Yesterday, Today, and Forever

What do you get when you put five PhD students together at a taco shop on the last day of a historical theology seminar and have them talk about their hopes and dreams? This website. The exhaustion and joy from finishing another class together mixed with the sweet taste of guacamole to create an atmosphere of openness and encouragement, so that when Geoff suggested we start a project together, we all nodded with enthusiasm and full mouths. This website comes from our shared desire to elucidate issues surrounding church history in such a way that is both practical for your Christian walk and academically accurate. We hope that this won’t be another place for you to binge on an empty-calorie information and leave feeling bloated, lethargic, and dissatisfied, but a place for you to fuel up on nutrient-rich stories from that great cloud of witnesses and leave feeling energized to fight the good fight of the faith and hold fast to the hope set before you.

This attitude of hope when looking back on the past, to our present time, and into the future as Christians, is described well in a famous quote from church history. In 1962, two theological heavyweights met in the ring of doctrinal debate; both had good hits and it was a match that would not be forgotten. In one corner was Karl Barth, the Swiss neo-orthodox legend (who you probably hear quoted when someone is trying to impress you), and in the other, Carl F. H. Henry, the American neo-evangelical legend (who you might have heard was the first editor-in-chief of the famous magazine, Christianity Today). Here’s what happened from Henry’s point of view:

“When Karl Barth came to America for a few lectures…[he] volunteered for an hour’s question-answer dialogue…aware that the initial queries often set the mood for all subsequent discussion, I asked the next question. Identifying myself as ‘Carl Henry, editor of Christianity Today,’ I continued: ‘The question, Dr. Barth, concerns the historical factuality of the resurrection of Jesus.’ I pointed to the press table and noted the presence of leading religion editors or reporters representing United Press, Religious News Service, Washington Post, Washington Star and other media. If these journalists had their present duties in the time of Jesus, I asked, was the resurrection of such a nature that covering some aspect of it would have fallen into their area of responsibility? ‘Was it news,’ I asked, ‘in the sense that the man in the street understands news?’ Barth became angry. Pointing at me, and recalling my identification, he asked: ‘Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?’ The audience—largely nonevangelical professors and clergy—roared with delight. When countered unexpectedly in this way, one often reaches for a Scripture verse. So I replied, assuredly out of biblical context, ‘Yesterday, today and forever.’[1]

Thus, Henry concisely summed up the hope of the Christian life: that Christ is the unchanging one who was raised from the dead and secures the destiny of his church. Just as the Christian church has persevered through all past eras, so does it persevere today and into the future by the strength and according to the plan of the eternal Triune God. Though Christians have been made to feel like an endangered species that is irrelevant and irrational, we are, in fact, a flourishing people who have spoken powerfully to the culture around us by using the best of human knowledge as well as the truth contained in God’s Word as taught to us by his Spirit. This is clearly seen in the history of the church, and we hope to share that with you, the church in the world today.

[1] Carl Henry, Confessions of a Theologian: An Autobiography (Waco: Word Books, 1986), 210-211.

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