I listen to all things Christian. Sometimes that is frustrating, though enlightening. I heard this on the radio recently, in response to a question on the Lord’s supper and the historical development of the ideas of transubstantiation etc. Basically, the host of the show, a well known pastor of a large Christian movement, did not know how to answer the question. In typical fashion, that ignorance was turned into a “sermon” on the evils of something, in this instance, the evils of church history:
“…church history really isn’t any good…look, I don’t have any defense for church history…I can’t defend church history…church history is really the history of men who have taken over a work of God and prostituted it and used it, made a religion out of if and missed really what the Lord was teaching and he rebukes them over and over again, very early. So, if the church moved that far away in the first 60 or so years it only moved further away as the history of the church continued – and so I don’t think that so – it is good that you are studying history but I think you need to see in history the failure of the church, not really the promulgating of the teachings of the New Testament and the practices of the church in the book of Acts. I think the only truly successful time in church history, where they really accomplished what the Lord was wanting the church to accomplish was IN the book of Acts. And there as they went out into all the world as Jesus instructed them to and took the gospel to the world we haven’t been able to duplicate that since that time and of course Jesus…uh, Paul rather in writing to the Colossians the word of the gospel as it has come to you as it is in all the world. Paul says we took the gospel to the whole world, we haven’t even done that today with our modern technology and capabilities through technology, we haven’t even taken the gospel to the world today, but they were relying on the Holy Spirit and directed by the Holy Spirit, and it wasn’t a man-made, man-governed, man-directed kind of a institution, but a God-governed institution and oh what to God that we could get to that once again…
I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Christians spouting revisionist history. The history of Western Civilization is replete with examples of progress and good, much of it done through the people of God, Christians who dedicated their lives to mission, and fulfilling the Great Commission.
There is not an era since Christ that has not had some influence from the church. The world-wide spread of the gospel is still exploding. There is not an area of our culture (art, education, law etc) that has not been influenced and shaped by Christianity. The above statement has got to be one of the most ridiculous statements I have heard in a long time with regard to the history of the church in the world. It is often said by unbelievers and critics of the church that more wars were fought in the name of religion, yada yada yada – understandably. But when this propaganda against the influence of the church in history is thrown out by believers it is incredible.
It has not always been the attitude of the church to self-deprecate and wallow in pessimism. We once believed the words of Jesus with regard to the mission and indefeasible nature of the church. The rise of dispensationalism coupled with the Civil War and WWI, the stock market crash and depression changed the optimistic perspective that was prevalent in the US to a pessimistic perspective with a doomsday expectation. That has crept into not only our eschatology but our ecclesiology. That as much as anything else has changed the focus and outlook of the modern church.
In a previous post called “A Good Episcopalian?” I talked about “new protestantism” being arrogant and looking down our nose at mainstream Christianity and also old Christianity. This is a dangerous posture for us to take. It is not good theology, Christianity or history to talk about how the only generation that got it were the church in the book of Acts, and apparently the few of “us” in the modern church who “get it.”
Arrogance makes you stupid.