Study of Church History: Critical and Essential
Is a study and understanding of Christian church history important? Is it critical in the life of a Christian? What about those who would say that in comparison, they'd rather just read about how to be a good mom/dad and live a good Christian life?
Let's consider a few (although not exhaustive!) things, shall we?!
"It is always essential for us to supplement our reading of theology with the reading of church history. . . . If we do not, we shall be in danger of becoming abstract, theoretical, and academic in our view of truth; and, failing to relate it to the practicalities of life and daily living, we shall soon be in trouble." (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins & Successors)
"Surely one of the remarkable aspects of Christianity today is how few of these professed believers have ever seriously studied the history of their religion." (Dr. Bruce L. Shelley, Professor of Church History, Denver Seminary)
In Jeremiah 6:16, God tells us to “and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” And in Deuteronomy 32:7, we're told to "remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you."
Also, I Corinthians 10:11, reminds us that "... these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction . . . " And of course Hebrews 11 gives us the Faith-full Hall of Fame - those heroes of the faith, our great cloud of witnesses, that went before us and what they taught us (and what we're to learn from them).
Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California, gives us 10 reasons to study church history:
1. It gives us understanding (of how we got to where we are today).
2. The study of history introduces us to new friends (like St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and John & Charles Wesley).
3. We learn the price that was paid for us!
4. We avoid the pitfalls and the land mines of history.
5. Studying history increases our effectiveness [my comment: Just look at the "history" being peddled by the Da Vinci Code]!
6. History enhances our endurance to persevere to the end.
7. History inspires us.
8. History makes the dead come to life.
9. The study of history is humbling as we learn to understand that there was life before we were born.
10. The study of church history allows us to take a trip through time without leaving the comfort of our favorite chair. Jim Garlow, Copyright 2006
Here is some informative online resources:
- The Hall of Church History (Theology from a Bunch of Dead Guys)
- The Story of the Church
- Church History Timeline (Apostolic Period to Present)
- Creeds and Confessions, from the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
- Creeds of Christendom
- The Story of Christianity (Single Vol. Ed.), by: Justo L. Gonzalez
- Christian History Made Easy (13 Weeks to a Better Understanding of Church History), by: Timothy Paul Jones
- Faith of the Early Fathers (3 Vols.), by: William A. Jurgens
- Early Christian Doctrines, by: J.N.D. Kelly
- Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, by: Mark A. Noll
- Church History In Plain Language (Updated, 2nd Ed.), by: Bruce L. Shelley
- History of the Christian Church (8 Vols.), by: Philip Schaff
Dr. Ligon Duncan, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, on the Patristic, or early church fathers.