October 22, 2017

The Liturgical Gangstas Talk about Church History

Presented by Chaplain Mike

Our regular feature with friends from different Christian traditions continues today with a question about the place of church history and traditions in our current practice. There are a couple more Gangstas who have said they may want to chime in addition to those represented here. When I get their posts, I will publish part two.

Oh, and just for the record, Pastor Daniel did NOT ask nor authorize me to put a picture of John Calvin with his post. I did that on my own. Just for you, Dan.   : )

TODAY’S QUESTION: What part does the teaching and understanding of church history have in your tradition and in your local parish or church ministry? How well versed would you say your congregation is in the history of the church? What suggestions would you have, from your experience, on helping believers know more about our past and traditions?

Rev. William Cwirla (Lutheran)

History plays a pivotal role in our Lutheran tradition.  The Lutheran confessional claim before the church and the world is that we have received and introduced nothing contrary to the Scriptures or the church catholic.  This is a hefty claim and a matter for historical reflection and critique.  Our manner of worship is historically rooted in the early centuries of the church.  Our creeds are historic documents – the great baptismal creed of Rome, the conciliar creed of Nicea and Constantinople and the magnificent summary of the catholic faith in the Athanasian creed.  Our hymnody is a mix of the church’s past and present, reflecting our view of the tradition as living history.

History is theology for us, in that we believe that God works “in, with, and under” history and that the pivot point of history between the Beginning and the End is the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The One who was and is and is to come is the Lord of history.

Personally, I came to a love of history late in my education.  As a trained scientist, I was woefully ignorant of history, even the history of the science I practiced.  This is not unusual in the sciences, much to the detriment of scientific thinking and philosophy.  My love for history was kindled at the seminary where I realized that history was not simply the record of what man has accomplished, but it is also the record of what God is doing as he brings us from two people naked in a garden to a great white-robed multitude no one can count in a heavenly city.  The Lord of history is the Redeemer of history.

How well-versed is my congregation in the history of the church?  It depends on who you ask.  Our culture is not terribly interested in the past, and so is doomed to repeat its mistakes.  Lutheran catechesis is naturally historical, in that our catechism is the crown jewel of the Reformation and our confessions contained in the Book of Concord are an historical document.  Catechumens are quite aware of at least Reformation history.  I wish that our people had a greater love and interest in the history of the early church, but even so, the names Ambrose, Augustine, Athanasius, Chrystostom and the like are not unfamiliar to many of our people.

How best help believers know more about the history of the Church?  Incorporate it into sermons and Bible studies.  Incorporate historic elements in worship.  For traditional Lutherans, this is a given, since we have retained historic vestments, readings, calendar, and liturgy.  Remind one another that we are not the first Christians but are on the receiving end of a rich tradition that extends back to the great churches of Rome, Antioch and Jerusalem, that we are part of the great stream of confessors that goes back to that first Pentecost.

In closing, I would add that for me there is no more perfect piece of living history than the Lord’s Supper.  It is but one Supper, one Table, one Body and Blood.  That “night in which our Lord was betrayed” comes to us as we take the Bread of His Body and eat and take the Cup of HIs Blood and drink.  We are at table with the disciples, with the fathers of the ancient church, with our forefathers and mothers in the faith, with the entire communion of saints.  Here the chronos of history becomes the kairos of eternity, and at that table, I am made part of that saving history.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon (Orthodox)
When I first read the question my reaction was to say that the Orthodox are extremely well versed in Church history and that it plays an important part in the life of our Church. But, upon reflection I decided that this is not a fully accurate description.

The typical Orthodox believer knows significantly more about the Theotokos and all the Saints of our Church than in any other grouping. But, that does not mean that they know Church history per se. When I think of knowing Church history I think of having a structured dispassionate overview of various major events, how they connect to other major events, and some of the personages involved. But, that is a different way than the way in which we know the Theotokos and all the Saints.

Many of those who are Orthodox from childhood would know as little about Western Church history as the typical American Christian knows about Eastern Church history. And, many Orthodox would not be able to give you a summary of Church history in any type of organized fashion. But, the typical Orthodox would have fixed in his or her mind many vignettes about many Saints. Moreover, the typical Orthodox would be able to give you a rough overview of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church and of Pascha (Easter). And, they would be able to speak to you about Our Lord and his salvation, how to worship, how to pray, and how to live their lives in the fear of God and with faith, hope. But, not in an organized systematic historical fashion.

