October 28, 2004

Today in Church History

October 28, 312.

This whole week is huge for the Church. Luther's 95 Theses on the 31st, the publishing of the NIV yesterday -- both served as signs of change for the church.

Today's sign is bigger then either of these.

Hoc signo victor eris. By this sign, you will conquer. Those words, and a cross in the sky, changed history in an incredible way. At Milvan Bridge, Constantine became the first Roman Emperor to march into battle under the sign of the Cross of Christ.

Many people are skeptical of Constantine's true conversion. His forced baptism of entire armies makes Christians today cringe. His interference in church matters at the Council of Nicea cannot even be imagined in this day of religious liberty and separation of church and state -- imagine President Bush calling the nation's evangelical leaders together to settle the debate about Open Theism once and for all!

Whatever the cause, whether genuine or not, Constantine's conversion marked the beginning of a new era for Christianity. No longer worried about being killed for their faith, the church could settle down and resonlve some differences, make sure everyone knew what was really orthodox belief. Christian thinkers could be more open in their belief, and could turn toward persuading others to become Christians.

Then came the problem -- Christianity as the official religion. But that's for another post.

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October 27, 2004

Today in Church History

October 27, 1978.

An event that would forever shape the course of evangelical dialog in America. AN event that would give rise to a new teaching, a new distinction between believers. A watershed day, one whose importance still, I would hazard, has not fully been understood or appreciated.

On this date in 1978, the New International Version of the Bible was published.

I have to admit that I was, at the beginning of the movement, a KJVOnly. I enjoyed running around pointing at people reading this new version, and informing them that they were reading the Not Inspired Version. I had great fun with that for a long time.

Then my Dad bought an NIV study Bible, to use in preparing Sunday School lessons at church.

I couldn't make fun of my Dad, and he said that it was easier to understand and read, so I decided to read it. I found out that much of what I'd been told was wrong, and I started trying to learn all I could about the translation of the Bible, and the history of the English translations of the Bible. The more I learned, the more I knew I couldn't be KJVOnly anymore.

The NIV still isn't my favorite translation. I've even been known to pull out the Not Inspired Version line from time to time, in jest. I use the ESV and the NKJV in my personal studies, and the NASB at school. I still like the King James -- it's got an elegance that is hard to equal -- the ESV comes VERY close, and that's why I like that one.

The arrival of the NIV opened the floodgates for a plethora of modern translations, especially versions utilizing the dynamic equivalence translation method. The Bible aisles in Christian bookstores look like rows of alphabet soup cans -- NKJV, ESV, NASB, NAB, HCSB, RSV, NRSV, NLT, yadda yadda yadda. Some of the translations are quite good -- others are not. Rather than complain, we should be thrilled that there are people who are reading the Bible in their own language -- whatever form of English that might be -- for the first time. And lives are being changed.

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October 21, 2004

This Week in Church History

October 22, 1884.

Jesus came back on this date in 1884. Did you miss it? Yeah, so did everyone else.

Baptist minister William Miller, ignoring Christ's statement in Matthew that na man knows the day or the hour except God Himself, decided to predict Christ's return. He looked through history, took the traditional 'day=year' interpretation of Daniel 8 to heart, and decided that October 22, 1884 was The Day(tm).

He got together about 100,000 of his closest followers, and they sat on hillsides all over the world to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

When it became obvious to everyone that Jesus wasn't coming back that day, one of the leaders got up and made this statement: "I never did fix upon the precise time myself, and I always told my brethren they would get into trouble if they did; but they would not listen to me, but followed other leaders...I believe the most important thing after all is, to be ready..." Of course, he was one of them sitting on the hill waiting, so you have to wonder about his sincerity at that point.

It is dangerous to start setting dates. I can remember the sensation caused by the book 88 reasons Why the Lord Will Come Back in 1988. I'd LOVE to have been able to interview the author in 1989 or 1990 and ask him what happened. I think you can still find this book in used bookstores, though if I'd written the thing I'd be travelling the country buying up all the copies I could find, and burning them.

Date setting is fun, and popular. Nothing draws a crowd better than "Come to the revival meeting tonight, and I'll tell you when Jesus is coming back!"

Unless the answer is "Pretty Soon!", don't believe it. Christians are commanded to be busy until He comes back -- so that when He gets here, He finds we've been doing what we're supposed to. THAT is the lesson we can learn from the Millerites.

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October 16, 2004

This Week in Church History

October 16, 1701.

A group of Congregationalist ministers, unhappy with the liberalism at Harvard, decided to found their own school. They founded The Collegiate School so that "Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences who through the blessing of God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State."

The first classes were held in the home of the first rector, Abraham Pierson. The students were expected to live religiously, and pray regularly. The main purpose of the student body was to be to know God in Jesus Christ. And even into the 1800s, the school stayed true to that goal.

The school was renamed in 1745, in honor of the donation of $2,800, and was still purposed to propagate the Protestant religion. The school still carries the name of this donor, though it is no longer following this course. The donor was Elihu Yale.

Schools change. The example of this particular school should serve as a warning to the founders of today's Christian institutions of higher learning. Good intentions of founders do not last long -- it is necessary to put in place mechanisms for accountability, to make sure that the school remains faithful to it's call.

This is true of individuals, as well. Without some sort of accountability, we tend to stray away from our calling. It's easy to do. We all need to be careful that we take precautions so that it doesn't happen to us.

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