Historical Theology





Historical Theology

Describe the purposes, key events, participants, and consequences of the Crusades. Who went? Why? What was accomplished?

The spread of Islam was a major threat to Christianity. Islam had spread everywhere, and the followers of the religion had begun exerting their power and authority. One of the ways they did this was through the invasion and control of Jerusalem, which was a sacred site for the Christians. It was important for the Christians to continue having hold of Jerusalem, which was considered a holy city. The need for the Christians to invade Jerusalem came as a response when groups of Christian pilgrims were denied entry into the holy city (Gonzalez 55). Additionally, because of the expansion of Islam as a religion, many Muslims had invaded lands that were formally occupied by Christians. When the Muslims invaded these lands, they would mistreat, murder, oppress and enslave the inhabitants.

Many of the people who participated in the crusades were knights. The noble and royal families in Europe were active crusaders as well. Their participation was important because they provided the funds and resources necessary for the crusades (Gonzalez 55). The crusades were a form of war. When the Crusaders went to their missions, they would commit the same atrocities that the Muslims had committed. They figured that they had to be as violent as the Muslims had been since they faced opposition from the Muslims when trying to reclaim their lands. Additionally, part of the Crusader’s mission was to convert people to Christianity. This did not always happen peacefully. In some cases, the Crusaders forced the people to convert to Christianity by use of force and violence. Those who refused were murdered and treated violently.

The Knights did not act alone. Many of them were encouraged, and they got the will and strength to go on the crusades because they had permission and blessings from the pope. The pope had assured them that they would have their sins absolved if they participated in the crusades (Gonzalez 53). The Knights had participated in many wars in the past, and it was important for them to think that they would attain forgiveness for all that they had done. This was at a time when many people did not have knowledge of the word of God. Many of the people believed what the pope declared since they believed that he was the voice of God. Therefore, the Knights did not object to the missions when they were sent. Many women and children, as well as priests and the elderly,  joined the crusades as well. The Crusaders were responding to a call for help from the Christians from the East, who suffered at the hands of the Muslims. Moreover, it was important for them to secure their pilgrimage to the holy city Jerusalem. Therefore, it was important for them to participate.

Christian pilgrimage was a form of piety. Many Christians participated in the pilgrimages. When they got the chance to participate in the crusades, it was an opportunity for them to continue advancing their faith. They considered it important to fight for the honor of their faith and their God (Gonzalez 55). This encouraged them to continue with the crusades. The introduction and expansion of Islam and the eventual invasion of the Muslims in Jerusalem had in some way led to a decline in Christianity. It was important for the Crusaders to restore the lost glory of the Christian faith in the holy city. They continued with their personal development of piety and faith by traveling in conditions that were dismal at best. The crusades were a form of spiritual reward for them.

The Crusaders were able to capture Antioch and Jerusalem near the end of the eleventh century. It was relatively easy for them to do so at the time because they traveled in many numbers and the Muslims were not united. The Muslims had different factions, and this prevented them from acting and responding together as a unified group. The loss of Jerusalem was huge for the Muslims since they too considered it a holy city.

The obvious consequences of the crusades concern the loss of life. Many people died violently when the crusaders invaded. They were brutal in their recapture of Jerusalem, and they believed in the concept of a holy war. This was enough for them to use the principles and methodologies of war in their quest. Many crusaders and Muslims lost their lives. Additionally, the Crusaders discouraged many Muslims, and it led to division and tension between Christian and Muslims. The Crusaders were brutal to the Muslims, and this led to deep divisions between them.

The Crusades exposed the crusaders from the west to the east, and this gave them a different perspective. Commerce prospered during the time of the crusades (Gonzalez 53). The east was far more advanced in science, intellect, and architecture. The people had a different way of life from the west. The Crusaders were exposed to the way of life of the foreigners, and they ended up learning from them and copying some of their ways. They copied their architectural designs, and they were introduced to different technologies as well.

What was the great awakening? Who was involved? What impact did it have on American culture and history?

The awakenings were a response to the age of enlightenment and reason. The church awoke to a different perception, which emphasized the importance of biblical revelation as opposed to human reason. There was an emphasis on personal salvation. The evangelicals at the time taught that people could avoid the punishment in hell if they were personally converted (Gonzalez 81). At the same time, the first preachers of the awakening such as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards were concerned with the lack of seriousness in matters concerning the Christian religion. This compelled them to preach messages that were meant to make people afraid of sin and death. The messages preached focused on God’s wrath and anger over the sinner. They preached in a way that would ensure that people were afraid of God’s anger, sin, and of going to hell.

The great awakening led to changes in perception about God and the church. Many people came to understand that God did not work in churches alone, but that he worked through people as well. This led to a division of the Protestant church in America. Those who still believed in the significance of old religious practices were the old lights. Many of them were opposed to the loud preaching, which depended on emotionalism. The new revivals brought about new ways of teaching God’s message to the people. Those who believed and followed the new messages were considered new lights.

The idea of personal conversion was important to many people. Before the messages of the great awakening, the church had control and power, and many people had felt excluded because of their social standing. However, after the revival, many people were encouraged to join the many splinter groups that formed from the traditional churches. The great awakening was different in America because it crossed class lines. It affected people in both the rural and urban areas.

The great awakening brought about changes in perceptions and attitudes concerning hierarchy and power. People came to understand that it was possible to have their voices heard. The belief in the self, ability to speak out about issues and the collective power of the people was important in the American Revolution. People began to believe in liberty and freedom. They began to believe in the power of the common people as well. The preachers had demonstrated that they could attack the elite in the church. The great awakening did not contribute to the revolution immediately or directly. However, it was influential in transforming people’s belief and thinking, which influenced other areas of their lives.