Rather, they would know Church history in the same way that most people know their family’s history. Most people can tell you many vignettes about Aunt Sophie or crazy Uncle Harry or Grandma Mary or Great-Grampa Vladimir or about Cousin Jeff and the time that he fell from his bicycle and broke his arm. Most people could place everyone of their relatives in a rough time-line and tell you funny or sad or happy or angry tales about their family. They could even make some of the connections between the different figures in the family, but there would be much that they would not know. But, they know what they need to know in order to feel connected to their relatives and to have a sense of where they and their relatives fit into the family.

This is the way in which most Orthodox know the Theotokos and all the Saints. We hear about them all the time, but generally only the important events of their life. We ask them to intercede for us. Every Sunday, several of the troparia (hymns) tell us of the Resurrection and something about the events of that Sunday and of the Saints that are celebrated that Sunday. We know them as family. We know their vignettes, the important point in their lives, have a rough idea of the timeline in which they fit, and how we are related to them. That is, we know what we need to know in order to feel connected to the relatives and to have a sense of how we fit into the family.

I cannot in any way imagine an Orthodoxy devoid of these connections. It would no longer be Orthodoxy. Part of what has enabled Orthodoxy to survive wars, invasions, a militant Islam, communism, etc., has been precisely those connections. We know our family history. We know the major members of our family. We know why they are important. We know how we fit into the family. I am in no way diminishing the role of the Holy Spirit in preserving the Church. But, his job is significantly easier and more certain when the family connections are in place. It is not Church history; it is holy family history.

Rev. Daniel Jepsen (Non-denominational)

The stereotype is that non-denominational evangelical congregations do not know much of church history, nor value it greatly. I’m not sure that is true. What is true is that we are less tied into one stream of church history than some other churches. This has both its good and bad points.

On the bad side, the lack of denominational history and distinctives, combined with a lack of denominational authority, leads to a great deal of confusion, and fosters a market mentality. When you walk into a Roman Catholic church or a Lutheran church, for example, you should have a fair idea of what the service will be like (if you are familiar with the denomination). Such is not the case with non-denominational churches; it can be anything from flag-waving fundamentalist with 19th century organ hymns to a charismatic seeker service with a 20 piece praise band and light show. The preaching can range from prattle to profundity. Communion may be practiced every week or once a quarter. The pastor may thunder against Catholics and charismatics, or he or she may speak in tongues and read the Catholic mystics for devotions. You just never know.

Related to this, a market mentality rears its rather ugly head when many churches of similar stripe are in the same town, yet each is unmoored from the distinctives of its denominations history. Often pragmatism replaces tradition, and this is usually a poor trade.

On the good side, the thoughtful non-denominational pastor or worship leader is able to be very eclectic in deciding which practices, out of the whole storehouse of church history, are helpful to the spiritual growth of the people in this particular church. Every movement of God in the church was done through fallible humans, and so every part of church history is a mixture of the holy and human, the divine and the degraded, or, to put it most simply, the good and the bad. The pastor who stands more unconnected to a particular stream of church tradition is often more able to see the value in the other streams, and incorporate some of the treasures of those traditions. He or she will easily incorporate into a single service the recital of the Apostle’s creed, a hymn of transcendence such as “A Mighty Fortress”, a chorus of immanence such as “As the Deer”, and a sermon based on the biblical text and informed by Augustine and Calvin. Obviously, this is the ideal, but it is not uncommon. It only seems uncommon because this type of church often does not “compete” well in America against churches with the big “show” and the great music that “the kids just love”.

As far as suggestions go, I would make three.

  • First, it is immensely helpful for the Pastor to have a seminary education that includes a fair amount of church history. This is the ballast against pragmatism, and the storehouse of wonderful truths and ideas from which he or she may draw freely. The increasing tendency to minimize graduate education for clergy is lamentable.
  • Second, it is important for pastors like myself to be very intentional about showcasing the treasures of the universal church’s past. This can be done by reciting the creeds, choosing songs from a wide variety of church backgrounds (and sometimes pointing this out), and quoting the teachings and insights of the great men and women of the past in sermons and other communications.
  • Third, classes on church history are crucial. We recently had an adult class on Luther, and a rather long High School class which was a survey of church history. This goes a long way to helping people understand that we are the heirs of those who have gone before us.

