A History of Christianity (2009–…): Season 1, Episode 5 - Protestantism: The Evangelical Explosion - full transcript

Do you want subtitles for any video?
-=[ ai.OpenSubtitles.com ]=-

It's eight o'clock in the morning in
Seoul, Korea and I'm between crowds

at the first and second services
in the Yoido Full Gospel Church.

This is Protestantism at the
beginning of the 21st century.

In the fifth part of my History of
Christianity, I'm tracing the growth

of an exuberant expression of faith
that has spread across the globe.


Evangelical Protestantism.

Today, it is associated with
full-blooded emotion and, by some,
with conservative politics.

But the whole story
is not what you might expect.

In my previous programme, I showed
how the Protestant faith broke away

from medieval Catholicism to build
a Protestant homeland in Europe.

Now I'll follow the events
that led it to burst its boundaries.

America, Africa,

even Asia.

Protestantism was born out
of a religious revolution
in the 16th century -

the Reformation.

For a hundred years
it made great strides across Europe

with an explosion
of new Protestant churches -

Lutherans, Calvinists,
Anabaptists, Anglicans.

The response of the Catholic Church
culminated in the Thirty Years War.

That left Protestantism
severely bruised.

And by the end of the 17th century,
it was largely confined
to northern Europe.

It looked as though the Reformation
had been stopped in its tracks.

And yet from 1700
the story of Protestantism

has been one of relentless
expansion. So what happened?

What's the power of Protestantism
that's made it circle the world?

This is Herrnhut on the
far eastern border of Germany.

The Protestant explosion
might never have happened

without a small group of Christians
who settled here in 1722.

And these are their gravestones,
the Moravian Brethren.

They had been persecuted by
Catholics in their homeland -
the modern day Czech Republic.

So they fled 255 miles west to safe
Protestant Saxony.

Once here a Lutheran nobleman, Count
Zinzendorf, headstrong, charismatic,

rich, offered them his land
and leadership for a new community.

Zinzendorf loved his Lutheran roots
but he was seeking something more.

What made his new Moravian community
stand out from other Protestants

was its intensely personal,
emotional relationship with God.

It was a re-discovery
of the historical heart
of the Christian faith -

eternal salvation through a
personal experience of Jesus Christ.

There is still a strong
Moravian community here.

I joined them on one of their big
days - the Advent service.

In their new home, the Moravians
worshipped several times a day,
every day.

And they sang,
sometimes for days on end.

The Protestant Reformation
had certainly told human beings

that they stood alone
before God's judgement.

But the Moravians were saying
they could stand in a direct
emotional relationship with God.

Less of the head, more of the heart.

It was an idea that would
revolutionise Protestantism.

And there was another innovation
of the Moravians which breathed
new life into Protestantism.

In Germany today, they're
famous for their Christmas stars.

But in the 18th century,
they pioneered something
far more significant.

Christianity had
always been a missionary faith

but that job was normally
carried out by professional clergy.

Ordinary Moravians took the
unprecedented step of conducting
missionary work themselves.

And they weren't just interested in
taking the message out to Europe.

In fact the very first
Moravian missionary
headed straight for the new world.

I looked through the Moravian
archives with its director,
Dr Rudiger Kroger.

We have here the diary of the
first missionary, Leonard Dober,

who went to St Thomas in 1732.

In the West Indies? It's in the
West Indies in the Caribbean, yes.

For example we have in this diary
an entry from early January 1733

that reads he went to the
plantation to establish

his profession as a potter

but the work
was not very successful because
of the bad condition of the clay.

But they were using the
time to speak to the slaves.

That is what the
Moravians were looking for,

a possibility to talk with the people
about their religious feelings.

I think it's extraordinary that this
humble, working man crosses the seas

to share his faith with other
humble, working people.

What is it about the Moravians
which impels them to do this?

The Moravians have the duty
for everyone to talk about

the faith, to talk about the
gospel and to help people learning,

being free to practise their faith.

