From a negative standpoint, the neglect of Christian history reflects the incorrect assumption that we have all wisdom in our day and there is nothing to learn from wise men of the past – in effect, that the Holy Spirit has been inactive for the last 2,000 years. Our generation is among the worst when it comes to what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” infatuated with the newest thing and suspicious of anything that is old.
This neglect then leads to — among other things — a weak ecclesiology, in which people are more like consumers than convicted, accountable members of a local body of orthodox Christians. It often leads to a willingness to divide over minutia (or not stand for vital Christian doctrines), because there is no overarching perspective of what Christians have already battled over and what they have found to be essential and nonessential doctrines. And it leads to a dangerous openness to “new” ideas, which are frequently just repackaged eastern mysticism or early heresies.
On the positive side, a careful study and consideration of Christian history is vital, first and foremost because Christianity is, uniquely, an historical religion.
Christian history is vital first and foremost because Christianity is, uniquely, an historical religion.
Christianity is not based on a philosophy, but is inseparably intertwined with the historical claim that a real man Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead, and that his disciples then gave their lives for this claim.
Not only, though, does it teach us about God (through the historical person Jesus), but Christian history reveals much to us about humanity, because of the fact that human nature doesn’t change. Thus, we can avoid past pitfalls of the church, hold tight to the truths that have been passed down to us by faithful saints that have gone before, and see ourselves properly in the bigger picture of God’s onward-marching, eternity-focused kingdom.