For myself, I ended up in a non-denominational background more by chance than choice (the only denomination I grew up with I do not feel comfortable in anymore). It is probably too late for me to change that, especially since I am very happy in my congregation. So I choose to embrace the good things about being non-denominational, and try to minimize the bad.

Comments

  1. Nice the way Fr. Ernesto’s comments tie in with CM’s the other day in the Ruth post regarding storytelling.

  2. This is a good topic. I struggle with church history and where we are today as the Church. I seems that everything changed with Constantine/Augustine – a drastic change in many many ways. Church history has all been built on that change and not on the church for the first 300 years and, from my understanding, today’s church doesn’t retain much of the practice and belief of that early church. It seems much of history has been driven by politics, power, money and control. The common person was taught from that perspective, but I believe they came to God with true hearts and intentions and how could they be responsible for what those with the power were teaching at the time.

    While I might not express what I am struggling with very eloquently, it is a crisis for me in terms of the church in the last few months. I wouldn’t say a crisis in my faith but the community I am in (or not in as the case may be) does have bearing on my faith in many ways.

    • What aspects from the Ante-Nicene Church do you find missing in the “rest” of church history.

      • The Didache, generally thought to have been written by the Apostles (but written contemporaneously with them) which gives practical instruction on how we, in The Church, are to order our lives. For example:

        “Chapter 8. Fasting and Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer). But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:

        Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever..

        Pray this three times each day.”

        Jesus adjured us with the words, “*when* you fast” assuming it to be a normal part of regular life. So the above instruction was the practical “how to” for new Believers in this new Community. Do you have your flock do this? Not being snarky, here, Pastor. Just asking since so very, very few Communities (including the Catholics who trained me) actually abide by these NT era instructions…

        • Ahem, the Orthodox still fast on Wednesdays and Fridays to this day, as well as follow many of the other Early Church practices. But, there are several times when the fast is suspended, for a week (or two) after the great Feasts of the Church such as Pascha (Easter), Pentecost, Christmas and a couple of others. And the Trisagion Prayers (which include the Our Father) are still prayed three times a day minimum.

        • I would argue that word for word repeating the Lord’s Prayer and fasting twice a week would not solve the problems in the church. I would also argue that these NT era practices are not NT commandments. Does our church fast? Yes. Do we say prayers including the Lord’s Prayer? Yes. Have the inclusion of these practices, particularly the increasing of the regularity improved the lives of our members? That’s a tougher question. Have these things radically changed our church? No.

          • Jonathan says:

            Maybe the question should be, Would our church be radically worse off if these things were not being done?

      • Brendan: That may be part of the issue. On one side I can’t tell you anything specific other than moving from a community where all were participants to an event where most of us are spectators. I just glanced at the post on contemporary worship (didn’t read and I’m not really responding to that post) and the thought occurred to me that the concert style of worship is very much a natural progression for how we have been doing church for centuries. If we have been doing worship for so long as actors/spectators, training generation upon generation to worship in this manner, then why do we expect for “members” to live out their faith differently?

        In both a traditional church and a contemporary church the answer to me is the same, “it’s on you. you have to plug yourself in.” While working in the church it seemed I had to fight for every little bit of community and guidance, sometimes begged. I don’t see that being what the church is meant to be either for those within or for those on the outside.

        Well I think I’m delving into rambling so I won’t continue except to say that I am very thankful for the community and insight that imonk cultivates. I am very open and interested in hearing/learning from the wealth of faith, knowledge and heart that I have experienced here BUT I’m am not open to being attacked or dismissed (as I have recently experienced on other posts in this forum). That is not the heart of Christ or allowing the Spirit to do His job.

        Please if you have an insight, share it; if you have a concern, express it with love, grace and strength.

        • Radagast says:

          Noel,

          Aside from a traditional/contemporary thing, do you see this playing out as a cultural thing as well? Would we see this “behavior” in a culture that is more communal by nature? And would an individualistic society tend to continue in this vein even though the faith tradition might lean them to a more communal worship style?

          For example – high liturgical services tend to have a leader who engages the congregation to participate in the service. This is a form of communal worship but might not translate in church life.

          • I see that our culture is looking for community but not really willing to sacrifice individuality (which I don’t think is really at issue, just perceived) – that’s why things like “Facebook” are so big. It gives the feeling of being in community without having to really invest. Hopefully I’m not romanticizing too much here or, maybe I do hope that is the case. Maybe we need a bit more of that in our lives (ha).