And you don't need being a pastor,
it's a new way of seeing...

living together in Christianity.

The Moravian archives are bursting
with stories like Leonard Dober's.

Immortalised in paintings,
these pioneering missionaries spread
the good news of Christianity

as far as Africa and Greenland.

It's why they are called Evangelical
from the Greek word "evangelion"

meaning "Good News."

Evangelical Christianity
was on the march.

But it wasn't
quite the finished product.

That would happen in England.

The Moravians had the gift
of turning people's emotions
into faith.

They helped change the life
of one young Englishman -

an Anglican priest who then
seized the future of Protestantism.

His name was John Wesley.

Bristol in the West of England
is one of the founding centres

of a denomination which helped turn
the Moravian dream into reality -

Its founder, John Wesley,
started out as an Anglican clergyman

but one who appreciated
the intense richness of Catholicism.

Wesley met the Moravians in 1735
on board ship.

He'd set sail from England
with his brother Charles
to take up a new job in America.

The brothers were already out of
step with the established Church
of England because they were

High Churchmen who emphasised the
Catholic side of Anglicanism.

At university in Oxford they had
been one of a group of students
who formed a Holy Club

which brought a sort of
Counter-Reformation Catholic

to low-temperature
English Protestantism -

they fasted, they went to
communion as often as possible,
they worked to help the poor.

It was a very methodical way
of trying to achieve holiness

and early on someone, without
apparently any friendly intent,

called them Methodists.

The Methodists were not
yet a new denomination.

But the Wesley's chance meeting with
the Moravians would take them

a step closer, especially as the
brothers were heading for
personal crisis in America.

They fell out with local colonists.

John had a disastrous love affair.

They sailed home
defeated and depressed.

But back in England they kept
in touch with the Moravians.

One night in 1738 in London,
John attended Anglican Evensong
and then a Moravian prayer meeting.

It was a powerful combination
that would change both him
and Protestantism.

Something new
happened to John Wesley that night.

In a phrase now famous,
he felt his heart strangely warmed.

While the solemn music of evensong
was still ringing in his memory,

he listened to Martin Luther's
restatement of
Paul's message to the Romans.

"We're saved by faith alone."
The Reformation came alive for him.

A new fire, a new urgency came in
his religion and it burst through

the hymns of the Moravians to create
a new message for his generation.

For both Wesley brothers
what mattered in their faith now
was a direct relationship with God.

They wanted to spread
this message of salvation
just as the Moravians had done.

But the Wesleys also brought
a new element to Protestantism

that helped it reach out to
millions more around the world.

They saw that society was being
transformed around them and they
hurried to bring frightened

and bewildered folk
the Gospel good news
in the middle of huge social change.

In the 18th century
industrialisation displaced
millions from the countryside

to new population centres such as
the modern day outskirts of Bristol.

But the Church of England
had no buildings here.

For a rather prissy parson, John
Wesley found a surprising solution.

An old friend from Oxford,
George Whitefield, had taken to
preaching in the open air.

John decided to give it a go
at Hanham Mount, then close
to a large mining community.

According to local
Methodist Colin Cradock it
was a risky choice of venue.

Cock Road which is close by here

was a notorious area
for lawlessness and so on

and then there were the miners
themselves, who in 18th century

society they must have been the real
lowest of the artisans, I imagine.

So the sort of place your
mother tells you not to go?

Well, it was, definitely, I don't
think anybody of any respectability

would come out here and for Wesley to
do it was just absolutely astounding.

And the effect he had on people?
He had a dramatic effect on them.

The miners wept - these black sooty
faces had white lines down them.


For the first time,
someone cared enough to come looking
for the miners, to save their souls.

It's often forgotten
that a concern for social justice

is part of the original DNA
of Evangelical Christianity.

The Methodists went on to build
their own chapels that were quite
separate from the Church of England.

This was their first - John Wesley's
own headquarters in Bristol,
his 'New Room'.

And it wasn't just the words of
John Wesley that moved people.

