As someone who is interested in church history, I already have a desire to read it and learn more about it. But for many, the topic is not of interest and seems to be unimportant. What difference does it make anyway? This book addresses the need to learn about the past so that we can better understand our own present. We have our own worldview and presuppositions that affect how we interpret Scripture. Rather than just relying on our own beliefs and how we came to those beliefs, it is important to see what beliefs were taught throughout the years of Christianity and how those beliefs came about.
The author talks about the circles that we use in determining and evaluating our own beliefs. First is our close friends, then our church, then our faith group or denomination, others with shared theological perspective, contrasting theological views, other cultures and finally those across the centuries who have been Christians. This allows us to get the bigger picture and to see where errors may have come in and how these are addressed in other circles.
Another benefit of studying church history is to see how others used exegesis in the past in their interpretation of Scripture. We all come to the Bible with our own presuppositions and blind spots. Studying church history allows us to see how the early Christians and those that followed them used exegesis to interpret Scripture passages. By seeing the different methods, our eyes are opened to see beyond our own cultural viewpoint.
Studying and knowing church history also helps us in various aspects of ministry – such as worship, missions and ethics. Seeing how these things were done in the past helps us to evaluate our own practices and see if we can improve or not. Knowing past ethical struggles that past Christians faced helps us realize that many of our own ethical struggles are nothing new but have been argued over the centuries. We can learn from past Christians how to handle these issues.
For those who already love church history, the main benefit to this book is providing arguments to encourage others to read and study church history. For those who don’t see the importance of church history, this book provides some solid reasons why we should learn it.
“Why does church history matter? Church history helps us celebrate the body of Christ!”
*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.