            I would like to hear more about how the High Liturgical service engages the congregation to participate int he service. That has not been my experience (I served in many High churches over the years).

            • I suppose it depends on what you mean by “participate.” Liturgical services involve a lot more activity on the part of the worshiper than the average free church service which involves stage and auditorium. If by “participate” you mean subjective sharing, you won’t get much of that in either.

          • While this is a more formal standard in liturgy for congregational movement, with the exception of kneeling, the evangelical churches I have attended were similar in the that movement. Of course there was more unity of movement with the liturgy.

            I find it hard to qualify that as participation – and I’m quite willing to concede that I’m wrong but it seems that investment/engagement happens in worship where there is participation and sharing. Of course, I’ve only experienced this in smaller gatherings or small groups.

    • Radagast says:

      Church history has to be looked at through the lense of history itself. This means we can’t look at things through 21st century eyes. To say things changed at the time of Constantine is an over-simplification. The churches east and west developed on different paths because of their unique situations. The Eastern Church, more secure under an emporer and protected from the waves of barbarian invasion, was able to develop under the emporer. The West, as it fell into disarray from the hordes had only one unifying structure, the Church. So the Church for a time was above the state, partly because there was no state. There was no individualistic identity during the dark ages, only kind of a collective mind, very clannish.

      So again I stress, with each phase of Church History one must look at what was happening in the world at the time, and not on applying what we are or know now in the 21st century.

      • true, it must be looked at in terms of the context of history. I don’t think that saying the shift in the church at the time of Constantine is something to be dismissed – it was not an organic change and it was quite significant in our history.

        Individualistic identity: From my limited study of the 1st – 3rd century church it seems quite plain that it was much less individualistic and more centered on being the church of God and working towards His purpose. This is something I admire about the Catholic church, that they are and act in that capacity in many ways. But the place we are in both history and church history has us much more centered on the individual and on salvation as the end point. While salvation is a vital ingredient in the church, I don’t thing it is the end of the road but the beginning.

        • Radagast says:

          Agreed – shifting from a minority persecuted religion to “the” religion had a profound affect (especially in magnifying internal divisions).

          Agreed also – individualism was a foreign concept – not only within the church but outside as well (nomadic tribes tended to gain their identity collectively from the leader). As Israel centered on its collective self in its relationship to God, so the Church did as well – which is why the ancient churches put Church as the pillar, not as a tool used by the individual. Of course Humaness and free will sometimes put a monkey wrench into things….

        • I’d agree largely with the direction that Radagast is heading. I would also add that you seem to romanticize a bit much. Through all of church history there has always been serious problems within and surrounding the church. Different ages have different successes and failures. I would agree that its a bit simplistic to state the church’s problems are centered on Constantine.

  3. Interesting thoughts…I look forward to reading more!

    Growing up United Methodist, I learned a pretty good deal about Wesley, a little about revivalism; ordained as a Baptist pastor, I heard bruising remarks at groups that honored historical Christian practices (Orthodox, Catholic…the pastors I knew had no concept of Lutherans or Anglicans…even with their seminary degrees), and was taught that most of these were certainly hell-bound because of their “works theology” (although no one could really explain to me what they meant by this).

    It wasn’t until I stepped away from ministry for over one year and began reading church history for myself that I began to grasp how important it is to know and understand our history as a group of believers. The Apostles Creed says that we believe in the “communion of saints”, which means we are part of a family that includes not only the people that we attend church with on Sunday morning and people who are of our denominational or theological bent; We are a part of a community that includes all of us “Christians”, including all of the saints who have gone before us, from John Chrysostom to Jim Elliot; Basil to Billy Graham; and on and on.

    It is of utmost importance that we know church history, with an emphasis on the characters that make up that grand narrative as a central part…Fr. Ernesto framed that point very well for us by describing the lives of saints as similar to our family stories. There is also a great need for teaching on ancient Christian practices, to help us understand liturgy (not just high church liturgy…every church has a liturgy…if more pastors understood liturgy, some contemporary worship services wouldn’t be such a mess), the communion table (why be refreshed only once a quarter, or in some churches twice each year?), and the importance of hearing the Word read and expounded upon (not just a pastor choosing to do a sermon series based on a hot TV show title or a topic that’s in the news).

    Us Protestants need a healthy dose of both pre-reformation and post-reformation Christianity, and we need to keep in mind that not everything that occurred prior to 1500 was apostate.

    Great thoughts from all of our Liturgical Gangstas today!

