• A Brief History Of China
  • A Brief History Of China
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Thus we find God’s prophetic Word, and the witness of history, agreeing together (as indeed they always do) to condemn the Jesuit Order.

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In addition, representatives from the three main Stone-Campbell groups meet together in ministries of reconciliation, including Disciples of Christ Historical Society; and more formally in the Stone-Campbell Dialogue, sponsored by the Disciples' Council on Christian Unity; and in the World Convention.

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The earliest mention of Lent in the history of the Church comes from the council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The council of Nicaea is best known for the profession of faith – the ‘Nicene Creed’ – which is still recited in most parishes every Sunday immediately after the sermon. However, the council also issued twenty canons of a practical nature, dealing with various aspects of church life, and the fifth of these canons speaks of Lent.


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This group of believers first gathered on the Appalachian frontier in the early 1800s and was very much a product of its time and place. The theology of the movement appealed to the intense individualism of Jacksonian America by placing emphasis on the ability of laypersons to read and understand scriptures for themselves without intercession by priest or other clergy. An understanding of Stone-Campbell history is key to placing it in the context of the social and political forces of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in America, and, more importantly, in understanding the Disciples' contributions to the democratic and religious ethos of the nation.

Christianity’s presence in China grew in the 19th and 20th centuries as the country was subject to greater influence by the Western powers. One of the bloodiest episodes in recent Chinese history involved a charismatic Christian convert named Hong Xiuquan, who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ and believed it was his mission to spread Christianity in China. By the mid-1800s, Hong Xiuquan had gathered a large band of followers and began an armed rebellion against Qing Dynasty rulers. The Taiping Rebellion lasted 15 years and cost an estimated 20 million lives, due to the warfare and the resulting starvation. The Chinese imperial army eventually put down the rebellion with the aid of Western military advisers.


Protestant Christians of colonial New England knew the history of Christmas. Christmas was established early in the fourth century by the Roman Church as a means of Christianizing pagan mid-winter celebrations associated with the Saturnalia and birthday of Sol Invictus – the Sun god. But it didn’t end there! As Christianity spread into northern Europe, elements of the twelve day Scandinavian Yule festival to the god Thor and various other practices of the Germanic pagans were also incorporated into Christmas-time celebrations by the Roman Church. All of this was done contrary to God’s clear instructions in Deuteronomy 12: 28-32, Jeremiah 10: 1-3, and Matthew 15: 3, 8-9. No wonder New England Protestants were so opposed to Christmas.

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Or is he? The existence of Christ the historical figure is still a controversial topic among scholars of the period. The most problematic point is the date. Mediaeval Christians put it at (what we now call) 0AD, but the Gospels say it is in the reign of King Herod, who died in 4BC. Further, the Gospel of Luke says that Joseph and Mary travelled before his birth to Bethlehem for a great census. The closest such census took place in 6AD. But as Humphrey Carpenter says in his book Jesus, we can regard it as “virtually certain” that a Jewish religious teacher was born around this time, and was executed by crucifixion between 28AD and 30AD. It is just far from clear that he was born in December: some early reports put it in May.


As we each find our own ways to mark the season of Lent, we follow in the footsteps of centuries of Christians who have spent time preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. How did the Church's understanding of the forty days of Lent change between the Council of Nicaea in the 4th century and the Second Vatican Council? Church historian Norman Tanner SJ gives a short history of this time of joy and preparation.