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Christian History: Facing the Appalling

April 19, 2017

I’m much less “orthodox” or traditional in Christian belief than Christianity Today magazine, considering myself a simple Jesus-follower with more universal views.  So I seldom read something there I take real encouragement from.  But I just did!

I’m not familiar with the author, Andrew Wilson, but he’s British, so that may be part of the reason….  Even when relatively conservative, Brits tend to have a bit more nuanced and reasoned (?) view of the Bible and the Church than American Evangelicals.  It’s encouraging that Wilson is facing the implications of the many dark aspects of Church history and reflecting seriously on them.  He’s not justifying things inexcusable in any day and age. I don’t find that often among Christian authors and leaders.  Not as represented in Christianity Today, particularly.  And that resource is actually more moderate and thoughtful than a great deal of the American church world.

I won’t recount what Wilson says specifically in the article, titled “The Strange Encouragement of the Church’s Appalling History”.  I’ll stay with just the positive factor of his taking a serious and thoughtful look at Christian history without excusing or rationalizing atrocities committed in the name of God and under Church authority.  He notes the inconsistencies between “biblical principles” (my quotes) and the actions of even many beloved leaders who went along with conventions of the day such as slavery and other kinds of degradation and abuse.

He seems to be grappling, without spelling it out, with what may have been wrong with “orthodoxy” itself.  With aspects of theology that have been carried over to this day.  The ones that play into the human imperfections that get exaggerated particularly when people are “in power”. Kudos, Mr. Wilson! I hope your reflection keeps you open to continuing modifications of how you understand and express the “good news” of God and of Jesus.  And that it prompts others of a generally traditional view of God, the Bible, and the Christian Church to do the same.  In the process, I hope they realize orthodox beliefs only became orthodox gradually, have always been evolving and will continue to do so, hopefully at a picked-up pace.

For those who “fall off the log” on the other side… remaining ignorant or forgetting that Christian faith, through many church or other organizations, has prompted untold amounts of compassionate and wonderful things, I also have a word.  Wouldn’t it be proper to withhold negative opinions and comments about the dark side of Christian history until you have taken a serious look at the good as well?  If you still want, as I often do, to remind about the negatives, the failures, you may at least be more fair and place things in better context.

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