From the time Christianity became an official state religion under the Romans until A.D. 1500, the Church was more political that it was ecclesiastical. Excommunications by ecumenical councils, crusades, and financial exploitation made as many enemies as it did converts. Today, while people claiming to be Christians numbers over two billion, the majority of the other four billion hate us as a result. In the last few years, the Popes have spent a considerable amount of time apologizing for the past deeds of the Church. What changed?
The printing press happened. In A.D. 1456, Johann Gutenberg printed the Latin Vulgate Bible using the new invention, movable type. Printing became available to other versions as well. John Wycliffe, with others, had translated the Latin into English in A.D. 1382, followed by William Tyndale's English printing made from the original Hebrew and Greek languages in A.D. 1526. The Word of God was no longer the exclusive property of the priests, but was now available to everyone.
In the mean time, the Spirit of God was moving in the hearts of others inside and outside the clergy. Science challenged the Church, unsuccessfully at first, when Koppernigk (Copernicus) discovered that the Earth rotated around the Sun. Followed by Kepler and Galileo, the scientific views of the Church began to require change. At the same time, men such as Beza, Luther, Calvin, Cromwell, Knox, Simons, and many others were challenging the authority, the practices, and the teachings of the Roman Church. The most famous was Martin Luther, whose ninety-five theses posted on the Wittenberg Church in A.D. 1517 challenged any and all to a public debate. And individual nations, tired of oppression and subjugation by the Roman Church, soon began accepting Protestant Churches as their state Church.
While the hold of the Roman Church was disintegrating, new state Churches continued many of the habits they had so detested. Persecution of any disagreeing with the official state Church was the norm. In A.D. 1620, a group of people longing to be free of state religion, sailed to North America. After the thirteen colonies had won their independence, the Constitution with its first ten amendments was adopted as the law of the nation. The first of the Bill of Rights guaranteed that each state could not be forced to accept a national religion. Unfortunately, its purpose was more to give the states the right to continue having their own individual state religion, than to protect the individual from religious oppression. True religious freedom would eventually become the accepted practice in every state.
Lord willing, tomorrow I will attempt to show how Church doctrine has changed over the years. Pray for me.