It was also the magnificent
hymns of his brother Charles.

Strange. It's so cool
and classical and ordered.

Yet in 1739 it would have been
deafening in services here

with shouts of joy and repentance,

and the roar of Charles's
new hymns about Christ's
blood and sacrificial death.

# This is my desire... #

Maybe that initial intensity has
cooled for many Methodists today.

# ..to honour you... #

But you can still get a glimpse of
the fervour of those early meetings

all over the modern
evangelical world.

# Lord, I give you my heart,
I give you my soul

# I live for you alone
Every breath that I take

# Every moment I'm awake... #

By 1800, around
half a million people in Britain

attended Methodist worship -
that's over 5% of the population,

grown from nothing, in 60 years.


Heartfelt Protestant religion
was hugely popular in Wales

and spread among Scottish
and Irish Presbyterians too.

It was an Evangelical Revival.

The Evangelical message reached
all levels of society.

Like the Moravians in Germany
the Evangelicals discovered an
intensely personal Reformation.

They reached into their
bibles to meet Christ, but they also

reached into the depths of their own
souls to make that meeting complete.

And they hungered to get
others to do the same.

Up till now the Catholic
Church had set the pace for
Western Christian missionary work.

But that was about to change
with a religious revival
across the Atlantic.

In the New World,
Protestantism would triumph.

In America, there's a bewildering
range of Protestant denominations -
Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist,

Unitarian, Episcopalian,
7th Day Adventist, you name it.

Does that mean Protestants
constantly flounce off
and start something new?

Well, they do,
but that's also really the key to
the exuberance of American religion.

The first shoots of
American diversity lie

in an outburst of heartfelt religion
in New England in the 1730s.

At the start of the revival
was a brilliant scholar,

a Congregational minister in
Northampton, Massachusetts.

His name was Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards insisted that we must
worship God with the whole person,
mind and emotion.

And from the greatest philosopher
to the smallest child
we must love God in simplicity.

He once said in a sermon,
"If ever you arrive at heaven,

"faith and love must be the
wings which must carry you there".

It was Edwards's congregation
which first experienced
revival in America.

But there was more to
come - the rousing spirit
which Europe was now experiencing.

It was brought by an Evangelical
Englishman Edwards invited
to address his congregation.

George Whitefield -
the same man who inspired
John Wesley to preach outdoors.

He's buried in the Old
South Church in Newburyport.

And that's
where I met an American Church

historian who believes that Edwards
got more than he bargained for.

While Edwards welcomed the message

he didn't really like Whitefield's
manner of delivery.

Whitefield of course brought this new
style of preaching that was dramatic,

it was extemporaneous, that is
he didn't use any manuscripts.

He would rely on inspiration
moving back and forth, using gesture,
enacting scenes from the bible.

It's said that
people would faint when he
pronounced the word Mesopotamia.

It sounds to me as though Whitefield
would be a welcome visitor

for Edwards but not
necessarily a welcome colleague.

Tell me about it. After Whitefield
leaves his congregation is a wreck.

So Edwards tries to separate the
physical from the spiritual.

And he says to his congregation
what were you more impressed by,

were you more impressed by
the eloquence of the preacher
and what was more lasting for you?

Was it the message
of the new birth

and did it have
any difference in your heart?

The reality is that the revival
unfolding in New England needed a
bit of what both men had to offer.

The intellect and
considered argument of Edwards

balanced the crowds' emotional
response to Whitefield's challenges.

Well, this
is the grave of George Whitefield.

It actually feels remarkably like
the shrine of a Catholic saint
until you realise that he is

actually sharing the basement
of this church with the
church heating system.

He was an extraordinary preacher.

In the open air his voice could
carry so that ten thousand or
more people could hear him.

And he came to this country to a
movement which is already

springing up in all sorts of
churches -

the movement we collectively call
the 'Great Awakening'.

In the 18th century,
emotional preachers like Whitefield
stirred passions as never before.

He demanded
that people made choices.

