Christian History (Part 1)
In my opinion, one of the greatest areas of ignorance in our society today is the knowledge of our own history as well as the history of the human race in general. This is a very sad state of affairs and I find it especially bad when it is the case with Christians. We who claim to be Christ’s followers should, more than anyone, have a general understanding of history – especially that history which relates to the events covered in the New and Old Testaments and our own religious practices. As followers of Christ, we do have a history. It is a rich, colorful history. One important thing to note about history is that – especially for Christianity – our history determines our future. In The Story of Christianity, Justo Gonzales writes: “Without understanding that past, we are unable to understand ourselves, for in a sense the past still lives in us and influences who we are and how we understand the Christian message. When we read, for instance, that ‘the just shall live by faith,’ Martin Luther is whispering at our ear how we are to interpret those words – and this is true even for those of us who have never even heard of Martin Luther.” (pg. xvii) In light of this, I think there are several reasons why we as Christians should make knowledge and understanding of history an important part of our lives.
The first reason for the importance of studying history is that God is the creator of history. History is not just something that self-absorbed humans came up with. God Himself created history when He gave us an inspired account of our own history in the Old Testament. If the creator of the universe thought it important enough for us to understand where we came from and the importance of past actions on our lives today, then it is certainly a subject that we ourselves should pay attention to.
Another reason to study history has to do with Christian orthodoxy. Just as having a proper hermeneutic depends on understanding the historical context of the Bible, so does orthodoxy and an understanding of orthodoxy depend on historical knowledge and understanding. Orthodoxy in the Christian community is having an understanding of the truth as it has been developed and established in the past and staying faithful to it. This of course requires that you have an accurate understanding of those who have gone before you, what they believed, and the context under which they lived.