For further study:

A History of God’s Remarkable Providences in Colonial New England, by Increase Mather (father of Cotton Mather). This book portrays what it is like to live in the continual presence of God’s providence. In our modern, scientific age, we think that we understand much of nature and historical events, when we really do not. For example, when lightning strikes a group of people, why are some critically injured or killed, when others experience no ill effects (other than perhaps a vivid experience that they will never forget). It even has a short section on his involvement and reporting of witches during his time.

The following are selective, centering on the Reformation. They illustrate how secular events, pagan kings, and major battles are all within and because of God’s plan. For further study, see the references below or above.

The great divide of history: In the West, events of history are dated B.C. (Before Christ)* and A.D. (Anno Domini) which are initials of the Latin words for these categories. More recently, an attempt has been made to substitute B.C.E. (before the common era) and C.E. (Common Era), but this move is superficial to hide its intent to remove Christ from the dating. Interestingly, this original categorization has gradually made penetrated into the histories of Oriental countries. B.C. and A.D. literally shout that history is His-story! By this dating, virtually everyone acknowledges Christ in history.

*B.C. is the English “Before Christ” because the original designation was limited to A.D. “B.C.” is a later application as the universal use of Latin began to wane.

Preparation of the Greco-Roman World and Mind for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Logos—”In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God (Gospel of John 1:1). “And the logos became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Beginning with Heraclitus in the 5th and 6th centuries B.C., logos became a central concept in critical thinking in Greek philosophy. Since Heraclitus said, “You can never step into the same river twice, he needed a background of all the flux that he saw to provide stability and coherence to this ever-changing world. For the later Stoics, this logos was a central concept, “”the account which governs everything.” Logos can also be translated “word”, “account”, “plan”, “formula”, “measure”, “proportion”, “reckoning,” “logic,” “ratio,” and “rational.” Thus, when the gospel-writer John made the two declarations above. the learned Greco-Roman mind was familiar with this term, but which declarations startled in their novelty and profundity. (This is not to say that Christianity grew out of Greek thought. God forbid! But, it is to say that the logos was a familiar concept in this period of time. Like Jesus fulfilled Israel’s expectations of Messiah in unexpected ways, so He made concrete and personal the Greek logos.

Alexander the Great, 356 B.C.-323 B.C.

Usually listed as one of the ten greatest military commanders in history, Alexander conquered most of the Mediterranean area and eastward into India. His conquests made Greek the common language of this large geographic area, which was also most of the “civilized” world of that time. This common language made the spread of Christianity by Paul, the Apostles, and others far more rapid than would have been possible with many languages and dialects. While Alexander was immoral and a bloodthirsty man of his times, nevertheless, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1)

Pax Romana. 27 B. C. – 180 A. D.

The period of relative peace throughout most of Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa that allowed the spread of the Gospel immediately during and after the period of the Book of Acts.

Roman roads.

Byzantium. Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome founded an Eastern site for the capitol of Rome in 330 A.D and called it (of course) Constantinople. It lasted until 1453 when it was successfully attacked by Muslims. It was an empire consciously intending to be a “Christian” political system with Jesus Christ as head of the state. While the intention was Biblical and godly, its practical implementation had many flaws. For example, the emperor (there were a total of 88) claimed to be the representative of Christ in state, but he still had flaws of depravity and a lack of insight into government that often detracted from this intent. The “glory that was Rome” (Edward Gibbon) appeared in Byzantium, as well. At its peak of power, it controlled virtually the entire Mediterranean area, was a trade center between the West and Orient, a cultural center of the world in its great art and architecture. It was the staging point for the Crusades which was also its downfall. Enmity broke out during the Fourth Crusade between the invading army and the rulers of Byzantium. The invaders virtually destroyed the city, committing murder and destruction that is rivaled by few episodes in history. The empire never recovered its former strength. allowing its defeat in 1453 at the hands of the Muslims. For a review of what a Christian government should be, see Summary Principles of Civil Law, Government, and Politics.

Henry VIII of England, 1491-1547

Henry VIII had “tired of his wife,” Catherine, who also had failed to bear him a son that lived more that a short time after birth. He appealed to Rome several times to get his marriage annulled, but it was never granted. “From this time onward, the English were steadfast in defiance of Roman authority. They were, historically, the first colony to successfully throw off Roman rule.” The Bishops of England pledged their loyalty to Henry, and thus he established the Church of England.

With the power of Rome removed from the British Isles, there was a much greater freedom for the Reformation to grow. There were vacillations over the next two centuries between Roman Catholic authority (e.g., Bloody Mary) and protestants, as well as, verbal and armed conflicts among protestants. But, the British Isles had been severed from the Pope.

This is another example that rules the thrones of kings, queens, and all state authority. While Henry VIII was an adulterer, blasphemer, and murderer, to mention a few of his immoralities, yet God used his belligerence towards Rome to advance His cause in the British Isles, primarily Scotland.

The Battle of the Bay of Lepanto, October 7, 1571

Pope Pius V believed that the Ottoman Empire was advancing to conquer the Christian world. He called for an alliance among the Christian powers to stop this advance. If the Turks were victorious in this battle, then they could continue on to take Venice and then Italy. Ali Pasha commanded the Turks, and Don John, an illegitimate son of Charles V, but an experienced soldier.

The Bay of Lepanto is an arm of the Ionian Sea. The battle has been described as the largest naval battle since the Battle of Actium in 30 B.C. Don John’s forces lost 15 ships and 9,000 men. Ali Pasha, who was beheaded during the fighting lost 62 ships and 25,000 men, almost a total loss. There was virtually no strategy by either side, as the ships just ran together and fought, virtually as a land battle of soldiers on ships.

“Only God could have saved so divided a Europe against so determined and savage, rich and heavily armed a foe. After Lepanto, the Turk remained a menace, but not an unconquerable one.” (Otto Scott, The Great Christian Revolution, p. 110-1)

For a great review of the Lepanto battle, see Chapters 15-22 of Empires of the Sea, an engaging and easily readable book by Roger Crawley.

The Defeat of the Spanish Armada, July 29, 1588

The reader should note the power of the Spanish fleet above. It consisted of 131 ships against the English 55 ships. The intent of the Armada was to bring England, who was experiencing a fragmented Reformation, back under Roman Catholicism. Phillip II of Spain was acting under a Papal Bull that had excommunicated Elizabeth I. Both the strategic use of fire ships, English maneuvering, and weather defeated the Armada, although is escaped with most of its ships intact.

This defeat allowed further growth of the Protestant Reformation in Ireland, England, and especially Scotland.

St. Bartholomew’s Massacre, August 24, 1572

In France, the Reformation under the leadership of Admiral Coligny was growing against Roman Catholic resistance. Over one-third of France had become Protestant, who were known as Hugenots. Through a series of deceptions, intrigue, and plotting, by Catherine de Medicis, Henry the Duke of Anjou, and the Duke of Guise, Charles IX was convinced that the Caligny and the Hugenots were a threat to himself and to France. He shouted, “Kill them all! Kill them all! He want none left to reproach him. There ensued the bloodiest massacre of the Reformation and of all history. There were over 30,000 dead, including women and children. (Some accounts say 100,000 dead.)

“…the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre permanently altered Protestant thinking. The Calvinists turned away from acceptance of the ‘divine right’ of kings, to questioning the entire institution of monarchy.” (Scott, The Great…, pp. 113-4.)

It is this author’s opinion that this event committed France to being a second-rate nation under God’s condemnation until the time that they nationally repent of this reprehensible act.

The French Fleet Sent to Destroy America, 1747

Louis XV, the French king, commissioned the Duc d’Anville, to “dismantle, Louisbourg, (a strategic naval base on the southeast coast of Canada)… expel the British from Nova Scotia, ravage New England, and waster the British Indies.” The British were aware of the preparations in France for this expedition and were prepared to stop it, but when the French fleet left, the British fleet was unable to get out of port because of fierce headwinds. Thus, the Americans were defenseless against 13,000 soldiers and seamen in 73 ships, who were to join with four more large warships at (present day) Halifax.

New England was helpless, but providentially it was in midst of the Great Awakening, and a day of prayer was called. (Longfellow wrote a poem of this event.) The French fleet ran into trouble after trouble. Before they left port, a gale struck the fleet. Adverse winds or no wind hounded them all the way across the Atlantic. Food and water went bad. Sickness was rampant. Then, another storm hit, wreaking further damage. The duke died of a strange disease, and his 2nd in command fell on his sword.

The fleet still determined to attack Annapolis Royal, but anther storm did further damage, and they abandoned any further attacks, setting sail for France and home. All but two ships had been lost and at least 4000 lives due to sickness (primarily) and accident. They never reached any destined targets nor fired a shot.

This destruction of the French fleet is one of may Acts of Providence in the history of the United States in its founding and since (see the Battle of Midway). Marshall Foster gives a rousing lecture on how the United States is the culmination of 5000 years of God’s Providence, including many miracles, and that He is not through with her yet.

Countries that have been considerably influenced by Christianity.