Tag Archives: church history

Trying to explain denominations to an 11-year-old is hard.

Tonight, after our all-ages small group, in which Lutherans and Catholics were mentioned, my 11-year-old daughter asked me, “Dad, what are Catholics and Lutherans and Covenant?” (By “Covenant” she means the Evangelical Covenant Church, which is our denomination.)

There really isn’t a simple way to answer that question, but I did my best. This was my off-the-cuff (but somewhat polished after the fact) answer:

Well, to start with, right now you have Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants. In the beginning, after Jesus ascended, there was just The Church. Then, about a thousand years later, there was a disagreement in The Church about something they believed. So The Church split, East and West. In the East was the Orthodox Church, in the West was the Catholic Church.

About five hundred years after that, some people in the Catholic Church thought that there was too much corruption in it, that they were too concerned with power, so they wanted to clean it up from the inside. They came to be known as the Reformers. They wanted to clean it up on the inside, but the Catholic Church didn’t like that, so they left the Catholic church [or were kicked out] and they became what we know as Protestants, because they protested the bad things they saw in the Catholic Church.

[Now here is where it gets really complicated.]

So as Protestants you had Lutherans and Calvinists and Anglicans. You had Martin Luther, which is where “Lutherans” comes from, and the Reformed church, which was connected to John Calvin. Now there were some who didn’t think these reformers went far enough, and they were known as the “radical reformers”, out of which you get Mennonites and Baptists.

(“What does the Covenant have to do with this?”)

Well, we are connected to the Lutherans. In the 1800s there came what was known as “evangelicals.” They were people who were concerned with having a personal relationship with Jesus and reading their Bibles and telling people about Jesus. They were concerned that the other churches were too “formal” [I didn’t have a better word for “rote” or “state-oriented” or what have you].

So the Covenant comes out of the Lutheran and evangelical groups [I mentioned Pietists but didn’t explain them]. These days it doesn’t matter so much what denomination you are a part of. What matters is that you believe in Jesus and want to follow him. You can do that whether you are Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox.

This is all fairly simplistic, but I think it’s a pretty good distillation of the story. She seemed to understand, but I don’t know how much. All this protesting has made church history rather complicated!

Other than my ecumenical note at the end, which I’m sure some of you will have trouble with, what would you add or change (keeping in mind this is for an 11-year-old)?

November is disappearing like a fart in the wind, as they say.

I’ve always thought time appeared to move faster at a job where I’m always looking two weeks ahead.  But, now that I’ve got a second job sandwiched in between that first job, it feels like time is moving faster still.  Enough already.  It’s barely winter and already it’s almost Christmas.

My first seminary assignment is due in just over a week.  Not a lengthy assignment, but I still have a lot of reading, listening (to lectures) and thinking to do.  All the sickness and tiredness around this house isn’t helping in this respect.  Plus I have other quasi-commitments I may or may not have to keep in the mean time (hopefully not).  So, things might get quieter still around here.  (Of course, I tend to get fidgety when writing papers, so chances are I’ll find a moment or two to post something.)

In the meantime…

Henry Chadwick’s The Early Church is a fascinating account of the first several centuries of the church, but you wouldn’t expect it to be funny.  In fact, I would hazzard a guess that Henry Chadwick himself did not intend it to be funny.  Be that as it may, this sentence made me chuckle:

Gregory retired in distress to Cappadocia, where he wrote a self-pitying autobiography in iambic verse.  (p. 150)

This is the outrageous stuff of Monty Python, Woody Allen, Douglas Adams and their ilk, except that it’s history.  Hilarious.