Skip to content

Shakespeare and Church History

by on August 13, 2015


“Shakespeare stays the same – the actors and actresses change.” Somewhere in a Literature class I remember hearing that saying. The script stays the same but the persons who play the parts change as time moves along.

That has been a powerful lesson to me. In my studies of Church history that saying has certainly been true. The situations repeat over and over again. The persons in the situations change over time but the situations play out over and over again with little change. Why? Why would or should that be true?

“Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”
“ What we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.”

Why would that be true? Is it because we do not study history? Is it because we think our generation is different from all previous generations? Is it because we have the same tendencies as all other persons in history so we just become the current actors/actresses acting out the same stories? Why? Does it matter?

Unless we interject some new data and/or ways of processing the data, we will act on the data as previous generations have acted. Thus the predictable outcomes.

Specifically, as Anabaptist church groups make the changes from conservative to liberal, specific steps are followed – inadvertently, perhaps, but followed nevertheless.

Conservative – wanting to preserve and conserve a simple Biblical approach to life and wanting to preserve the culture derived from following that Biblical approach.

Liberal – allowing both social and religious acculturation to shape and mold the thinking away from the historic, Biblical concepts that have shaped the Anabaptist communities.

Question – Is Biblical possible? Biblical is possible. However, the argument for Biblical, typically/frequently removes personal and group accountability by following the teaching of Augustine and/or Luther. Biblical, in an Anabaptist understanding, cannot eliminate a cultural component. Biblical does not allow acculturation to a surrounding society that is not following a Biblical model. So, Biblical without a Biblical cultural dimension is not Biblical.

Study history – Church history. It is so fascinating and illuminating. You can see the events around you unfold in historic context. Then, you can purpose to not allow the wrong moves to be repeated.

At times over the years I have stopped to ask myself, What year is it? Is it 325, is it 1054, is it 1523, is it 1926, is it 1968? What year is it? In meetings where decisions were made after impassioned speeches and votes of yea and nay – I felt as if I were sitting in the halls of history watching previous meetings unfold before my eyes.

The actresses and actors act and speak with conviction and passion but without understanding. They act without perception of the obvious outcomes of their speeches and roles.

Study history. It is the only hope to prevent the repeated wrong decisions. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Do not fall into the trap of becoming an actor or actress.

Observe current events. Times change and we must respond in Biblical ways to those changes. Our children are waiting and watching us.

We are real, live people acting, not on a stage, but in the annals of time and history. We are making the history that will be studied in the future. How do you want your history to read and be read? Your choices are real and have real consequences.

We are not actors and actresses. We are men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. We are Church leaders and teachers and business owners and craftsmen. Our lives matter and our roles are prescribed by God in His Word, not by the ‘Shakespeare’s’ of this world, religious or not.

Learn and act properly and diligently. You are shaping an new generation. “Life is real and life is earnest…” Protect and prescribe and proscribe like life and Church are your life in God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and His blessed Holy Spirit and His written Word.

That is your script. Live it today.

Comments are closed.