The Light Shines in the Darkness – an introduction to the ‘Dark Ages’

Augustine by Botticelli, a fresco from the Church of Ognissanti, Florence


In this post we begin a series focussing on a period which has been called the ‘Dark’ or ‘Middle’ ages, dating roughly from the fourth to the sixteenth century. It is doubtful, however, that they were totally dark! The Apostle John tells us,

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1:1-5 ESV)

Notice the change of tense. The first four sentences are all in the past tense, but the fifth propels us into the historical present: ‘the light shines in the darkness’.

No matter what period of history, no matter what cultural context, the light shines – that is, the unstoppable power of the life of Jesus Christ keeps shining. We need to remember that as we look at periods of history when the church was persecuted, outlawed or where reliable sources are hard to find. That may be an encouragement to you in your current context.

During these ‘dark ages’ many zealous and effective Christians were at work, preaching the gospel, planting churches and seeing many come to Christ. How effective they were will probably not be known this side of history.

Some commentators have sought to help us understand these times by suggesting that there existed the ‘Institutional Church’ and the ‘Inspirational Church’, or the ‘Pilgrim Church’. [i]

As the spread of the ‘institutional’ church increased so, tragically, what we would now understand to be evangelical Christianity was muted, even suppressed.

We’ll look at some of the incredible stories of heroes who stood valiantly for Christ. When you have a single denomination or sect that declares itself to be the only means by which salvation can come to the world, and the only guardian of the Christian gospel then you know you’re in trouble. And trouble there was!

But before we get there we’ll briefly look at one young man whose influence was immense once his conversion was complete – and once he realised that his now famous prayer would not be answered by God.

The prayer? ‘Lord, make me chaste (sexually pure), but not yet!’

The man? Augustine

Read about Augustine here

[i] E.H. Broadbent The Pilgrim Church, Pickering and Inglis.
© 2008 Lex Loizides


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