It looks like I’ll soon be teaching again. I’ve had over a year of a break. I’m still not a member of the church I attend for various legitimate reasons, but I was approached about teaching a quarter of Sunday school in the spring.
I tried to veil my greedy enthusiasm. I suggested something early church as an alternative to the rather relentless Puritan & Reformed emphasis that was going down at the time. It was agreed.
Then there was a saga. That was the pastor I talked to at first. But he doesn’t really call the shots, the Christian Ed committee does. The pastor can influence, but not apparently determine. So the chairman had a different idea—how about Presbyterian History? I balked for two reasons: 1 the sheer irony, and 2 because it would be more Presbyterian & Reformed, from which a bit of relief I sought.
We got into an email exchange. I was down to 3 weeks of doing something early church and the other 10 would be someone banging on about THE REFORMED DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH. Somehow, out of that exchange (I thought of one reply for 16 hours before sending it), I ended up with all 13 weeks of the quarter—yay!
So now I’m reading! The committee meeting is Jan 22, but it seems pretty certain. If not, I’ll still have profited from these few weeks of reading. I learn better when I’m doing it in preparation for something public—not sure why. I had been doing desultory investigations before, but now I’m proceeding well.
I’ve already done Owen Chadwick’s lavishly illustrated history of Christianity. It is worth owning for the overview, but also for his comments on the art he includes. He’s a refreshing historian who is not just a specialist.
I’m doing Justo Gonzales, just the first two sections of vol 1. He’s interesting and very good. I’m surprised how good. I’ve always wanted to look through him and this provided the crucial incentive.
I’ve got Henry Chadwick’s Penguin History of the Early Church. He’s got to be good: he’s so good on Augustine.
I’ve got a chap called Freynd (or something like) on the early church too. Gonzales recommended him.
I’m also getting Bart Erhman’s take, his Teaching Company lectures. His notions of history are certainly not up to the standards of Lukacs. I have a book of primary sources edited by a couple of Canadians that take his approach: hermeneutics of suspicion, they call it. But a lot of interesting points.
Once I’m done with the overviews, I’m going to look for biographies.
Then there are the primary sources to read, with their introductions. I want to do some of that now, but I want to do those each week I’m preparing (April-June, I teach). It’s better because it’s fresher at the point, rather than trying to revive your enthusiasm through notes made before. I’ll read the primary sources in these months before I start, but I probably won’t take notes until I’m reading them to teach.
It’s a remote and difficult period of church history, but it also provides a lot of variety: teach a text, teach a figure, explain a situation, talk about the importance of a doctrinal controversy, read selected portions of the Epistle of Barnabas and have them judge whether it can possibly be authentic. And the main attraction for me: it isn’t what we’re always banging on about but something fresh.