The Herb Of Grace

Theology and Poetry, Politics and Prose

Church History & The Protestant Loss Of Time July 28, 2008

        I have become haunted by Christian history.  Now I don’t mean that in the way I assume you think.  I am not haunted by the ghosts of past Christian sin.  I am stalked by a realization, new to my protestant mind (or more precisely: my communitarian-baptist-evangelical-vineyard mind), that as the Church we have a history, that we are essentially a historical family. 

        This was new to me; I think growing up in evangelical youth groups and summer camps firmly cemented the implied notion that there was nothing of substance or value in any events after the gospels and before the 20th century.  When Christian history was spoken of in my above mentioned childhood contexts, it was mentioned in derision and lament at the mistakes of the Catholics, the Puritans, the medieval Christians, the post Luther Lutherans (for of course the only history I did know was that someone wonderful named Luther ‘liberated’ the Church so that we could today enjoy such religious ‘freedom’ and ‘spontaneity). 

           One got the sense, and I know I am unfortunately far from alone in this, that we were part of the Church that had finally got it right and prayed like the Pharisee, “Thank You Lord that I am not like your ignorant children of old!”  Acting and speaking as if there was nothing good to find in that time between Jesus and Billy Graham was, I am thinking now, a sub-conscious proclamation that there is no time, that now is the only moment, that even the gospel and Jesus and all the apostles are merely spiritual truths that have always been the same and are only now being grasped.

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2 Responses to “Church History & The Protestant Loss Of Time”

  1. Matt Wiebe Says:

    Thank you Lord, that I am not like that Pharisee. 😉

    I’m on a similar trajectory too, even if it’s more of a Mennonite-Evangelical-Jewish-Vineyard one (with distinct Catholic sympathies). To realize, for instance, that the relation of the church to the poor has been a perennial problem throughout its history–and often the catalyst for an agent of change like Francis of Assisi–takes me out of the story of “we’re finally going to be the true church” and into the story of “I’m joining the story of what it really means to be church.”

  2. masonmusic Says:

    Matt: Thanks for the verbalization in your last line,

    “I’m joining the story of what it really means to be church.”

    The implications of the change is vast but not, I believe, readily apparent. Here is where I think we need real relationally based dialogues. Not ecumenical gatherings as I’ve experienced them but rather temporary circles with lines in various established circles.

    If that picture isn’t clear, I mean that we can’t just change our language (I don’t think that simplification is what you’re suggesting) but begin to taste the goodness of God in His and our family, willing to humbly make room for other and older Jesus-following practices.

    These practices don’t come free to install into the emergent movement or any other young idea but rather bring with them the whole gamit of Christian history, begging us to recognize their physical, bone-laden claim on us.


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