October 1, 1509: Birth of John Calvin, French Protestant reformer, in Noyon, France. In 1536 he published his first edition of his classic Institutes of the Christian Religion, which became the most systematic Protestant doctrinal statement of the Reformation (see issue 12: Calvin).
October 1, 1529: The Colloquy of Marburg, which attempted to unify the followers of Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, begins. It would close in failure October 4. While the Reformers agreed on 14 of the 15 articles, they remained divided over the Lutheran doctrine of the Eucharist (consubstantiation). Thus Switzerland remained Reformed and Germany stayed Lutheran—and dreams of a united European front against Roman Catholicism died (see issue 39: Luther's Later Years).
October 2, 1792: A dozen English ministers form the Baptist Missionary Society "for the propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen, according to the recommendations of [William] Carey's Enquiry" (see issue 36: William Carey).
October 2, 1800: Slave and lay preacher Nat Turner is born in Southampton County, Virginia. Inspired by biblical texts, the deeply religious and ascetic Turner received visions of liberating his people. On August 22, 1831, he led a major revolt with 60 other slaves, killing 57 white Virginians (see issue 62: Black Christianity before the Civil War).
October 3, 1692: Puritan clergy in Salem, Massachusetts, agree there would be no more executions resulting from the witch trials. More than 150 suspected witches had been put on trial in the previous year, and 19 had been hanged.
October 3, 1789: George Washington names November 26 as a day of national thanksgiving for the ratification of the Constitution. On the same date in 1863, Abraham Lincoln designates the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
October 4, 1582: Spanish mystic and founder of a reformed Carmelite order Teresa of Avila dies. A model of spiritual discipline, she experienced visions of Jesus, wrote several mystical books (including her autobiography), and possessed a genius for administration.
October 4, 1669: Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, known as the "painter of the soul" for his unsurpassed Christian art (including "The Return of the Prodigal Son," c. 1668), dies.
October 4, 1890: Catherine Booth, English "mother of the Salvation Army," dies of cancer. Besides preaching as a Salvation Army minister, she persuaded her husband, William, to make women an integral part of Salvation Army leadership and work (see issue 26: William and Catherine Booth).
October 4, 1965: Paul VI becomes the first pope to visit the United States and to address the United Nations.
October 5, 869: The Fourth Constantinople Council opens. During its six sessions, the council condemned iconoclasm and anathematized Constantinople Patriarch Photius. (It's a story too complicated to go into here, but basically, there was a strong disagreement over who was the "real" patriarch, and whether Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as the Father). It was the last ecumenical council held in the East, but Eastern Orthodox Christians don't consider it a true ecumenical council (see issue 54: Eastern Orthodoxy).
October 5, 1703: American evangelical preacher and Congregational theologian Jonathan Edwards is born in East Windsor, Connecticut. The leading theologian of his day, he is known most commonly for his Great Awakening sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," which he delivered in a quiet monotone. In fact, the content of the sermon is rather atypical for Edwards (see issue 8: Jonathan Edwards).
October 5, 1744: David Brainerd, kicked out of Yale for criticizing a tutor and attending a forbidden revival meeting, begins missionary work with Native Americans along New Jersey's Susquehannah River. Jonathan Edwards's biography of Brainerd was key in promoting Christian missions and was counted by William Carey as one of his most influential reads.
October 6, 1536: English reformer William Tyndale, who translated and published the first mechanically-printed New Testament in the English language (against the law at the time) is strangled to death. His body is then burned at the stake (see issue 16: William Tyndale).
October 6, 1552: Matteo Ricci, the first Roman Catholic missionary to China, is born in Macareta, Italy. His complete adoption of Chinese customs and alliance with Confucianism (which he believed merely a civil cult, unlike Buddhism and Taoism) was criticized by other missionaries.
October 7, 1830: George Muller, a leader in the Plymouth Brethren movement and founder of Christian orphanages, weds Mary Groves, the sister of another Brethren leader. In lieu of a honeymoon, the couple set off the next day to, in George's words, "work for the Lord."
