One year ago seemingly everybody was unnecessarily worried about Y2K. Now as we really start the new millennium by our calendar, I thought I would look back at what has happened in that millennium.
It started with the year 1001 in what is called the Lower Middle Ages. (I will ignore oriental history.) Within 65 years William of Normandy had conquered England. Less than 100 years later Henry I of England had developed the basis of the modern jury system.
The high middle ages started with the 100 years war, in which gunpowder weapons were first used in Europe. The end of feudalism led to the development of a middle class with disposable income. This in turn led to the Renaissance, which planted the seeds of the “Industrial Revolution” of the 17th through 20th centuries. Warfare continued, which led to more technological advances. In the 20th century which just ended we saw the greatest technological leaps forward of any century, all at a time when great minds were saying there was “nothing new to discover.” Nothing new except manned flight, television, personal computers, and quantum physics.
The millennium saw medical advances as well. We have gone from herbal remedies to artificial drugs to herbal remedies. No longer is anaesthesia administered by putting a loose metal helmet over the head and beating it with a hammer until the sound made the patient senseless (and temporarily deaf). Routine amputation is gone, replaced by transplants and microsurgery.
Why do I mention these things. Mainly to introduce the idea of changes in the practice of Christianity that accompanied all these other changes. The millennium began with the anti-semitic/anti-Muslim sentiments that resulted in the crusades of the 13th and 14th centuries. This developed into the inquisitions of the 15th and 16th. By the end of the 16th century the Reformation Movement had begun. established their own groups based on their ideas and interpretations, aided by the invention of the printing press. In part because of this we have the multiplicity of churches that exist today. The Reformation, coupled with the mid-millennium discovery of the Americas, led to an expansion of the Catholic and other churches.
In America, the 19th century saw the Restoration Movement, whose idea was not to reform, but to restore New Testament Christianity from the root up. It also saw the beginnings of the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science. The 20th century saw a writer become popular more for Scientology than for the rest of his science fiction, and New Age, which is really old paganism and eastern mysticism.
The truth is, though, that although what is considered Christianity has changed over the past millennium, the Bible has not changed. Yes, there are various translations (all made during the past millennium), but the Word of God has not changed. All those translations, if they are valid at all, say the same thing in new words or languages. The Word has not changed in almost two millennia. But this is hardly surprising. Jesus himself promised it. “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” (Lk 21:33) He could be so confident in his pronouncement because he knew his nature, who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8) Through all the changes and uncertainties of time, we can know stability, because the Christianity of the Bible, unlike some of the Christianity of this past millennium, is based on a foundation that knows no change.