One of the thornier question in ecclesiology is the question of boundaries: who gets included and who gets excluded? If you’re reading this hoping that I will conclusively resolve the issue in a “basic ecclesiology” series, you will be disappointed.
No, the starting point for my discussion of inclusion and exclusion is the apostle Paul’s advice to a younger minister of Christ, Timothy. After reminding him of the salvation available in Jesus, Paul continued (2 Timothy 2:14-19):
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
Teleology is both the hope of Christians and the bane of historians. As a professional historian, I have publicly railed against teleology for the edification of my students. As a practicing Christian, I have publicly thanked God for his teleology and used it to comfort those who are hurting. That sure looks like a contradiction. It struck me as odd recently, as I was buried under a mountain of undergraduate papers and final exams to grade. I don’t think it’s a contradiction, but exploring why not has clarified for me what historians are trying to accomplish, and the basis on which Christians formulate their understandings. (more…)
Marc Bloch, a twentieth-century Jewish historian of medieval France, once wrote, “Christianity is a religion of historians.” He meant not only that Christian scripture and liturgy recount and commemorate historical events, but also that according to Christianity the fate of humanity played out (and continues to play out) within historical time. While it is not true that all Christians are historians, I find as a professional historian that my understanding of the past greatly enriches and deepens my faith. But as a professional, I have been trained to think in certain ways about the past, and sometimes those ways of thought seem to conflict with my faith. What is a Christian historian to do in such cases?