God's care for His Church in the dark ages
I was once a very avidly Reformed person. I used to love the Reformed tradition, and the Puritan model...that was until I began to see the holes and inconsistencies in the positions held (e.g.the "regulative" principle is more regulative for some than others). My struggles with these things has caused me to seriously re-examine many things,including authority in the Church...
You mentioned in your Belief Statement that the Bible was surpressed for centuries after the Early Church and substituted for fables, etc. (I am assuming that you mean by the Catholic Church). I was wondering how this could be the case when it was the same Catholic Church that affirmed the Canon, and preserved the Scriptures through the centuries. It is also interesting that the Reformed Churches "traditionally" hold to infant baptism often using the argument of the Early Church together with the Scriptures to make their case. However, the argument from history only goes back to the 4th century – a time when the Catholic Church was already supposedly imposing all sorts of fables for people to believe.
If the Church was in darkness for the many centuries between the time shortly after the Apostles and the Reformation, how do you interpret the promises of Jesus that (a) He would be with His Church always; and (b) the Holy Spirit would lead the Church into all truth? Did Christ leave His Church for those
many centuries when it was in darkness, or was He still there? If He left the Church, did He break His promise? If He didn't leave the Church, why did Luther, Calvin, leave?
My apology for the late response. An overseas trip put everything back.
Perhaps the difficulty you experience regarding the statements about the ‘church in darkness’ is that you fail to distinguish that there is a ‘visible church’ (all formal church members) as well as an ‘invisible church’ (all true, regenerated believers). Or simpler, a ‘church with a small ‘c’ and the Church with a capital ‘C’. These phrases capture the Biblical teaching that there is ‘wheat and chaff’ in the earthly phase of Christ’s Spiritual kingdom. With that teaching (see Matt. 13) the Lord taught that there will be believers and unbelievers within that which He called ‘the kingdom of heaven.’ That is clearly reflected witnessed at every stage of the history of the church. In the ages after the Apolostic Church, the formal Western Church (Roman Catholic) continued as the church. Less and less, however, were God’s true people (the Church) found among them. I am convinced that God has reserved his ‘seven thousand’ among them as well. In the centuries before the Reformation you can read about many who were true Gospel believers and teachers. Since the political power of the Roman Catholic Church was unchallenged, these lights were snuffed out. However, God was at work in the rising nationalism, increased learning etc to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church. Unable to quench the light of men like Luther, Calvin etc. because of their curtailed political power, they were forced to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Neither had the intention to leave but to reform and return to the pure teachings of God’s Word.
With that short survey I answer your questions. God was always, and never left, His people, the Church, even though the visible or formal church did so deeply corrupt itself. Even today, there may be true believers found in Biblically and doctrinally unsound churches. He never leaves His people as He has indeed promised. But we may never make “His people” or “His Church” the same as church or denomination.
I hope you will return to the teachings God revived through the Reformation and later the Puritan teachings. You discovered holes in it and we will probably always meet with inconsistencies and failures in any interpretation of God’s Word. But let that not drive you away from Scripture and from the God of Scripture. I maintain, however, that the pure Reformed teachings are an accurate reflection of what God teaches us in His holy Book.