On Reading Church History

The Imaginative Conservative | 2/16/2019 | Dwight Longenecker
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“To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” If Blessed John Henry Newman were to have a Twitter account he might well have used that as his signature tweet. Plunging into the writings of the apostolic fathers was certainly one of the factors that brought that most famous convert to the threshold of the Catholic Church, and the path he forged has been well trod by many others over the years, including myself.

However, no matter what your Christian, or non-Christian allegiance, reading history is beneficial and enjoyable. Why church history over any other history? Because church history, no matter how objective the historian aims to be, is history with a viewpoint. An overview of church history is written as pearls threaded on a string. There is a logical connection. The chronology develops. One can see a meta narrative—an overarching story line, and even the most skeptical critic will see a development even if he does not see a providential plan.

Volume - Church - History - Story - Christian

A good volume of church history not only relates the story of the Christian church, but it connects the theological and ecclesiastical struggles with the political and ideological struggles of every age. Just as the Christian Scriptures are set in a particular political, geographical, and cultural milieu, so church history develops within a constantly shifting cultural, political, and ideological climate. The conflicts that emerge are spiced up with the very human frailties of both the church and secular leaders. The temptations to prosperity, power, and pleasure haunt the palaces of princes as well as the palaces of the prelates. Those dark urges of the mind, the heart, and the groin add the drama to the eternal struggle.

A good review of church history helps ground one’s contemplation of the current conflicts in society and church. It helps one navigate...
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