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

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

Church history is the record of God’s ability to break in and bring change. And the goal of The Church History Blog is that you would be so inspired by the past, and so motivated by accounts of God’s faithfulness and power, that you would re-engage in the great commission with refreshed faith for your world today.

Knowing that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8) gives us great confidence as we seek to glorify His name and be a genuine blessing in the various nations in which God has placed us.

Focussing on highlights also means that we can jump to the heroes and heroines quickly rather than merely run through dates and names.

In this post we enter a period which has been called the ‘Dark Ages’, dating roughly from the fourth to the sixteenth century. It is doubtful, however, that they were totally dark! I say that because of what we read in John 1:

‘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 emphasis added)

Notice the change of tense in verse 5. Verses 1-4 are all past tense, but verse 5 propels us into the historical present with the statement that ‘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. And maybe that’s 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 until Heaven.

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’ (E.H. Broadbent – ‘The Pilgrim Church’, Pickering and Inglis).

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

We’ll look at some of the incredible stories of heroes who stood valiantly for Christ. When you have a single denomination 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 a holy God!

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

The man? Augustine

Read about Augustine here

© 2008 Lex Loizides


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