TO start this post here is a quote from Robin Myers book entitled The Underground Church - Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus.
Although Western Christianity would eventually be defined as a belief system about God, throughout its first five centuries people understood it primarily as spiritual practices that offered a meaningful way of life in this world not as a neat set of doctrines, an esoteric belief, or the promise of heaven. By practicing Jesus teachings, followers of the way discovered that their lives were made better on a practical spiritual level.
Given for the past 1500 years or so, or at least since the age of Constantine, Christianity has been pretty much defined by what we are supposed to believe about Jesus it is hard to remember that was not the case for the first four hundred years or so. When we look back at history sometimes we lose track of time. In this instance the institution known today as Christianity went 350 years without a one required set of beliefs that defined them. That is longer than the total history of the United States. There was an accepted diversity in almost every congregation. Strict alignment to beliefs were just not important to them in those years. Yes, sometimes those outside of their group, such as evidenced by Paul’s letters gave advice but they didn’t dictate beliefs.
We will soon be studying how the change from following Jesus to believing particular things about him happened. Most of the beliefs that we hang our current Christian faith on now were never mentioned by Jesus himself but were instead inventions of men who came later; often times much later. We will be getting into those details in future posts. To understand the history of the church, even the early history, is to understand man’s involvements in its formation. Yes almost every change that occurred the author claimed divine inspiration as its source. But this is even true for all those things that were thrown aside when the “official” church document known as the Bible was formulated. Can we really be so sure that everything chosen was from God and everything reject was not? In order to understand church history it is necessary to look at everything for ourselves and not to just take what others tell us to believe.
This will be especially true in the coming weeks when I start to look at the history of the things that formulated this “Age of Belief” that many are now starting to question.