My last post in this series criticized the assumption that the early church was somehow perfect and we should therefore attempt to be just like them. This post will criticize the other assumption in the myth of primitive perfection, that this is something which we could even do if we wanted to.
The problem with this assumption is that it completely ignores that we are historically existing people, passing over the past 2000 years of church history. It supposes that humans (I’m pretty sure that Christians still qualify as humans) exist within space and time. (This criticism forms much of the heart of my just-completed thesis.) There is no way to magically connect the church existing in the NT and the church as it exists today. While there are definitely many things that are the same or similar about the context then and now, there is also much that is completely different.
Any attempt to be faithful to God and his work in the world today must recognize that we always have a new situation before us that our history and experience do not give us the direct knowledge of what to do. We must always rely on God for today; we must always take the leap amidst uncertainty. This is faith.
This doesn’t mean we pitch the book of Acts out the window. It means that we don’t read it to somehow retrieve the “good old days,” but instead we read it to say something like:
This is the story of how the earliest followers of Jesus struggled to be faithful to God and the leading of the Holy Spirit in an incredibly difficult situation. While our situation is not the same and difficult in very different ways, we also need to learn this faithfulness. This is the story we’re a part of, and we must know what it means for us today so as to remain faithful. God, we desperately need your wisdom so as to see how to live this story today.