As I read about major events in the life of the early church, I’m struck by how human everything is.
Yes, perhaps there is an invisible divine hand at work behind the scenes.
But on the surface, God seems to have allowed flawed human beings the privilege of figuring out a lot of major stuff.
Just read about the contentious issues surrounding the selection of letters for inclusion in the NT.
Or which version of the Trinity — or the nature of Christ — would be adopted as the orthodox position.
Or whether clergy who “lapsed” under persecution could subsequently perform valid rites and sacraments in the church.*
Or whether Greek philosophy should be thought of as a helpful tutor — or hindrance — for theological understanding and for defending the faith in the Roman Empire and into the Middle Ages.
Inside the historic accounts you’ll find flesh-and-blood mortals — some brave, some heroic, some disgusting — who fight, scratch, claw, take sides, condemn, ex-communicate, denounce, and make arguments and counter-arguments about the most foundational issues of all Christendom, for all time.
What this mixed bag of saints and not-so-saints haggled over for 16+ centuries has a direct effect on the thinking and behavior of today’s (and tomorrow’s) Christians — that is, our orthodoxy and “orthopraxy.”
So is it all trustworthy? Were mistakes made? Do we now have it right? What sort of God would leave these matters to us?
I’ll write about it next week.
* The Donatist controversy