Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Church of Our Fathers

Between Christmas and New Years the BAD CATHOLIC and SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED managed to get away for a few days to a cabin at scenic PINE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA. Although I brought a stack of books with me, I wound up reading an old children's book I picked up at an antique store.

The book is THE CHURCH OF OUR FATHERS by Roland Bainton. Professor Bainton was for many years the professor of church history at Yale Divinity School (back when they actually believed in something at Yale Divinity School) and was an ordained Congregational minister. Professor Bainton's most famous book is his biography of Martin Luther which is still in print.

THE CHURCH OF OUR FATHERS was first published in 1941 (the copy I have is dated 1950) and is written at about a sixth grade level. Sadly, what was a 6th grade level in 1950 is just about above the reading level of many adults I know. THE CHURCH OF OUR FATHERS is a beautiful book which, like much of Professor Bainton's works, is illustrated with Medieval and Renaissance works of art.

Professor Bainton was a great popular historian who had a lively and interesting writing style. THE CHURCH OF OUR FATHERS conveys a tremendous amount of information in a simple and direct style aimed at middle grade children. I admit that I learned things about Church history that I did not know.

Although I would say that Professor Bainton had a definite Protestant bent to his writing and writes from a Protestant prospective, he is extremely fair to both sides in the Reformation controversy and writes with sympathy of the Catholic Church both before and after the great schism of the sixteenth century.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1: "The Church is our spiritual home. In every village and town the sky line is marked by the slender spire or the square tower of the church. In Europe and America the Church has been the greatest force in shaping the world in which we live. Universities, schools and colleges, hospitals and asylums, better prisons, kinder laws, the ending of slavery and dueling, and the attempt to end war and bring in the brotherhood of man, all these have been in large measure the work of the Church."

From the last Chapter: "The end of this book is not the end of this story. What the years to come hold for men upon this earth no man can tell. If the spirit of Christ does not win, there may be in a short time but few men left upon this earth. But if men go on, then the Church we hope will carry forward her work of healing for mankind. Often in the past she has been sorely tried, and all too often she has sadly failed, but the voice of Jesus has never ceased to recall her to his service, and so it shall be until the end. But if the folly and the crime of men bring the end soon, then will the Church uphold her children through faith in that life which conquers death."

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