Was the Middle Ages a Dark Ages?

Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas (Cir. 1985)

I’m partial to the Middle Ages. Not that I would necessarily have wanted to live then, but it is not because it was the “dark ages.” I prefer modern health care, technology, and prosperity. It makes life more comfortable.

But what I prefer today over the Middle Ages is not necessarily something we, as moderns, can take credit for; it is the result of knowledge and understanding building on itself and progressing through each generation to bring us to this point scientifically and technologically. We have the generations that came before us to thank for that.

The disciplines of architecture and art are a more even playing field when comparing the Middle Ages with today. With regard to architecture, advances in engineering allow us to do certain things with buildings we could not do with buildings 1,000 years ago, and, as a result, if anything the moderns have an advantage.

That should also be true of art in architecture. There are things we can do now we couldn’t do 1,000 years ago that give today’s artist or architect more creative tools to work with. So, all things being equal, what we can do with virtually unlimited funds today in say, building a church, should far exceed in beauty and creativity what man created 1,000 years ago, particularly if 1,000 years ago was a “dark ages.”

So, I picked a church, not just any church, but Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. A church I used to attend. A beautiful church. One of the largest churches in America (85,000 members). A church with more money than Croesus. A church that could build essentially any church it wanted, and it did. In 1980s, it built the structure you see above. I was proud to attend Second Baptist Church. It was the most beautiful church around.

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Some Kingdom History on Vaccines

As we brace for the battle that is sure to come as vaccination becomes available to the general population, I thought some Kingdom history might provide perspective on the issue.

Small pox epidemics had occurred approximately every 12 years in New England in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Smallpox was a merciless killer and disfigurer, particularly of children. In the early 1700s the disease missed a cycle but then appeared again in Boston in 1721. This time, however, there was a man, a learned man, a learned, Kingdom man named Cotton Mather.

Mather was a polymath. He was the youngest student ever accepted at Harvard (11 1/2 years old). He published over 350 titles during his lifetime on subjects as diverse as the Bible, history, medicine, politics, and the demonic. He could write in seven languages. Mather was also the first American to be inducted as a Fellow of the the Royal Society in London, the most famous scientific society in the world. Mather set up schools for Indians and African Americans. He was also a Puritan and minister of the largest church in New England.

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The Meaning of the Manger

One of the most common tools of filmmakers used to convey the message of the movie is the symbol.

In Sam Mendes’s American Beauty, the first scene shows the two main characters behind a picket fence and mullion windows to convey that these two feel trapped in their marriage.

In Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors the protagonist who secretly commits adultery and murder and realizes there will be no earthly punishment for sin is an ophthalmologist. He helps us see, you see.

What filmmakers do with fantasy and script, God does with reality and history, and God did with the birth of Jesus.

“And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was not room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7. Jesus was not born in a hotel room; a hotel room is too small and bounded. Jesus was born outside, where walls do not hide or inhibit.

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Kingdom History: The Plague of Justinian

Justinian was emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 527 A.D. to 565 A.D.

Justinian ruled from Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the richest city in the world, and the capital of Christendom.

Constantinople was surrounded on three sides by water, and its land facing side was protected by wall 40 feet high and 4 miles long. That wall would successfully protect the city from invasion for 1,100 years.

In addition, the Byzantines had Greek Fire, the best kept secret and most powerful weapon of the medieval world, and only the Byzantines had it. It was the medieval equivalent of a nuclear weapon.

In 533 A.D. Justinian published the Institutes of Justinian, a codification of Roman law considered one of the great achievements in legal history, was published.

Then in 537 A.D. Justinian completed construction of the Hagia Sophia, the largest church in the world. It would remain the largest church in the world for the next 1,000 years.

I’m guessing then that by 537 A.D., Justinian was feeling pretty good about himself, his city, and his empire.

Then, in 542 A.D., the plague hit. As Julius Norwich described it in his History of Byzantium: Continue reading “Kingdom History: The Plague of Justinian”

Kingdom History: The Plague of Cyprian

Most people would say having a plague named after you is not something you’d hope for.

But all things considered it’s probably better than being forgotten.

In the case of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, my guess he is would not complain.

Cyprian would know, as you now know, that the plague is named after him because of his letter describing how Christians should respond to the plague.

The letter has survived 1800 years and provides the most vivid description of a plague some contend changed the course of the Roman Empire.

The plague of Cyprian struck in 249 and hung around for nearly twenty years, although the worst of the plague was seen in the years 249 A.D. to 262. The plague was so contagious some believed it was passed through sight and others attributed it to “corrupted air” that had swept through the Roman Empire, but even worse, the symptoms were grisly and deadly. As Cyprian wrote: Continue reading “Kingdom History: The Plague of Cyprian”