Saturday, September 8, 2012

Living in the Past to Protect the Future

My friends think I live in the past.  For instance, this morning at Bible study we were discussing the upcoming small group material, John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life.  Out of this conversation I was asked what authors I enjoyed and the first name out of my mouth was John Chrysostom, fourth-century bishop of Antioch.  Both men started laughing and said, "I knew it."

This anecdote is relevant because of a question recently sent in to Worldview Everlasting:
I heard a quote several years ago but don’t know where to look to put it into proper context or who to give credit for the quote, can you help?  It goes something like this: "The trouble with the Evangelicals is, they believe the church started with them."
Think about that for a minute.  You know it is true.  The overwhelming majority of Evangelicals want to leapfrog from the first century to the present, convinced that everything in between is just a lesson in how the church got everything wrong.  In essence they believe their groups, whether founded in the nineteenth, twentieth, or twenty-first century, were established to right the centuries of bad teaching and practice.  That is just nearsightedness.

What you hold as a matter of faith and practice came from centuries of labor in the scriptures.  We have the opportunity to take the long view and see the triumphs, mistakes, and sins of men who were trying to either remain faithful or be self-seeking.  That is just one benefit of knowing the history.

Consider the response to the WE question mentioned above:
As far as I know, this isn’t so much a “saying” as it is an observation made by more historical churches.  The founding of the “New World” gave immense opportunity for new denominations to surface.  Each was convinced that they had found profound new insights into Christianity.  How did this happen? Simple, in the early days of founding the United States, there were plenty of people, but very few historical resources, so Christian groups were left with very little to go about reading and understanding the Bible.  Couple that with a large “anti-Catholic” sentiment, what you have is a formula for ecclesiastical ignorance based on ecclesiastical arrogance.  Mostly what the Evangelicals were able to do, was resurrect old heresies that the Church had dealt with several hundreds of years earlier.

So what we have are groups trying to “get back to the basics” and they don’t really know what the basics are.  It’s quite sad, really.  The reason we pay attention to the history of the Church (both good and bad), is because it shows us where we have gone and where we have gone wrong.
There is more, but this suffices to make the point I wanted to bring out: those who do not study church history and heresy are doomed to repeat it.

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