The history of Christianity is the history of a divine intervention in history, and we cannot study it apart from the history of culture in the widest sense of the word. For the word of God was first revealed to the people of Israel and became embodied in a law and a society. Secondly, the word of God became Incarnate in a particular person at a particular moment of history, and thirdly, this process of human redemption was carried on in the life of the Church which was the new Israel–the universal community which was the bearer of divine revelation and the organ by which man participated in the new life of the Incarnate Word.
Thus Christianity has entered into the stream of human history and the process of human culture. It has become culturally creative, for it has changed human life and there is nothing in human thought and action which has not been subjected to its influence, while at the same time it has suffered from the limitations and vicissitudes that are inseparable from temporal existence.
Now there are those who reject this mingling of religion and history, or Christianity and culture, since they believe that religion is concerned with God rather than man, and with the absolute and eternal rather than the historical and the transitory. We certainly need to recognize how important this aspect of religion is and how man has a natural sense of divine transcendence. And we know from the history of religious thought that we do actually find religious men of this kind–men who seek to transcend human nature by the flight of the Alone to the Alone, in the words of the Neo-Platonist philosopher, and who find the essence of religion in the contemplation of pure being or of that which is beyond being.
But this is not Christianity. Although Christianity does not deny the religious value of contemplation or mystical experience, its essential nature is different, it is a religion of Revelation, Incarnation and Communion; a religion which unites the human and the divine and sees in history the manifestation of the divine purpose towards the human race. – from The Formation of Christendom