Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What Good Old Days?

I am a Historical Theologian. That's simply the way it is. Of all the avenues and approaches to theology, approaching through the lens of History has always been the most fascinating to me. Of course, I also find a perverse sort of comfort in having this historical perspective.

The Systemetician will desire the perfect form and system of doctrine. . . and then doesn't see it being confessed.

The Exegete will desire the perfect understanding of Scripture. . . and then see people butcher the text.

The Liturgist will desire the perfect form of worship. . . and then gag when he hears what "neat" thing his neighbor did last Sunday.

The Preacher will craft the perfect sermon. . . and then. . . yeah.

The Historian does not have these problems. Why? What ends up interesting the Historian, what keeps him interested through all those years of History. Seeing the amazing amount of "feces" (let the reader understand) the Church survives through.

The Historian is one who realizes there is no golden Age. Ah, to be around when Ireneaus was! You mean when you had all those stinking Gnostics around? Oh, to be around when Athanasius was? Which part, when he was in Alexandria or during one of his exiles (a total of 17 years). Oh, to be around in the time of Luther? What, with Rome trying to kill you and all sorts of new enthusiasts popping up all over the place? Oh, to be in the time of Chemnitz and the unity of Concord! Um, that came from people being at each other's throats for 25+ years.

There is no Golden Age of the Church. There are no good old days - not when we look clearly at the past. Satan always stirs up "feces" against the Church, and that's the way it will be until Christ returns.

And because I, as a Historical Theologian, am well aware not only of the flaming bags. . . um. . . darts (don't want to set the Exegete off by ignoring that it was flaming darts in Ephesians). . . Satan throws against the Church, but also that God sees His Church through trial and errors and all those things.

So, what happens when I look out and see today - and see horrid and lazy doctrine, and sloppy exegesis, and a preaching of entertainment, and chancel tomfoolery? I say, "ah, what lovely history this will make some day, once we all get through it. Mayhaps it will be as interesting to future generations, and as confounding, as the walkout or the Predestinarian Controversy was to me."

And then I move on. When people want X - I say, ah, X - well, that's just like Y from long ago and we rejected Y then because of this, this, and this. And I live my life as a Historian - grinding my teeth at stupidity, but at least remembering that the trials of my day may make for a paper for another historian down the road.

Thus is life in the Church Militant.

1 comment:

Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...

Golden yeah, about that.....

Another advantage to historical theology is that library bookshelves get dusted, since someone will actually crack open those old volumes, so that your aforementioned essay will be written.

It's always fun to tell those stories of the past without revealing names ("There was a church/pastor who") and let people draw their own conclusion about the stories' application to today. And to think that only the exegetes got to use parables......