A Question I Was Asked:

Does It Matter If We Don't Know Our Church History?

Does It matter If we don't know our church history?

UK Apologetics Reply:

I would say it is a really major handicap if we are not, at least roughly, familiar with the history of the church. No, I don't mean just one's own denomination either.

People who don't know their church history are always much more liable to fall into the hands of the cults and sects. Why? Because they have no foundation!

Sadly, in the minds of many, history - it seems - is a subject to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately , this is also true for church history. Several times in Scripture we are admonished to learn from the things which have happened in the past, that we may become wiser (1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4), this is obviously especially true with regard to church history. But even if we have a most minor position in the church, how can we prevent errors from occurring and re-occurring if we are not cognisant of the lessons of the past?

Church history is - on the one hand - full of inspiring events, occurrences and countless men and women of faith. It is truly inspiring, as an example, how some have handled great persecution yet have used it positively, coming out of it stronger than before. On the other hand, thinking about the church institutionally, we find arguments, controversies, heresies, and continual battles for the truth. It is essential that we familiarize ourselves with such events and occurrences if we are to stand faithfully in the present, being valiant for Christ. Just as we need strong Bible knowledge, we need a strong knowledge of those who have gone before us in the True Faith, how they have lived their lives, how they have handled spiritual and practical problems amongst believers.

God has revealed in Scripture all that is necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and those foundations will never change. Worryingly, any study of church history will reveal that many (though maybe not all) new slants in theology in our own day are simply a re-packaging of old heresies that were rejected by the early church. if we don't know our church history how can we possibly be equipped to warn others?

All of us - though most especially all teachers and preachers - need to know about the doctrinal disagreements of the past and how they were ultimately handled. Frankly, if any would take it upon himself to stand up in a pulpit and teach God's people, that person should have at least a basic knowledge of the main characters of church history, people like Origen, Arius, Augustine of Hippo, maybe Jerome, certainly Luther and Calvin and, in more recent times, C.S. Lewis, Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Why possibly repeat the mistakes of others and cut yourself off from some of the very wise conclusions of some very godly people? Also, for any preacher worthy of his salt, at least a basic knowledge of the great creeds must be seen as necessary, and I really don't think that is asking too much; if we compare it to the commercial world, don't we expect any company representative, or salesman to have a thorough knowledge of their subject?

We are commanded in Jude 3 to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." There is a past and a present emphasis in this verse, and the two should not be separated. Our faith is an ancient faith, based on ancient and timeless truths, and we are called to live it out in the present. Wisdom would lead us to learn from those who have fought the battles and learned the lessons before us, so we can carry on our duties more effectively. Now this obviously does not mean that a solution, or conclusion, which was 'correct' in 1600 should necessarily be viewed as correct today (though it might be!), because the Holy Spirit is dynamic, ever moving on. The Scripture cannot be broken but men are fallible and earlier mistakes are now sometimes more visible. As a brief example, we now know that Calvin, fine Bible expositor that he certainly was, did make a few mistakes in interpretation because his sources were not that extensive. We should "rubber stamp" the Bible as fully authoritative, but not all the conclusions of men about the Bible.

Robin A. Brace. June 26th, 2015.