Church Family History with Rev. Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt

We often spend time reflecting on how our family of origin shapes our stories. But today, we’re turning our attention to another important part of who we are, both personally and collectively: our church family history.

This week, we are honored to host The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, a distinguished church historian, professor, and author. Dr. McNutt serves as the Franklin S. Dyrness Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College and is the co-author, alongside David W. McNutt, of the upcoming book, “Know the Theologians.”

Given the challenges and controversies within the church today, it’s crucial to understand the relevance of our church family history. Jennifer, Dan, and Rachael highlight the need to learn from both the successes and failures of past generations and to recognize God’s faithfulness throughout history.

While learning about church history might seem intimidating at first, it’s incredibly valuable in understanding our Christian tradition and where we’re headed together. We hope this conversation inspires you to do your own exploration of the influences of this unique “family tree.”

Jennifer will return later this year to continue this conversation. In the meantime, we encourage you to explore her new book, “Know the Theologians,” co-authored with David W. McNutt, and available April 2 at bookstores everywhere.

About Our Guest:

The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt is the Franklin S. Dyrness Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College, where she has taught Christian History and Theology since 2008. For over a decade, she coordinated the M.A. program in History of Christianity, and she is the first woman appointed to the Dyrness chair. Rev. Dr. McNutt received her B.A. in Religious Studies with a concentration in Biblical Languages from Westmont College (2000) and her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary (2003). She graduated with her Ph.D. from the School of History (2008) at St. Andrews (Reformation Studies Institute). 

Rev. Dr. McNutt’s academic research specializes in the history of Christianity and theology from the Reformation through the Enlightenment with expertise in Reformation Studies (history and theology), John Calvin and the Reformed tradition, the history of the Bible, science and Christianity during the Enlightenment, and women in early modern history. 

Rev. Dr. McNutt’s work is also directed toward a wider audience in her role as scholar and pastor. She has published numerous articles with Christianity Today and Christian History magazine. In 2017, Rev. Dr. McNutt was awarded first place in Christianity Today’s Science Essay Contest (2017) for “Forgotten Figures: How Pastors of the Enlightenment Helped Advance Modern Science.” She also co-wrote the cover story, The First Christian, for the Dec. 2019 issue with Rev. Dr. Amy Peeler. In 2017, Rev. Dr. McNutt also participated as an expert for the Reformation documentary, A Call for Freedom, which won three regional Emmy awards including “Outstanding Historical Documentary.” She regularly appears on various podcasts, writes for guest blogs, and speaks at venues for laity and clergy.

Episode Transcript:

Dan: Rachael, we’ve talked quite a bit about the fact this is going to be a freaking crazy year. And in that process, one of the things that we’ve at least put words to is we need to know our story. And people have heard that perhaps to a point of ad nauseum, ad infinitum. Nonetheless, the reality is we’ve got a history, not personal, but we’ve also got a history corporate. So the idea came in our conversation to bring in a church historian to begin the process of talking. And of course, I don’t know who else to go to in life for any level of great wisdom other than my dear friend Trevor Longman the third. And he suggested what if his past students who he said, it’s way smarter than you, Dan, but she’ll be able to play well with you. And so I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to have over this year a number of conversations with the, and now listen to this. You just have to get a feel for the quality of this human being. The Dr. Reverend Jennifer McNutt, who happens to also be an Associate Professor at Wheaton College, which really is one of the most excellent schools in this country and maybe the world. So to have a church historian of your quality, Jennifer, we humbly thank you for joining us. So welcome, Jennifer.

Jennifer: Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be with you all.

Dan: Well, let me further say you have a very cherished chair that you have been given, and a lot of people don’t understand what it means to be given a chair. You have a chair, and beyond that you’re sitting on one. Just give us a little bit of background as to your remarkable life and career.

Jennifer: Thank you so much for that introduction, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you both better and to connecting with your listeners. So yes, so I teach at Wheaton College and am very thankful for a chaired position, which just means that the college has committed to the discipline of church history. And in this case, the chair was dedicated to reformed theology and history. And so that’s my expertise. That’s the work I do. I also teach the full survey of the global church history, and it’s a joy to serve in that way. I’ve been here 16 years now, which is hard to believe. And actually I just got news this week that I was promoted to full professor, so I’m very thankful.

