I found myself with a lot of questions about how, why, when, who is who when it came to church history. As a someone who works and goes to a large church you can understand why I developed these questions. I’d often hear the wisdom of others share knowledge about different theologians but I wanted to study the development of the modern day church for myself.
When I was browsing the book store around Christmas time I came across, Church History in Plan Language by Bruce L. Shelley. I must admit I was drawn to the graphic design of the cover, but as I opened the book I discovered this was the book I was looking for. Each chapter was about a momental movement or new wave of thought that the church went through.
I was astonish to discover just how little I really knew about Christianity – and I went to bible college! Maybe I missed that class but chances are I wasn’t listening. History has always come off as boring, but I realized its all in who is telling the story.
Every chapter of the book I was on edge of what movement was going to happen next, What form of ideology was the next generation going to bring? What teacher was going to become the father of a new denomination? What scripture was going to be taken to extreme? And the horror of what group of people were going to be martyred next.. I began to connect A to B to C… and so on. It became clear that nothing is new under the sun. Culture come up with “new” outlooks on religion or life all the time, and I see the same ideas were developed in the fourth century, eight century or early twentieth century..
I do admit, I miss the book, I miss reading about this very subject. I ordered a few new books on the Pietists by Johann Arndt that took place in Germany.
The Pietists essence of faith is a personal experience of God’s grace in the believer’s heart.
“Any religion that becomes the religion of the majority and slowly turns into a social habit tends to grow humdrum and flat, regardless of its original glow of enthusiasm. So it proved in many areas of Lutheran Germany.”
“Pietism was the fountain of all modern revivals. it set the experience of new life in Christ at the center of the Christian message and the Christian ministry. for this reason it is impossible to think of Evangelical Christianity today without the imprint of Pietism.”
The way I think, I’ve always taken it for granted, never conquering where I got it from. A great example: I remember when I traveled for the first time, I saw how differently everyone thought. Going to church in a different country I learned a new color of faith. The Australian attitude was, “Why not try, and step out in faith, not sure if you heard from God? Well give it a go and see..” While most American’s mindset was, “I gotta hear from God 100% precent before I make a move.” …leaving most frozen, never attempting to do anything.
Last, I loved hearing what is taking place today in the global church – how God is moving in China, Africa, and South America. Learning how their culture has a direct impact on the way they learn about God. I love how different we all are, it shows how God can become very personal to a person.
The West typically reads the didactic and missionary letters of Paul as a key to reading the remainder of the bible. Some Africans take Leviticus to be central. They identify with of holiness and ritual .Some Asian Christians concentrate upon Proverbs, where they find that God has interest in wisdom that they once sought in Confucian sources. Christians in the Global south seem to appropriate the Bible in a direct manner; they read with a sense of immediacy as though the Bible was written directly to them. Western readers, by contrast, observe a historical distance between the world as they see it and the world of the Bible.
I see how influential the church has been to society, governments and communities around the world. I am encouraged that I am indeed a part of history.