I have been for many years now rethinking my Christian views and my faith. I, like many Christians, have been greatly influenced over the years by a specific “brand” or “version” of Christian thinking. This does not mean that my Christian formation stopped with the influences of Protestantism and, specifically, Baptistic type theology; many more perspectives and theolgical thinking has found a home in my personal theology. I did attend an undergraduate program steeped in Baptist theological thought and I attended a seminary that had been a “Conservative Baptist” seminary until a name change less than 15 years ago, but enough about my background.
I was sitting here thinking on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I was thinking about history and theological thought. I heard once that history favors the victors, meaning that history is written by those who win the conflicts that have existed throughout history. As I thought about this tendency and I thought about theology and Church history a question began forming in my mind. I am not sure that I can adequately articulate it yet but here is the gist of it. Our theology and our believing, historically, have been formed, shaped and influenced by those who won the many metaphysical, doctrinal and cultural clashes that have existed in the church over the years. One question is whether winning or losing the conflicts and arguments of history, necessarily indicate truth or error?
For instance, we don’t really have much extant from Pelagius because the victor of the battle, Augustine, had his writings burned. Arius was another debater of theological and metaphysical things but the image we have of him was cast by those who were in fundamental disagreement with him. Nestorius was another historical guy whose article in the annals of history bears the signature of those who banished or exiled him. I am sure that, were I to do some research the list of individuals would grow. I am sure that not all of the list would be big names from notable skirmishes in Church history, but some ideas probably just didn’t have the gas to continue and others did.
Now, I already know some of the answers that come regarding this short list above. The reason that they lost and the reason that we don’t have their side of things to consider is because they were contra-biblical or unorthodox in their perspectives. For me that answer isn’t as compelling as it once was. Maybe the canon of Scripture is also a result of the “victors” choices and preferences. And how is Bible to be approached? Is it a prescriptive map of the whole of God’s kingdom or is it descriptive record of how we have approached “kingdom” or “theology” and “God”?
At any rate the question is whether current Christian orthodoxy is the doctrine of the victors and is God only the God of the victors? Is there room for differing thought and still be on the “Christian map”? This question is still rough, as I mentioned earlier, and I hope further thought will produce a more clearly articulated question.