08 September 2005

…On the benefits of knowing history

I disliked history while growing up, to the dismay of my father—the local high school history teacher. Not until I became a Christian did understanding history become a passion. Studying the Bible and the history of the church brings a clearer understanding of the church and us as individuals. It grows an appreciation of God’s providential work in the world and the realization that all of history is God’s redemptive history. Knowing history also brings discernment in navigating through the myriad of issues we face as responsible members of family, church, community and nation. Understanding history provides foundations for thinking, tests ideas and brings logic and stability to our reasoning. Learning history through biography encourages, gives example and makes history practical.

Author and historian David McCullough has well said, “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” Ideas, perspectives, and circumstances have a history. They also have consequences. We often wrestle with or anguish in the consequences without ever considering or endeavoring to learn and understand the history. Knowing history is foundational. The Bible repeatedly surveys redemptive history (e.g. Acts 7) for good reason. Understanding God’s work in redemptive history matures us and protects us from being “tossed to and fro” (Eph 4:14). Understanding history secures us from being carried by every fad and bandwagon of contemporary thought that comes along— in the church, community, or nation. Instead we grow in discernment and in thinking responsibly as Church members and citizens. Knowing history matters—to you and the community you are part of—so take up and read!

(Originally published in DeiLight February 2005)