*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 30th of August 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

A happy end of summer to you if your summer has ended (here in Southern California, September is the hottest month- it’s lame).

Many are going back to school, and in the hubbub that this creates, you may know that the CHA studios have sprung a few leaks and put a kink in my reading and recording schedule- but have no fear! We have a boatload of reader questions that I am going to try and answer this week- 5 days of mailbag shows and then a weekend edition I am looking forward to.

So- as I planned on doing this, I got this question very recently- I actually woke up to the email this morning from Scott in Wantage, New Jersey, which is a township in Sussex county. Sussex County was the home of New Rock Yankees pitcher Russ van Atta- he was the sheriff there in the 1940s. In his first game as a pitcher, not only did he pitch a shutout but went 4-4 as a hitter- neither Babe Ruth nor Shohei did that. He was quite successful until, during his second year in the league, he had a house fire- punched a glass window to break it in order to save his dog and the subsequent nerve damage done to his promising career.

Ok- Scott writes (I’ve edited a bit)

“The more I listen, I learn of the constant strain of attempting to discover the truth and true understanding of meaning, throughout history….Your program reminds me: no one seems to really know. History is just packed full of learned people all disagreeing on what it all means.

What are we to make of hearing of man’s constant unending struggle to find the truth and the meaning of the Word? And how can we ever be certain that our current understanding is the final. Best. And. Right one, and not to change once again?”

A GREAT question. Because when we see people always disagreeing, it can make it seem like a useless endeavor to try and find the truth!

I have often said that making church history makes me humble- the church is so big that it takes the pressure off of me having to get it “exactly right”. It seems that diversity in the church is baked into the whole thing (like having James and Paul, and Peter all writing parts of the New Testament despite their disagreements).

It was Henry Ford- noted car maker and anti-semite, who said that history is just one *dang* thing after another. I’m afraid too often teaching history, I just say and then… and then… and then…

So, how can we make sense of a bunch of people disagreeing with one another?

First- they agree and disagree on a relatively small- though really important- number of things. The questions are: who is Jesus? How do we know? And what does this mean for how we understand life and live it?

I would say that the majority of characters on this show are struggling with these questions- It’s “Apostle’s Creed” Christianity. Sometimes it gets wild- groups will take the “I believe in the Holy Spirit” part and interpret that as if it means we might bark like dogs or be given the exact date of the second coming. These would be eccentric answers, but still trying to grapple with the important questions of who the God of the Bible claims to be.

I just put up a dart board in my backyard (and it went into stucco, so I had to learn some things and get a new tool…). What if we think of Church history as a dartboard? The bullseye is perfect righteousness- doing it all right. That’s impossible- that’s Jesus' level. We can’t do it perfectly, but we have a bunch of darts, and we are called to try- to try and figure out the Trinity, how to love our neighbor, what church on Sunday might look like, etc., and we through our darts. And see where Christians in the past have thrown their darts.

But it does break down- because as we now see dimly with imperfect knowledge, we don’t have the divine dartboard yet. But we can see where our fellow Christians tend to land, where the outliers are, and where we land on that continuum.

My best advice is to let history make you humble, but not despair.

Hold on to your own beliefs like you might hold a fish- a strong enough grip that it can’t get out, but not too hard a squeeze such that it slips out nonetheless.

Ask yourself questions about historical characters and ideas: how are they like me? How are they not like me? What questions were they struggling to answer that I struggle to answer too?

Pray for wisdom, talk with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, read and listen, debate and be gracious.

Scott- a great question- keep thinking about it, and if you have thoughts about this topic, I’d love to hear from you- it seems a pretty significant question and one I’ll be hovering around for a while.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from the intro to the letter of Titus:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 30th of August 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man who knows Sussex County as the home of famed Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana- he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who knows Sussex county as the home of Newman Drake- the inventor of the Ring Ding and the Yodel- delicious snacks! I’m Dan van Voorhis.

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.