Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, several bloggers (including yours truly) issued a flurry of posts covering various aspects of the Protestant Reformation to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses. The readers of The Outspoken TULIP responded with a collective yawn.
Beth Moore, apparently, is much more interesting.
Few bloggers (also including yours truly) bothered to cover the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, which did much to frame Reformed thought. I believe we grew weary.
Some of that weariness came from the exhaustion of research. History of any sort is surprisingly subjective, and therefore demands extensive work in order to arrive at a reasonable consensus of what really happened. Besides consuming vast quantities of time, discovering the facts can ruin a cherished agenda. Talk about emotional devastation! What Reformed Christian wants to hear that Martin Luther became anti-Semitic toward the end of his life? Stuff like that can spoil a perfectly happy narrative!
So historical research takes time. Time that sometimes we don’t want to sacrifice. Bloggers have spouses, children, church responsibilities and even hobbies (not to mention jobs) that require attention. Educating ourselves on something as monumental as the Synod of Dort can’t be accomplished in a few spare afternoons.
But the daunting weight of research, in and of itself, isn’t the main reason Reformed bloggers have dropped the ball in writing about Dort. 2017 taught us the discouraging lesson that our readers don’t care about church history. About any type of history. As one friend of mine put it, “I’m more concerned about how to fix the problems in today’s messed up church.”
I’m equally concerned about today’s messed up church. But unlike my friend, I believe that understanding church history offers clues to how churches get messed up and how the Lord uses faithful believers to call His people back to Him.
Maybe I can’t thoroughly study every period of church history. Although I should know at least something about the Early Church Fathers, the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon, the Great Schism and the pre-Reformers, my interests lie in the Reformation and Dort. It would also be good to have a working knowledge of church history in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.
Church history shows us that the errors in today’s church simply repackage errors throughout the past 21 centuries. Do you want help discerning the problems with Beth Moore? Looking back at various sects like the Anabaptists or the Quakers could provide insight. Learning how the Council of Nicaea derived the doctrine of the Trinity from Scripture can help us withstand arguments from Oneness Pentecostals.
Best of all, church history encourages us back to God’s Word. Reformation history in particular teaches us the precious value of the Bible as we see people like William Tyndale and Lady Jane Grey die as martyrs for it.
It’s been 502 years since Martin Luther inadvertently launched the Protestant Reformation. Do my readers care? If only they did, this blog could really teach some interesting lessons in discernment.