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In this section an attempt has been made to sketch some of the most important developments of the first five hundred years of Christian history. By the year 500 the Church had been for more than a century the only legal religious institution in what remained of the Western Roman Empire, whose subjects were thus, nominally at least, Christians. The Church was an essentially new institution in the Mediterranean World, one with which no previous tribe, polis, nation, or empire had had to come to terms. Because of the position which it enjoyed, the Church had called into existence a new problem, one which persists to this day in Western Civilization: the problem of church and state. From the Roman Empire the Western Church had borrowed the model for what was a large and effective organization, which had in the bishop a figure of great influence, both civil and religious, both real and potential; and in the bishop of Rome one whose claims to head the entire Church had already been advanced and in many ways supported. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section I: Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem: Background of Western Civilization. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.