October 8, 451: The Council of Chalcedon opens to deal with the Eutychians, who believed Jesus could not have two natures. His divinity, they believed, swallowed up his humanity "like a drop of wine in the sea." The council condemned the teaching as heresy and created a confession of faith which has since been regarded as the highest word in Christology (see issue 51: Heresy in the Early Church).
October 9, 1000: Leif "the Lucky" Eriksson, who later evangelized Greenland, is reported to have been the first European to reach North America on this date. But while he was certainly a member of an early Viking voyage to "Vinland" (probably Nova Scotia), it's doubtful he led the initial expedition (see issue 63: How the Vikings Took up the Faith).
October 9, 1747: David Brainerd, pioneer missionary to Native Americans in New England, dies of tuberculosis at age 29. His journal, published by Jonathan Edwards, inspired hundreds to become missionaries, including the "father of modern Protestant missions," William Carey.
October 9, 1890: Pentecostal evangelist and national sensation Aimee Semple McPherson is born in Ontario, Canada (see issue 58: Pentecostalism).
October 9, 1958: Pope Pius XII, whose record protecting Jews in 1940s Germany is hotly debated and who formally defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (1950), dies.
October 10, 1821: Law student Charles Finney, 29, goes into the woods near his home to settle the question of his soul's salvation. That night, he experienced a dramatic conversion, full of what seemed "waves of liquid love throughout his body." Finney later became American history's greatest revivalist and is credited with the conversions of 500,000 people (see issue 20: Charles Finney).
October 11, 1521: Leo X conferred the title "Fidei Defensor" (Defender of the Faith) upon England's Henry VIII for his tract "The Assertion of the Seven Sacraments," written against Martin Luther. Three popes and 13 years later, Henry severed all ties with Rome, making the Church of England a separate church body (see issue 48: Cranmer and the English Reformation).
October 11, 1531: Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli is killed in the Battle of Kappel (see issue 4: Ulrich Zwingli).
October 11, 1551: The 13th Session of the Council of Trent opens to discuss the Eucharist. The Counter-Reformation Council affirmed the doctrine of transubstantiation and repudiated Lutheran, Calvinist, and Zwinglian eucharistic doctrines.
October 12, 1518: German reformer Martin Luther undergoes an excruciating interview about his 95 Theses (posted one year earlier) with Cardinal Thomas Cajetan in Augsburg. It was so painful, Luther later recalled, that he could not even ride a horse because his bowels ran freely from morning to night (see issue 34: Luther: The Early Years).
October 12, 1971 The rock musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" debuts on Broadway
October 13, 1670: Virginia bans slavery for Negroes who arrive in the American colonies as Christians. The law was repealed 12 years later (see issue 62: Black Christianity before the Civil War).
October 13, 1917: Three shepherd children near Fatima, Portugal, report visions of the Virgin Mary.
October 14, 1066: William the Conqueror leads the Normans to victory over the English Saxons in the Battle of Hastings. William is also considered one of England's most important religious reformers; he spent his last days in intense Christian devotion.
October 14, 1633: James II of England, whose conversion to Catholicism in 1670 created a constitutional crisis in Anglican Britain, is born.
October 14, 1644: William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania and one of the most engaging religious figures of his age, is born in London.
October 14, 1656: Massachusetts enacts a law prohibiting "Quakerism" or harboring Quakers.
October 14, 1735: John and Charles Wesley, cofounders of Methodism, set sail for ministry in America (see issue 2: John Wesley).
October 15, 1900: Charles Fox Parham opens Bethel Bible Institute in Topeka, Kansas, where Agnes Ozman and other students would speak in tongues New Year's Eve and begin the Pentecostal movement (see issue 58: Pentecostalism).
October 15, 1932: A small party of supporters gathers in Liverpool, England, to send Gladys Aylward, a 28-year-old parlormaid, off on a dangerous missionary journey to China. Though she'd been turned down by the missions agency she applied to, she went on to become one of the most amazing single woman missionaries of modern history. Her dramatic rescue of a hundred orphans is told in the movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman (see issue 52: Hudson Taylor & Missions to China).
