My next review is of the second edition of Bruce L. Shelley's "Church History in Plain Language." Though I'm still on the first chapter, I thought I'd offer a "preview review."
So far it's good. Shelley's writing style is smooth and easy to understand. Shelley has divided the history of the church into eight sections:
The Age of Jesus and the Apostles
The Age of Catholic Christianity
The Age of the Christian Roman Empire
The Christian Middle Ages
The Age of the Reformation
The Age of Reason and Revival
The Age of Progress, and
The Age of Ideologies
So why am I reading a book on church history?
I developed an interest in the subject while studying Spiritual Formation at Northwest Nazarene University. That program is in many respects like a survey of Christian literature, so we read a lot of material from the early Christian writers. We also studied a little bit of church history and through that I found a whole new world that was previously unknown to me. I am always amazed by the rich history that forms the background of the service, or mass, of the Catholic church. This is also true for the Greek Orthodox and some of the older Protestant denominations like the Episcopal, Lutheran and United Methodist. As a Protestant who attends a relatively new denomination that was founded only a century ago - in the church a century is "new" - I was not aware of our history, except for what I had read in the gospels and the book of Acts.
There is much to learn, however. Here are some questions that I have and that you may have:
* How were the books of the Bible selected?
* How and why did the early Christian churches - Roman, Eastern, and Coptic form?
* What are the sources of our doctrines?
* Why did we fight the Crusades?
* Why were the different orders of priests and nuns formed?
* What influences have the Catholic saints and other church patriarchs and matriarchs had?
I'm sure there will be more questions as I read so I'll let you know if I make any earth-shattering discoveries.
Here is a quote from the author to consider regarding the importance of knowing church history:
"As a consequence of our ignorance concerning Christian history, we find believers vulnerable to the appeals of cultists. Some distortion of Christianity if often taken for the real thing. At the same time other Christians reveal a shocking capacity for spiritual price, hubris. Without an adequate base for comparisons they spring to the defense of their way as the best way - their party as the superior party. Finally, many Christians engage in some form of ministry without the advantage of a broader context for their labor. When they want to make the best use of their time or their efforts, they have no basis for sound judgment."
Pretty interesting, huh?
In closing, I want to thank the people who said that they "liked" my blog on "Positive and Negative Thinking" on Facebook. I always feel a little funny writing posts like that because I know that I am imperfect. More confirmation about that post came when I was reading an article about the civil rights movement in "Our State" magazine called "A Part of Us All." For those who don't know on February 1, 1960 - years before Selma and Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus bridge - four black men sat at the counter of a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, asked to be served and then refused to leave when they were denied because of their skin color. These four men were part of a larger movement across the country that sparked momentous change in the way our nation treated people. In this article, the writer related some of the dastardly things that black people suffered such as being burned, hanged, their churches bombed, mutilation, murder. Pictures of these happenings are hanging in the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro. He then writes:
"These images are not here to disgust us or depress us. They are here to remind us that racism needed to be acknowledged before it could be changed."
I think this applies to problems in the church, and anywhere else as well. If we don't acknowledge problems they will never change. Thus, more people will leave, or stay and become embittered, and be discouraged from service. The resulting negative reputation in the community brings shame to Christ when it all comes down to it.
Well, enough of that for now. Blessings to you as Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday on March 9.