Five Things Every Christian Should Know - Number 2

Harry Truman once said, "The only thing about the future we don't already know is the history we haven't already read."

That's one of my favorite quotes, because he's absolutely right. As Solomon said it, "There's nothing new under the sun." History has a way of repeating itself over, and over, and over again. For that reason, the number two thing that every Christian should know is the history of his or her belief.

Now, if you've ever studied church history, you'll probably agree with me that you tend to sleep better at night when you're studying Church history. There is no better insomnia cure than the vast majority of Church History books out there. For the first year or two that I was reading Church History books, I judged the books solely on the basis of how long they took to put me to sleep. Augustine was a 3, because it took me 3 pages on average before I was knocked out more soundly than a bear in the winter time. Martin Luther was fun, because he was a feisty sucker with a fondness for being right in the middle of controversy. Sometimes he called people rude names which was always fun to look forward to - sort of like the black-sheep relatives who tend to always say outrageous things at all the wrong times. No Mom, I won't start naming names... that kind of thing gets you blogrolled, you know.

Church history doesn't have to be boring. In fact, at times it is exhillarating. Especially when you find out that a guy was burned at the stake for an idea you've held for many years. (Uncovering that kind of situation can add some real motivation to your Bible studies!)

You tend to recognize the importance of Church history when you realize that there are very few "new" ideas out there. For almost every idea, and almost every understanding, someone has gone before us. In fact, I had a seminary professor tell me one time that I should always tread softly if I couldn't find anyone who held a view I wanted to write about. Otherwise, I was writing a recipe for disaster.

On that same token, it's fun for me to look at the various movements afoot in Christianity today, from the "charismatic" movement to the "emergent church" movement, to the "micro-church movement," and see their various underpinnings in Christian Church History. The theological ideas that are supposedly "new" today are just repackaged stuff from the past.

When the Supreme Court reviews a case it searches for prior cases that were similar so the Supreme Court can rule accurately. Shouldn't we as Christians look to how the church has handled ideas in the past in order to help us think about how to handle them in the future?

I'm not saying that every Christian should be able to quote Augustine's opinion on every subject, or that every Christian should be conversant in the life of Pelagius, Calvin, Luther, Jerome, Athanasius, and everyone else who ever graced the ranks of dead theologians. But it is important for Christians to know who came before us, and where they walked.

Throughout the history of the church, people have been willing to die in grotesque ways for the things they believed. There's a reason they were willing to lay their lives on the line; the things they wrote were important to them. And they should be important to us too.

So pick up a book on Church history. "The Story of Christianity" by Justo Gonzalez is a decent place to start. The best outcome is that you'll be more confident in your faith, and confronting the errors that repeat themselves over and over throughout history. At worst, you'll get a good night's sleep.

NOTE: Kari and I sold our house today, which is a huge answer to prayer along with a cause for even more prayer. We'll be finishing up the semester, packing, and moving - all before December 20th. Pray for us. And check back often. If Kari gives me a break from packing I'll continue with numbers 3, 4, and 5 prior to the 20th. If not, I'll see you on the 21st.


T.B. Vick said...

Hey Chris, I liked the #2 a bunch. I would go so far as to say that those Christians who either ignore Church History altogether, or who simply read at it here and there but never get a good grasp of it, usually end up having shoddy and poor theology.

Church History is essential to understanding the doctrines of the Christian faith. To say that Church is history id boring, is to say Christianity is boring, and certainly don't hear too many people saying, "You know, Christianity is just . . . boring!"

Thanks for the post. May God bless you on your move. We are both in the same city, pity we could not have met up earlier. Are you at UTA? Or SWBTS?

Chris Freeland said...

Thanks for the reply.

We're at DTS in Dallas. What are you doing in Arlington?

T.B. Vick said...

Well, we live here (my wife grew up here). I have a very good friend who just graduated this past May from DTS - David Piske (

Are you moving out of the area?

Chris Freeland said...

I know who David is, though I don't know him very well personally. He was in a class or two of mine.

No, we're moving to Plano. I'm working with Fellowship Bible Church North, and the commute is about to kill me!

T.B. Vick said...

Ah, yep, that's a long haul, especially if you have to dodge all those maniatic 'fish' toting drivers who almost always run you off the road. ;)

I drive to Addison to work, when I am not working at home. DTS is a good scholl, how far along are you and what program are you in?

Well, sorry I did not know about you earlier, we have a group of guys who meet every other week and talk theology and philosophy - David and I started this.

Chris Freeland said...

I'm in the ThM program, and should graduate next December, hopefully. That is, if my trip to Israel this summer doesn't conflict with the Hebrew class I need. Otherwise, I'll be around until May 2007.