Tuesday, November 10, 2009


History and Reality

Over at Justin Taylor's blog, Robert Sager posted a pitch for the book "Christian History Made Easy" He opened the review this way:
Do you know anyone who has no desire to study the history of Christianity—it's too complicated, or there's no relevance for the life of the church today? Maybe he professes some amount of indifference toward church history—or perhaps even some disdain for it?
Sager then quotes the Introduction:
"What we don't seem to recognize is that church history is a story," Jones writes in his introduction. "It's an exciting story about ordinary people that God has used in extraordinary ways. What's more, it's a story that every Christian ought to know." Jones writes with "ordinary" people in mind, the kind of folk in the small country church he pastored early in his ministry.
I was initially shocked by thoughts of people disdaining church history, but then I reflected on the fact that it is rarely taught outside of seminary. Most people cannot even recite the broadest of outlines as to how we came to the situation we are in today.

Fair enough, people may think it a bit esoteric, but that is not the attitude reflected in these comments - rather it is all individualistic, as if truth, history, and reality all rotate around the individual and his/her perceptions. And therein, I think lies the real lesson of learning church history.

It's humbling.

It is quite likely that whatever we are dealing with, it has been dealt with before. We stand on the shoulders of giants - we have received Christianity and the church from people that worked harder than we may even be able to imagine to preserve and practice it. We are very, very tiny, even uncritical cogs, in a very large and complex machine. Our perspective may not even be able to comprehend the totality of what we are involved in.

That, I think, is why we do not study history so much. We don't want to think that we are not the center.

But doesn't that make it the most necessary lesson?

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