There seems to be an enduring myth accepted by many evangelicals that the Church, soon after the apostles, “fell” and that this period of ecclesiastical degeneration lasted until the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Accordingly, this view says, much of what took place in this intervening period was either irrelevant, un-Christian, heretical, or all of the above. Nevertheless, we are told, somehow a tiny “remnant” of true believers survived as flickers of light in this overwhelming period of darkness.
D. H. Williams points out two shortcomings in this view:
1. It creates a gulf between Protestantism and its patristic foundation
2. It has spawned dreadful ahistorical interpretations of Church history based on a kind of spiritual successionist model that somehow connects the Day of Penetcost (Acts 2) directly with the present day Church (or certain present Protestant denominations).