Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Christianity arose in the midst of a pagan world filled with many different cultic beliefs that worshipped a variety of gods and goddesses. Homogeneity did not become a characteristic of Christianity itself until after the first five centuries of debate hammering out the theological doctrines and modes of praxis that determined what was and was not heresy. Debates continue to take place among scholars concerning pagan influences on the early emerging Christian world. One of the many sects that developed, Montanism, a reform movement within the orthodox Christian Church, came into being as a result of the persecution of Christians and a perceived laxity by the Church toward those who recanted. This movement that utilized frenzied prophecy and allowed women to exercise leadership roles, including the office of the keys, is especially viewed by some as a pagan-Christian hybrid. By the fifth century A.D., the orthodox Church declared Montanism anathema and it ceased to exist as a cult. Throughout the history of the Christian Church, ideologies that do not agree with orthodox standards of doctrinal beliefs and praxis occur and reoccur in varying forms. The twentieth century produced two movements in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States that reflected characteristics of the Montanist movement in the early Church. One of these, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, found acceptable by the Roman Catholic hierarchy continues to influence life and social teaching within the orthodoxy of the Church. The other, the feminist movement, condemned by the Church and labeled heretical, resulting in numerous excommunications, brought a new schism to the Christian Church. This paper examines the rise and fall of Montanism in the early Christian Church, its characteristics and the causes of its demise. This creates a platform from which the two movements in the late twentieth century Catholic Church in the United States, the Charismatic Renewal and the Catholic feminist movement, can be explored. Each movement contained elements similar to Montanistic ideology, yet only one found itself condemned. The similarities and differences between each movement and Montanism, with their attitudes of unity or divisiveness, when looked at closely, explain why this is so. Montanism’s demise can be attributed to its multi-layered challenge to the hierarchical authority of the developing ecclesiastical Christian Church, particularly in regard to the office of the prophet that became subsumed by the office of the bishop and the roles Montanism allowed women to exercise. In the end, unlike the Catholic feminist movement, the recent Charismatic Renewal movement was acceptable to the Church because it did not reject Church authority; like Montanism, the feminist movement’s refusal to accept that authority, dismissing Canon Law and Tradition, was the reason it failed to be accepted.


Dr. David Bovee

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type



© 2014 Carol Dawn Jean Davis


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