Friday, March 9, 2012

How little we know our own churches...

I taught a seven hour class on Saturday, March 3, as I began an introduction to what Lutherans believe, confess, and teach (yes, I know, seven hours? well it is easier for people to give me big blocks of time than to give me an hour a week for x amount of weeks).  I enjoy teaching this but it is a marathon to do -- just the talking for 7 hours!  One of the sections we spend some time on is church history.  I am always surprised by how little we know history, especially our own history!  Lutherans often confuse modern day differences with Rome as the battleground issues of the sixteenth century and are shocked to find out what the Reformation was really about (such as not about the Pope speaking infallibly from the throne of St. Peter but about the very essence of the Gospel and whether the Word is the authority in the Church).

Often those coming from other backgrounds are surprised to find out what their own church's believe.  I have found strange looks from Presbyterians when we talk about God's sovereignty or about predestination.  I have had Baptists say in shock "you mean we don't believe in Christ's presence in Communion?"  I have had Roman Catholics deny that Rome teaches transubstantiation.  I could go on and on.  Some of them are felicitous in consistences -- when the folks believe the right way (as Scripture teaches) even though the church they belonged to does not.  Some of them are just plain strange (most folks could tell you that this church believes that).  I don't blame the folks.  I blame the catechesis and the teacher.

History, in particular, is largely untaught and unknown in the instruction of most churches - Lutherans included.  Because we do not know history, we also do not know where things come from or the relationships between church bodies.  For example in a discussion about purgatory, most folks did not know that purgatory was only for those headed to heaven and not yet fully cleansed; they had confused it with a sort of prejudge station or triage for God to decide who is going to make and who is not. The division between Rome and Constantinople is often a complete unknown.

The point I am trying to make is not that the communication of trivialities and oddities is important but that we owe it to the folks to flesh out of the faith through the ages.  This is very important to understanding the faith and why things are the way they are among the various churches.  It is also essential to knowing what we believe, confess, and teach.  It is not enough simply to teach the Gospel and leave them wondering about how we got from 12 apostles to a few thousand different Christian groups.  Who Lutherans are is so much easier to understand given the backdrop of what the Church looked like in the centuries prior to the Reformation.  It is amazing to me how little most folks know of such things as the Thirty Years' War -- a critical event in Lutheran history and one that had great implications for the shape of Lutheran piety and hymnody.

So I urge those doing youth or adult catechetical instruction -- don't leave out the history.  BTW if you do not know the story, pick up that book from CPH - what was the title - The Church from Age to Age and learn it so that you can tell it...

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greetings!

My name is Peter Elliott, and I'm a 2010 St. Louis grad, now serving at a congregation in northern Michigan. I'm intrigued by the idea of a long saturday seminar. Do you have an outline of topics you address? How do you spend your 7 hours wisely, and do you have any suggestions of how to 'break up' the time? Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Nazareth was not prophesied of in the old testament and that no historical map or document records Nazareth as an actual town. Did you know that the site for the alleged Nazareth only had graves which would make it inhabitable by Jewish custom. Did you know that Paul only mentions an actual Jesus 3 times....even the night he was betrayed verse he says he received not from the apostles but from rhe Lord himself....in his letters and all of those times he speaks of a gnostic Jesus who revealed himself to him personally. Galatians 3:1 says Jesus was crucified amount the Galatians ..
Could Paul have been gnostic and completely aware that there was no historical Jesus? Paul nevwr mentions the actual miracles or true geography and bio of an earthly Jesus. Could the gospels and other books written after his letters been pure myths filling in the blanks about Paul's gnostic Jesus. Did you know that the Josephus account was forged bc it is inserted and the text immediately before and after are illogical and that as a devout Jew josephus would never have Called Jesus ...Christ.keep in mind that I address these questions in love and respect and sincerely. I wish you all the best....just asking if you have answers....

Janis Williams said...

Dear Anonymus #2,

If Paul were a gnostic, he would not have been concerned with the bodily resurrection of Jesus. For him to say, "I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1
Corinthians 2:2) would not make sense. Paul spent the first part of 1 Corinthians 15 (and remember, these were letters, no verse numbers till centuries later for convenience) explaining that Christ's resurrection IS the Gospel. Without the resurrection, we Christians are liars and fools.

