Nothing of significance happened in AD 500, contrary to the expectations of Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian historian of the early 3rd century, and of his premillennial readers. Africanus did a lot of work, mixing Hebrew, Greek, and Persian chronologies to find out when the end of the world was going to come. He came to the conclusion that the Creation week happened 5,500 years before the birth of Christ. The Incarnation, he believed, happened on the first day (March 25) of year 5501 of the Creation. His eschatology was premillennial so he expected the Second Coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom. He calculated five millennia from the Creation to the Babylonian captivity, another 500 years to the birth of Christ. Believing that the history of the world will only last 7,000 years, with a final period of 1,000 years reign of Christ, Africanus predicted the Second Coming in the year 6000 of the Creation, that is, year 500 of the Incarnation. After that, the Millennium, and then, in the year 1500 of the Incarnation, the end of history.
But nothing happened in year 500.
The Western Roman Empire was dead. And yet, there was no room for pessimism. In AD 496 Clovis, the King of the Franks, had converted to Christianity. Christianity was strong everywhere, including the Arian Barbarian kingdoms of Spain and Italy which had strong Christian majorities. Ireland, a formerly pagan land of constantly warring clans, was converted by St. Patrick. Christian missionaries were exploring the deep forests of the German lands. Northern Africa was producing fine Christian rulers and theologians. The West had no paganism to talk about anymore. The pagan Roman Empire was a thing of the past, after Augustine destroyed the last intellectual resistance of its diminishing band of apologists. Pagan Barbarians were falling back before other Barbarians armed with the faith and the optimism of their new faith in Christ.
In the east, the Empire of the City of Constantine was pushing back its borders, this time using the cross more than it used the sword. Emperors officially bowed before Christ, even on the coins they minted. The Empire had new laws about almost everything, from abortion and slavery to monetary policies and economic regulations. There was a new factor in the process of legislation: Christ and His Word. Learning to apply it was still a process; nothing happened overnight. But the old days of public deification of political rulers were no more. Christ was the only God, whether for individuals or for the society.
Nothing happened in AD 500. And with it, something very profound did happen. Of the competing paradigms about history, one only remained valid and legitimate. Going back – the pagan paradigm – had no life left in it. Going out – the premillennial paradigm – self-destructed in the non-event of AD 500.
Only the Christian, postmillennial, optimistic, activist paradigm was now reigning unchallenged: going forward. What 200 years earlier sounded like a joke – that Christianity would survive – in AD 500 was now the inevitable fate of humanity. No one could imagine anything else. For another 500 years no other pagan, or premillennial, or heretical paradigm arose to challenge it. Even when militarily the Christian world was losing the battle against Islam, when the only obstacle before the total annihilation of the Christian lands was Charles Martel’s “bulwark of ice” on that hill north of Poitiers in AD 732, Christian ministers and theologians preached and taught the Regnum Christi, and its ultimate victory in history.
The result of that preaching and teaching was the Christendom. Christendom defined as the total universality of the Christian religion in the minds, beliefs, practices, laws, and thought of the individuals and of their communities and governments. Christendom as a civilization which is based on the faith in Christ, and on Christ’s Word, in everything it does. Christendom as a sociopolitical reality not limited to just the personal faith of the believer but affecting his whole environment.
Christen-dom, as in the Kingdom of Christ.
The word was given to us by King Alfred; the most pious, most committed to Christ, and most literate of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Christendome he called in English what was known as christianitas in Latin or oikumene in Greek. But the concept had been around even before Alfred. When Charlemagne built his empire, it was not meant to be an empire; there were no legions to police it, no imperial bureaucracy to tax it, and no central cult of the emperor to unite the masses to attest their political loyalty. Charlemagne was simply a steward to the true King; he left the communities to maintain the order, the local nobles and villages to raise the funds for the military, and the church to declare the transcendent Law of the Lawgiver. There wasn’t even a central capital. Charlemagne was a pilgrim and a wanderer in his own empire. It wasn’t his own, in fact, to start with.