Dan: Wow.

Rachael: Congratulations.

Jennifer: We celebrated on Valentine’s Day because as a family, so that was very fun.

Dan: That’s really remarkable, the whole point about being a chaired professor. It isn’t just the commitment to the orientation, to the focus, study. It’s also when one gets that a way in the academy to say this is a really prestigious human being taking that particular chair. Now, the reason I know that having been in the academy, my version for quite a few years, but even more so, I’ve been reminded of that many times by my dear friend, Tremper Longman the third who also had a chaired position. So all that to say, it’s just absolutely a delight to have you here.

Jennifer: Thank you. And thank you to Tremper. Yes.

Dan: Indeed. So I think we can say, given your credentials, you’re a very, very, very bright human being. You could have done virtually anything in the universe. How did you become a church historian?

Jennifer: Such a good question. So I think the first thing to know about me that’s really helpful in understanding my journey is that I grew up in a pastor’s household, but a double pk. So both my parents were in pastoral ministry, and so our lives were just filled with theology and scripture and the church, conversations about the church, the complexities of pastoral ministry, and also just a love of history in the history of the church. So my parents loved to travel. They took us all over, always a church. We went to all the churches. And for me, I was actually reflecting on it this week because of my promotion, but there was a really special moment when I was 14 years old and my parents took me to Geneva, Switzerland where John Calvin had ministered and I had the joy and the privilege of standing in his pulpit in the Auditoire right next to St. Pierre Cathedral and standing there and just kind of, it just, well, actually my dad took a picture of it and I was just in this moment and it really was something that sparked my interest and passion, curiosity, desire to learn and know and understand more. And so I’ve kind of been on that journey ever since, I would say. But there’s something really special about going to these places if you’re able to and getting to learn about these things in these places and having that material connection is really great.

Dan: Well, you have a new book coming out in April called Know the Theologians. Is there a small possibility that photo at age 14 will show up somewhere in the book?

Jennifer: No, but you can see, I did recently. I was reflecting on it. I have put it on Facebook. I think it’s important for people to know that sometimes as children and even as teenagers, you experience calling from the Lord and clarity and to allow kids to see that, to experience that, to remember that and allow that to be their story, I think is important. So I just wanted to highlight that. Amen.

Dan:I’ll also, I’ll turn this quickly over to you, Rachael, but I will say that your website, should eventually have that photo on it.

Jennifer: Thank you. I appreciate that. Okay. I will do it. It needs to be updated anyway.

Dan: Well, the reality of what you’re saying is so sweet, and that is an impressionable 14-year-old in the presence of one of the theologically complex, but also great minds, Calvin, opens the door to a vision of at least some possibility of that. But I still want to ask the larger question of why church history.

Jennifer: So I think in the educational journey, I’m so grateful to the schools that I went to. Of course at Westmont with studying under Tremper and others, Bob Gundry and Karen Jobes and others. There you get exposed to all the different disciplines and being at a liberal arts institution is a wonderful thing for that. And then I ended up at Princeton Theological Seminary doing a master of divinity. And because of my background at Westmont, I was able to go into a lot of advanced classes and seminars and sort of begin to explore. And there was this amazing course on European Christianity that I took at Princeton and it blew me away. I wanted to do the reading, I wanted to do the assignments at a whole other level. And for me it was because the church, the history of the church was embedded in the history of the world. It wasn’t like it was separated like this is happening on the side and isolated and disconnected, but that it was so integrated into all the complexities of our world and of our past. And that was very exciting. I think too, that sometimes when church history is talked about, it’s sometimes taught with a focus only on theology. And I have loved to see how theology intersects with the political context, the cultural context with all different factors, economics and sort of seeing how even material history, so seeing the social history, material history and the theological history and how those things converge and come together. And that was modeled for me for the first time, I think in grad school. And so it was approaching the topic from a direction in a way that I hadn’t really been exposed to before. So that made a huge difference. And then I think in going into, I was very blessed to have a spot at the University of St. Andrews and their history department. I had been at Christian schools up until that point, and then I was in a university setting. And that was such a good chance for me to develop method and hone my skills and enter into the discipline, broadly speaking not just a church history focus, but history and really solidified all of the lessons I think I was learning over the years. And again, bringing it alive. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m a better historian because I was at the University of St. Andrews and study with Bruce Gordon and so many others that are wonderful scholars and that I respect dearly. So all of that I think. And then as a Christian, I love church history because we get to do everything. We get to understand the church from all the angles and think about it with depth and complexity, again with nuance. And I think it gives us so much perspective. So getting back to what you were saying, Dan, about how we don’t always know our story, and I see that as an issue that could be addressed in something that could enrich the life of Christians and their faith in our churches today and help us to see more connection, more belonging, how we fit together as the body of Christ.

