Dealing with the Flaws of Our Forefathers in the Faith

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How do we deal with flaws done by people in the past that we look up to? Whether it’s Spurgeon’s smoking cigar, Luther’s anti-Semitism, Thomas Cranmer’s recanting his Protestant belief (and recanting his recantations before going to the stake) or Bonheoffer‘s involvement to assassinate Hitler, these flaws tainted the respect we hold so dear to them (or has it?). We don’t want those “just human” or “no one is perfect” responses. Those excuses will sweep the issue under the rug. What we do want is something that will confront those flaws head on with godly wisdom that will benefit us.

Have an unbiased view of that Christian giant– It’s a good thing that we should do some research on someone in the past which we consider having a questionable theological error or behavior. We shouldn’t settle for caricature, theological view or our own denominational view of that person. Give time to do some research by reading the biographies or profiles from different websites or books to see the different angles of this theological giant. With the technology on our finger tips, we can do much research to get into that Christian leader.

By God’s grace in some instances, our research may give a different light on those flaws and gives us better understanding of these forefathers. What we know might not be the whole truth after all. What we might have been taught might be wrong about that person.

Read their works – What better way to get to know these believers than to get into their writings. It’s much better than get your information from hearsays and unverified sources. In this way you can read it for yourself what they believe and how they behaved. Since these giants are long gone, some of their works are in the public domain s you have no excuse not to dive in to those resources. By read these writings, it might illuminate and dispel preconceived ideas we hold on. You might learn a thing or two about the author and his thoughts.

Accept that those flaws cannot be corrected – The truth is, we cannot correct the past. It was already done. Those preachers are all dead. We can do now is be more cautious and not to repeat those we view as mistakes. We should learn to accept it as part of church history.

 In our preaching and teaching let us remind others those flaws to others without demonizing the person. In the midst of relying those mistakes, grant that person honor. After all, they have

Another thing is that, whatever those founding believers did, we shouldn’t shift blame for their flaws over their followers. It’s a sad thing that though those events in the past might not be corrected, followers or fellow Christians of the other theological tradition should not be held in contempt of what their leaders did even if they’re justifying those actions. Rather that dig deeper what is already have been wounds of the past or make a hasty generation of the group because of what is already done, it’s better

Accept that there will always be things that we will disagree on – In terms of theological stand, we shouldn’t be ready to dismiss something as heresy or hurtful words like “cultic”. Those are loaded words that sometimes create a barrier for learning and understanding. We should maintain that if the belief is not distorting salvation or some non-negotiable Christian doctrines, we should give a benefit of the doubt. If it’s a minor thing, then we shouldn’t make a major thing.

Keep in mind that Christians from every orthodox and evangelical persuasion has their own views of something in the Bible. Inevitably some slip over into debates. Debates are good but it’s not always necessary. Conversations with intentions to understand the other side is much better. Although at the end of the day, we still are not persuaded of their views and vice versa, what matters is that we have a much vivid understanding to those issues or controversy. We will disagree and will continue to disagree, that’s for sure. Rather have a heart of accommodates these brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, we are all part of this big family of God, with all the diversity that goes along with it (plus the flaws too).  

Loving other believers who doesn’t agree with our views is one thing to consider. It’s a commandment of our God and its one benchmark of being regenerated. Also, as Francis Schaeffer puts it, unbelievers will judge Christianity in the merit of how we treat our fellow believers, dead or otherwise. So be careful not to taint our testimony and be a stumbling block to others who will come to know Christ.

If you already uncovered the truth but still feel that it’s against your conscience even if it doesn’t collide to any beliefs or practices of a Christian, then don’t agree on the grounds of personal conviction.

Learn from those flaws and learn it well – As we look on the godly and positive that someone in the past left us to learn on, we should not dismiss those unpleasant things that will also teach us something. We of course, should not approve those flaws rather see to it that it will be a good point to learn from it.

One and the most obvious thing that we should learn is: to avoid them (provided that those allegations aren’t true). Avoid those errors and let it be a reminder how disastrous it can be in the body of Christ. Then, learn how they ended up with those flaws. Trace how they caught it and how it permeated in their life and theology. One thing for sure is that they didn’t wake up one morning then after taking coffee they decided to do something unbiblical or ungodly behavior.

