Thursday, May 22, 2014

Reformation Church History, or the Deep End of the Pool



Spring time requires a spring / summer illustration, so here we have it. I jumped into the deep end of the pool, and it was really refreshing and reminded me that I can swim...at least enough to not drown.

Two weekends ago, I took part in a class at the EVAK (Evengelikale Akadamie), which is an small evangelical bible school here in Vienna. I was graciously allowed to audit a block course on church history taught by the pastor of our church. More precisely, it was Church History III, which started with the reformation and Martin Luther in the early 1500s, went through the counter reformation and ended in the 1700s with the Pietistic movement.

As a block course, it took place over a single weekend. This made it more of a sprint than a slow hour-long jog for three months. It started at 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon and we finished that night at 9:30 pm. The next morning we started right in at 9:00 am and with a few breaks made it all the way to 4:00 pm that afternoon. If you are keeping track at home that is 12 hours (including meal and stretch breaks) of church history in just over 24 hours. It was the definition of the deep end of the pool, but it was really good. There were only 4 people in the class, which meant it was the perfect size for discussions and exploring concepts together.

No matter what language the class takes place in, the problem with history is that it is often boring. It is easy to have a big list of dates and people and just go through that list. The great thing about this class was we weren't just concerned with the dates and actions of the individuals, but also the main ideas that characterized their lives. In the section on Martin Luther, his view of justification was a huge topic of discussion for us. We looked at how he came to this view and how it has impacted generations of Christians.

This leads into another very fascinating part of the course for me. We saw over and over how major emphases of a specific reformer or pastor have stayed within the church for the last 500 years. We saw that we are not just an isolated island, but we stand in a great tradition of faith. This course was a great blessing to me, as well as a huge challenge. I am looking forward to more challenges like this along the way.

Photo credit: pedrojperez from morguefile.com