Church History

Have We Misunderstood Early Christian History? Responding to 3 Recent Scholarly Claims

"For a volume that claims to be working 'with an open mind' and 'not assuming anything' (1), it reaches a remarkably predictable conclusion that just happens to fit with the pre-existing paradigm of Walter Bauer that has been in place for nearly 100 years." - TGC

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Why I’m Inviting John Leland to Thanksgiving Debates About Christian America

"Congregationalists and Anglicans at the time appealed to the state’s authority to uphold religious doctrine....the truth needed protection from the government. Leland, along with other Baptists and evangelicals at the time, rejected this." - CToday

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Teaching Church History in Our Churches

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

History is boring! How many times has that been said, mostly by schoolchildren who have to learn names, dates, and events for an exam? History can be boring, but it doesn’t need to be.

I have been a vocational historian of Christianity for the past two decades and have had the joy of teaching aspects of the subject to men and women around the world, in classroom settings as well as church settings. One of my goals is to teach history in a way that makes the story come alive, stirs interest, engages the listeners, and demonstrates its relevance to my hearers. Of course, to do this, to make history alive, engaging, interesting, and relevant to others, it has to be all of those things to me. I can’t teach others to love what I find boring or uninteresting.

Therefore, while I taught seminary, I tried to give my students a love for history. Sometimes it worked. A few years back, a student who had struggled a bit in class called me from his first pastorate to tell me he had been visiting a retirement center and had run into a retired priest who probed the young Baptist pastor about church history. The former student was elated that he felt he could go toe to toe with the retired gentlemen. Admittedly, I found this story satisfying, for I had evidently accomplished my goal.

So even if we are not vocational church historians, why should we teach church history in our churches? How will stories from the past profit churches today? What purpose might it serve to provide believers with occasional or regular lessons or illustrations from church history?

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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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