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What events changed how Christianity was practiced?


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February 26, 2010 7:27AM




Arguably, the conversion of Paul to Christianity had a major impact on the way early Christianity was practiced and on its spread to Gentile lands.

Jewish Temple

The destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE had a major impact on the early Christian Church. Not only did it change the way Christians practiced their faith and understood their relationship with mainstream Jews, it also led to dispersion of Jewish Christians out of Judea.

The final break with Judaism

The final break with Judaism meant that Christians could no longer worship in the synagogues and had to develop as a completely separate faith. As a Jewish sect, Christians were permitted not to worship the pagan gods of Rome, a privilege they had to earn on their own.


Council of Nicaea

Probably the one single event in the Christian Church to have the greatest impact on the way Christianity was practiced was the Council of Nicaea in 325. Emperor Constantine chaired and controlled the meeting, allowing the bishops themselves to decide the agenda and reach a consensus, and it appears that the bishop of Rome did not even attend the meeting. Thus began a long period in which the supreme authority in the Church was the Roman emperor.

The Council made a large number of crucial decisions, including that Christ was "of one being with God"; thereby rejecting the alternative that Jesus was not fully divine. This would lead within a few decades to adoption of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

The Council carved the Roman Empire up among 4 senior bishops or Metropolitans: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Provision was made for Constantinople and Carthage to be added later. In principle, no bishop could be appointed without the Metropolitan's permission. The ambiguity as to the authority of one Metropolitan over another was eventually to lead to the Great Schism, creating separate Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

State religion

Emperor Constantine gave the Christian Church state patronage, but did not make it the state religion. However, Christianity did become the state religion of the Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century. The greatest impact that this had on the practice of Christianity was that all Christian sects, other than the dominant "Catholic Orthodox" Church, were banned, gradually leading to a single, homogenous Christian Church.


The Great Schism

The Great Schism of 1054 resulted in separation of the Christian Church into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, with different rites and practices.

The Reform movement

The Reform movement of the sixteenth century greatly changed the way Christianity was practiced. In 1521, in Wittenberg's St Mary's Church, the first Protestant communion was celebrated, creating the breakaway Lutheran Church.