Thursday, June 24, 2010

History and Carolyn Arends

Carolyn Arends is a singer who wrote something about church history. It is good to see protestants pay attention to church history. You will encounter God when you do. But encountering God is not always comfortable.
Hungry for context, I delved deeper—and soon realized why we don't share much church history with our kids. Yes, there are bright lights in the story. But there are also dark moments ...
Cardinal Newman says to be deep in history is to cease to be protestant. Arends' idea of deep is much shallower than Newman's idea of deep but it already has her understanding why most protestants don't go there. There are things that don't make any sense to a protestant. She calls the "dark moments" but the term is wrong. We are talking about things that continued uninterupted for centuries. Hardly a moment. Are they dark? If you buy into protestant thinking they are.

In so many ways church history is full of beautiful Christians but when it comes to sacraments or the authority of the pope they seem so dark. Actually they seem Catholic. How does that make any sense? Where are all the evangelicals?

Then there is another scary thought:
How do we process these stories? I open my Bible, and I recognize my debt to those who fought for the accessibility and authority of Scripture. My church holds a baptismal service, and I think of those who were drowned for claiming the right to be baptized as adults.

I recognize, too, that without dissenting voices, there would have been no Reformation. This tempers my response to fellow Christians whom I believe are doctrinally unorthodox. I disagree with them as my conscience dictates, but I must also respect them as potential sparks in a reforming fire. As long as the church is made up of humans, it will need reform, and reform will require dissent from the status quo.
Where have we gone here? Because I need to understand church history in the light of my protestant doctines I cannot see heresy and schism as bad things. If I must make those who rejected infant baptism as heros of the faith then how can I reject theological liberalism today? Arends is not a liberal and she would reject those ideas but she says here that such a rejection would run counter to what logically flows from her reading of history. So again we have a choice. Stop thinking deeply about history or stop thinking like a protestant. Guess which is easier? But God's way is often way harder. Still it is worth it.

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