Rachael: Well, I love how you’re framing that because at the Allender Center, we’re always asking people to do story work and dive deeper into story. And we talk about that we have personal stories, right, familial stories, but that all of that is shaped in a context. And so we do a lot of work looking at collective narratives, most predominantly in a sociological justice oriented frame. And I love what you’re bringing because I don’t know how often we get to do work in a church history frame, which is a huge part of our family of origin, those of us who claim to be Christian and walk in this tradition. And it has huge implications for how we make sense of who we are and how we’ve gotten here. So I would love to hear more from you how this came to be a core frame for not only your vocation, but what I hear you saying, also your life and how you live and see the world. Yeah,

Jennifer: Thank you so much. Yes. I love to see this happen in the classroom where we’re talking about something in the past and then connecting it to the present and the students are like, oh, that’s why my church was the way that it was. So I think in part it is sort of discovering, it’s a self-discovery for sure, to understand our story and growing up in the context in which we’ve grown up in our church traditions. But then it’s also like, hey, you are actually connected to a much bigger story. And sometimes we stress that and we emphasize that and we sort of prioritize the present. We think, yeah, your church and the church across town, you’re connected because you affirm Christ, even though, but it’s actually even bigger than that. We affirm creedily, we affirm that our creator created the visible and the invisible and time is in God’s hands. And so I love to think about, to explore, think theologically and biblically, what does it mean to be connected to our neighbors, our Christian neighbors here and now, but also to those in the past who’ve come before us, and then also thinking of the future generations coming and all that is promised eschatological that we are being gathered up by Christ and none of the things that have been obstacles before in Christ are obstacles in Christ, including time. So I just think capturing the vision of that and trying to articulate that and think, and there’s a lot of mystery to it too, but there’s several passages in scripture that encouraged us to think in that way. And I really think that’s a lot of the work that Paul was doing. He was trying to fit together these two groups that do not belong together in his time, right? Jews and Gentiles that have so much prejudice against one another, their practices are so incredibly different, and there’s just so much judgment and division and he’s trying to bring these groups together. This is a very hard thing, but I think he gives us the language, he gives us the familial language in scripture to think about being part of the family. And all that means there’s lots of good contextual dynamics at work when he is talking about God as father and we become the children of God, but also that we are brothers and sisters, that we’re part of this family and that we are adopted into this family, and Christ is our brother. As Hebrews talks about. Christ is our brother who is sharing his inheritance with us as the son. He shares that with us. It’s just so powerful and beautiful. And so I think the church needs to invest in its local church, but also to capture the vision of the grandness of what God is doing and inviting us into beyond our time and place.

Dan: Well, you’re really bringing the category of the body of Christ into a different way of thinking in terms of as many people are not cognizant that the fundamental issue of much of Paul’s writing is this ethnic, racial, deep theological and also practiced differences between these communities that are being brought into a new coherence. So obviously the body of Christ and the reflection of that has played a really significant role for you.