His advisers were educated by Isidore of Seville, the great ideologue of the Regnum Christi, the Sixth Age of history which started with the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. Isidore’s Etymologies were the attempt to preserve the civilizational knowledge of the ancients, and apply it in the new era where Christians will build the civilization. Not all of it proved to be useful; but the spirit and the vision of Isidore survived for over 800 years when, in the post-Gutenberg era, the Etymologies were printed and reprinted many times.
And Isidore learned from Augustine. History was the battleground of two cities, that is, two civitae, two civilizational communities. And Augustine only continued earlier traditions. No Christian thinker thought of Christianity as a religion of the soul. It was truly a world religion, that is, one that changes the whole world. The Roman authorities rightly suspected the Christians; the small sect preached another King, one Jesus. It called itself the ecclesia, the name of the city councils which ruled the cities in the Greek-speaking world. It had the Great Commission which based its commandment of Jesus being given all authority, in heaven and on earth.
Even worse, they had a book that called the ruler a servant of God. And that the purpose of his rule was to be a “servant to you for good.” To you, that is, to the Christians who were reading Paul’s epistle.
These were not out-worldly mumblings of a limited “heart religion.” These messages were a comprehensive kerygma, an official proclamation by a King who has returned to take his rightful place. It was a declaration of the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.
And we are at the beginning of a new era today.
The story of how we lost the Christendom in the last 500 years belongs to a different article, and may be a different project. In a sense, of course, we never lost it. Even the worst opponents of Christendom are still forced to operate in its context. They still have to borrow presuppositions, institutional arrangements, ethical systems, economic practices, and expectations of the future from Christendom. In the beginning of our new millennium, one thing is sure: there is no way of going back, to the time before there was Christendom.
The “going back” paradigm is not the only one that has been revived in the last two centuries. The premillennial “going out” paradigm re-emerged too, in the early 1800s, and reached its climax at the end of the 20th century. The beginning of its decline started in 1989 when the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed. Two years later the Soviet Union – a major player in the premillennial “prophecies” – collapsed too. The Rapture did not happen in 1988 (40 years after the establishment of the State of Israel) and it did not happen in 1996 (6,000 years after the revised date of the Creation, 4004 BC). It became clear, once again, that there is no going out of history.
No going back, and no going out. It’s AD 500 revisited. This time we have the knowledge and the experience of previous generations who actually built the Christendom, and developed. With all their successes and wise decisions for us to copy and learn from and to be encouraged by. And with all their failures and foolish mistakes for us to avoid and learn from and to keep us humble.
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The purpose of this blog is to lay at least part of the intellectual foundation for the restoration of Christendom. Others, greater than I, have done a lot. I will constantly go back to the works of people I learned from and keep learning from: the early church fathers, the Reformers, and our modern Reformed authors and teachers today.
I will go back in history to see how the early generations laid the foundations. They laid the intellectual foundations. They laid the institutional foundations, church and state. They laid the legal foundations. They laid the mission foundations. They had a view of the future that excited individual men, families, and communities to apply their talents and skills to building a new civilization. I want to learn from them how to build that new world which obeys Christ and glorifies God in everything it does.
I will also look to our modern times and try to find how Christendom is to be re-built. I will try to identify Christendom’s enemies, both in the church and out of the church. I will try to see how the theological foundations laid by the early church, and then developed by the Reformation, apply to our modern social, economic, political, etc. issues. I learned from R.J. Rushdoony that the decisions ecumenical Councils of the Church were not simply “pure theology.” They had implications for the whole social order. (See R.J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order.) The ancient world was changed entirely by the Christian view of God, man, law, history, and future. Our own world today has tried to go back as a dog to its vomit. It needs the applications of those theological truths to its social order just as badly as the classical world of the Greeks and the Romans did. I will try to look at specific issues of our day and point to the theological presuppositions behind them, and show what needs to be changed in our beliefs, thoughts, and practices so that we are closer to the restoration of Christendom.
The goal, of course, is clear. It is not the pagan goal of going back. I want to learn from the past, not go back to it. It is not the premillennial escapist goal of going out. This world is not all, and my ultimate hope is the world after the Final Judgment. But my battle is here, in this world. It is not the amillennial goal of just personally surviving intact in a history that is beyond redemption. Nothing is beyond redemption. The goal is going forward toward a mark: A world that demonstrates to all principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God. Nothing less than that.