What would your church history family reunion look like?

If your family was made up of famous people from church history, what would your family reunion look like? For a recent church history project, one of my students used the metaphor of a family to explain what he thought about various figures in church history. He gave me permission to pass it along, so here’s what he came up with:

  • The family members he gets along with the best: Jerome, Wycliffe, Susanna Wesley, Finney, Spurgeon, Chesterton, William Seymour, Dostoyevsky, Jim Elliot, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Family members that just rub him the wrong way: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards
  • Family members that he just flat doesn’t like: The Crusaders
  • The embarrassing uncle of the family: the snake-handling preacher

I liked the idea, so I thought I’d put together my own family:

  • Parents (formative early, even if we may not get along now): C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Frank Peretti, Charles Sheldon
  • Wise uncles (mentored me as I got older): Augustine, Maximus, Luther, Calvin, Dostoyevsky, Barth
  • Weird uncles (part of the family, but embarrassing): televangelists (e.g. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker), many Christian “artists” (e.g., Kinkade), TBN
  • Siblings (closely related, but we fight a lot): Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur
  • Cousins (related to me, but I don’t know them very well): Isaac Backus, Walter Rauschenbusch, A.H. Strong,
  • Bob (that one family member you wish would stop coming to the reunions): Joel Osteen

And, if that’s my family, I can only imagine what the family reunion would look like:

C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are outside smoking their pipes and drinking a couple of beers. Peretti is standing a few yards away, desperately wanting to join in but afraid that they’ll make fun of his books again. Augustine is out back sneaking peaches from the peach tree. Meanwhile, Luther is busy spiking the bunch bowl to see if he can get the folks from TBN drunk, and Thomas Kinkade is waiting for him to finish because he’s thirsty again. Barth’s off in the corner discussing socialism with Sheldon and Rauschenbusch, while trying to explain the inadequacies of the social Gospel. Osteen’s there too, nodding his head regularly, though he has no idea what they’re talking about.  Warren, Driscoll, and MacArthur tried to ignore each other for a while, but accidentally ended up going for food at the same time. Now they’re standing around the food table having a loud argument about whether it’s okay to put mustard on hot dogs. In a little while, they’ll probably end up wrestling on the floor and knocking several lamps over. Isaac Backus and A.H. Strong are sitting on the couch listened in horrified fascination as Jim and Tammy Faye Baker tearfully explain why God really wanted them to have all that money for their ministry. And, Maximus and Dostoyevsky are watching the whole thing from the kitchen while having the most fascinating discussion about what all of this means for understanding human nature.

One of the things that I appreciated about this whole exercise was the reminder that we are all part of the same family (though I’m pretty sure Osteen is actually an alien impostor switched at birth with a real family member). Although we might be distantly related in places, we certainly don’t get along all the time, and I may not have gotten to know all of them very well yet, we’re still part of the same, big, messy, obnoxious, often embarrassing family – united to the same Christ, empowered by the same Spirit, glorifying the same Father.

I won’t try to turn this into a meme, but I would be curious to know about your family. Feel free to comment on what your family looks like. Or, if you choose to blog about it, drop us a link so we can follow along.

Slides 10 & 11 introduces ten of my personal best friends from Church History.

Jerome, John Wycliffe, Susanna Wesley, Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, G.K. Chesteron, William Seymour, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jim Elliot, and Martin Luther King. And I gave the reasons why I like each so much and consider them as my family.

Slide 12 includes two men that particularly rub me the wrong way. Thankful for their contributions, but men I am not drawn to… just like certain members of any family.

John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards

Slide 13 is people that I flat out disagree with

The Crusaders

Slide 14 is the embarrassing uncle of the family.

Snake-handling preacher.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on August 21, 2010, in Historical Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. >>>…Dostoyevsky…

    Some day I hope you will post on what Dostoyevsky brought to the table. I loved the BBC version of “Crime and Punishment” but have never braved his books.

    The only fiction author I feel compelled to recommend in this context is Victor Hugo: “Les Miserables.” Wow. What a life-changing book.

    • That’s a good idea. I’ll have to do that. And, I really considered putting Hugo in my list. As influential as Les Miserables has been for me, though, it’s still the only Hugo work I’ve read. So, at this point I’d still have to put Dostoyevsky, and even Tolstoy, slightly further ahead in the influence category. I hope to remedy that short-coming someday.

      • Hugo also wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (I believe), which it was recently discovered, was actually a “true story.”

        At any rate, I look forward to your appreciations of these authors.

      • Yes, Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Eventually I hope to read that along with his lesser-known (to Americans) novels The Last Days of a Condemned Man and Ninety-Three.

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