Gnostics were concerned with the spirit, what they considered good. The body for them was bad. For Christ to be raised in a body that lives forever would have been horrifying to a gnostic. So I really do not think you could classify Paul as a gnostic.

Just one small answer to your many questions. And thank you for being honest in your questions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Janis. I did not consider that part of Paul's writings. Well if a redirected Christ was seen alive amount over 500 people you think one of the plethora of contemporary living historians would have mentioned it rather than just one Josephus a Jew whose small paragraph sounds more like an inserted chatecism considering the fact that no good Jew would have.called Jesus the Christ and if this major event of the Christ had happened you would think a devout Jew like Josephus would have devoted more than a brief nod to it in his historical volumes. Tacitus is the only other early historian and he mentions Christ and Christians with contempt...his history is derivitive rather than original. So only these two out of 50 or more contemporaries wrote a smigion about a man who supposedly rose from the grave. Don't you find that odd? Also none of the historians reported the 3 hours of darkness...there were 11 eclipses between 26 and 43 ad and none of them occurred by Jerusalem and an eclipse doesn't even last 3 hours. How come no contemporary historian recorded that thriller like scene of dead men coming out of graves and 3 hours of darkness???

Clair Vaux said...

Jews seek signs and Greeks seek wisdom.

Nothing much new under the sun here.

Nazareth is recorded as having been a small, insignificant town, didn't even have any major trade routes. It has also been continuously settled since 200 BC.

As for Josephus, he cozied up to his Roman overlords in order to save his own conniving self and opinion about him is divided in the Jewish community, where in some quarters he is considered an apostate.

Christianity is a living tradition based upon eyewitness accounts given by those willing to die for what they believed in.

And what, please is a "redirected" Christ? The only Jesus that Scripture knows is the resurrected (not "re-animated") God-Man who now reigns in his glorified humanity until the parousia.

By the way, there is an old inscription from Roman days that portrays Christ as a donkey and says "Alexamenos worships his god." The pagan Romans were quite aware of this new religion and accused its participants of practicing cannibalism. Unlike the ancient Romans and Greeks the Christians were also known for their differing values, which did not permit infanticide or the abandonment of the handicapped or elderly.

I suppose the nutshell difference between Judeo-Christianity and the ancient animistic religions is that in the former God seeks out man whereas in the latter man is continually seeking for God.

Christine

Anonymous said...

There is not one historical eye witness account and you are completely wrong about Nazareth...there was no historical town at the time of 0 to 30 ad called Nazareth. You should be earnestly contending for the faith but it seems you earnestly contend for a shaky history that has no foundations. Miracles are not a part of historical documents. You either have faith or you have a historical proof of Christ. There is no historical proof of Christ because Christianity is a religion of faith not eye witness sight. Can i get a witness lol

Anonymous said...

Church is a tax free social club surrounding an evolved form of mythology. Until you start welcoming people of all races and social diseases you will have no miracles other than hot coffee and clean bathrooms. Christ is supposed to be your leader ...why is that so hard to understand...it was easy for the Nazis to mime and adore their leader...why not CHRIST your king and god...Christ quoted scripture not historians...Christ did not come for the university students and bourgeois ...very few of those were saved in the Bible...if any...how is it that nowadays they are the supposed majority in a religion with a god for the poor and outcast...he is now the god of the corporate right wing conservative....give me a break!

Anonymous said...

One is properly a Christian because they read the Bible and fell in love. It would be like me defending my friendships or marriages with external data such as astrology...lie detectors or other scientific tools used to analyze emotions....you are either in love and it consumes you or you're not. If you need the external analysis you may be in doubt. Know yourselves whether yea be in the faith. I am not in the faith and find many of the actions and theology of Christ offensive and unnecessary for mature reasonable law abiding citizens. The culture of Christ is for those threatened by sexuality...those fearful of death and the unknown...those with lots of guilt...or those who do not believe in their own worth and status as problem solving humans.