Protestant Churches like the
Presbyterians and Baptists were
turned into missionary power houses.

MAN: Thank you Joe, all right
we're on our way.

Now a little bit about Boston,
this was the birthplace

of the American Revolution -
our struggle
for freedom from British rule.

Evangelical Protestantism now
swept through much of America.

Here in Boston you can
always tell you're on land...

And it did so for very special,
very American reasons.

Here we go into the Charles River!

In the 1760s a group
of Boston citizens who called
themselves the "Sons of Liberty"

began rioting in the streets
to protest British rule and
British taxes.

The spread of Evangelicalism was
an accidental side effect of the

American Revolution, sparked by
a famous incident here in Boston.

In the course of the next few hours
we took 342 chests of tea...

..threw it in the harbour.
King said we had to pay the tax

when it hits the dock,
he didn't say anything
about when it hits the water.

In 1773 the Boston Tea Party
launched a series of clashes

that led to American
independence from Britain.

To the consternation of many
Christians, the founding fathers

decided to separate church from
state in their new Republic's
Federal constitution.

In time, the privileges of
established churches in
individual states also ended.

After centuries as an official
religion tied to the state,
Christianity was cut free.

All the
gains of Evangelical Protestantism
might seem to have been at risk.

The separation of church and
state was an historic moment
for the Christian faith.

Since the 4th century,
mainstream western Christianity
had been an arm of government.

Now it stood alone.

You might think that this would
be devastating for churches -
in fact it was quite the opposite.

The historic decision to separate
church and state

had a wholly unexpected effect
on the future of Protestantism.

It let people choose.

You can see the
results of that decision

in the huge number of denominations
that still sprout and flourish
right across the United States.

In exchange for breaking all
federal ties with the church,

the Founding Fathers gave Americans
religious liberty.

And that meant the freedom to choose
any Christianity -
no matter how emotional.

It unleashed another Evangelical
revival - a second Great Awakening,

this time
on America's western frontier.

In 1800, Kentucky
was in the Wild West.

It's not surprising that some
of the wilder manifestations

of modern Evangelical Christianity
found a home here.

An annual gathering
marks the events.

Remember, this was a frontier.

All sorts of people
were chancing their luck.

Many of them came from Britain.

That was really important for what
happened here, because among them

were Scottish Protestants
whose people had already moved once,
to settle in Ulster in Ireland.

Frontier Ulster had the same
sense of danger, excitement,

limitless potential, as the Wild
West frontier in Hollywood movies.

It was actually in Ulster
that Protestants first gathered

in huge numbers for open-air
holy communion services.

And when they came to North America
they brought that memory with them.

It was on this new frontier
that the idea of open-air revival
gained a new lease of life.

This particular communion there was
a service late in the weekend and
during this sermon one woman

spoke out, cried out, seeking
assurance of her salvation, which of
course that disrupted the service.

And at the end of the sermon the
organising ministers left the church
but the congregation stayed inside,

they seemed to be waiting,
if you will, for what God
was going to do next.

This must have been quite troubling
for the ministers? Oh, absolutely.

I've read that they held a small
conference outside the building
to decide what they should do

and their decision was, and I think
a very wise one, is they would not
interrupt what was happening inside.

I believe they may have gone
back in and joined and that's
when they saw God's spirit fall.

People were falling out - slain in
the spirit would be a term that
we would call it in modern times.

It sounds as if people
are trying to find ways

of expressing what they feel beyond
what they can normally do in church?

Oh, absolutely. You had the running
exercise where people would be so

enthralled with what they felt
God doing in them

that they would literally run,
I don't know circles,
run around the camp. I'm not sure.

But then you had
the barking exercise,
you had a laughing exercise,

when the power of God comes upon you,
it has to come out in some way
or you feel like you may burst.

God so loved the world, yea the
ungodly world which had no...

Praise the lord! Praise the lord!



The emotion raced
across the new Republic.

The white-hot religion of
the second Great Awakening
lasted almost 50 years.

