: The “New Rome” (330)

V. The Scientific Theologians (ca. 325-460)

VI. The Ecumenical Councils and Creeds (325-787)

VII. Church Government From Nicea to Reformation (ca. 325-1517)

VIII. The Barbarians and the European Church Expansion (Ca. 375-1066)

IX. Justinian’s Empire

X. Asian Expansion of the Church

The Medieval Church (590-1517)

I. Rise of Empire and Latin-Teutonic Christianity (590-800)

A. Chronological List of Popes (ca. 64-2003)

B. Gregory the Great: The First Medieval Pope (590)

C. The Rise and Progress of Islam (622-1453)

D. The Iconoclastic Controversy (726-843)

II. Relationships Between Church and State (800-1054)

A. The Emergence of the Holy Roman Empire (800)

B. Learning in the Middle Ages and the Rise of Scholasticism (ca. 900-1700)

C. Medieval and Modern Monasticism (910-1540)

D. The Great Schism (1054)

III. The Supremacy of the Papacy (1054-1305)

A. The Zenith of Papal Power

B. The Crusades (1096-1248)

C. Gothic Cathedrals of Western Europe (12th Cent. ff.)

D. Worship in the Middle Ages

E. Doctrinal Controversies of the Middle Ages

F. The Mystics (11th-14th Cent.)

IV. Decline of the Roman Church (1305-1517)

A. The Spanish and Roman Inquisitions (1233-1854)

B. The Decline of the Roman Catholic Church (1305-1517)

C. Church Government in the Roman Catholic Church (1517ff )

The Modern Church (1517-present)

I. The Reformation and Counter Reformation (1517-1648)

A. The Background of the Reformation

B. The Lutheran Reformation (1517)

C. The Swiss Reformation (1522)

D. The Radical Reformation (1525-1580)

E. The English Reformation (1531-1662)

F. Puritanism (ca. 1558ff)

G. The Counter Reformation and Thirty Years War (1560-1648)

H. Worship in the Church After the Reformation

II. The Church in Modern Europe (1648- ca. 1899)

A. The Age of Orthodoxy: The Seventeenth Century

1. Mystical Response

a. The Quakers (1647)

b. The New Jerusalem Church

c. Quietism (1676)

2. Biblical Revivalistic Response

a. Jansenism

b. Pietism

c. Arminianism (1610)

B. The Age of Rationalism: The Eighteenth Century

1. The Enlightenment

2. Rationalistic Responses

a. Socinianism

b. Rational Arminianism

3. Evangelical Responses

a. The Moravians

b. The Methodists

C. The Age of Science: The Nineteenth Century

1. Romanticism

a. Romanticism and Nationalism

b. Romanticism and Religion

2. The Origin of the Modern Missionary Movement

3. The Impact of Scientific Revolution

a. Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

b. Liberalism

c. The Documentary Theory of the Pentateuch

4. The Resurgence of Biblical Christianity

III. The Church in America (17th-19th Cent)

A. The Planting of American Christianity (1492-ca. 1726)

1. Early Exploration of America

a. Spanish and Portuguese

b. French

c. English

d. Dutch

e. Swedish

2. Christianity in the New World

a. Anglicanism

b. Congregationalism

c. American Baptists

d. Roman Catholicism

e. Quakerism

f. Presbyterianism

B. The Church in Eighteenth-Century America

1. The Great Awakening

a. Frelinghuysen Arrives in America (1720)

b. Frelinghuysen Influences Tennents (1726, ca.)

c. “Log College” Established (1735, ca.)

d. Revival Blazes in Middle Colonies (1734-35)

e. Whitefield Fans Revival (1739-41)

f. Canada Experiences Revival (1775)

2. The Second Great Awakening (1795ff)

a. The Roots of Spiritual Decline (1775-1781)

b. The New England Phase (1795)

c. Burned-Over District Phase Begins (1820s)

d. The Rise and Progress of the Camp meeting (1791)

e. Lincoln County Revival, NC (1791ff)

f. The Cumberland Revival (1797-1800)

g. Cane Ridge Revival (1801)

C. The Church in Nineteenth-Century America

The Church in the Contemporary World

I. The Church in Twentieth-Century America

II. Contemporary Theological Trends

III. Postmodernism

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Select Bibliography

Please see separate article: “History of Christianity–A Bibliography

[1] See Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries, 35-43.

We are a user supported non-profit organization.  Your small gift is tax-deductible and will go a long way to help us meet our operating budget – and it is vital, because ...
America deserves to know its true heritage.
Please contribute today!
Click to donate
Written by Dr. Stephen FlickNumber of posts: 228

Concerned with the cultural decay of America, Dr. Flick has sought to provide answers to fellow Christians (and unbelievers) concerning the questions and objections to Christianity often posed by secularists and the irreligious. Dr. Flick is Christian Heritage Fellowship’s executive director and resides in East Tennessee with his wife, Beth. He spent 12 years as a Seminary professor and has been a licensed minister for more than thirty years, during which time he has served as pastor, revival and camp meeting evangelist, interim pastor, and other ministerial roles. He has authored numerous articles concerning America’s Christian heritage. Dr. Flick earned his Ph.D. from Drew University in theology and church history.

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