Well i recently started my reading for my upcoming church history class. I have to confess that my initial feeling was that i was going to be bored out of my mind on this one, and i was intimidated to say the least by the amount of reading required.
I think that i am still a bit intimidated, but i am actually really enjoying the material. It is fascinating to watch a historian interact with the Bible. The first book i am reading is called “A Short History of Christianity” by Martin E. Marty. To read up about him and his work click here. He views the Bible from a different vantage point than I, who tend to think more devotional and exegetically about it. This is great b/c he reaches some different conclusions than i do, and they have challenged me.
For example, Marty maintains that there was divison in the Apostolic church. He gets this from Paul recount of visiting Jerusalem in Galatians 2, as well as the emphasis on the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 by Luke. I am not going to go into all the details of his argument here, but i will say that i think that he is reading too much into the text. Paul and Peter didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but to say Paul was combating heresy from the men who had been with Jesus is a stretch.
Either way, the most interesting thing about his perspective to me is how as Acts progresses Paul’s churches, while being attacked by sinful living from the inside, and heresy on the outside, Paul’s work still grew and flourished, whereas the “mother church” in Jerusalem didn’t. Why was this?
Marty claims that this is b/c the Jerusalem church couldn’t completely part ways with their traditions to go and evangelize the gentiles. They were okay with gentiles not following Judaic rituals, but weren’t okay leaving their place of safety to do exsperience “gentile Christianity.” He argues that in essence, the Jerusalem church couldn’t let go of the old and move on, and as a result, they died out fairly quickly.
I am not sure if Marty is 100%, or even 80% accurate, but this idea raises some tough questions for me today. It makes me wonder if i am building up walls through my behavior that i am not willing to let go that push people away from Christ. On Gadsden’s blog (see blog column to the right) he talks about love, and why we resist/fear it. My current reading helped me to see an additional reason for why we resist love: our rituals provide comfort and familiarity, and often they act like walls that isolate us from people and God. This is a tragedy i am often guilty of.
As believers we must be willing to extend ourselves into uncomfortable areas, because it is there that we find love. If we don’t take a chance, a risk (not an open theism reference!), then we remain in our cage of traditions, locked in from the inside. Maybe if we embrace it, fear can be our ultimate ally, because when we can sense fear’s nearness, we know that he has brought opportunity for a love that conquers with him.
Lord may we welcome unfamiliarity as our friend and teacher in the way of agape.