  4. Sometimes church history can be looked through a prism to defend one’s faith. I was Catholic when I was younger and I learned about the atrociities that the Protesants committed during the religious wars. But I certainly didn’t hear much about Galileo being tried for heresy. When I looked into Mormonism I learned that Mormons have a very selective view of history. They’ll talk about the suffering in Navoo, Illinois; Kirkland, Ohio, how Joseph Smith ran for President in (1844? my memory is mistaking me her) etc.. But will they talk about the historical inconsistences of how Joseph Smith practiced polygamy? No. What about Brigham Young’s orders that resulted in the massacre of the Mountain Meadows of Utah? No Finally when I was evangelical I noticed that history was short. It often went back to remember selective missionaries ie Hudson Tayler, Jim Elliot, etc.. Or of how this “Christian” nation lost its ways in the 1960s due to protesting Vietnam, loose sexual moores, and removal of school prayer and the role that Ronald Reagan play in the efforts of restoration of American greatness and how George W Bush (who was one of “us” at the time) also was a part of the continuation of Christian history and a means to roll back the clock to more “Christian friendly times….”

    History is written by the winner. Other times history can also be used selectively to form an argument, push a debate or re-invent an event. But I think its absolutely crucial that Christian historians, and Christians know their mistakes so they can learn from them. If they don’t know about the history of such events as the Scopes Monkey Trial, religous wars in Europe, how the Bible was used both to defend abolition, and justify slavery than I fear for future generations.

    When denominations forget their histoy, I would suggest that everyone suffers.

  5. We are, all of us, woven together in one incredible, large Family, timeless in dimension, eternal in purpose, with many branches and off-shoots. Knowing who we are…and who each other are…serves not only to unite us in the broadest sense, but to protect us from the never-ending (re)iteration of those ancient heresies that were found to be anathema lo! these hundreds of years ago.

    I only need mention Mr Camping. Had he and others like him over time and space truly known Church History, we all might have seen to it he, and his like-minded forebears, be disabused of his brand of silly notions as were other followers of “chiliasm” back in the day…

    When one forgets one’s history, the devil seems to place us in a constant state of “reruns” like some sad cable TV station. ;D

  6. Looking through history changed has changed my perspective on Christianity, especially the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed and the historical view of the Trinity.

    For Daniel’s view, notice it is all about the pastor deciding.

    • In my church, I work out the worship services with a couple of laywomen. They like my input, and it is an area I feel a pastoral presence is helpful. Other nondenominational churches have different ways of doing this.

  7. David Cornwell says:

    My parents and grandparents were all Methodists and growing up I absorbed some of the history of this movement. As time went on, in college, I learned a great deal more about church history, I didn’t attend seminary until my mid 30’s, and then had some courses in church history. Since that time, doing my own reading, and listening, I’ve learned much more.

    Of special interest to me are the things we’d like to forget about our history as Christians. The history of the church has, at times produced as much darkness as light. We dare not forget those episodes and eras. What will future historians say about our stewardship of the church? What is our contribution? In what condition are we leaving the church? Let’s hope its a good story.

  8. dumb ox says:

    “Rather, they would know Church history in the same way that most people know their family’s history. ”

    I think Father Ernesto put his finger on the problem. An Orthodox believer doesn’t need to sit down to a class on church history because they are not cut off from church history, like most evangelicals. For us, it’s another planet or dimension from us. If we think of Christians in antiquity at all, we probably dress them up like 20th century “born again” stereotypes – just like American history is revisioned to make our founding fathers all look just like us. Everybody ends up looking like us; therefore, there is nothing to learn from the past. Self-criticism is once again safely avoided.

  9. Josh in FW says:

    So, for those of us that have an inadequate knowledge of Church History, what are the top 3 books you would recommend? Maybe, we should have the top 3 books on Church History pre-East/West Split and top 3 books on Church History post East/West split.

    • A very good introduction to the first 500 years is “The Spreading Flame” by F. F. Bruce.

    • I’d recommend “Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity” by Mark Noll. I’m considering doing a series based on it here at IM.

      • Josh in FW says:

        Turning Points was a great book. It was actually my introduction to Church History, or the history of Christianity as Noll more accurately describes it. A friend loaned it to me, but I might have to go buy my own copy to read it again.