And it helped create something new.

Congregations that up until now
had remained offshoots

of European churches
had fresh choices - you might
almost say, consumer choices.

Christianity was marketed
with all the flair and swashbuckling

enterprise that the United States
showed in its commerce and industry.

Frontier Protestantism had become
not only 'popular'
but distinctly 'American'.

The energy of the revivals led to
new identities for Christianity.

From 7th Day Adventists,
and Millerites, to Mormons,

the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints, they saw America
at the centre of God's purposes.

It's easy to stress the emotional
side of American evangelicalism.

But we need to remember that many
of them were also socially radical.

Like Methodists,
American evangelicals
offered marginal groups fresh hope.

# This little light of mine

# I'm going to let it shine

# Oh, this little light of mine

# I'm going to let it shine

# This little heart of mine... #

The message entranced
African Americans,
most of whom were still enslaved.

offers a choice, to turn to Jesus.

These people had never
had a choice in their whole lives.

They went on to found
their own churches.

Belle Mead Plantation near
Nashville couldn't have
functioned without slaves.

On its gracious lawns, I talked
about the importance of evangelical

revival for African Americans
with scholar Denis Dickerson.

In these camp meeting venues,

persons high and low,
black and white,

rich and poor
were invited to hear the gospel

and many of the scriptures
that were preached

obviously were heard by African
Americans as ensuring their equality.

"For all have sinned and come
short of the glory of God."

"God hath made of one blood all
people to dwell upon the earth."

But many slave owners were
evangelical Protestants

and many evangelical Protestants
justified slavery
in reference to the Bible.

Were they just being
stupid and selfish?

The slaves knew that the
Bible had competing themes.

Those who wanted to justify
slavery often had to appeal
to those many, many instances

in the scriptures, particularly
in the Old Testament, sometimes in
the New Testament, that there was

hierarchy, there were servants, there
were slaves, that seemingly were
sanctioned by religious authorities.

The slaves themselves however
developed their own interpretation.

They could easily cite that same God
who had liberated the Hebrews

and had brought them through
an Exodus experience

would also do the same
for them in the United States.

There was another important
and unexpected reason

why Bible-believing
African Americans accepted
the religion of their oppressors.

Some white evangelicals came to see
slavery as evil and anti-Christian

and they campaigned alongside
the enslaved for abolition.

In our present age,
it's worth remembering that together

evangelical Christians once led this
great rebellion against the common

understanding of the Bible,
overturning the moral
assumptions of their time.

By the mid-19th century, the most
dynamic and expansionist society

in the world was a Protestant great
power, the United States.

I think that we should
forget old cliches

about a Protestant work ethic,
contrasting somehow
with Catholicism.

We're looking here
at a huge historical coincidence.

Circumstances converged
to make the world's leading
industrial nation Protestant.

And so
its brand of Protestant culture also
became a world-conquering force.

Even non-Christian Japanese
hurried to copy American capitalism.

In fact you could say mission had
been thrust upon Protestants now

by a dramatic turn of events in the
heartland of Catholicism in Europe.

From 1789, the French Revolution
signalled the end of the old world.

The French monarchy collapsed,
the Roman Catholic church

was tottering - surely these were
the signs of the end of the world.

Now was the time for
Protestants to proclaim the
truth before it was too late.

So, just at the moment when Catholic
missions were faltering, Protestants
set out to conquer the world.

Africa was not only a long
way from the Protestant
heartlands of America and Europe.

It was also culturally very distant.

Counter-Reformation Catholicism
had tried and failed to
make serious in-roads here.

And on the West African coast
the reason is still plain to see.

This is one of the many forts
where captured Africans

were held before being shipped
to the New World as slaves.

Not surprising then that few West
Africans listened to any talk
of Christianity from Europeans.

For three-and-a-half centuries
the slave trade had poisoned
relations between Europe and Africa.

Now the campaign for its abolition
proved vital for the success
of African Protestantism.

