Friday, 11 May 2012

History – yay!

In preparation for ‘Back to School’ September, when I will embark on my Theology degree at Oxford, I am doing some background reading. I sighed slightly (ok, rather dramatically) when I started Diarmaid McCulloch’s ‘A History of Christianity’ and found that the book started 1000 years before Jesus in Greece. Is two thousand years of history not enough?! Apparently understanding Christianity history is impossible if you don’t know something about the lifestyle and philosophy of the ancient world. I have to say I am now very much in agreement about this and am loving my new ability to be very, very Oxford and remark over an afternoon latte ‘As Plato would say… ’Ha! Fun times!

My mate Plato
 I’ve been amazed to realize just how much of our western ‘norms’ of thinking come from this time. I know I’m totally joining the party late but we were never taught these things at school! We were just taught how they bartered in Russia during the time of the Tzars involving some weird classroom game where we all had papers with farmyard animals drawn on them. Yep, I went to a GREAT school….

As well as the excitement (and slightly disturbing realisation) that your thoughts aren’t in any way original but shaped entirely by centuries of thought that has come before you, it is also brilliant to have those light bulb moments where you see your current circumstances in a new light. The life of the church is like that. The same old disagreements happen over and over again and I wonder, when will we just accept that we are different? And that different doesn’t equal bad? One thing is clear, there has never been a time in history when we all agreed. Perhaps we should get used to it and find a way to move forward in spite of it. But hey, it’s just a thought!! ;)

The other thing I’m, oddly, enjoying is the sense of personal smallness that reading history gives. There really is ‘nothing new under the sun’, to quote the bible! The same arguments, the same achievements, empires rising and falling and yet individual lives just going on, loving, living, exploring their potential.  Because though the magnitude of history makes an individual life feel small it also infuses it with potential. All these characters from history were just ordinary people like you and me and yet stood for something and left a lasting mark, for good or for bad.  

Now that I’m starting on my learning journey I can’t wait for more. I’m actually excited about going to my first lectures (not least for all the exciting new stationary this gives me a reason to buy. And yes I will have to purchase s satchel, naturally.) What an amazing opportunity. Bring it on!


  1. I agree, it's really fascinating how basically all of the western world view comes from a few greeks having a nice chat 3000 years ago (or whenever it was ;)) - you can't really understate how much it permeates our thinking, even if 99% of people have no idea. It makes it all the more interesting when you try and understand, say, the Chinese view of the world in comparison, because they had Taoism and Confucianism instead of Plato and it's such an utterly different perspective.

    1. Yes, it's really interesting isn't it? We have a Chinese couple in our small group at church and they bring such interesting insights often because their starting point is just totally different to a Western one.