Reading Between the Lines - the Problem of Early Sources

When examining the history of third stream Christian movements before the Reformation, we have an immediate historical problem. Up to about the 15th Century, the primary sources that exist for many of these groups and movements originate with those who opposed them. Primarily, these sources are from the Catholic and/or state churches, though official documents also exist from courts and other government records, especially towards the latter part of the Middle Ages and, of course, during the Reformation itself.

This problem requires us to try and decode some of the sources. When, for instance, we read of an individual described in a historic source as a "heretic", there is every possibility that we are reading about a Bible-believing Christian with a saving faith and an evangelical doctrine. The term, in that sense, can be compared with the second century use of the word "superstition" or "atheism" by the Roman authorities to describe the emerging Christian movement.

The case of the Montanists is a classic case in point. To this day, Christian historians remain divided over whether to regard these fourth-century zealots as heralds of radical Biblical church reform or misguided fanatics with unorthodox views on core Christian doctrines.

More on them to follow.....

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