*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 2nd of July 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
As always- you can email us at CHA or DANV@1517.org.
Today’s question comes from Ellen in Klamath Falls, OR
"What is your favorite story in church history?”
Great question. I have a few thoughts.
First, it would be easy to pick a story that affirmed my particular section of the church. And as a Protestant I think the Reformation was a big deal. It went terribly wrong in many ways, but it is a modern reform movement that follows in the steps of the church always reforming (often on account of its own deforming of itself!).
I have also said that my favorite people in history/church history are usually the people we don’t see but know exist from some writings and human experience. Who took care of the meals at the council of Nicea? Who told the family of a martyr that their dad/mom/son/daughter had paid the ultimate price for their faith? What about the families that gave people the strength to take on illegitimate authority in the church? You get the idea.
But my favorite story? I’m going to have to go with the incombustible Luther. I remember reading the article of the same name by Bob Scribner. In this article Scribner tells the story of reports that a copper engraving of Luther in the 1630s and another portrait of Luther in the 1680s that were untouched by fires in homes that were otherwise completely burned.
Why do I like these stories so much? They are weird! Also:
* It allowed me to think beyond comparative historical dogmatics and see how the faith of regular people was played out.
* We see on a popular level a kind of “Medieval” spirituality obsessed with images and saints. Wouldn’t the followers of Luther know better?
- We see again how a people from a distant age attempted to validate their confessional positions. Sure, the smarties write the books and tell you what to believe and how to believe it but people seem to have been applying the Sinatra doctrine to their own doctrine, for centuries (that is, of course, “I’ll do it my way”)
- And lastly the story asks questions about how we see the “heroes” of the faith. Are they Prophets? Unimpeachable sources for truth? Are they saints or mascots?
This story is messy and weird and highlights, for me, how messy and weird this whole project of church history can be. And while I might be tempted to laugh at the sensibilities of old-timey folk it does me better to ask why they believed what they did, why a story about a picture that wouldn’t burn would be SO important and where that impulse came from. And of course, we may be just as silly and superstitious but maybe it will take 400 or so years for future historians to point out.
Thank you for the question Ellen in Klamath Falls.
The last word for today comes from the end of the first epistle of St. Peter:
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of July 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by the ever incombustible Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who told you that Kawhi’s knee would be our downfall.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.