Westminster Seminars

Event details

  • Sunday | November 18, 2018
  • 09:45 AM - 10:45 AM
  • Galbreath Chapel
  • 412-835-6630

Problem Areas in Christian History
John E. Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

In the language of the Gospel of John, “world” designates reality outside of the reality of God’s revelation in Christ and in opposition to it. It means a world dominated by sin and evil, the world within which Christianity came into existence. It is evident that following the New Testament period Christianity, to exist in this world, made compromises with it. When the persecutions ended under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity was not only tolerated, but soon became the favored religion of the Roman Empire, with the result that becoming Christian had political and material benefits that had nothing to do with the life and values of the original Christian community. For the church this meant a life of contradiction between, on the one hand, a compromise of the church with “world” – for example, with its economic and social realities – and, on the other hand, a continuing conflict of the values of original Christianity with those of the world of the Roman Empire.

This same situation of compromise and conflict characterizes Christianity throughout its history. If the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached had come, as Paul had expected, there would have been no compromise. There would be no evil; the values of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount would have become the only reality. The effort to Christianize “world” has a history as long as Christianity itself, and there has been much progress. Yet no one would think of equating it with the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it.

This series of seminars will consider four problem areas of importance in Christian history: (1) violence; (2) slavery and associated forms of servitude; (3) wealth and poverty; (4) nature and sexuality. In each case the focus will be on examples that illustrate the problem of compromise and conflict. The use and interpretation of the Bible will also be of interest. The goal is the increase of awareness of compromise and conflict not only in history, but also in the personal life of faith.


John E. Wilson is P.C. Rossin Emeritus Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After 30 years of teaching, part of that time as Dean of Faculty, he retired in 2013. His several books are in the area of modern theology, but at Pittsburgh Seminary he taught all areas of church history. He is married to Nana, who is known at Westminster for her work in Contemplative Prayer. They have three grown children and three grandchildren.