    • I can list 2 books:

      1) “Church History in Plain English” by Bruce L. Shelley.
      2) “Christian Theology: An Introduction” by Alister E. McGrath
      3) “The Christian Tradition” series by Jaroslav Pelikan

      • I forgot to edit my message- as you can see I listed 3 books and not two. Sorry- I was distracted by the first typhoon storm we’ve had this year.

        • Pelikan’s series is superb. Late in his life, he converted from Lutheranism to the Orthodox Church. I frankly would not want to read much church history if I were not Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

      • Shelly’s book is a great overview of church history and was a pleasure to read.

        • Damaris says:

          I second that. I would also recommend an audio course I recently finished, from The Teaching Company, called The History of Christian Theology, by Prof. Philip Cary. It’s a very thorough, clear, and sympathetic look at beliefs and movements throughout history.

          • Carey also did a class called ‘Luther, Law and Gospel’ for the Teaching Company that is the best intro to Luther and Lutheranism I have ever heard.

            His section on baptism (Lecture#15) compares and contrasts the Lutheran, Reformed and Catholic views on baptism, and is alone worth the price of the whole course.

        • I agree, Patrick. Despite it’s easy-to-approach writing style, most of my classmates didn’t really read it. Hmmm….. 😉

      • Pelikan is one of the most balanced ones. I would recommend Pelikan and then one book on the history of your particular group. Make that first book on your group a paperback than can be read easily. You can always pick up more detailed information later.

        • Josh in FW says:

          I learned a lot about my tradition from the Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy podcast at AFR that was unsettling. I have a lot of clarifying to do. I grew up in an SBC famiy that moved to PCA when I was in high school and I am currently a member of an independent Bible Church whose doctrinal statement is a carbon copy of DTS. I definitely suffer from theological schizophrenia which is why I am so thankful that the IMonk site gives me a place to learn about the various traditions.

          Thank you for the recommendation. I know that you had quite the circuitous journey to your current home.

    • I would be interested in some of the books mentioned here. I would also be curious to know….what is the author’s academic background? Do they teach at UCLA? Northwestern? Indiana? Penn State? etc… I think it would be nice to see a Christian history book written by someone outside the fold. They could probably offer a unique insight.

      • Eagle,
        I have Shelly’s book on my bookshelf, so that’s the only one I’m familiar with. According to the blurb (I’m looking at the 2nd edition), Shelley teaches Church History and Theology at Denver Theological Seminary, has an MDiv from Fuller and a PhD from the University of Iowa. The book is published by Word publishing, and is an interesting and easy read which is why I bought it about a decade ago…really my first real introduction to the topic!

  10. D. Wood says:

    You can Google earlychristianwritings, which is actually a website, and read for free.

  11. Charles Fines says:

    There is a place where history, theology, and ecclesiology merge and I look for the cutting edge there. Is Tom Wright a historian or a theologian? Does it matter? Indeed, this is family history, in my view an extension of the family history found in the Bible. Church history can’t really be understood without the context of world history. Two authors from a previous generation that I find helpful are J.N.D. Kelly and Kenneth Scott Latourette.I started reading Shelly’s history and was so offended by his Evangelical intrusions that I gave it up. I have found the series for Armchair Theologians very helpful in the sense that Wikipedia is a good place to start but not to stop.

    My overall motivation is to find out how we got here, and more to the point, how did we get into this awful mess? I am very conscious of the old saw about those who don’t know history being condemned to repeat it. That might not apply to the church so much except that I am not expecting the organized church to survive coming events in its present form.

    In my view the church ran off the rails very early on tho the cars remained upright and most people didn’t even notice. If in fact we end up picking up the pieces and starting over again, I would like to be able to point out where we went astray so that we don’t repeat some very serious mistakes. This, of course, is where opinions differ, but it is what drives my whole investigation and study of how we managed to get into this very large pickle.

  12. Also:

    Henry Chadwick THE EARLY CHURCH
    Hubert Cunliffe-Jones (editor) A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
    Anything by Everett Ferguson
    Paul F. Bradshaw on the liturgy

  13. The history that I have learned in the Presbyterian Church in America has tended to focus on the Reformation onwards, with perhaps a bit on Augustus. That’s a 1500 year gap that could be providing an immensely helpful perspective.

  14. Another good Church History book (recommended by a Th.M. friend of mine, who used Shelley’s book for a lay-level church history class in church): The Story of Christianity by Justo L. González (available in two-part ppb or single hb 1-volume edition – which can be found cheaper at used book stores than the ppb editions)