Christoper at “A New Testament Student” is preparing for his first seminary course, Survey of Church History, by reading one of the required books. He wrote about his response to the book in a post called “History.”
The book that he read is a very good book on church history called Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley. If you haven’t read it, you should.
Here’s the first “realization” that Christopher came to after reading this book:
First, There is no golden age of Christianity. Each age holds its own flaws, and each leader his or her own failings. The patriarchs, the Roman Catholics, the reformers, the emperors, even the apostles struggled in their understanding of God, and how we relate to Him. As a Christian growing up in the evangelical tradition, I have heard a great deal of praise attributed to the apostles and reformers contrasted by sharp criticism, if not hatred, for all things Roman Catholic. While I am a protestant, reading this text has opened my eyes up to an important truth. The Gospel did not pass away between the fourth and sixteenth centuries only to be resurrected by the Reformation. The name of Christ remained a focal point for a millenium in the midst of plagues, persecutions, and political strife, and the Catholic practice of monasticism preserved all of the ancient writings, including the Scriptures, that brought the reformers to their powerful conclusions. There may have been many distorted and overlooked truths, but there were men who stood firm in their trust of Christ and worshipped Him in the way their culture taught them was appropriate.
Much of the New Testament was written to correct problems that had already cropped up among those early churches. As early as Acts 5 and Acts 6, we see problems in the church. So, Christopher is right… there is no golden age. Of course, if there were no problems among the churches, we may not know as much about them as we do today.
Think of it this way… because of the problems and struggles and issues in the early church, we know how we should respond and live today.
What do you think? Was there a golden age of Christianity?