Western Christianity

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Jesus represented as the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei), a common practice in Western Christianity Agnus Dei 01.jpg
Jesus represented as the Lamb of God ( Agnus Dei ), a common practice in Western Christianity
St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the largest church building in the world today Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg
St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the largest church building in the world today
Timeline of the evolution of the church, beginning with early Christianity BranchesofChristianity.svg
Timeline of the evolution of the church, beginning with early Christianity

Western Christianity is one of two subdivisions of Christianity (Eastern Christianity being the other). Western Christianity is composed of the Latin Church and Western Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as the Old Catholic Church, Independent Catholicism and Restorationism.

Contents

The large majority of the world's 2.3 billion Christians are Western Christians (about 2 billion – 1.2 billion Latin Catholic and 800 million Protestant). [3] The original and still major component, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.

The establishment of the distinct Latin Church, a particular church sui iuris of the Catholic Church, coincided with the consolidation of the Holy See in Rome, which claimed primacy since Antiquity. The Latin Church is distinct from the Eastern Catholic Churches, also in full communion with the Pope in Rome, and from the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches, which are not in communion with Rome. These other churches are part of Eastern Christianity. The terms "Western" and "Eastern" in this regard originated with geographical divisions mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. During the Middle Ages adherents of the Latin Church, irrespective of ethnicity, commonly referred to themselves as "Latins" to distinguish themselves from Eastern Christians. [4]

Western Christianity has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization. [5] [6] [7] [8] With the expansion of European colonialism from the Early Modern era, the Latin Church, in time along with its Protestant secessions, spread throughout the Americas, much of the Philippines, Southern Africa, pockets of West Africa, and throughout Australia and New Zealand. Thus, when used for historical periods after the 16th century, the term "Western Christianity" does not refer to a particular geographical area, but is rather used as a collective term for all these.

Today, the geographical distinction between Western and Eastern Christianity is not nearly as absolute as in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, due to the spread of Christian missionaries, migrations, and globalisation. As such, the adjectives "Western Christianity" and "Eastern Christianity" are typically used to refer to historical origins and differences in theology and liturgy, rather than present geographical locations.[ citation needed ]

While the Latin Church maintains the use of the Latin liturgical rites, Protestant denominations and Independent Catholicism use a wide variety of liturgical practices.

The earliest concept of Europe as a cultural sphere (instead of simply a geographic term) appeared during the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century, which included territories which practiced Western Christianity at the time. [9]

History

Title page of the Lutheran Swedish Gustav Vasa Bible, translated by the Petri brothers, along with Laurentius Andreae Gustav Vasa Bible 1541.jpg
Title page of the Lutheran Swedish Gustav Vasa Bible, translated by the Petri brothers, along with Laurentius Andreae
Jesuit scholars in China. Top: Matteo Ricci, Adam Schaal and Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-88); Bottom: Paul Siu (Xu Guangqi), Colao or Prime Minister of State, and his granddaughter Candide Hiu Jesuites en chine.jpg
Jesuit scholars in China. Top: Matteo Ricci, Adam Schaal and Ferdinand Verbiest (1623–88); Bottom: Paul Siu (Xu Guangqi), Colao or Prime Minister of State, and his granddaughter Candide Hiu

For much of its history, the Christian church has been culturally divided between the Latin-speaking West, whose centre was Rome, and the Greek-speaking East, whose centre was Constantinople. Cultural differences and political rivalry created tensions between the two churches, leading to disagreement over doctrine and ecclesiology and ultimately to schism. [10]

Like Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity traces its roots directly to the apostles and other early preachers of the religion. In Western Christianity's original area Latin was the principal language. Christian writers in Latin had more influence there than those who wrote in Greek, Syriac, or other languages. Although the first Christians in the West used Greek (such as Clement of Rome), by the fourth century Latin had superseded it even in the cosmopolitan city of Rome, as well as in southern Gaul and the Roman province of Africa. [11] There is evidence of a Latin translation of the Bible as early as the 2nd century (see also Vetus Latina).

