From Christianity Today:
I often ask my students to give me a quick summary of church history. It’s a good way to see what they know, and, more importantly, what they think they know. The results are fascinating. Beyond the unsurprising fact that most know very little about the story of God’s people between the end of the New Testament and the day before yesterday, the stories usually have at least one thing in common: a Golden Age.
THE GOLDEN AGE MENTALITY
Here’s how the story goes.
At some point in history, the church got things right. This could be the early church, the Reformation, the Puritans, or some other group. But, whoever it was, they nailed it. They weren’t perfect, of course. But they got as close as we’re likely to get this side of heaven.
And the reason this generation really stands out is because the other generations got things so badly wrong. These are the Not-Golden Ages. During these periods, you still have the faithful minority, the Christians who reflect the values of the Golden Age and somehow manage to eke out a faithful existence among the depraved majority. But, for the most part, these periods were mostly flawed examples of what happens when the Church goes astray.
At this point in the story, every student agrees on one thing: we are not in a Golden Age now. That fascinates me. Since I hear about the Golden Age from almost every student, you’d think that sooner or later I’d run into someone who would identify this age as the golden one. But that’s never happened. Every student agrees that we’re in a Not-Golden Age. And, to be honest, whenever I hear that many people agreeing on something, I get a little suspicious.
4 PROBLEMS WITH THE GOLDEN AGE MENTALITY
So that’s the story. And it’s one that I hear from almost all of my students. But there are at least four problems with that way of telling the story.