Finally, examine ourselves if we are not falling or trapped in the same predicament as our forefathers. It’s easy to see those errors from afar that what is near (and sometimes dear to us). It’s easily to flip the church history book then place our finger to the errors of the past than to see ourselves making those same mistakes. Examine our biases if it’s drench with sin rather than godly pursuit for the truth. Look at our church and denomination. Look at leaders, authors and preachers we read and follow. On top of that, focus unto Jesus our Lord and Savior, the only One who will not fail us.

More than a list of flaws (which the book also mention), 10 Dead Guys You Should Know is a book written by three church historians Ian Maddock, Stuart Coulton and Rachael Ciano. They bring to the table 10 different dead individuals that had influenced Christianity from the church father to the modern era. Each of them are task to showcase how these giants of faith change the course of Christianity and what lessons they can tell us as they persevere in the faith.

These mini-bios highlights their works and legacy without leaving the discussion of their being human. This book strike a balance of giving honor and showing their shortcomings as they strive to please their God. In short, they didn’t make an idol from these saints of the past.

Here’s my breakdown of the book chapter by chapter.

The book opens with Stuart Coulton’s piece about Athanasius murder allegations which is really engaging and had me hooked already in the book. His writing is focus on post-Nicean times of Athanasius, his exiles, his relationships with the changing Emperors and how he stood up against the world, so to speak, on what is the biblical truth about Christ deity.

Rachel Ciano take on Augustine has two parts. One is concentrated on his conversion to Christianity and the other is his theological battle with Pelagius.

Ian Maddock on Anselm. Maddock injects some witty stuff here but manage to show intellectual Anselm is.

Stuart Coulton had mixed all of the highlights of Luther into one so I, could say he didn’t give emphasis on one specific point. I think it’s safe to say the stand out here I think is Luther’s stand on Sola Fide.

Rachel Ciano did a good job for the life of Cranmer bringing the intensity of what this Reformer has gone through. What makes Cranmer stand out so far for me (in the book and to the other dead guys as well) is his recanting and recanting back.

Rachel Ciano again now taking on Richard Baxter. This maybe the most encouraging bio so far in this book. Divided in three parts on how Baxter focuses on heaven amidst different difficulties in his life. I love that she provided the steps on how Baxter meditate daily on heaven and also providing excerpts from his poems is like adding wood on a fire. Well done ma’am!

Ian Maddock moves to tell John Wesley story which in my opinion an odd one because most likely as a Calvinist you’ll go for other folks familiar in that camp. Also reading the Baxter story might already grab the thunder of this one. Nevertheless, it’s good bio.

Hudson Taylor’s life goes to Rachel Ciano which will be her last in this book. Her writings here are the ones you guys should first read. Anyways, her take on this missionary great as she combines Taylor’s family struggle and his burning zeal to reach the people of China. She did well in building it up to make a strong story.

I think everyone is anticipating the Prince of Preacher’s biography once you grab to read this book. You might have read some of stuff already about Spurgeon. What Stuart Coulton did with Luther in the middle part of the book, he did it to Spurgeon’s story. However, I prefer this one than of Luther’s.

This book wouldn’t end without giving a bang. So they end this with the life the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s indeed a bang, as Ian Maddock tells the controversy of Bonhoeffer as he defies the Nazi regime. He made mentioned of works of this German theologian which will spark interest to you. Bonhoeffer is a fitting finally for this book.

10 Dead Guys You Should Know is a good introductory book for these men of God which likely can be found in much longer works. It’s written by three individual so expect different flavors of their writings. Their style is slightly a bit different with the usual mini-bio books. Also I think they highlighted parts of persons life that would likely be footnotes only on other books and not have that kind of extra attention. All in all you’ll enjoy and encouraged as well as get information with these faith forefathers. One question I do want to ask the authors and I think you might also have that in mind: Why is John Calvin not included in this book?

My verdict:

4.5 out of 5

(Purchase the book by clicking this link)

(Did you like what you read? Did this article helped you? Then you can share some love by buying me a coffee).

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