Clair Vaux said...

Well, Israel seems to accept the archeological evidence for the existence of Nazareth:

Nazareth was a small and insignificant village during the period of Jesus. While the site was settled during the period 600-900 BCE, it was too small to be included in the list of settlements of the tribe of Zebulon (Joshua 19:10-16), which mentions twelve towns and six villages. Nazareth is not included among the 45 cities of the Galilee that were mentioned by Josephus, and her name is missing from the 63 towns in Galilee mentioned in the Talmud.It seems that the words of Nathanel of Cana, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:47) characterized the site’s seeming insignificance. It is needless to say that the people of Judea had never heard of Nazareth.
And from this we understand the reason that Pontius Pilate decorates the cross with the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19:19) – meaning that the “King of the Jews” is from “nowhere.” The early name “Nazarenes” given to the Christians might have been a derogatory nickname that the people of Judea gave to the followers of Jesus (Matthew 26:71, Acts 6:38). Jesus was known throughout the Galilee as “Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11 , Mark 14:67) – but for those not from the Galilee, this name had no meaning for them. In order to explain where Nazareth was located, the Galileans had to explain that the village was near Gat-Hyefer (Jonah’s hometown,Kings II 14:25), which could be seen from Nazareth. Archeological excavations conducted in Nazareth (by Bagati since 1955) show that Nazareth was a small agricultural village settled by a few dozen families.

The pottery remains testify to a continuous settlement during the period 600-900 BCE. After those years, there was a break in settlement until the year 200 BCE.

The angry and fundamentalist approach in your posts also speaks volumes about your agenda. You are not in the least bit interested in finding "support" for Christianity, historical or otherwise..

You have my sympathy, I will pray for you.


Christine

Clair Vaux said...

Well, Israel seems to accept the archeological evidence for the existence of Nazareth:

Nazareth was a small and insignificant village during the period of Jesus. While the site was settled during the period 600-900 BCE, it was too small to be included in the list of settlements of the tribe of Zebulon (Joshua 19:10-16), which mentions twelve towns and six villages. Nazareth is not included among the 45 cities of the Galilee that were mentioned by Josephus, and her name is missing from the 63 towns in Galilee mentioned in the Talmud.It seems that the words of Nathanel of Cana, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:47) characterized the site’s seeming insignificance. It is needless to say that the people of Judea had never heard of Nazareth.
And from this we understand the reason that Pontius Pilate decorates the cross with the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19:19) – meaning that the “King of the Jews” is from “nowhere.” The early name “Nazarenes” given to the Christians might have been a derogatory nickname that the people of Judea gave to the followers of Jesus (Matthew 26:71, Acts 6:38). Jesus was known throughout the Galilee as “Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 21:11 , Mark 14:67) – but for those not from the Galilee, this name had no meaning for them. In order to explain where Nazareth was located, the Galileans had to explain that the village was near Gat-Hyefer (Jonah’s hometown,Kings II 14:25), which could be seen from Nazareth. Archeological excavations conducted in Nazareth (by Bagati since 1955) show that Nazareth was a small agricultural village settled by a few dozen families.

The pottery remains testify to a continuous settlement during the period 600-900 BCE. After those years, there was a break in settlement until the year 200 BCE.

The angry and fundamentalist approach in your posts also speaks volumes about your agenda. You are not in the least bit interested in finding "support" for Christianity, historical or otherwise..

You have my sympathy, I will pray for you.


Christine

Anonymous said...

The tourist sift of modern day Nazareth and the town after Jesus supposed death is no doubt accepted by Israel. However at that site an excavation took place and only graves and wine presses were found. It was not habitable when Jesus supposedly lived. You do your praying and i will do my thinking. You believe in a litteral red sea parting....a man being kept alive in the belly of a whale...a god who sends bears after a crowd of youth...a god who gets bored and makes bets with satan over job and allows his family and sustenance to he destroyed. Keep praying to that god....i will keep thinking morally and critically about the Bible. Nazareth is the equivalent of OZ and Jesus did not perform miracles because miracles do nit exist....his supposed mother was not a virgin...get real...you probably still believe in Santa and the tooth fairy.