This is the Anglican Cathedral,
in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

Christianity here descends from
Africans who, freed from slavery,
returned to Africa.

They were mostly
fervent evangelicals,

impatient to help their
fellow Africans choose salvation.

And this gave a new idea
to the British Anglican

Church Missionary Society, the CMS -
self-governing churches overseas.

The society began looking
to these new West African
settlements for local leadership.

And they found one
outstanding candidate.

A young man who'd been rescued
from slavers and who'd
settled in Sierra Leone.

His name was Ajayi
but he took two English names,

in fact the names of a committee
member of the CMS, Samuel Crowther.

So Samuel Ajayi Crowther, came to
England, trained for the ministry
and was ordained an Anglican priest.

I wanted to give God a mighty
clap offering.

Again, a mighty clap offering!

Crowther set about sowing the seeds
of African Anglicanism, with a
distinctly evangelical flavour.

He saw that to succeed,
Protestantism would have to
adapt to African culture.

He translated the Bible
into his native Yoruba language.

And was successful enough
to be given the post of
Bishop of Western Africa.

But Crowther's initiatives
were ahead of the times,
and his impact was limited.

He wanted authority over both
black and white missionaries
in West Africa

but his English
white superiors had a problem.

Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu,

a Ghanaian church historian,
told me what it was.

As a boy I collected stamps
and I have vivid memories
of the stamp commemorating

Bishop Crowther and I saw it as a
great success story that there
should be a bishop from West Africa.

But was it such a success story?

Yes, and no.

For an African with a slave past

to rise to the level that Crowther
did, was by itself an achievement

but he was betrayed because
they wanted to put an African at the
forefront of the missionary work

but I think when it came to the point
when they then had to hand the

destiny of the church into African
hands, then they had a problem.

So they wanted
their cake and eat it?

You may well put it that way.

White European missionaries did try
to evangelise this vast continent.

The most famous attempt
was that of David Livingstone
in Southern and Central Africa.

But his was actually
an heroic failure.

He made only one recorded convert,
who later fell out with him
and formed his own Church.

This was the same lesson that
Crowther had taught the Church.

Christianity could take
root in Africa but only if
it was led by African missionaries.

And eventually, it was.

What was happening quietly through
the 19th century was that Africans

themselves were doing mission in
ways that Europeans hardly noticed.

So young men would
travel, they'd go to services

in new places, they'd learn new
hymns and they'd bring them home.

Market women would sell Christianity
using their sales skills.

Teachers would be taught
by the missionaries

and when the missionaries moved on
they'd go on teaching.

They'd be able to tell Africa
about Christianity in African terms.

At the start of the 20th
century, perhaps 10% of
Africans were Christian.

Today, it may be half the continent.


How has it happened?

One curious catalyst was the
outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Many European missionaries left.

And the ghastliness of the war
didn't say much for the
Christianity of Europe.

Two good reasons for
Africans to take control.

One of the greatest pioneering
African missionaries
was William Wade Harris.

He was a political activist in
prison here in West Africa,

when in 1913
he had a revelation that
he had been chosen as a prophet.

Once released, he set out
to convert Africans to Christianity.

You have to picture Harris striding
through the villages of the
Ivory Coast and here in Ghana.

He's dressed in a simple white robe,
he's carrying a six-foot cross
and holding a gourd of water.

With him are his team of two
or three women, who are singing,

playing the calabash to
bring out the spirits of the
guardian angels and the holy spirit.

While Harris is exhorting people
to give up traditional religion.

But his converts didn't want to
join the established European
churches because their services

just didn't celebrate God
in the way Africans wanted.

Worse still,
European-run Churches condemned
African practices like polygamy.

So Harris' followers chose to
form their own network of churches.

The Church of the Twelve Apostles
is one descendant.

This is a
Friday service for healing.

The congregation is mainly
made up of women market traders.

They've taken the day off,
leaving the men to work on
while they worship.


This seems a million miles from
the churches I know back in Oxford.

But that's the great strength
of Christianity, its ability to
adapt and assimilate.

