As all of my readers on this blog know, I’m a huge fan of Church history. I study Church history because I think it’s a very useful tool when engaging the enemies of God.
Several years ago, when Michael Coren used to be a Christian, he had a scuffle with the anti-Christian, sodomy promoting Rabbi Shmuley Boteach over the issue of Pius XII. All Boteach could do was slander the Pope and then said to Coren: “Read Hitler’s Pope!”
There is a 10 minute clip on YouTube of a debate that Boteach had with a man named Gary Krupp regarding Pope Pius XII. All Boteach does is endlessly quote from John Cornwell’s tired and long-winded rant aka Hitler’s Pope. This man has never bothered to go and read wartime documents, documents that come shortly after the war and the Jewish writers and political figures who supported Pope Pius XII.
Why am I bringing this up? If all I had done was read a popular bestselling book without checking primary documents, would I have any credibility? If I said that I could discuss the Latin-Greek schism in-depth because I had only read Fr. Aiden Nichol’s book Rome and the Eastern Churches, no one would take me seriously. If all I did was quote that book over and over again to make a point, then I would have little credibility. I would need to read several books and try to read as much documents that I can which are close to the date of the events.
In history, the earlier the source, the better. I am not against quoting books written later but we must realize that if they contradict earlier sources, we need to go with the earlier sources and reject the later book.
A good example of this is St. Ignatius of Antioch. Protestant critics of Catholicism like to trot out the old canard that the early Church held that Bishop and Elder(Presbyter) were the same office. They do this by pointing to ambiguous references in the writings of Clement and the Didache and try to shoehorn their revisionism into certain passages. They’ll quote a modern Protestant scholar and maybe a liberal Catholic who has sold out his faith and try to say that it was the case, yet they can’t point to any clear statements in the early Church(or anything after) that support this view.
The point I’m trying to make is that modern historians can’t be trusted when they contradict earlier clear sources. When someone quotes pseudo-scholars like John Cornwell or Philip Schaff and try to refute earlier data, I simply tell them that they’re not taking history seriously. Anyone can read popular books(written far removed from the events) that draw wide-eyed fanciful conclusions without a sober analysis of primary sources.
Let me repeat, I’m not against quoting books written far removed from the events that they narrate, but if they can’t be backed up by history, they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on and shouldn’t be trusted by any honest individual. We need to take history seriously.
Go to the sources! Ad fontes!