Anonymous said...

In wikipedia a non biased source under archaeology and history sections look at what is said....mass grave sites....yes there were Assyrian times prior and other levels but the level that deals with the 50 years prior to the birth of Jesus and that time frame of the gods birth....it was inhabitable by Jewish law. It doesn't matter how small a town it was....if three people lives there they would have to have had dwellings and dwellings were not found at the end of the yellow brick road....nowadays since the late 1st century onward...yes it has tons of history and archealigy involving dwellings.....but at the time if Jesus...nada for evidence.

Clair Vaux said...

And you might brush up on your spelling.

It's "literal", not "litteral" and "archeology", not "archealigy."

Yes, I am making an ad hominem criticism. I don't mind engaging agnostics and aetheists but could you at least spell properly?

Now be a good boy or girl and go out and play.

Christine

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pastor Peters said...

To the anonymous poster here... I have removed your last comment because it contributed nothing to the conversation and was merely offensive. The point here is to generate light -- not heat. Please -- all commenters -- comment respectfully and with appropriate decorum to a public conversation. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry Pastor Peters. I am truly seeking truth and admit that I have an all or nothing approach to whatever I currently believe and may go to the extreme to make plausible points. Will try to be mindful of the audience from now on. My point Was how many people dye their hair or have unrequited love...that fake things that are socially beneficial can have high numbers so i am not threatened by the number of Christians is all.

Pastor Peters said...

Anonymous,

If you truly seek the truth, then you must be prepared to follow where it leads. The claims against the Gospels for inaccurate or made up places and names is an old one and one rendered largely irrelevant by modern archeology which has found ample evidence outside the NT for the names, dates, and places found in the NT.

Go to http://www.ichthus.info/CaseForChrist/Archeology/intro.html as one example of modern archeological claims to refute old doubts.

Even the unfriendly Huffington Post reports on the archeological finds friendly to Christianity:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/21/first-jesusera-house-foun_n_399107.html

or from USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-12-21-jesus-house-nazareth_N.htm

The point is that Christian history would be far more suspect if things were too neatly packaged so as to remove all doubt or question. Christians do not hide anything. The claims of Christianity are transparent.

Do you believe in William Shakespeare? If you do, there is less evidence for a real man named Shakespeare living than for Jesus...

Just a few things for you to consider...

Anonymous said...

True on Shakespeare. I took two classes in college on him, his times, and works. I will read the sites you listed and think about them. Heck even Sepal Choprah believes in a flesh and blood man named Jesus...but if you read under American athiest website and jesusneverexisted.com you will see most of my arguments....i have s master's degree and have read the Bible over a dozen times cover to cover except geneologies and temple plans....i am not taking anything too lightly....

Pastor Peters said...

The mind will never lead you to faith... Only the Spirit can open the door to the mind so that faith may enter there. I say this not to suggest you should not study but to remind you that faith is an act of God within us and not something we do. Faith will always be beyond our grasp and never sure enough to convince the skeptical mind.

The second thing is that to read Scripture does not exactly help with faith unless the Spirit can show us how to read the Scriptures through the lens of Christ. He is the center, the message, and the goal of God's Word. He is the key which unlocks the Word of God.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Neither of these sites (American athiest website and jesusneverexisted.com) are objectively neutral but are driven by the point of view of atheism. Just sayin. They are not objective or without a dog in this race.

Anonymous said...

Ok look up the Quirinius Census on Wikipedia. It is a non biased site and it will inform you that no Roman census required jews to return to the ancestrial homes of distant relatives...also the Quirinius Census did not extend to Galiliee anyhow nor did they request heavily pregnant women to travel for them. The Bible has errors and fabrications, perhaps for a spiritual or allegorigal and "good reason" but nevertheless it was written by men TRYING to create a God out of a man. That's not as easy task and they did a really good job at it...

Pastor Peters said...

Purchase and read Paul L. Maier's First Christians or the whole series In the Fullness of Time; he deals with archeology and modern objections (remember that the objections raised are modern and all within the last 150 years or so, most within the last 100 years and prior to this there were no such critics who insisted that Scripture must be wrong).

