Department of Oxymorons: Ten "Hot Issues" in Christian History Today
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We moderns (and even we postmoderns) love top-ten lists. David Letterman has even managed to prop up a wilting career by providing one daily.
This list reaches fearlessly into the land of the oxymoron - you know, those lovely self-contradictory statements: "jumbo shrimp," "airline food," "Microsoft Works™." The oxymoron for today: "Hot issues in history."
That was the topic put to me a couple of years ago when my seminary's sister undergraduate institution, Bethel College, was looking to spiff up the Christian history content of its Western Civ course. Would I come talk to the course's cadre of professors about what's "new and exciting" in this field of history? So I took my best shot.
I can't say my colleagues in the guild of Christian historians are staying awake nights wrestling with any of the following 10 issues. But these are all matters that I've recently seen discussed - some of them with some heat - by historically conscious evangelicals. If there is a theme to the list, it is this: How does our history define us, and how should it?
So here goes:
1. Should we uncover and renew "lost Christianities" that early believers found valid (i.e. Gnostic options, Eastern Christianity), but were "squeezed out" for various political as well as theological reasons? See for example Christian History & Biography Issue 96: The Gnostic Hunger for Secret Knowledge, Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity.
2. Have Roman Catholics always believed in justification by grace through faith alone? This is one historical component of Mark Noll and Caroline Nystrom's modern question: "Is the Reformation over?"
3. Should conservative Protestants in today's fragmented postmodern world recover a role for tradition alongside Scripture? ...