Jennifer: Yes, it really has. I mean, you hear about the body of Christ as a metaphor all the time. And obviously we come across this and maybe we are just so used to it, we don’t think it through. But I know for me in reading 1 Corinthians 12 and sort of digging deeply into that passage and what it means, because in our classes at Wheaton, we’re integrating faith and learning. We’re thinking about what is it that we’re doing when we do church history? What is it theologically, biblically, spiritually, what does it mean? And I love that part there. We often focus on the body parts and how they’re the different body parts, and they all have value and they all have function, and that’s a good word. But I think there’s another part to what Paul is saying, which is that even if you as a part of the body of Christ are saying to yourself, I don’t belong to the body for whatever reason in the case of this passage, it’s because I’m not an eye or because I’m not this, but he’s saying that even if you think that you don’t belong to the body of Christ, you do. And it says that in that passage, that doesn’t make it so. I think we are often, as Christians today, living like we are disconnected from global Christians today and from the Christians of the past when just because we see it that way or think that’s the case doesn’t make it so.

Rachael: Yeah, well, I was just thinking for so much of my upbringing and my church formation, just because, I mean, I remember taking a class in undergrad at a liberal arts school called Western Civilization, and that was such a mind blowing sadly, but also understandably paradigm shift for me that there was such thing as a western civilization. So hence words, there were other civilizations there. I think I grew up thinking in some ways church history begins with European church history and not realizing, even thinking of Paul as a European, because we can’t help but read into the text how we’re being formed and who we’re being formed at the table with. And I love the notion, even though I think it does make things more complex, that there is a global church and that church and that church history doesn’t always get along with each other for very good reasons. There are certain aspects of the global church saying to other parts of the global church, Hey, we’re over here wrestling with these things. You’re over here wrestling with those things. And I think there is a lot of possibility and hope in understanding the family we’re a part of, even if it might trouble us at times or disrupt the ground that we stand on, so to speak.

Jennifer: That’s such a good word.

Dan: Well, we barely know our grandparents. That’s probably not fully true. We know grandparents, but we barely know our great grandparents. But for many people, we lose the ground of our own history. But what you’re inviting us to is the history of great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents. So I know that in the new book that you’re doing know the theologians, that there’s some people that you have come to encounter that I’d love to hear about.

Jennifer: Sure. Yes, exactly. I’ll just add to that though, just real quickly. I think we are functioning as orphans when we have been adopted and Know the Theologians is seeking to show, just sort of introduce a broader audience to a broader story of those Christians who have really shaped the theological conversation over time and across spaces. And I think one of the, so we’ve got, I dunno, do you want me to tell you about the book?

Dan: Well, yeah, I just know that Julian shows up.

Jennifer: Yes. Okay. So we do have 16 theologians that we highlight, and then within the chapters we’re talking about their interlocutors, the dialogue that they’re having in their time. They’re often also receiving and remembering and building off of early Christian thinkers. So they’re not isolated. They’re not in a vacuum. And so then we also have these sidebars. We’ve got 45 sidebars highlighting different figures too. I think the hardest thing was choosing narrowing it down. It was just like, it was very difficult. We did our best. I’m sure it’s not perfect, but we did our best. Julian Norwich is, one thing I really love about her chapter is that it does highlight this exchange that she has with Marjorie Kemp. And Marjorie Kemp is an English mystic from the 14th and 15th century. She is considered to have written the earliest English autobiography, by dictation. But anyway, the author of the earliest surviving texts that we know of, and sorry, by a woman. And so that’s very exciting. And usually you kind of hear her story Marjorie Kent. And then you hear Julian Norwich, who is an anchorite in Norwich, which is a very bustling town. She’s in a cell that’s connected to the church. I’ve actually visited the church, which is really neat. And lots of times we think about Anchorite’s as very isolated, but she actually, so she’s praying for the church, she’s praying for the world, she’s praying for her community, and there’s a window where people can come to the window from the town and sort of get advice from her and connect with her. So she’s very wise. And so Marjorie Kemp, who’s struggling with just some of the spiritual experiences that she’s having, and she’s having trouble making sense of it. And she’s been asking advice from other clergy and leaders of the church, and she’s encouraged to go meet Julian Norwich. And it’s just this recounted in her autobiography that she goes and she meets Dame Julian and what a wise person she is and even recounts their conversation. And we get a sense of just the joy that they have in meeting each other. And Julian is sharing about, well, Jerome said this and scripture, and they spend two days together, is what is said and just in prayer. And I think, anyway, it’s a great model or even metaphor for what it could mean for us to encounter the Christians of the past and hear from them, learn from their wisdom. And I think even saying their prayers, right? There are so many prayers from Christians of the past that we get to say and lift up to the Lord with their voices. And it’s just I think, very powerful and beautiful thing.

