The Importance of History
History, a topic usually associated with yawns, thick books and big brained boring teachers. But bear with me for a few moments as I attempt to shed some light on a subject that has been shelved at the back of a dark room.
Firstly, definitions. History should not be defined simply as past events in some given time. The past refers to an earlier time period that is fixed and unalterable where people and events took place. History, however, is the study, investigation, and the deliberate effort to interpret and explain the past. The difference is subtle but important to note.
Human beings are naturally and deeply invested in history. This is understood by observing how we approach and think about the areas of our lives that we care most about. For instance, when a man loves a woman, one of the first and most anticipated conversations is the one about each other’s past and understanding how those events culminate to shape the person before you. Another instance is at the dreaded job interview. One cares very much about clearly communicating one’s past academic endeavours and experiences so that they are interpreted as suitable to fill the vacancy. How about our personal witness as Christians! And how we enjoy those moments when we are afforded the opportunity to tell of God’s goodness in saving, correcting, and guiding us. Whether you recognise it or not, we are absolutely invested in being historians. Now, to address the obvious which is the evident disconnection between our natural investment in history and the discontentment noticeable in our attitudes toward a purposeful pursuit of history. I submit to you that these disconnections are nothing but simple ignorance.
This cluelessness breeds disinterest and lethargy toward actively investigating the history of our world and it pervades through society. As a result, people have been deprived of the knowledge that would make them wise in understanding their present culture and themselves. One would think that the Christian today would have escaped unscathed by this phenomenon but sad to say we have been horribly affected. Evangelical Christians have been cut off from centuries of church and world history because of the influence of the culture to be dismissive of the past, resulting in a diminished desire to know it. Some denominations teach their own history. But this is, at best, a shallow attempt to legitimize the denomination instead of the universal Church of Jesus Christ and His work in Her. The Church is not to be misunderstood as just a present day or century old body of believers but rather a fellowship of believers that stretches from the time of its birth at Pentecost to the end of the age when Jesus returns for her.
Possessing even a basic knowledge of Church History affords the benefit of sharpened skills of discernment, a knowledge of dangerous doctrinal heresy and a wealth of biblical knowledge through the great intellects of theologians gone by. But most of all, Church History provides us with a vivid story of God’s preserving power over His people. The issue of heresy is hardly mentioned from the pulpit. Worse yet, the Church embraces doctrines today that were proven to be damnable heresy centuries ago by believers. Exercising discernment of truth and error today is made possible by simply being aware of the triumphs of doctrine and practice the Church has already fought and championed in the name of Christ. Often by the few who were dedicated to the truth of Scripture. The assault of the kingdom of darkness is most dangerous through the entrance of false doctrine which has been happening from the earliest days of the Church. These attacks and the Church’s response to them are wise to know so that we today, can discern threats to the Church and defend her purity as the Bride of Christ.
In conclusion, I must mention that even Church History and the lessons it offers to us are still subject to the authority of Scripture. For this is how we learn from that history. By surveying it with the standard of Scripture to be able to recognise truth and error. It is also advisable that one pursue such a project with trusted books and Bible teachers who will deal honestly with the subject, to make sound conclusions and form relevant applications. There is nothing to lose but all to gain by acquainting oneself with the story of the Church. Therefore, I urge you, take interest that you may benefit from the wisdom of old and be equipped to fight in her future.