Shocking isn’t it how most of us were taught fake history, for me beginning in 5th grade in Forreston, Illinois? There was no Dark Ages after Rome fell to the barbarians. In fact, those barbarians were Roman citizens enjoying a fairly high level of culture and more likely assimilated Rome. There was no Enlightenment where suddenly the world of learning exploded. There was no scientific revolution, only a group of secularists who denied the truths the church had taught all along. And what about that awful Spanish Inquisition? More people died from the death penalty in the first 70 years of the 20th century in the U.S. than in 350 years of the Inquisition. To bring us up to today’s headlines, there is also no HIV Pandemic, just very risky behavior by a small segment of the population in multiple countries, mostly young, gay and bisexual males, which spreads disease and death around the world.
There were incredible advancements in technology, science, agriculture, literature and art all through the era I was taught to call “the Dark Ages.” And without an era that had gone “dark,” how could there be an era when the lights suddenly came on--the Enlightenment--a time when Europeans looked back and copied what the Greeks and Romans did. How could scientists of the 18th century pat themselves on the back if they had to be standing on the shoulders of the giants of science of the middle ages? They needed the myth of a Scientific Revolution. There was slavery in ancient Rome, but it had virtually disappeared in Europe by the time of the so-called Enlightenment. So where did it go? Changes in technology, agriculture, war and economics made it useless.
But who can we blame for all this misinformation about darkness and slow progress? Why were we taught this? Christianity, of course, say the atheist academics, and specifically the Roman Catholic Church say the non-Catholic academics. The United States arose from the English Reformation view of world and European history, so that’s what we were taught; most of our colonies excluded Catholics owning land or building churches. That’s why the religious history books on my office shelves begin around 1517 for Lutherans and Reformed or 1600 for Baptists, or 1850 for Restorationists and 1900 for Pentecostals and Charismatics, and 10 years ago for the Rock City Church, the fastest growing Christian church in Columbus, Ohio. That’s why we could watch five seasons of Downton Abbey without asking why aristocratic Anglicans in the 20th century were making their home in an abbey built by Catholic monks who lost their home, life’s work and probably their lives for Jesus in the 16th century.
The other day I looked through the introduction of a book of evangelical Christian literature, “Valiant for the truth,” by David Otis Fuller (c. 1961). Let me quote, “It has been said that after the close of the Apostolic Age theology fell over a cliff until restored by the great formulated creeds of the church. . . “ And that’s pretty much the mother’s milk we were all nourished with whether mother was a Lutheran, Calvinist, Mormon, Congregationalist, secularist or atheist.