Dan: I think part of me just wants to know, what did they talk about?

Jennifer: Well, you should read this, the book of Marjorie Kemp. There’s a little excerpt about that, but I think theology has been written in many different ways and many different forms and different genres. We are often shaped by modern systematics and how the method of theology should be written. But when you look at the broad history of the church, you’ll see that theology’s been written on stone, and it’s been written in letters, it’s been written through poetry, it’s been written in all these different ways. And so I was just speaking on Anselm of Canterbury in my historical theology class, which is one of the chapters in the book as well. And when we think about the ontological argument, so the argument for the existence of God, which he communicates as the father of Scholasticism, and in the medieval church, we often think about it as an apologetic, but it’s not. It’s a devotional. He’s writing this theology and philosophy in this devotional manner. The whole thing begins with prayer. Lord, I know that you’re so much greater, but I long greater than I, but I long to know you a little. And then that’s where it starts and just kind of exploring what does it mean that you are the greatest thing and probing that so it’s lived. We don’t want to also disconnect the story of the church from its time. We don’t want to disconnect theology from the life of the believer.

Rachael: When I was in school, it’s one of the things I loved. It’s just that really the best theology is coming out. It’s embodied. It’s coming out of a space and time, and it’s asking questions that are really relevant to the flourishing of the people in that space and time. And you’re right, we’ve been given systematic theology, which is good and necessary as well. This is theological work. Work theology is always coming from the ground too.

Jennifer: I’m married to a systematitian, so let me just clarify. Better get that in there before I get in trouble. So yes, exactly. No, we need it. Yes, absolutely. It’s that constructive work, speaking to our church today, drawing hopefully from the wisdom of the past and also in fresh and new ways in the ways that we need to hear. So yeah, it’s a wonderful, all the disciplines, I think really we need all of ’em. So.

Dan: Well, I was hanging out with some neighbors who are believers, and prior to our conversation, I just happened to bring in how much church history do you know? And the look on, there were two other couples. The look was, oh no, oh no, you’re going to do this again. You’re going to ruin our time of having wine together outside. It was a decently warm day. And I’m like, am I ruining this? I literally had to say, am I ruining our time? It’s like, well, yeah, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I said, well, have you read anything about past lives reflecting something of the effort of knowing God? And these are really bright, gifted and deeply committed believers, and there was a pretty strong unanimity of, now we don’t even know where to begin. So for people beginning to just think in terms of, okay, here’s this conversation between these two women, and thank God it’s going to be in your book to invite us into that, but how do people begin? And again, I want to say certainly the book coming in April is a lovely beginning point to get a sense of who are some of your fathers, who are some of your mothers who have shaped your way of thinking, even if you don’t know who they are, what they did or how it’s influenced. But again, that framing of theology for many people is a very arcane distant, I don’t know. I don’t read that kind of stuff. And I find that interplayed between so little knowledge of church history, so little knowledge of theology. And yet, as you have put it so well, and we’ve attempted to say it in other domains, what has preceded you is shaping you. And if you don’t know your past, it’s playing out inevitably in your present and future in terms of both good but also bad theology.

