Over the past few weeks, I’ve been taking a course on Church History from Reformed Theological Seminary. I can’t recommend RTS enough. Their faculty and staff are wonderful, and the courses I have taken have been spiritually and ministerially fruitful.
This course on Church History, spanning the book of Acts through to pre-Reformation era Christianity, has been thoroughly encouraging and challenging. Here are three reasons.
Learning about martyrs puts things in perspective. Without trivializing the struggles we legitimately face, it’s convicting to read about guys like Polycarp who basically said that he didn’t need to be nailed to the stake because the God who would enable to be martyred would give him the strength to stand in the fire- literally. I’m thankful for the freedom that we have and the fact that we don’t face the kind of persecution that Christians in the first three centuries did; but oh, for an ounce of their faith!
I’m thankful for the saints who “figured it out.” I’m thankful that we’re not having to hash out the Trinity or the natures of Christ. We will always need to submit our theology to the Scriptures. But I’m thankful for the well-worn path that has been paved by the saints before me.
History gives perspective. Have you ever been in a meeting where there were eight of your peers and you guys have just brainstormed a “great idea?” Everyone is very excited about this “great idea.” And then an older, wiser person walks in and shows you all the things you didn’t take in to consideration and shows you why your “great idea” is really an old idea that has been tried and failed? At the risk of being pessimistic, Church History is that old guy. It steps into our world with our shiny innovations and reminds us that 1. our ideas are not new and 2. sometimes they’re horribly wrong. We have the benefit of those who have experienced the pain of poor theology that can hopefully prevent us from going down the same roads. As the saying goes, if you don’t learn from history, etc.
A little history is good for everyone.