With the decline of the Roman Empire, distinctions appeared also in organization, since the bishops in the West were not dependent on the Emperor in Constantinople and did not come under the influence of the Caesaropapism in the Eastern Church. While the see of Constantinople became dominant throughout the Emperor's lands, the West looked exclusively to the see of Rome, which in the East was seen as that of one of the five patriarchs of the Pentarchy, "the proposed government of universal Christendom by five patriarchal sees under the auspices of a single universal empire. Formulated in the legislation of the emperor Justinian I (527–565), especially in his Novella 131, the theory received formal ecclesiastical sanction at the Council in Trullo (692), which ranked the five sees as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem." [12]

Over the centuries, disagreements separated Western Christianity from the various forms of Eastern Christianity: first from East Syriac Christianity after the Council of Ephesus (431), then from that of Oriental Orthodoxy after the Council of Chalcedon (451), and then from Eastern Orthodoxy with the East-West Schism of 1054. With the last-named form of Eastern Christianity, reunion agreements were signed at the Second Council of Lyon (1274) and the Council of Florence (1439), but these proved ineffective.

Historian Paul Legutko of Stanford University said the Catholic Church is "at the center of the development of the values, ideas, science, laws, and institutions which constitute what we call Western civilization". [13] The rise of Protestantism led to major divisions within Western Christianity, which still persist, and warsfor example, the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585–1604 had religious as well as economic causes.

In and after the Age of Discovery, Europeans spread Western Christianity to the New World and elsewhere. Roman Catholicism came to the Americas (especially South America), Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific. Protestantism, including Anglicanism, came to North America, Australia-Pacific and some African locales.

Today, the geographical distinction between Western and Eastern Christianity is much less absolute, due to the great migrations of Europeans across the globe, as well as the work of missionaries worldwide over the past five centuries.

Features

Map of Europe showing the largest religions by region. Eastern Christianity is represented in blue, Islam in green, and the other colors represent branches of Western Christianity. AtlEurRelig.jpg
Map of Europe showing the largest religions by region. Eastern Christianity is represented in blue, Islam in green, and the other colors represent branches of Western Christianity.
Saint Thomas Aquinas was one of the great Western scholars of the Medieval period. Benozzo Gozzoli 004a.jpg
Saint Thomas Aquinas was one of the great Western scholars of the Medieval period.

Original sin

Original sin, also called ancestral sin, [14] [15] [16] [17] is a Christian belief in a state of sin in which humanity has existed since the fall of man, stemming from Adam and Eve's rebellion in the Garden of Eden, namely the sin of disobedience in consuming the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [18] Theologians have characterized this condition in many ways, seeing it as ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a "sin nature", to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt of all humans through collective guilt. [19]

Filioque clause

Most Western Christians use a version of the Nicene Creed that states that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son", where the original text as adopted by the First Council of Constantinople had "proceeds from the Father" without the addition of either "and the Son" or "alone". This Western version also has the additional phrase "God from God" (Latin : Deum de Deo), which was in the Creed as adopted by the First Council of Nicaea, but which was dropped by the First Council of Constantinople.

Date of Easter

The date of Easter usually differs between Eastern and Western Christianity, because the calculations are based on the Julian calendar and Gregorian calendar respectively. However, before the Council of Nicea, various dates including Jewish Passover were observed. Nicea "Romanized" the date for Easter and anathematized a "Judaized" (i.e. Passover date for) Easter. The date of observance of Easter has only differed in modern times since the promulgation of the Gregorian calendar in 1582; and further, the Western Church did not universally adopt the Gregorian calendar at once, so that for some time the dates of Easter differed between the Eastern Church and the Roman Catholic Church, but not necessarily as between the Eastern Church and the Western Protestant churches. For example, the Church of England continued to observe Easter on the same date as the Eastern Church until 1753.

Even the dates of other Christian holidays differ between Eastern and Western Christianity.

Lack of essence–energies distinction

Eastern Christianity, and particularly the Eastern Orthodox Church, has traditionally held a distinction between God's essence, or that which He is, with God's energies, or that which He does. They hold that while God is unknowable in His essence, He can be known (i.e. experienced) in His energies. This is an extension of Eastern Christianity's apophatic theology, while Western Christians tend to prefer a view of divine simplicity, and claim that God's essence can be known by its attributes.

Western denominations

Today, Western Christianity makes up close to 90% of Christians worldwide with the Catholic Church accounting for over half and various Protestant denominations making up another 40%.

Hussite movements of 15th century Bohemia preceded the main Protestant uprising by 100 years and evolved into several small Protestant churches, such as the Moravian Church. Waldensians survived also, but blended into the Reformed tradition.

