Recovering an Evangelical Heritage in the Medieval Church

I am re-reading Stephen Neill’s A History of Christian Missions. This is part of my project to connect Medieval versions of Christianity to Evangelicalism today and make a case for Evangelicals studying Medieval Christianity to enrich their own spirituality.

While most Evangelicals still skip over Patristics, the early church Fathers, a compelling case has already been made not to do so. Thomas Oden has masterfully presented the early Fathers as trustworthy exegetes of God’s Word. I am not aware of any Evangelicals who are making the same case for Medieval Christianity.

There are reasons for this, reasons that are not always objective. I think that there is a desire to clear the ground for Martin Luther and anything that gets in the way of that gets short shrift. Yet Luther can be seen as a development within medievalism, almost a necessary figure. Of course, all historians look at historical events as necessary from the perspective of the present in a chain of causality. This is not to take away Luther’s boldness, courage and Gospel awareness. However, he is not a “de novo” figure, appearing out of nowhere as if he was an immediate creation of God. He belonged to his times and was part of the flow of church history.

By the way, here is Carl Trueman’s course at Westminster Theological Seminary on the Medieval Church. I think it is less insightful than the course taught by Douglas Kelly at Reformed Theological Seminary. Trueman is susceptible to Reformed theological memes that to me grow a bit tiresome, but it is a worthy contribution to Evangelicals.

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