Behind this very African
experience I can see features
which all communities value.

In Western Europe
all these things that we've got
here are elsewhere, they're

on the dance floor in a nightclub,
they're in a football stadium,
they're in the therapy room.

Here it's all brought
together into one.

You're worshipping God
within a very tight system. It looks
spontaneous but of course it isn't.

It's got it's own rules, it builds
up, it dies back, there are people

to help you find your way through
it, they push you even into it.

And it's about healing.

All around you, the power of God is
pushing out of a community which is

dressed up to be like you, to be
with you in your time of trouble.

In your everyday boredoms, your
frustrations, you bring them here,
you dump them and you dance on them.

You know, in Africa or in Ghana
we believe that every sickness

it's caused by, it's a curse,
or it's caused by the devil.

So we believe that once the
problem is spiritual
it should be solved spiritually.

And when the music happens
that's part of the healing?

The music invokes the spirit, the
holy spirit to come upon the leaders,

the healers, and when the music
is going on some are even healed.

When the music is going on and we
hear people shouting they
are getting healed,

though they are not touched, but
they are getting healed by the music.

And that is why people come to us, we
are always the last to be approached,

the last to be approached
and the first to solve the problems.

Local leaders across the continent

led a quite breathtaking growth
in this new African Christianity.

From the nine million
Christians in Africa in 1900,
there are now more than 380 million.

And half of those are Protestant.

It marks the
biggest ever shift in the centre of
gravity of Christianity.

2,000 years ago, it was in
Jerusalem, later Constantinople,
by 1600 it had shifted to Spain.

Today, the midpoint of Christianity
is Saharan Africa.

There are as many Christians to
the south and east of Timbuktu
as there are to the north and west.

The key to Protestant expansion
has been the willingness to change.

This direct, heartfelt encounter
with God started with the Moravians.

It was boosted by Methodism
and evangelical revival.

The message swept across
America in the Great Awakenings.

And it spread across Africa.

And with each new setting
came new Protestant churches.

By the 20th century,
they even challenged the historic

ascendancy of Roman Catholicism
in Latin America.

It's taken the number of
Christian denominations worldwide
to more than 30,000.

But now it's expanding even further

and it may be
that Protestantism is moving too far
away from the teachings of Jesus.

Today, South Korea is a prosperous
nation with a thriving economy.

It's hard to imagine that only 60
years ago this was a traumatised

and impoverished country
reeling from the effects
of Japanese occupation.

Throughout the Japanese occupation
the churches were prominent
in the struggle for freedom.

It meant that Christianity
was identified with national
suffering and national pride.

After liberation it became
involved in another struggle,
rebuilding a shattered Korea.

Here, it produced one of the
most dramatic success stories
in modern Christian history,

Korean Pentecostalism.

The Yoido Full Gospel Church started
with five Koreans meeting in a tent.

Now it has over three quarters
of a million members worldwide.

The hymns might be in Korean
but the tunes are straight out
of the Evangelical Revivals.

In fact, Pentecostalism has built on
a 19th century American tradition.

It was called the Holiness Movement.

It harked back to the revivals of
Wesley's Methodism.

At its heart is the emotional side
of faith,

the direct,
personal choice for God.

What's new is that Pentecostals
have found God in a way with little
precedent in Christian history.

They've met the Holy Spirit,
who's often seemed the
Cinderella of the Trinity.

The Bible says that 50 days
after the death of Jesus

the Holy Spirit descended
upon the Apostles
at the Jewish feast of Pentecost.

It was a life-changing experience.

The disciples
are said to have spoken in tongues,

an unknown but sacred language
which all present could understand.

They were filled with such energy,
they chose to spread the
message of Jesus to the world.

Pentecostals believe present-day
Christians can also receive those
"gifts of the Spirit".

And that's
what you're seeing here today.

But there's another aspect to the
success of Korean Pentecostalism
which is far more controversial.

It's the promise of good fortune
and prosperity for believers.

