modern vs historical Christianity

On the heels of my last post, I began thinking about something else and let’s see if I can flesh it out a bit.

I believe what we are seeing in the modern day church is a convergence of leaders capitulating to culture and a lack of understanding amongst believers as to what historical and classical Christianity actually *is*. Relegated to the pages of systematic theology books or perhaps espoused once a year at a special Sunday service, the fundamental tenants of the ancient church universal and the modern day Protestant Reformation are nearly forgotten in the local church.

The Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer are held as relics that we might recite to make us feel nostalgic for a time past, but we don’t treat them as the bedrocks of what we say we believe. Why is it that so much of the Evangelical and Protestant mainline churches act as if Christianity started with Billy Graham? No offense against Mr. Graham – in fact, I think he would say the same thing. We preach from pulpits like what we are enduring is new, like our generation is all of a sudden more enlightened than the centuries prior, and like we have new and more evolved theology that puts to rest the ancient patriarchy that only served to hold everyone in bondage. It’s literally historical amnesia. I’ve written about this before here, so you can tell it’s been on my mind.

When we don’t understand where the roots of Christianity were planted, why Jesus came, what He stood for, and how He told us to live, we can not be moored to anything other than our current convictions, which we all know are a ball of confusion. We must go back. We must know why it is important to believe in sanctification, the Trinity, original sin, the crucifixion, the resurrection and ascension, judgement and grace. We must catechize our children – not with powdery photos of Noah’s Ark but with meaty truth about the fall of man and our inherent need for a loving Savior. We need more than just the moral therapeutic gospel that we have been sold for the last 70 years.

Let’s start going deep into this Christian walk – anything else will leave us vulnerable and exposed to the deceptive whims of our present moment. (Might I suggest an exceptional book by JI Packer? It’s simple, yet profound, and a well-spring of truth regarding tenants of classical Christianity.)

sleet + Bunyan

There are books that change your life all at one time and there are books that change it incrementally and consistently. Each time you pick it up, something new is revealed. Better still is when the revelation sickens you because it displays your own inadequacies, mistakes, depravity, weakness, and ultimately your need for salvation.

I have found many books to be life-changing, both in small and large ways. I’ve only found a handful of books that, when opened every couple years, make a refreshed but just-as-powerful impact. These books are treasures which I am deeply grateful for.

This morning our farm welcomed freezing temperatures and a disappointing forecast. We were told we would find ourselves under 6 – 10 inches of snow, and yet we watched ice and sleet pour down heavily – making our porches (and driveway) veritable ice skating rinks. We had sledding planned but inside we stayed. And what a perfect day to light a fire (I tend to think *any* day is a perfect day for a fire, come to think of it,) and read. Truth be told, most of our days are spent reading, but within the last year, reading has become an even more cherished and regular activity. We already had reading as a central tenant of our educational philosophy, but somehow it became even more (to borrow a word from the current cultural lexicon) “essential.”

The world is rotting. I’m not a pessimist, I promise. It is. As Christians, we know that Earth is wasting away, but there are times and seasons when it seems to be in a more acute state of decline. We are in one of these times. We have been for quite awhile. I remember having similar feelings in 2010 but I ushered them to their own mental compartment – I had a toddler and a newborn and we had just bought a new home. It was easy to ignore my sinking feelings. But, here I am again…..and the feelings has been rushing back in the last two years or so. There is a level of decay in our culture, our families, our government, our schools, our communities, that is unlike anything in our history and that stays with me. Most importantly, because my husband and I have the task of raising and guiding three precious daughters. We desire them to choose truth over evil, and the Lord over worldly desires. I’m not sure I can explain the burden on my heart when I think of how immense that task and responsibility is. And so, it makes it all the more important to surround them with the good, the true, and the beautiful – always guiding them back to Him and His promises. Even if the world stayed in its current state when my little birds are leaving the nest, they’d have the cards stacked against them. We all know that things will have darkened even further in the next decade…..and so, I pray. I pray, use just about every moment to build up their character through the words of the Savior, and…..read.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the wonder of books that will walk alongside you time after time after time. Recently I began one of these books with the girls. If I’m honest, I wondered if it might disappoint me by not “making sense” to my girls as much as I’d like it to. I was nervous some of the rich symbolism might fly straight over their heads. Perhaps they wouldn’t see how powerful the allegorical prose truly is. I would have finally found a season when this book didn’t work its magic.

I was, of course, wrong.

It’s hard to put into words how books make us feel, but if I could commend a book to you, at this present moment, it would be, without equivocation, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. The story of “Christian” and his journey toward the “Celestial City” is all of us. I dare you to read it and not see yourself on almost every single page.

It is a most worthy book and one that I know will grab you by the throat and heart – it will make you feel, and lament, and recognize yourself. Although written in 1678, all still holds true. This, of course, shouldn’t be surprising as nothing is new under the sun. And yet, I’m amazed at the accuracy Bunyan managed. He pinpoints the sinful vices and roadblocks that ensnare the believer so perfectly. It makes sense that it has never gone out of print.

This is likely the shortest/least professional book recommendation you’ll ever read, because that wasn’t really my intent with this post. I was just staring out the window, watching sleet pouring off our roof, and thought….”There’s got to be other Christians out there that haven’t read this book. I want them to read it.”

And so here I am.

In a dark time like the one we are living in…..Christ first. Always.

And then books.

Books to inform, books to challenge, books to laugh, books to comfort, books to find beauty when the world feels ugly.

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Edited to add: If you have younger children, or you just want a softer/shorter introduction to this wonderful story, I would start here. It’s illustrations are lovely and it is as close to perfect as a re-telling can be.