October 15, 1949: Billy Graham skyrockets to national prominence with an evangelistic crusade in Los Angeles.
October 16, 1311: The Council of Vienne opens to decide if the Templars, a military order sworn to protect Christian pilgrims, are heretical and too wealthy. Pope Clement V decided to suppress the order. Its leader was burned and members' possessions taken by the church. That decision was adamantly derided by the poet Dante and by later historians (see issue 40: The Crusades).
October 16, 1555: English reformers Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley are burned at the stake at the order of Roman Catholic Queen Mary Tudor (see issue 48: Cranmer and the English Reformation).
October 16, 1701: Yale College (then the Collegiate School) is founded by Congregationalists unhappy with growing liberalism at Harvard.
October 16, 1859: Militant messianic abolitionist John Brown leads a group of about 20 men in a raid on the federal armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Brown believed that only violent action would end slavery and that a massive slave uprising would bring God's judgment upon unrepentant American Southerners. Furthermore, he believed that God had anointed him as the cleansing agent for his country's sin. But when the slaves around Harper's Ferry failed to rally to Brown's cause, he was overpowered. He was arrested, tried, and hanged (see issue 33: Christianity and the Civil War).
October 16, 1925: The Texas State Text Book Board bans evolutionary theory from all its textbooks (see issue 55: Fundamentalism).
October 16, 1978: The Roman Catholic College of Cardinals chooses Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to be the new pope. Taking the name John Paul II, he became the first non-Italian pope in 456 years.
October 17, 108: According to tradition, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was martyred on this date. The Apostolic Father closest in thought to the New Testament writers, Ignatius wrote seven letters under armed guard on his way to Rome—some asking that the church not interfere with his "true sacrifice."
October 17, 1480: The Spanish Inquisition is activated.
October 17, 1979: Mother Teresa is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
October 18, 1405: Enea Silvio Piccolomini (a.k.a. Pope Pius II) is born at Corsignano, Italy. Though faulted for taking radical and sometimes contradictory positions on issues, he was one of the best popes of his age: he wrote an important study of geography and ethnography, a popular love story, and an autobiography. He died in 1464 while planning a battle against the Turks, who controlled Constantinople.
October 18, 1685: French King Louis XIV issues the Edict of Fontainebleu, which revokes the Edict of Nantes and once again forbids Huguenots (French Protestants) from worshipping.
October 18, 1867: The United States purchases Alaska for $7.2 million, or about 2 cents an acre. Ten years later, after lax military administration had only worsened the territory's moral condition, an army private stationed in Alaska begged, "Send out a shepherd who may reclaim a mighty flock from the error of their ways, and gather them into the true fold." Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson answered the call and spent decades raising funds, building schools and churches, and crusading for better laws (see issue 66: Christianity in the Wild West).
October 19, 1609: Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, founder of an anti-Calvinist Reformed theology, dies at age 49 in Leiden, Netherlands (see issue 12: John Calvin).
October 19, 1720: Quaker minister John Woolman is born in Roncocas, New Jersey. He was known for his concerns to live a simple life exemplifying "the right use of things," and to end war, slavery, and injustice toward the poor and to Native Americans. His journal, written from 1756-72, influenced nineteenth-century abolitionists and demonstrated his concern for both the oppressors and the oppressed.
October 19, 1744: English revivalist George Whitefield arrives in Maine for his third (of seven) evangelistic visit to America (see issue 38: George Whitefield).
October 19, 1779: English poet William Cowper and curate John Newton publish Olney Hymns, a classic collection of evangelical and Reformed hymns.
October 19, 1856: A Sunday evening service led by Charles Haddon Spurgeon turns tragic when someone shouts "Fire!" in London's enormous Surrey Hall. There was no fire, but the stampede left 7 people dead and 28 more hospitalized. Though the episode plunged Spurgeon into weeks of depression, it also catapulted him to overnight fame (see issue 29: Charles Haddon Spurgeon).
