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Religion Library: Christianity

Exploration and Conquest

Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Christians were divided over colonialism. While many European Christians believed in the civilizing mission of their cultures, others were uncomfortable with the injustices that accompanied the establishment and maintenance of colonies.  British and French colonial policies were not always supportive of missionaries, who were occasionally instrumental in documenting atrocities and speaking out on behalf of the rights of the colonized. In the 19th century, a greater consciousness of cultural imperialism grew among missionaries, who gained a new appreciation for the contributions that the evangelized were making to a renewed vitality in Christianity.

This map of the world in 1900 shows the large colonial empires that powerful nations established across the globe Source: Public Domain

By the 20th century, Christian missionaries had spread throughout the world, and Christianity was thriving on every continent. The effects of Enlightenment humanism and the scientific revolution had secularized much of the world and had challenged Biblical authority that had seemed unimpeachable since the biblical canon and key doctrinal beliefs were first created. Christian morality would be sorely tested by the violence of the 20th century, but the liveliness of Christian communities everywhere seemed undiminished.

Study Questions:
1.     Why is the text of Matthew 28:19-20 important? How does this justify the role of mission within the church?
2.     Describe the relationship between the Spanish-style feudalism of the late 1400s and Christianity.
3.     Describe Christianity's conquest of Asia. Was it successful? Why or why not?
4.     How was slavery viewed within Christianity?


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