The second awakening brought about a different kind of revival among the people (Gonzalez 83). The population at the time had increased, and Christianity had waned in some regions. Camp meetings revival characterized the second great awakening. People could camp for days and listen to the preaching until they received their conversions. Just like in the first revivals, there was an emphasis on emotionalism and passion during the revival meetings.

George Whitefield is a noted preacher of the great awakening. He would preach to thousands of people, including slaves. He preached the message of equality under God. He was able to cross class lines and division by preaching in the parks and fields, and in any other place where he would find an audience. He focused on preaching about the mercy of God and of personal conversion through a new birth. Jonathan Edwards was an important preacher of the awakening. His message focused on finding mercy and forgiveness for sins and God’s punishment of the sinners. He urged his followers to repent. The Tennent family was influential in the first awakening. Preachers such as Charles Finney and Timothy Dwight were influential in the second awakening.

The awakening transformed education as well. Many evangelicals established colleges of ministry. It was important for them to have people who would deliver their messages. Some of the colleges are such as Princeton, are established institutions today. It led to the establishment of many institutions and organizations such as the American Bible Society. Many of these institutions catered for Christian work missionary and charity. There was an increase in giving during the awakening.

The great awakening was important in forming the American identity. It established America as a nation of Christians who were free to practice their religious freedom and expression. Many churches grew during the awakening. As the people became more convicted of their religious beliefs, it became important for them to observe the morals associated with Christianity. The prohibition of alcoholic drinks and the abolition of slavery were some of the consequences of the awakening. Emphasis on equality made some people oppose the idea of slavery. In addition, there was an emphasis on the women suffrage movement. Many women participated in the revival meetings, and the great awakening changed their position in the church and the larger society. Many of the activities that concerned the church penetrated to the rest of the society as well.

What was the burned over district? What were some of the religious groups started there? Give three specific examples and describe their belief systems

The first half of the nineteenth century was an interesting period in America, more so in western and central New York. Many religious groups emerged during the great awakening. There were different interpretations of religion, and the preachers had different ways of presenting it. Groups differed in ideologies and belief system. This led to splitting of the major Christian religious sects at the time. The religious revivals swept over western New York, and the people demonstrated a willingness to accept the messages they received. This was mostly because of the liberty of worship that had emerged during the great awakening. The burned over district had both mainstream and new religious groups. Methodists and Baptists were represented, and so were their splinter groups and other sects started by individuals.

The Oneida community was one of the religious groups in the burned over district. John Humphrey Noyes was responsible for forming the community. He was opposed to the traditional concept of marriage. He advocated sharing property and other resources. The sharing of personal property extended to sharing of love as well. He advocated for an alternative to monogamy and exclusive love. Under his teachings, the members of the community could sleep with each other. This was not just a free ticket for free sex. Noyes believed that he could create a perfect society. By allowing the members to sleep with each other, he was practicing selective breeding, and the children were all raised within the community. Noyes believed that it was possible to live without sin. He believed that he was not sinful irrespective of what he did.

Noyes and the rest of the community believed that the second coming of Jesus had already happened. They also believed that it was not possible for a person to sin once he or she received personal conversion. In addition, the community held general meetings, which gave them a platform to criticize each other. This was important for maintaining a sense of order within the community. The idea of raising children as a community was meant to eliminate the idea of selfish love. This would in turn, lead to perfectionism. There was a lot of opposition from external groups, most of who were opposed to the idea of complex marriages. The increased pressure, combined with the fact that many of the founders were aging were some of the factors that led to breaking of the group. In addition, leadership wrangles also emerged when Noyes could no longer act as a leader. However, the community remained one of the most successful communal groups.

The Mormon faith was formed after Joseph Smith revealed that an angel had appeared to him and told him to unearth the golden plaques, which were buried in a hill. According to him, the plaques were to enable him to form a new religion. Smith translated the plaques and he wrote the book of Mormon. The main idea behind conceiving the new practices in the religion was an opposition of the new revival religious gatherings of the great awakening. The followers of the religion went back to the traditional Christian beliefs, which emphasized simplicity and purity. The Mormons aimed at getting rid of the wrong beliefs that had permeated the church.

The purity of the body is important to Mormons. Because of this, the followers of the religion do not consume tea and coffee, alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Additionally, they are opposed to practices such as gambling, pornography, and abortion. After the creation of religion, there was opposition from mainstream Christians because of the different approach that the Mormons had. This led to their persecution at the time. The church is strict about its religious observances especially on matters concerning keeping its affairs secret. Today, the Mormons are not persecuted, and there is greater emphasis on Christian principles among its followers.

Another group in the burned over district was the spiritualist movement. The movement was formed when two girls announced that they were able to communicate with the dead. The girls began hearing knockings on the floor when they were in their teens. They claimed that they could communicate with the dead. This appealed to many people who wanted to know about their loved ones who were already dead. They traveled to different places around the country. Their fame appealed to many people who ended up becoming mediums. Afterward, when one of the sisters denied that they had ever talked with the dead, the movement had already spread and many people already believed in mediums.

Like many groups in the burned over district, the spiritualism movement used Christian teachings and beliefs. The followers of the movement claimed that their ability to communicate with the dead was a demonstration that there was life after death. The followers combined beliefs from Christian teachings with scientific methods. It was important for Christians to believe in the afterlife. The spiritual movement helped them to achieve this. The movement differed from the mainstream Christian faith because it was not a form of organized religion.


Works Cited

Gonzalez, Justo L. Church History: An Essential Guide. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010

McGrath, Alister E. Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2012

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