Granted, this particular quote has to do with the church in the years following Constantine's conversion. But the logic holds for medieval Christianity as well. Can we ever believe that Jesus abandoned his people in any age? And if the church continued to be Christ's people, how can we think that it would be profitable to silence their voices and ignore their hard-earned wisdom? 

Rejecting the Remnant Mentality

Just for fun, I once created a chart of church history from a Baptist perspective. It's a caricature, but it tries to capture the common perception that there are large periods of time in which only a very small remnant of the church retained the truth, everyone else had fallen into apostasy and unfaithfulness.

And that's usually the best people can say about the middle ages. Maybe a few people held to the truth, but only a few. The rest were completely lost. 

The danger of the remnant mentality lies in identifying the faithful remnant with those who are most like you, as though faithfulness comes in only one flavor, thus missing the opportunity to see and be challenged by forms of faithfulness that might be unfamiliar to you. 

None of this means that we should be blind to the failures of the church in the Middle Ages. Of course there were failures. Of course many were unfaithful. That is true of every age. But many, maybe even most, still strove for faithfulness in the midst of a broken world. 

Like Elijah, we look out from our modern mountaintop, lamenting that all have fallen before the medieval Baal. And like Elijah, we need to be reminded that God has always been at work with his people, yesterday and today. And as always, there are more who have not bowed the knee than we believe and fear.


Marc Cortez is Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general. You can read more from him at marccortez.com.