October 20, 751: Pepin the Short, son of Frankish hero Charles Martel and father of Charlemagne, deposes the last of the Merovingian kings and becomes the first king of the Carolingian dynasty. He was crowned by Pope Stephen II, who later asked for his help when threatened by Lombards of northern Italy. Pepin defeated the Lombards, then ceded the territory he captured back to the pope, laying the foundation for the papal states.
October 20, 1349: Pope Clement VI condemns self-flagellation, speaking out against a veritable flagellation frenzy. The practice, first taught by the Benedictine monk Peter Damian in the mid-eleventh century, gained popularity during the thirteenth-century Black Death scare and continues today in isolated incidents.
October 21, 1555: Finding that the recent martyrdom of bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer had intensified Protestant zeal, Queen Mary launches a series of fierce persecutions in which more than 200 men, women, and children were killed (see issue 48: Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation).
October 21, 1663: Virginia colonist John Harlow is fined 50 pounds of tobacco for missing church.
October 21, 1692: William Penn is deposed as governor of Pennsylvania. His grateful overtures to James II for permitting religious freedom for Dissenters from the Church of England led William and Mary to charge Penn with being a papist. They were also troubled by his pacifism.
October 21, 1970: John T. Scopes, the Tennessee teacher convicted for teaching evolution, dies at age 70 (see issue 55: The Monkey Trial and the Rise of Fundamentalism).
October 22, 4004 BC: According to James Ussher, the well-respected and scholarly Anglican primate of the Irish Church in the early seventeenth century, God created the universe on this date at 9:00 a.m. GMT.
October 22, 1811: Pianist Franz Liszt, known for his Romantic orchestras and songs, but also the author of more than 60 religious works (including the song known today as "Fairest Lord Jesus"), is born in Raiding, Hungary.
October 22, 1844: Between 50,000 and 100,000 followers of Baptist lay preacher William Miller prepared for "The Day of Atonement"—the day Jesus would return. Jesus didn't, and though Miller retained his faith in Christ's imminent return until his death, he blamed human mistakes in Bible chronologies for "The Great Disappointment." Several groups arose from Miller's following, including the Seventh-Day Adventists (see issue 61: The End).
October 23, 1976: Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter responds to a public outcry over comments he made in an interview with Playboy magazine. "Christ said, 'I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery,'" Carter said in the interview. "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times."
October 24, 1648: The Peace of Westphalia ends central Europe's Thirty Years War. Extending equal political rights to Catholics and Protestants (including religious minorities), the peace treaties also marked the first use of the term "secularization" (in discussing some church property that was to be distributed among the warring parties).
October 25, 431: The Council of Ephesus replaces Nestorius with a new patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorius was anathematized for holding the belief that two separate persons indwelled the incarnate Christ (see issue 51: Heresy in the Early Church).
October 25, 1400: English poet Geoffrey Chaucer dies in London, having abruptly stopped writing his famous Canterbury Tales some time before. Though not a religious writer, his characters aptly illustrate the best and worst of the church in his day. Chaucer was buried in Westminster Abbey, a high honor for a commoner, and became the first of those entombed in what is now called Poets' Corner (see issue 49: Everyday Faith in the Middle Ages).
October 25, 1147: Because of bickering and ineffective leadership, the German armies of the Second Crusade (1147-49) are destroyed by the Saracens at Dorylaeum in modern Turkey (see issue 40: Crusades).
October 26, 899: Alfred the Great, ruler of Wessex, England, from 871, dies. His defeat of the Danes ensured Christianity's survival in England, but he is also known for his ecclesiastical reforms and his desire to revive learning in his country.
October 26, 1466: According to some accounts, Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus was born on this date. The first editor of the Greek New Testament, he also wrote In Praise of Folly (a satire of monastic and ecclesiastical corruption) and many other works.
October 26, 1529: Thomas More becomes Lord Chancellor of England. Though he defended religious freedom in his book Utopia, he strongly opposed the Reformation and wrote against Luther, Tyndale, and others. Because he also opposed Henry VIII's claim to be the supreme head of the English church, as well as the king's divorce, he was executed.
