5 Reasons to Study Church History

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc. 1:9)

It’s impossible to appreciate those words without understanding. And I think that’s especially true in Church history. For example, there’s been a lot of recent controversy about the existence of hell. A good understanding of Church History will quickly reveal that this is a perennial debate. What goes around comes around. So let me offer 5 reasons you should study church history:

1. Faithfulness

If you want to stay faithful to the truth, you need to understand the attacks truth has suffered in the past. Learning about Adoptionism, Pelagianism, Arianism, Donatism, or Gnosticism will help you see some of those same heresies in the teachings of many modern preachers and teachers. Without studying Church history, these doctrines may seem new and creative. But that’s certainly not the case.

2. Perspective

It’s impossible for us to understand where we are now if we don’t know how we got here. Seeing the rich, 2,000 year history we are a part of inspires me to carry the torch—that is, the Gospel—in my own time. It also inspires me to transmit that faith to the next generation with a profound sense of humility and honor. Without studying Church history, it’s easy for us to become myopic and lose perspective, restricting both our vision and our ambitions.

3. Balance

One thing that my studies of Church history revealed is how quick we are to over-correct. Reading through our history I saw the pendulum always swinging from one extreme to the other. To think that we’re any different today would be foolish.

4. Humility

Without historical perspective, it’s easy to think that we are a lot smarter than we are. Seeing the wide breadth of past mistakes made by brilliant people who passionately loved Jesus makes me realize that I’m probably missing something too. No one has a perfect theology; we all have errors somewhere. And studying Church history cautions me about becoming prideful in my own theology. Studying Church history has forced me to acknowledge that I have my own blind spots. I’m not perfect either.

5. Hope

it’s also very easy for us to think that the Church is in a very dark age; darker than ever! Reading Church History helps me see that this is simply not the case. Compare our modern times against the persecutions of the Roman empire, the constant warfare of the middle ages, or the intellectual challenges of the Enlightenment, and you’ll see that the situation in America is far from hopeless. Every generation thinks that this must be the end. And we’re certainly no different. But the Church still has a mission, and we are still called to preach the Gospel to all nations.

If you’re ready to read more about church history, here are some of my recommended reads:

Are you convinced that you should at least consider studying Church history yet? Have you read any good books that made the subject very accessible? Can you think of any other reasons to study this subject? Let me know!

 

 

About Daniel Delgado

Daniel is an M.Div. student at Western Seminary. He met his wife, Connie, while they were both serving in the Air Force in Alaska. Daniel, Connie, and their two-month old daughter attend Colossae Church in Tigard, OR. He regularly blogs at www.flathillfaith.com.

4 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Study Church History

  1. I think understanding church history is very, very important. As Christians we should know not only what we believe, but the true history of it. So many people gave their lives to spread the Gospel, and to give us the Bible in languages that we can read for ourlseves. It’s important that we know about these events.

    “Eusebius: The Church History”, translated by Paul L. Maier is an excellent resource. His translation makes it very accessible and his footnotes and sections at the end of each chapter are very helpful.

    Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a great record of the persecuted church.

    “Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice” by David Teems has a great amount of information surrounding the works of William Tyndale (specifically his work on the first common English Bible translated from the Greek, not Latin) and the time period in which he lived.

    Zondervan’s Handbook to the History of Christianity is also full of information, though this one is written more like a textbook.

    1. Jessica, Thanks for adding those titles. I checked out your blog and it looks like you’re quite the reader! Just curious, but do you do any reading on an e-reader? If so, what are your thoughts?

      1. I actually just got a Nook last month. I’m torn on e-readers. I love physical books: holding it, turning the page… I even love the smell of a new book. 🙂 I hate the idea that e-books might someday wipeout the production of physical books.

        However, as a person who loves to read, I am running out of space of my bookshelves. This wasn’t a real problem until I joined several blogger book review progams. Since some of the programs offer e-books, I thought it might be a good idea to invest in the Nook for space purposes. I haven’t had it long, and I have yet to read an entire book on it, but it has some nice features (highlighting and notes).

  2. Good thought, sir. Indeed, if we don’t know where we’re from, how can we know (or care) about where we are going?

    My father has spent the majority of his career teaching Christian history in schools, and has impressed upon me over my life the importance (neh, the NEED) for us to understand our history. He is someone I think you’d be interested in speaking with sometime.

    Genesis 2:4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, (NKJ)

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