Christian History

From the Archives – Making Church History Relevant for Pastors & Students (Part 2)

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved. Read Part 1.

Example: Transubstantiation

The Fourth Lateran Council of the Catholic Church in 1215 mentioned the term “transubstantiation” to describe what happened in the Mass. Transubstantiation taught that the bread and wine actually and literally became the body and blood of Christ. But how could this be, seeing how everyone still tasted bread when they partook? The doctrine had been building steadily for some three centuries prior, but how could the scholastic intellectuals of that day explain and justify something which obviously went against the experience of everyone who participated?

As Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) would clarify, when the priest pronounced the words of consecration, the “essence” of bread and wine changed to become the essence of Christ’s body and blood. The “accidents” (the external characteristics of the bread—salty, sweet, crunchy, soft) remained the same. How can the RAMHI help us understand this monumental doctrine of the Catholic Church?1

First, who was in charge? The answer is the scholastics of that day, and Thomas Aquinas in particular. They sought to give a “scientific” or credible explanation for this unusual occurrence.

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From the Archives – Making Church History Relevant for Pastors & Students (Part 1)

Ancient Corinth

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

Most of us took our church history classes1 in Bible college or seminary (or both) because we had to complete another requirement to graduate. Of course, there were some famous episodes within the last 2,000 years of Christian history that we wanted to know about. And we were told, as the common maxim goes: “Those who do not learn from the errors of [church] history are destined to repeat them.” Also, I remember one revered seminary professor at Faith telling us that the department of church history was always the last in a theological institution to turn liberal. If that is the case, surely there must be something important in those historical classes that will help us remain true to our Biblical heritage.

The challenge is how to discern what those lessons might be in the midst of all those religious figures, civil leaders, dates, locations (mostly European), and events. Sometimes students get lost in all the details of the (admittedly lengthy) narrative. A legitimate question to ask of church history is: How does knowledge of this material matter to my life and ministry? My response is that submitting a given event or period of church history to a prescribed model provides a helpful way to answer this question.

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Responding to Criticisms of Christianity

"Hardly any comment thread on this blog is without someone blaming Christians and Christianity for war, slavery, oppression, sexism, intolerance, or whatever else is evil.  Bring up the value of Lutheran theology and you can count on accusations that Luther is responsible for Hitler and the Holocaust. So how should Christians respond to such criticisms?" - Gene Veith

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Christian Persecution and the Origins of Religious Freedom

Tertullian "asserted that it is a 'fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions.' He was the first to argue for religious toleration as a general principle and, in so doing, coined the phrase 'freedom of religion' (libertas religionis)." - IFWE

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The Roots of Postfundamentalist Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism)

"One thing that I perhaps should mention is that evangelicalism (and fundamentalism) is the sum of reactions to the Enlightenment. In this sense, both movements are reactionary, but with turtle-like reactions of decades to a problem now centuries old." - Don Johnson

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