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A Giant Rummage Sale…

November 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

Anyone who has visited this blog in the recent past know that I am pinning great hope on the “emergent” church being able to rescue the current Christian establishments from their focus on believing things about Jesus as opposed to of “being” a Christian through our actions. I was very disheartened when I discovered the statistic that almost no one can tell the difference between a Christian and anyone else in the population. People who call themselves Christians live their lives pretty much like everyone else. In fact they actually divorce more often than non-Christians! Something has to change to move the church and its current occupants to be more Christ like. I am praying the emergent church will be able to do that.

One of the major proponents of the emergent church is Phyllis Tickle.  In her book entitled The Great Emergence she shows us that every 500 years the church remakes itself in a major way.  Here are some of her words from that book:

The only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And, he goes on to say, we are living in and through one of those five-hundred-year sales. Now, while the bishop may be using a bit of humor to make a point, his is nonetheless a deadly serious and exquisitely accurate point.

Any usable discussion of the Great Emergence and what is happening in Christianity today must commence with yesterday and a discussion of history. Only history can expose the patterns and confluences of the past in such a way as to help us identify the patterns and flow of our own times and occupy them more faithfully. The first pattern that we must consider as relevant to the Great Emergence is Bishop Dyer’s rummage sale, which, as a pattern, is not only foundational to our understanding but also psychologically very reassuring for most of us. That is, as Bishop Dyer observes, about every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur. When that mighty upheaval happens, history shows us, there are always at least three consistent results or corollary events. First, a new, more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge. Second, the organized expression of Christianity which up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.

 I will be spending the next few posts looking at the three previous remakes of the church and how it changed as a result. I am a lifelong history buff and a thorough believer that if we don’t understand history we are more prone to be repeating the same mistakes over and over again.  Next time we will start with the first major remodel of the church in the sixth century.

In this post I will try to give you a very high level view of what I believe is the critical history of the church.  Of course, as this study progresses there might be some things I change likely my mind about.  As with most everything else I am open to different views and one of them may change my overall concepts (but I kind of doubt it 😉 )

Before I get into the view I will be using I want to give you some idea of other ways church history has been viewed:

Here is a very colorful view showing church history from an orthodox perspective. They show that the orthodox church is the one that has had little change through the ages whereas the Roman Catholic and all its off-shoots have radically changed through the years.  They take great pride in saying that they don’t change. Since change is something that human nature seems to generally bristle against this view has some appeal.

Another view similar to the first shows basically the same shape but concentrates on more detail accounts of historic events. This is probably the dominant view of many Christian organizations today.

Here is a high level view, similar to what I will be using, that labels each period in church history based on the most significant events. I suspect that this came from a protestant author in that it deems the period after the reformation as the “modern” age. Some have, among other names, separated this age into modern and post-modern.

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Now let’s get on to the view I will be initially focusing on. I will be covering three basic ages of the church. I couldn’t find a fancy graph as above for this view  so I will be covering it with bullet items instead:

  • The Age of Faith — This period began with the ascension of Christ and ended around 358AD.  I have many stories and such to try and understand just what these early Christians thought and believed.
  •  The Age of Beliefs —  This period spanned between 358CE to around 1900CE. This was the period that all of the many man made beliefs about Christ were formulated.
  • Age of the Spirit. — This period started around 1900 and continue through to the unforeseeable future.

As I have mentioned before these three ages were formulated by Harvey Cox in his book The Future Of Faith.

Next time I will be fleshing out these three ages in more detail. If you want to see a more detailed view see the book.

Until then I bid you peace…..

I want to state up front that I most likely don’t have a complete picture of church history and I’m sure some of my conclusions will go contrary to many of today’s theologians. Especially those with very narrow agendas. I also want to tell you that since there are now 39,000+ different versions of the church of Christ I believe that the church is severely fractured if not broken. But that does not mean that I have given up hope as I definitely see a possibility for great healing.

I come into this study with a strong emphasis on the words of Jesus and on being active in following his examples. I am just not a couch potato Christian.  I believe this is consistent with the early Christians but not so much for the current day church. For me the main crux of this study is to find out when and how the Jesus focus was lost. I am sure there are those who don’t believe that their church denomination ever lost the focus. In some cases that might be true so when it is I apologize in advance for painting with too broad a brush.

Some times, maybe many times, I will drift off subject when I see something in the current media that shows the view of the church from those outside its walls. I think it is vital to see these types of stories if nothing more than to understand why the church has lost so much credibility among the general population of the world.

I am doing this study mainly for my own benefit so that I can understand where the church drifted away from its foundation. I am posting here to keep my thoughts organized and to let others who may have some of the same questions see at least one other layman’s view. Sometimes it seems that we are alone in our feelings about some important  issues. I want to let you know that you are not alone in this area.

I invite your comments on anything I say but I will not get into arguments about a different view. I certainly could be wrong about much of what I write but I hope you realize that you could also be wrong about some of the things you believe. I realize that for those biblical literalists out there that I am going to offend you on a regular basis. I just will not check my intelligence at the door when discussing religious issues.

Finally I want to apologize in advance for having to approve each comment you make before it appears here. This is necessary due to some unfortunate “stalking” problems in the past on this blog.

Until then I wish you peace…..