That's been christened,
by those who mistrust it,
the "prosperity gospel".

It came out of the
inter-war years in America.

Capitalism in the service of Jesus.

American consumer choice for God.

In the past, Protestantism offered
hope of eternal salvation regardless
of problems in the here and now.

In Korea, that assurance
has become more immediate.

You no longer need to wait
for the hereafter to reap
the benefits of the Christian faith.

Is this one adaptation too far?

That's certainly what I heard from a
Korean Presbyterian theologian,
Professor Sang Keun Kim.

It is simple.

If you go to church and give
offering, you will be blessed.

Your economic success is guaranteed.

So this really is prosperity?

That's right. Can you see problems
in the Bible with this message?


It is very hard

to a rich man...to get into heaven.

You know, from that passage, I think,

sooner or later

you are not able to see
any Koreans in heaven!

Because prosperity gospel

had a positive contribution
during the 1970s and '80s.

It provided a new sort of hope.

But nowadays
ordinary Koreans or society

think that Korean Protestants
are a little bit selfish to ask more

offerings, bigger churches,
bigger buildings.

People think that that is not

the basic tenet of the religion.

The Yoido style of Pentecostalism
has all the glitz of a Hollywood
musical from the 1950s.

I was intrigued to meet the man
behind the phenomenon.

Pastor David Yonggi Cho is
now retired but I asked him

about his memories of those early
years when he first began spreading
the gospel message in Korea.

When I went to preach gospel
to the poor people

their suffering was enormous
and many of them
said we don't need any religion.

If you have such a wonderful
heaven, why don't you give up

part of a heaven right now here,
we need a real God who helps us.

So I really prayed to God
and I found out

that in the redemption
of Jesus Christ I could
find a redemption of spirit, life

and physical body.

Jesus Christ was crucified on the
cross redeeming us from sin,
sickness and curse.

So I called that triple

gospel of Jesus Christ
and I began to really build up hope

in the heart of people, that it is
not just religion beyond the death,

but a religion now, here, and that
really moved the heart of the people
to come to the Pentecostal Church.

Does this mean that
salvation will always
lead to worldly success and wealth?

When they are saying that they stop
smoking, they stopped drinking, they
began to save money, they stopped

gambling, they don't waste their
money, naturally by doing that kind
of life they are becoming wealthy.

The Yoido congregation
is one of the most spectacular

faces of evangelical
Protestantism in the 21st century.

So it was interesting
that I heard quite a sober tone

in Pastor Cho's reflections
on his lifetime of success.

But not actually a rejection
of the link between worldly
success and salvation.

Korean Pentecostals are doing what
Christians have always done,

reflect on a host of voices
within the Bible
and make their own choices.

Is it fair to accuse them
of throwing away core values?

On the question of wealth
they'd be entitled to point out
that the New Testament is ambiguous.

Do you reject riches
or work hard and use them well?

Jesus and the Apostle Paul
give you different answers

and Pentecostals may well be a
pointer to the Christian future.

At the moment, they look and sound
like evangelical Protestants, but I
wonder if that's where they'll stay.

This is a religion
blown by the Holy Spirit,

and you never know
where that will end up.

The Spirit
doesn't hide in the pages of a book,
even when the book is the Bible.

Protestantism has come
a long way since the
first Moravian missionaries

were inspired
to go out into the world
and tell others about their faith.

Protestantism succeeded
because it gave a new identity
to people facing new situations.

In the process
it changed as much as its converts.

But a strange thing's happened.

The Protestant faith now faces
its greatest challenge ever, not

from some distant culture but from
the Protestant homeland, Europe.

Today, the mood in Europe seems
full of religious indifference.

Not even hostility,
just indifference.

In my final episode
I want to examine what this will
mean for the Christian faith.

Why does Christianity,
of all major world religions,

question itself in the peculiar
fashion of Western Europe?

Should God be worried?

Why not take part in the Open
University's online survey,

"What does it mean to
be a Christian today?"


And follow the links.