Why History Matters

Maybe you've heard the phrase, "If we don't learn from history, we're doomed to repeat it." I agree that it's important to learn from the mistakes of our past. However, I think there is an even greater reason for learning history, particular the history of the church, that can be an encouragement to Christians: History strengthens our faith.

Here in the 21st century it is easy to feel disconnected from our distant past. It's even hard to feel connected to our recent past. How long until Maroon 5's song Payphone requires an explanation to those that have never lived in a world with payphones? Remember VCRs, walkmans, and Borders bookstores? I may have already lost some of you. My point is it's easy to see the world we live in and think this is the way things have always been and not remember our heritage.

In the Church this happens all the time. People request the old hymns like Great is Thy Faithfulness or Blessed Assurance, both of which were written after 1900. Do we realize that we have 2,000 years of history that make up the church, not just 20 or 200 years? Believe it or not, the church didn't start here in America.

Something I've really appreciated during this past semester has been my class on Church History. My final project required me to create a timeline of 50 events or people from the past 2,000 years that were significant in the life of the church. As I've come through this class my faith has been greatly strenghtened as I've seen the unbroken line of Christian after Christian from the Apostle Paul to myself. Maybe you have a relative that dates back to a major war or even the founding of our country. Doesn't that knowledge connect you with your past in a deep way? The same is true for our heritage in the Christians of the past.

The Church isn't something new. The things you learn about on Sunday aren't things your pastor just discovered out of the blue by reading the Bible. He stands on the shoulders of pastors and theologians of the past just as they stand on the foundation of others. The more we know of our own religious history the more confident we can be that this faith is based on something real. Billions and billions testify to this with their lives, and sometimes even their deaths. This isn't to say that scripture alone isn't sufficient to grow our faith, just that these testimonies affirm what scripture already speaks.

We have a rich heritage of faith. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2, we are the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus being the cornerstone. Hebrews 12 speaks of a great cloud of witnesses that encourage us in our faith. These passages and others affirm that we are one family of God, one Church, from Christ to the believers today. I hope you take great joy in knowing that you are not alone in your faith and that your spiritual lineage can be traced back to the Gospel work of Christ Himself.

If you are interested in learning more about Church History, here are some helpful resources:
-The Story of Christianity (2 volumes) - these are the main books I used in my seminary class
-Free Downloadable Lectures on Church History from Covenant Seminary:
     Christ to Reformation & Reformation to Present Day
-Historical Theology  reference book

-->Click here to view my timeline of 50 major events from Church History (sorry for the annoying adds)

P.S. The picture above features Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Charles Spurgeon along with some of their most famous books. If you are interested in purchasing these BobbleHeads, here's where to look. You can find Luther online, Calvin at Covenant Seminary, and Spurgeon at Southern Baptist Seminary (not available online).


  1. Who could disagree? Building bridges between the heritage community and the faith community - is my passion. For info about this program contact Bill Hosley at wnhosley@snet.net http://www.flickr.com/photos/74334426@N00/8715280162/#comments


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