Major branches and movements within Protestantism Protestant branches.svg
Major branches and movements within Protestantism

Major figures

Bishop of Rome or the pope

Relevant figures:

The Reformers

Relevant figures:

Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England

Relevant figures:

Archbishop of Lyon and primate of the Gauls

Relevant figures:

Patriarch of Aquileia

Relevant figures:

See also

Related Research Articles

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An ecumenical council, also called general council, is a meeting of bishops and other church authorities to consider and rule on questions of Christian doctrine, administration, discipline, and other matters in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eastern Christianity</span> Christian traditions originating from Greek- and Syriac-speaking populations

Eastern Christianity comprises Christian traditions and church families that originally developed during classical and late antiquity in Western Asia, Asia Minor, Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, Northeast Africa, the Fertile Crescent and the Malabar coast of South Asia, and ephemerally parts of Persia, Central Asia and the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecumenism</span> Cooperation between Christian denominations

Ecumenism – also called interdenominationalism, or ecumenicalism – is the concept and principle that Christians who belong to different Christian denominations should work together to develop closer relationships among their churches and promote Christian unity. The adjective ecumenical is thus applied to any non-denominational initiative that encourages greater cooperation and union among Christian denominations and churches.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christian Church</span> Ecclesiological term

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A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity that comprises all church congregations of the same kind, identifiable by traits such as a name, particular history, organization, leadership, theological doctrine, worship style and, sometimes, a founder. It is a secular and neutral term, generally used to denote any established Christian church. Unlike a cult or sect, a denomination is usually seen as part of the Christian religious mainstream. Most Christian denominations refer to themselves as churches, whereas some newer ones tend to interchangeably use the terms churches, assemblies, fellowships, etc. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, biblical hermeneutics, theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.

The East–West Schism, also known as the Great Schism or Schism of 1054, is the ongoing break of communion between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches that began in 1054. A series of ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes between the Greek East and Latin West preceded the formal split that occurred in 1054. Prominent among these were the procession of the Holy Spirit (Filioque), whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist, the Pope's claim to universal jurisdiction, and the place of the See of Constantinople in relation to the pentarchy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catholic Church</span> Major Christian church based in Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.378 billion baptized Catholics worldwide as of 2021. It is among the world's oldest and largest international institutions, and has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilization. The church consists of 24 sui iuris churches, including the Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, which comprise almost 3,500 dioceses and eparchies located around the world. The pope, who is the bishop of Rome, is the chief pastor of the church. The Diocese of Rome, known as the Holy See, is the central governing authority of the church. The administrative body of the Holy See, the Roman Curia, has its principal offices in Vatican City, a small independent city-state and enclave within the Italian capital city of Rome, of which the pope is head of state.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicene Christianity</span> Christian doctrinal traditions

Nicene Christianity, Mainstream Christianity or Traditional Christianity includes those Christian denominations that adhere to the teaching of the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and amended at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381.

Catholicity is a concept of pertaining to beliefs and practices that are widely accepted by numerous Christian denominations, most notably by those Christian denominations that describe themselves as catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed formulated at the First Council of Constantinople in 381: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." The English adjective catholic is derived from the Ancient Greek adjective καθολικός, meaning "general", "universal". Thus, "catholic" means that in the Church the wholeness of the Christian faith, full and complete, all-embracing, and with nothing lacking, is proclaimed to all people without excluding any part of the faith or any class or group of people. An early definition for what is "catholic" was summarized in what is known as the Vincentian Canon in the 5th century Commonitory: "what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all."

Branch theory is an ecclesiological proposition that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church includes various different Christian denominations whether in formal communion or not. The theory is often incorporated in the Protestant notion of an invisible Christian Church structure binding them together.

A schism is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as the Great East–West Schism or the Western Schism. It is also used of a split within a non-religious organization or movement or, more broadly, of a separation between two or more people, be it brothers, friends, lovers, etc.

The tradition of the Catholic Church claims it began with Jesus Christ and his teachings; the Catholic tradition considers that the Church is a continuation of the early Christian community established by the Disciples of Jesus. The Church considers its bishops to be the successors to Jesus's apostles and the Church's leader, the Bishop of Rome, to be the sole successor to St Peter who ministered in Rome in the first century AD after his appointment by Jesus as head of the Church. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods to resolve doctrinal and administrative issues. Historian Eamon Duffy claims that by the 3rd century, the church at Rome might even function as a court of appeal on doctrinal issues.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of Christianity</span> Overview of and topical guide to Christianity

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christianity in the Middle Ages</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Criticism of Protestantism</span> Overview of criticism of Protestantism

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References

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