This will be the beginning of I don’t know how many posts on the early leaders of the church. By early I mean after the Apostles but before Constantine (350 AD). Again I want to state very clearly up front that I am not a theologian or someone who is very learned in this area. I am just an ordinary guy who has questions about these sort of things.
I am doing this study to try to learn how we got to where we are as a church today. In the beginning diversity was a celebrated part of the church but then strict adherence to a particular set of beliefs took over. In the early part of this study I want to try to discover just what happened. That is the purpose for this section and every other that will follow.
The early church leaders were as diverse as those they tried to lead. For the most part they were an affluent bunch who generally lead a privileged life prior to, and sometimes after, their conversion to People of the Way. Of course being affluent meant that they were usually studied in greek culture and were literate. That is they could put down their beliefs in writing whereas most common men and women of the time were illiterate. We have a few stories of these others but for the most part only the ones who could leave a written text are now known.
The other thing we need to realize about the early church leaders was that they were not historians as we come to know them today. They were generally considered theologians in that they had opinions on where the church should be going. But for the most part they were people who wanted to influence the direction of the church for one reason or another. For the most part I am sure that they all thought they were getting their opinions directly from divine revelations but since some of their views directly opposed others direct revelation could not be true for all. We also cannot be so naive to think that those opinions that dominated were necessarily the ones God provided.
We must also remember that they were men (and a few women) who relished power as most do. As many of them gained power they lost tolerance for other who held differing views. This is what makes church history so messy. Power corrupts everyone to one degree or another. That is just human nature. We must recognize this fact when studying any history, especially something as important as church history.
I’m sure I will not be covering all the early leaders of the church here and maybe not even some considered the most important.
And the study goes on…..