Jennifer: Right. Well, I think it’s such a relevant question and concern right now. People are, because of the way that media is today, we get to hear about a lot of troubling things that happen all around the world and happen in our churches, and there’s an immediacy to that and sometimes a bombardment of that. And it’s really hard to sort out. It’s a new day because of technology and the media. But I think that when you do know the story of the church, and not in a geographical way, but again, with depth, with nuance, with complexity, that even in those kinds of situations, in the moments of disillusionment, we have a place to go to sort of sort this out. You don’t even need to just think about the church today and sort of only, we’re not the first people to deal with these things. I love to say that my classes, I’m like the, I’ll just give you one example. We were talking about Augustine, another chapter in the book and the Donatist controversy, and they’re sorting out, and so reasonably sorting out this question of what happens when our leaders betray the church and then do we welcome them back in? And is the ministry that they do, is it invalidated? They were facing that because of the edict of Milan had transformed the position of the church, and there was a lot of hurt, life and death kind of situations previous to it. And then the church is coming together and sorting these things out and trying to ask these questions. We asked that same question, don’t we today? We’re still sorting that out. I came across too, a news headline, I think it was from 2022, but about an Arizona priest who was very troubled that he had been administering baptism incorrectly. He hadn’t been saying the words exactly right in the liturgy. And the conclusion was that all of these people didn’t have true baptisms then. And as a Protestant, I would say no. It was really very minor. Just instead of we, he said, I, that’s it. But anyway, but that’s another great example that connects to the Augustine Donatist controversy about who is really the one that is at work in our faith and in our lives. And the good answer I think that came from Augustine there is that it’s God, it’s always the Lord that is at work through the power of the Holy Spirit that is bringing things to goodness and to goodness, and ensuring that our efforts to care and minister to others have efficacy, have impact, and it’s not by our work alone. Yeah. Anyway. So I would just say I think some of the things that trouble us today, we can gain insight, perspective, wisdom, and I think maybe even encouragement that we are not the first to grapple with these problems and we will do the best we can. It’s just to be as faithful as we can to, well, I would say to what scripture has to say to the best of our abilities.

Dan: Again, let me prompt you to this again, hard question. Most people don’t know about Augustine and Donatist, so how do we begin to play within that realm? And I’m back to as well, what did Marjorie say? Again, you’ve got a mystic, which is not really a significant part of at least American Protestantism and with Julian of Norwich, and where is that taking you? Where do you get yourself, particularly given your sophistication and that level of engagement? Where do you just find yourself going? I’m freaked out.

Jennifer: Oh, okay. Well, I’ll start with the first part of what you were saying, because I think what is Marjorie saying? What I’m really struck by is that she records Julian’s words, and she is reflecting on what Julian has said to her. And actually we get to do that too. Julian has spoken to the church, and we get to receive what she is saying to the church. And what she says to Marjorie in the autobiography is basically this comfort that your life is in the hands of God and God is love. And we need to hear that. We need to still hear that. And I’m really struck by Julian’s story too, because in her context, in her time, there’s so much turmoil. So I don’t know, maybe there’s no time where there isn’t turmoil, but we think about the bubonic plague and just how that decimated the population. The a Hundred Years War is going on, all of these things. And they are aware of actually, and yet to say, and I don’t think she doesn’t say this lightly, but to say that all is well because of who God is, not because of what we can do or anything, but because of who God is love. So that’s such a good word.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think the reality is, you know our family better than we do. And so in that sense, you’ve got more connection to our great, great, great grandmother and father than I would suggest most of us have. I did a master of divinity. I did take church history, and I’ll just say that again. Part of the intention in inviting you to multiple conversations over this year is to begin to tell us about our family. That we are the body of Christ. These are our mothers and fathers. And I do like that whole notion of there have to be moments where as you’re reading, thinking, exploring some of the original documents where you’re just going, what?

Jennifer: Oh, yeah, yeah. When you discover… So I also like to teach my students to lean into those questions. Sometimes we see residents and sometimes we really don’t get what’s going on there. I mean, it is that tried and true statement from the 19th century about history, that it’s a foreign country. If you’ve ever been to a foreign country, you struggle with the language, you struggle with the culture, you struggle with feeling like you belong. And that I think is we got to teach our churches to be better travelers in that way. To be able to go to the past and to meet these people and to be able to sit with, well, I don’t understand why that was a problem for them. I don’t understand why that was a question for them or such a big deal for them. And if we are saying that, then we haven’t understood yet. So we have to listen more. We have to probe more. And I think there are so many good resources out there now. I think it’s, and we hope Know that Theologians will be one of those, starting with that book, that curiosity, that interest, and then sort of going from there with things like podcasts. But I really think adult education in churches, we need to be teaching congregants more about theology and the history of the church family. And that is, in my view, that will heal and help a lot where we need it in the church today.