Lutheran Lurker said...

Oh, come on... "it was written by men TRYING to create a God out of a man..."

Do you really think that if this was manufactured, this would be the best men could do? Four gospels with four different perspectives on the one Christ event? Really, if this were manufactured names, dates, places, timelines, events, etc. would have been sanitized so that it all fit the known world and there was no room for doubt.

Anonymous said...

There are no eye witness contemporary sources. The disciples and apostles save Paul were not litterary Greek writers. Matthew 9:9 and John 21:24 confess that they were not the actual disciple. No epistle makes mention of eye witness contemporary writings. Peter does refer to Paul and Iraneus quotes profusely from the NT as soon as it was available...all the Episteles and gospels quote rampantly from the OT...it was in the nature of these people to quote sources. It remains that we have no eye witness accounts of such a man with such miracles and such a large following. Heck even the Roman soldiers gaurding the tomb didn't inspire any writings. All sources were written years after the supposed death. Even if Nazareth had been a metropolis it would jot necessarily prove the existance of Jesus. Look at contemporary sources on Ceasar or Judas of Galilee and his tax rebellion. They wrote and reacted to that immediately. Anyhow what it comes down to is you are people of faith and will keep your families together...enjoy friendship and fellowship and raise your kids right. There is nothing wrong with being people if faith and Lutheranism seems the best way because it divers for all the doubt and error by insisting it is by Faith alone and not our perfect mental acceptance. Tat is why i only visit Lutheran because if there is one church that seems right it is LCMS....but it still may not be for me since I was raised in a very skeptik and liberal environment and without heirarchies or any prohibitions on women etc....it may never work for me but I am glad you are happy in it.

Lutheran Lurker said...

May I suggest that you read Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham. He addresses the very issue of eyewitnesses that you bring up.

Anonymous said...

I will look that one up....i have no doubts about early Christians and their belief of a flesh and blood Christ....i believe in all the usual stuff of the martyrs and early church etc....it is only the pre-epistle living Jesus i look to find eye witnesses for....will look up now....

Anonymous said...

It is the plethora if Christian writers and writings about Christians that emerge in the late 1st century and early 2nd that show me these people were able to move historians to write...they were able to write themselves...Papias and men like him that day they had oral sources should have been saying that during Christs ministry or immediately after....where is the original Aramaic script that Bauckham mentions....why did the gospels get written so longer after Jesus death...why not within that year....its a faith religion.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Palestine was hardly a plum assignment in the Roman Empire of the day. It is not surprising that events in Palestine would not merit mention in histories written in the day. Palestine was important to Rome only for the trade routes that went through it. By the time of Jesus, the Jews were a toothless lion as far as a nation. Nothing of Judaism or of Jesus would have it the radar in Rome. Communication was slow and the world was ripe with outlandish stories so that the story of Jesus, the Son of God, who was crucified and rose from the dead, was not the strangest of things heard in that day. It is only when Christianity becomes a movement of size that Rome took notice. That would have happened no earlier than 100-200 years after Christ that Christians became of size enough for Rome to take notice. Even then, Rome took notice mostly to blame Christians for ills in the empire and punish them in the lions den etc. By this time the persecution of Christians is well known and historically well founded.

Anonymous said...

Possible...trust me the idea of eternal life with my family and loved one's sounds great...its not that i don't want to believe but that i have to get honest about my doubts and the scholars..there were a lit of people claiming to be the Messiah....its also on the essene writings ...
perhaps they started to grow weary of Messiah tales and zealots but still the 3 hours of darkness and dead walking....the empty tomb....the falsified census about returning to Bethlehem to fulfill or force OT prophesies.....

Anonymous said...

If there is or was a Jesus and He is the door then Faith is the hinge because there is a possibility He existed but no one will ever find Jesus through any concrete absolutes in the world and maybe God wanted it that way so that it would be if faith...in addition no one will ever find God through any moral law or rule of life....i may have a 3rd baby and I suppose I will want that baby baptised also....