Thursday, July 23, 2009

Unstoppable progress and recurring frustration

Seems to me church history is at least two stories, probably more.

On the one hand there is the unstoppable progress of the gospel to all people groups, the word increases and the number of disicples multiplies, the word does everything. This story is exciting as new frontiers are crossed and churches established where before there were none, this is a story of ordinary people serving God, one frustrated by unbelief and driven forward by God's saving electing grace.

Another thread is perhaps more frustrating, everything has been before and perversion of the truth is the great repeater that seeks to frustrate the church again and again. This is a story of confession of truth and confrontation. It meets the missional story at many points, for the gospel defended is one meant for all peoples. Such as Andrew Fuller who refuted the anti-missional hypercalvinists to lay the foundation for William Carey's move to India.

Phil Johnson is immensely helpful in identifying the five main heresies.
Follow the link for mp3 talk and interview. 
The Judaizers who frustrated Paul on salvation.
The Gnostics who frustrated John on knowing Jesus. 
The Arians who frustrate Athanasius clarity about Christ.
The Pelagians who frustrate Augustine on grace. 
The Socinians who frustrate Luther and Calvin by preferring the authority of self above the Word of God.

And these problems endlessly recur, clearly refuted by never going away. Yet still the gospel marches forward, for it is God who saves by his grace, he reveals Christ who is God, his word saves and gives life.

There are many other angles on the story of the church too no doubt, and I'm keen to discover them and learn from them.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting also to see how these two stories interweave. In the providence of God, heresy has often turned out to be a tool in the hands of God for the furtherance of the gospel or the building up of the Church. Without the Arians we wouldn't have any of Athanasius' wonderful works, for example. Heresy has often been used to make the church ask clarifying questions about what the scriptures actually teach - most good theology/ ancient creeds/ confessions all came out of polemical contexts and the need to clarify doctrine.