Rachael: And one of the things I think is so important is that I say this because the more I started learning about even just the more isolated church history of let’s say the Southern Baptist church that I grew up in, I studied Southern Baptist at a Southern Baptist liberal arts school. No one was talking about the church history of how Southern Baptist came to be, which is actually incredibly problematic and still very much in the DNA. There’s good stuff as well because we talk a lot about how beauty and brokenness are so intrinsically woven together. But I know for myself, I need to know not so much so Southern Baptist, but I need to know what’s the good that prevails in our church history when there’s also incredible brokenness. That’s a part of learning the history too, and can be. So don’t even when we see this kind of instinct in our, I don’t even want to know. I won’t even look at it. And there’s something about having these kind of ebenezers where people wrestled well and knowing some of the history where there was a faithfulness that’s worth replicating to hold onto when you’re also studying the history that you need to know because it’s still showing up today and you’re impacted by it today. That is a little bit, doesn’t feel as good, or you don’t want to claim, these are my mothers and fathers, these are my brothers and sisters. Can we just leave them out? They’re not invited to the table. But what I hear you saying is they’re all at the table as disruptive and painful as that might be, doesn’t mean that everyone is supposed to stay where they’re at. We’re moving somewhere together. But I feel deeply encouraged by being invited to know some of the mothers and fathers worth emulating. When I’m sitting with some of the stories, I feel like I don’t want to make that mistake again.

Jennifer: So we can be so inspired and we can also see the blind spots and the next generations will do the same with us. We all sit at the table with Christ by grace. And I think it is important to recognize that the church, just as we as Christians go through justification rooted in our faith in Christ, and then a process of sanctification, church is also going through that the church has also been justified and is also going through this process of sanctification and through the generations. And so like what you were saying too, just a few things. One is that we can see God’s faithfulness. I think we can see God’s faithfulness, the Holy Spirit continuing to be at work even when we think things are lost or that the Lord is there and has not left us alone. And again, we are being drawn into Christ and there’s hope and promise and great beauty in that. But then I wanted to just mention too, you mentioned the Southern Baptist background and tradition, and I think that reorienting how we understand the reformation can be really useful for Protestants in thinking through church history. How does church history relate to our faith? And this is what I teach. And when we go back to the Reformation story, we can come to recognize that they too saw themselves as within the great cloud of witnesses, is connected to the great cloud of witnesses. What they were trying to do is to elevate the voice of scripture as the first and final voice and authority. But that didn’t mean though, in most of the traditions, that did not mean to silence the Christians of the past. And there is such a complexity in sorting out of that. And I think the legacy of that has been in some ways to become disconnected, which is not really their intention, even though that was one of the results.

Dan: Well, essentially, Sola Scriptura has a potential to erase tradition. And when we use the word tradition, what we’re really saying is our family, the people who, as you would put it, so well sit at the table that we’re still at and they are at, even if they are not on the earth extent in an obvious form. So I think one of the things that I am so excited about future conversations is through your work, through the past work, but also through the new book coming out in April, there really is a chance for our audience to, and again, two metaphors travel to meet some of the people who have shaped us. And so Jennifer, we’re just so grateful that you are going to take us on this travel log. But also it isn’t just to see the Leaning Tower of Piza, it’s to meet the people who actually inhabit the buildings who have shaped something of who we are. So again, congratulations on the new book coming and on the new professorship.

Jennifer: Thank you so much Thank you.

Dan: We are indeed already indebted and look forward to many more conversations.

Jennifer: I’m so grateful. Yes. Thank you for this invitation and this chance to be with you all over the course of the season. I’m really excited and grateful to be part of it.