…is to cease to be Protestant” wrote St. John Henry Newman.
Would that the corollary were true: “To be Catholic is to be deep in history.”
Someone has said waspishly, “America is a Protestant country…even the Catholics are Protestant.”
Certainly, since returning to the USA nearly fifteen years ago I have been struck by how ignorant so many Americans are of history. Is the ordinary American’s ignorance of history greater than a Europeans? I’m not sure, but I think when you live in England or Europe you must, at least, be more aware of the history all around you. Just living there means you walk through streets of town that are thousands of years old. You see the old churches and castles, you see the palaces and cottages, the villages and farms and marks in the countryside that all remind you of the antiquity and history that haunts the place.
Not so in the USA. Consequently, Americans are caught up in the present modern age in a way that Europeans are not. We’re a pilgrim people, a mobile and mongrel race that is still young, rash and impetuous. Our culture is a curiously adolescent culture, selfish and striving, passionate but uncertain, ready to rumble but also ready to retire.
For me, living in England for twenty five years, was to live deep in history. That’s why I went there. I loved the antiquity of Oxford, the mellow age of the ancient churches and cathedrals, the lived in shabbiness of the village pub, the country house and gardens that were 500 years young. I wanted to not only live in the history, but also learn the history and have always been an avid reader of history of every age.
St John Henry Newman understood that in studying history one “ceased to be Protestant” because his study of history showed that Protestantism was a repeat of the heresies of the early church, and that Protestantism was the result not so much of the leading of the Holy Spirit as it was certain circumstances within European history, philosophy and technology and politics of the time.
To understand history is to understand God’s working in the world because God is not separate from the turmoil and troubles of the human race. His Spirit is never spent–but always working in and through both the glories and the grit of the human struggle.
This is the reason I have invested so much time in this blog producing content about the history of the church. My twenty three part podcast series Triumphs and Tragedies goes through church history century by century. In Characters of the Reformation I take the part of Hilaire Belloc and read an abridged version of his classic. In John Allen’s Future Church I look at the trends of the twenty first century church and look forward to see where we are going. All these are available in the podcast section of the blog for Donor Subscribers and the Future Church podcasts and Characters of the Reformation are available free over at BreadBox Media.
This is also why I am offering a new online, real time course for six weeks. The Church in An Age of Revolution will cover the history of the last 500 years showing how, beginning with the Protestant Revolution, the Catholic Church has been struggling with a human movement of revolution against the Catholic faith. This six part series will look at the philosophy, theology, technology, politics and culture of each century from the sixteenth to the present so you can really understand where the church is today and where we are going.
I encourage you to take the time to join in. If you can’t make all the Tuesday night live sessions, the lectures will be recorded and available in the new video section of the blog. To join in you need to be a Donor Subscriber at the Promotion Level or above. If you want to join for just that course you sign up and subscribe for those six weeks (two monthly payments) then you are free to unsubscribe. Go here to learn more about being a Donor Subscriber.