I apologize up front for this larger than usual Daily Bread. But please read on.
Many people don’t realize this, but what appears to be a smooth transition from the New Testament to the early church to the present day is exactly that… appearance. The wonderfully linear history of the church that most people know was written by those in power to convey a rather peaceful homogeneity.
It isn’t true.
In fact, from the earliest church on you had a lot of people disenfranchised from Judaism, a lot of people becoming followers of Jesus’ way… gnostics, pagans… you name it. The first few centuries of the church was a quagmire of diversity and argument that simply isn’t reflected in the New Testament or the authoritative history books. Many of the philosophers of the day who are now considered heretics were active participants in the earliest church.
For example, did you know that there is a religion called Mandeanism who still follow John the Baptist? There are approximately 70,000 in the Middle East today. They are very secretive. Of course, one of their rituals is baptism, so they try to live in the wilderness near water. Now, the New Testament tells us that John the Baptist had followers who in turn followed Jesus. But it doesn’t tell us that many remained as disciples of John the Baptist to carry on an Old Testament prophetic style of religion to this day that, like John the Baptist, lives in the wilderness near water. That’s because it doesn’t serve the idea that Christianity is an homogenous group with an undeviating history.
The church is the same today. It would like to believe and preach that it is homogenous, and that if you don’t subscribe to its dominant expression, then you are an outsider. Maybe even a heretic. The fact is, you are very much like the earliest followers of the way. You are making do. You are finding your own way even if your way doesn’t get documented in the authoritative history.
The followers of Jesus’ way have always been wildly diverse, brimming with people who are just making do. Just like all the members of TLS are wildly diverse and just making do.
Welcome to the wild family with a long history!