October 26, 1633: The Puritan congregation at Newton (now Cambridge), Massachusetts, chooses Thomas Hooker as its pastor. Hooker, like many Dissenters, had earlier fled persecution in England by traveling to Holland. He then sailed to America with preachers John Cotton and Samuel Stone, leading grateful Puritans in Boston to quip that they now had "Cotton for their clothing, Hooker for their fishing, and Stone for their building" (see issue 41: American Puritans).
October 26, 1950: Mother Teresa founds the first Mission of Charity in Calcutta, India.
October 26, 1966: The first World Congress on Evangelism opens in West Berlin, attracting approximately 600 delegates from about 100 countries.
October 27, 625: Honorius I begins his reign as pope. His belief in Monothelitism (that Christ had only one will, not two), since condemned as heresy by the Roman Catholic Church, have long been a point of conflict for Catholic discussion of papal infallibility.
October 27, 1553: Michael Servetus is burned at the stake in Geneva for his heretical beliefs regarding the Trinity (see issue 12: John Calvin).
October 27, 1746: Scottish Presbyterian pastor and theologian William Tennant obtains a charter for the College of New Jersey, which is now Princeton. He had founded the school in 1726 as a seminary to train his sons and others for ministry. Presidents of the college later included Aaron Burr, Jonathan Edwards, and Reverend John Witherspoon, who led the school to national prominence.
October 27, 1771: Francis Asbury, sent from England by John Wesley to oversee America's 600 (or so) Methodists, lands in Philadelphia. During his 45-year ministry in America, he traveled on horseback or in carriage an estimated 300,000 miles, delivering some 16,500 sermons. By his death, there were 200,000 Methodists in America (see issue 45: Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders).
October 27, 1978: The complete New International Version (NIV) of the Bible is published.
October 28, 312: According to tradition, on this date the 32-year-old Roman emperor Constantine defeated Maxentius at Milvian Bridge. Before the battle, Constantine had seen the symbol of Jesus, chi-rho, in a vision, accompanied with the words "By this sign conquer." He is considered Rome's first Christian emperor (see issue 57: Converting the Empire).
October 28, 1646: At Nonantum, Massachusetts, missionary John Eliot preaches the first worship service for Native Americans in their native language.
October 28, 1949: Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador's Auca Indians, writes in his journal the most famous of his sayings: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
October 28, 1958: The Roman Catholic patriarch of Venice, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, is unexpectedly elected pope, taking the name John XXIII. Expected to be a mere caretaker in office, he became one of the Catholic church's most activist popes, convening the Second Vatican Council in 1962 (see issue 65: The Ten Most Influential Christians of the Twentieth Century).
October 28, 1992: The Korean Hyoo-go (Korean for "rapture") movement, led by prophet Lee Jang Rim, predicts that this is the day of the rapture (see issue 61: The End).
October 29, 1562: George Abbot, translator of the Gospels, Acts and Revelation for the King James Bible, is born. He became head of the Church of England in 1611, but his popularity (and his health) declined sharply after he killed a man in a hunting accident in 1621.
October 29, 1837: Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper is born in Rotterdam, Holland. He became so popular and famous that on October 29, 1907, the whole nation celebrated his 70th birthday, declaring, "the history of the Netherlands, in Church, in State, in Society, in Press, in School, and in the Sciences the last forty years, cannot be written without the mention of his name on almost every page."
October 29, 1919: A.B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and Nyack College, dies.
October 30, 1451: Christopher Columbus, who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean both to spread Christianity and (as his crew members complained) to "make a great lord of himself," is born (see issue 35: Columbus).
October 30, 1821: Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevski, whose works (including Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamozov, and Notes from the Underground) reflect his deep Russian Orthodox faith, is born.
October 30, 1883: Bob Jones, Sr., one of Fundamentalism's most renowned evangelists and founder of Bob Jones University, is born (see issue 55: Fundamentalism).
October 31, 1825: George Muller, who founded orphanages that would house more than 10,000 orphans by his death in 1898, converts to Christianity at a Moravian mission.
October 31, 1992: Pope John Paul II formally admits the Roman Catholic Church's error in condemning Galileo Galilei in 1633 for believing the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe.