Why Study Church History?

In its Greek origin, the term historia means "inquiry". We as citizens of the present look to the past to help project the future. Simply delving into the leaves of history without the intent of applying those lessons learned to the present compares to the molecular biologist not publishing his findings. As George Santayana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Despite this being true, it strips the study of history to a utilitarian and pragmatic interest.

As Christians, God is glorified when we reflect on His work throughout redemptive history. The Bible provides for us a look at what will happen, namely the consummation of God's redemptive plan when Christ returns and the New Heavens and New Earth are sewed together seamlessly, when and what takes place until that happens is still yet to be known. An illustration of this is a puzzle box. The picture on the box shows the end result. This can be compared to the Bible: it is definitive and accurate, giving us knowledge of how the end will look. Church history comes in the form of puzzle pieces: piece by piece, decade and century the mosaic of God's metanarrative builds to one day form the biblical image of the consummation of God's redemptive work in which Jesus Christ will place the last piece.

In sum, studying church history just for the facts to be applied to today is arguably a Modernistic methodology. Those confessing to align themselves with the church of Christianity should see the study of church history as not only an intellectual endeavor but also a doxological release. American Christians especially are capable of empathizing with this in the ethnical pride we possess from the countries our ancestors emigrated. In the same manner we feel a sense of honor when we trace back the genealogies of our biological families, we should enjoy a similar sensation when reviewing our elected family.

As mentioned previously, the study of church history equips the church for the present and future. The Roman historian Livy notes: "The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things rotten through and through, to avoid." Livy makes a great point when in that he makes history personal. In today's age of short attention spans, drive-thru windows and the value of the "next big thing", history brings daze to students eyes. History's target result should be the edification of the church. An example of how history can equip those for the future is to look at Aristotle conflicting with postmodernism: "Finally, if nothing can be truly asserted, even the following claim would be false, the claim that there is no true assertion." Aristotle in this quote alone addresses relative and absolute truths- a feature of postmodern thought.

In conclusion, church history should be conducted by the Christian not only for utilitarian purposes but also as an act of worship.  "Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward." -Søren Kierkegaard