Carne Levare

Know Other People

On the Early Church

Posted by Remy on May 29, 2009

I love the church fathers. St. Augustine is my number one favorite, but I love reading about St. Athanasius, St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose and many others. I love reading about these crazy guys God has used to shape and mature the church. These are the guys that ran from the church and were dragged kicking and screaming into the ministry, because in the early centuries to be a leader in the church was a deathwish. You had to be crazy to take on a life-threatening slave’s role.  

These men were brilliant, though often petty, insightful, though (like us all) blinded by the times they lived in. Teaching through the period I have come to appreciate how God worked in the world through Platonism, Aristotleanism, and other harmful -isms, using them for good, as a corrective (like postmodernism has been a good corrective of modernism, and how whatever-ism will be a good corrective of postmodernism). To see the hand of the Spirit working in the church over hundreds of years is a great comfort. I’m sure there is much to learn in seeing His method, what questions are dealt with first, how they’re dealt with, how the Lord leads His people in the way they should go.

Studying the history of the church shows many starts and stops, many dead ends, many retreadings. This is important to keep in mind as we look over the history of the church. One example was Asceticism; it wasn’t the right way to go. One of the most unsung heroes of the church was St. Benedict who transformed the eremitic movement and saved civilization. So though we look to the past, we are not cemented to it, though we honor the past, we are not locked in their ways.

For this reason an appeal to the early church alone is not enough. This is because -unless you are a premillenialist- we are still in the early church. In a thousand years people will forget who came first Doug Wilson or Chrysostom, Pope John Paul II or Pope Leo X, modernism or chivalry. Go back a seventeen hundred years ago and you couldn’t convince anyone that in the future an emperor would not be the head of the church. There are many other things that went on in the church, that were widespread that have been totally abandoned today.

This is what we should expect, God working slowly, like leaven through the loaf. Leo Tolstoy wrote a short story with the title “God Sees Truth But Waits”. That has become a great comfort of mine. Knowing that the Lord is working, even though at times things look bleak, even though petty squabble distract us from the unity we have in Christ Jesus, the Lord rises each day and unfolds His new creation a little more and pronounces it good. Then rising again the next day to do it again.

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