- How an understanding of Christian/church history will affect your faith
- What tidbit in the intro piqued your interest or seemed “juicy” to you, or he wrote about something you didn’t know about previously
- What area of Christian history you feel least knowledgeable about
Concerning how an understanding of Christian/church history will affect my faith is the question, are our beliefs consistent. What we believe today the same as what was believed from the start, why are there differences? I don’t expect everything should be exactly the same since as with all knowledge our understanding changes and improves as more is studied and discovered. Also the Bible itself shows the disciples themselves debating major issues such as should Gentile believers be circumcised.
Examining how our beliefs evolved to what they are today sheds light on what we may hold as sacred or immutable. Such as issues as women being silent or keeping the Sabbath holy. Understanding the evolution of what we believe would help us with future issues such as homosexuality today.
What seems fascinating is how other ancient beliefs have shaped our understanding of God other than the Hebrew faith, particularly that of Greek philosophy. It’s almost scary on how such an alien culture had such an influence on Hebrew thought which Christianity is from, particularly the ideas of afterlife, heaven and hell.
I’m not very knowledgeable about Christina history in general, but in particular I know the least about non-western history. It’s fascinating that a particular branch of Christianity could develop almost isolated and side by side. How would the theology and beliefs compare next to each other?
AFFECT ON MY FAITH From past experience, the more knowledge and understanding I get about Christianity the deeper, more interesting, more intimate and more fun my faith becomes.
LEAST KNOWLEDGABLE PART I feel deficient in most parts of Church history and look forward to rectifying this problem.
SOME SPECIFIC INTERESTS
1. Post first century ‘reemergence’ of the Church as a different institution (p. 9)
2. Concentration on the ‘primitive’ Church before the effects of worldly recognition especially the effects on doctrine and the institution.
3. History of dialog about Jesus as both God and human and the Trinity Doctrine.
4. People who seriously influenced the Church like Paul, Augustine, etc… and how they did. (p.5)
5. Canonization processes especially the disputes.
6. When and how the ‘fixation’ on the Last Days entered the Church. (p.6)
7. The Iberian Peninsula’s Christianity and the rise of new forms of Christianity (p.4)
8. Christianity’s role in Western Civilization in philosophy, science, art, literature, music, etc…
9. The effect of the Enlightenment, Darwinism on the Church especially the rise of Fundamentalism.
MY PERSONAL QUESTIONS FROM READING THE INTRO
1. Is the central message of Christianity about Jesus or the Kingdom of God? (p. 1)
2. Do Christianity, Judaism and Islam worship the same God?
3. What does he mean “bible as salvation”? (p.8)
4. Are we “people of the book” or of relationships (testimonies)? (p. 8)
5. How do I use Church History in my evangelical and apologetic ministry?
Understanding church history will help me to understand how my faith is different than what i was taught in church. How services and how a church is run is based on what happened in history. I feel like i would appreciate some traditions in church after I find out about the history of them and perhaps resent other traditions once I know about them. The fact that I will learn how much the bible has been changed will certainly affect my faith or how things went down in history. At every step I think I will have to connect with God and ask Him about everything.
When the author talked about Greek and Roman culture and that we would learn about the ancient world before Jesus and during Jesus’s time so that I can understand Jesus’s life better I am really excited about that!
I know nothing about the crusades, so I am excited to know about that. Also I generally know about the how the canons came to be, but I would like to know more about the books that didn’t make it.
I think that a good knowledge of Christian/church history would greatly affect my understanding of my faith in that it will help me understand how and why a relatively insignificant, marginal cult expanded to become one of the most influential movements and institutions in history. As a historian once wondered in her recent book about religion, how was it that Christianity became dominant in the Western world and Rome, when at the same time the more popular cult of Isis, which offered forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and an intimate relationship with the divine (the same things as Christianity offers), die out? We believers can easily point to the book of Acts or the entire NT in general and say that it was an act of entirely of the Holy Spirit, but I think that skirts the complex issues and gives a very naïve, and ultimately unsatisfying response. Christianity is essentially an eastern religion that got “westernized”, so I want to see the evolution of that change and how that happened. Also, how far did we “stray” from the original form of Christianity in the early church? How did all the great doctrines of Christianity come about? Is there a basis of real substance and historical truth behind them? How did the social, economic, cultural, and political changes over different civilizations throughout multiple millennia transform Christian theology?
Reading and going over this book, I believe, will hopefully help me overcome my weakness of “tying” things together. What I mean by that is, my understanding of the development and chronology of Christian history is sporadic and all over the place at best, and it feels as though it has too many holes and gaps. Hopefully, many of these gaps will be addressed and filled up as I progress through the book and discuss the events and ideas MacCulloch writes about. I know “snippets” of history here and there, but I can’t formulate everything into a cohesive, narrative “whole”.
Some things I found interesting in the “Introduction”:
- “Christianity is, at root, a personality cult.” (loc. 119)
- “The great new city of Baghdad would have been a more likely capital for worldwide Christianity than Rome. The extraordinary accident of the irruption of Islam is the chief reason why Christian history turned another direction.” (loc. 160)
- “Pentecostalism, has centered its appeal on a particular form of communication with the divine, speaking in tongues, which was severely mistrusted by Paul of Tarsus and which (despite the understandable claims of Pentecostals to the contrary) has very little precedent in Christian practice b/w the first and the nineteenth centuries CE.” (loc. 219)
- “The Bible thus embodies not a tradition, but many traditions. Self-styled ‘Traditionalists’ often forget that the nature of tradition is not that of a humanly manufactured mechanical or architectural structure with a constant outline and form, but rather that of a plant, pulsing with life and continually changing shape while keeping the same ultimate identity. The Bible’s authority for Christians lies in the fact they have a special relationship with it that can never be altered… This does not deny relationships with other books which may be both deep and long-lasting, and it does not necessarily make the parental relationship easy or pleasant. It is simply of a different kind, and can never be abrogated. Once we see this, much modern neurosis about the authority of the Bible can be laid aside. Maybe the Bible can be taken seriously rather than literally.” (loc. 245)
- “There is no surer basis for fanaticism than bad history, which is invariably history oversimplified.” (loc. 331)
I think one of the biggest challenges for me is to sift through all the different histories and traditions of various church denominations existing today and determining what is theologically true and false. Unfortunately, over the course of two thousand years the Christian Church as a whole has picked a lot of negative baggage that has made it difficult for me to be an effective apologist for the faith. Having been raised in both the Catholic and Protestant churches, I can attest to the fact that history can be used to push a heavily biased agenda in both sects of Christianity. As I shared with many of you in an earlier, Pastor John MacArthur’s statement on the Catholic Church is an opinion shared almost uncritically in most Fundamentalist Protestant churches, while the Catholic Church continues to hold to many of its teachings and traditions that are pagan in origin. So what exactly is the truth regarding man’s salvation from sin? Is salvation from God preordained as the 16th century reformers believe to be the case or are we given the free will to choose our destiny? The answer of course is determined by which church you attend, but I hope spending time reading through MacColloch’s book will at least unpack some of the historical background that gave rise to the current theological teachings we see in the churches across the world today. I look forward to spending some productive time with all of you this year in examining the history or our faith and having some thoughtful discussions at the same time.