Christianity in the Age of Global Exploration: Conversion, Conquest, and Colonialism
In societies less developed than that of classical civilization, especially in lands to the north and the south, Christianity came top-down after the elites of those societies were converted either by official deputations from Rome or Constantinople, or by wandering Celtic or Benedictine monkish evangelists. The “Laws of Burgos,” adopted in 1512 after debate in the presence of the king, were an early attempt to settle policy. The Laws declared that Indians were to be treated as free beings, but they could nevertheless be forced to listen to instruction in the Catholic faith. The travels of Columbus and the subsequent Spanish conquest of “undiscovered” lands created a dramatic challenge to medieval Christianity and its moral system. When missionaries brought Christianity to Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they encountered cultural norms that conflicted with Christian belief and practice.
The Christian Theological Tradition, 4th ed.