Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.
Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, telling tribulations, inspirational progress, and everything in between.
Here are just a few things that happened this week, Aug. 19-25, in Church history. They include the death of Blaise Pascal, the founding of the World Council of Churches, and the beginning of a brutal massacre of Protestants.
Blaise Pascal Dies – August 19, 1662
This week marks the anniversary of when Blaise Pascal, notable French mathematician, scientist, and religious philosopher, died from a malignant stomach tumor at age 39.
A native of Clermont-Ferrand, France, Pascal is credited with many discoveries and inventions, including an early calculator, a roulette machine, and reportedly, an early type of wristwatch.
Pascal also made pioneering advancements in scientific research on multiple fields, influencing the course of geometry, physics, and even computer science.
He was also a devout Christian who developed the well-known “Pascal’s Wager,” which argued that believing in the Christian God carried eternal significance while not believing in God has no downside, therefore it makes more sense to believe in God even if you’re not fully convinced of His existence.
“Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is … If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is,” wrote Pascal.
World Council of Churches Founded – August 23, 1948
This week marks the anniversary of when the World Council of Churches, a major global ecumenical movement, was founded at an assembly held in Amsterdam.
The inaugural gathering was comprised of 147 different churches, representing various denominations and nations, with a theme centered on “Man’s Disorder and God’s Design.”
Since then, the WCC has grown to include approximately 350 member churches, representing an estimated 500 million Christians from over 100 different nations.
“While the bulk of the WCC’s founding churches were European and North American, today most member churches are in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific,” explained the WCC’s website.
“For its member churches, the WCC is a unique space: one in which they can reflect, speak, act, worship and work together, challenge and support each other, share and debate with each other.”
St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre Begins – August 24, 1572
This week marks the anniversary of when the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day began, a two-day slaughter of French Protestants, or Huguenots, in France.
The massacre had its origins in French court intrigue, as the influential Catherine de Médicis encouraged Catholic nobility to strike at rival Protestant elites who had gathered for a wedding in Paris.
Estimates vary as to the exact toll, but it is agreed that thousands of Huguenots were murdered in Paris alone, plus others who were attacked in several French provinces.
“Instead of crippling the Huguenot party as Catherine had hoped it would do, the massacre revived hatred between Roman Catholics and Huguenots and helped provoke a renewal of hostilities,” noted Britannica.com.
“Thenceforth the Huguenots abandoned John Calvin’s principle of obedience to the civil magistrate — that is, to the royal authority — and adopted the view that rebellion and tyrannicide were justifiable under certain circumstances.”