Martin W. Bender
Having spent the past few years listening to a variety of podcasts on a regular basis I now find myself a little bored of news and discussion about pop culture (except of course for what can be found here every Thursday). In light of this, I have taken to listening to courses on iTunes U instead of my normal schedule of jokers and smokers that I had been enjoying of late. So far I have listened to courses on philosophy, preaching, the New Perspective on Paul, and have just finished a rather long collection on church history.
Having finished about seventy forty-five minute lectures on church history in last two weeks I can say with confidence I have only the slightest grasp of the most important issues on the subject. There is so much to gain from understanding the manner in which the church has come to us and yet, for some strange reason, there is surprising little interest. A solid grasp of church history helps us to know the reasons for much of what happens in the church today, and yet we dismiss it as boring or of little value. Below you’ll find some of the reasons I think church history should be studied by all Christians.
- The whole condemned to repeat past mistakes thing. We’ve all heard the saying before, that if you don’t remember the past you’ll make the same mistakes as those who came before you. This saying is definitely illustrative of church history. Time and again people fall into the same issues be it placing worldly men in leadership to disastrous results or any of the many heresies that have challenged orthodox thinking. Know church history and these issues can be avoided.
- Some of those old fellers are pretty smart. One of the tragedies of modern life is the thought that we have somehow outgrown the teaching of our predecessors. This trend is certainly not isolated to the church but is clear in just about every area of America today. There is an underlying assumption that people are smarter today than any of the ancients who came before us. How terribly arrogant for us to think that Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin have nothing for us today. These are the men who have established much of the foundation for our understanding of scripture and we dismiss them as we use presuppositions they have provided. The past teachers of the church should not be so quickly dismissed as seems to happen these days.
- That Bible came from somewhere. As our society becomes increasingly post-Christian it is important for today’s believers to have an answer why they should trust the Bible. Without the testimony of the early church, the church councils, the work of preservation and copying done by scribes and monks through the ages not only would we not have the Bible, but we would have no idea about its source. It is only through understanding church history we can know about the written word we have received from the Lord.
Those are just three quick reasons why we need to study church history. There are more. I hope that as I continue to learn about the history of the church I will come to a greater understanding and love of the Christian faith.
I recommend listening to:
Ancient and Medieval Church History
Reformation and Modern Church History