We need the following to truly and rightly know God:
- Word of God.
- Church History.
- Guidance of the Holy Spirit.
You will agree with me on number one – our idea of God must come from the inspired Word of God – the sixty six books of Canon containing the Old and New testaments. You won’t disagree on number three as well – without the Spirit of God opening our hearts, we cannot know God truly. But, number two is something strange to many people. You might see and ask, “What on Earth is that!?”. Then this is for you. I pray and hope you’ll be encouraged and inspired to pursue this line of thought seriously.
What is Church History?
When I mention Church History, I’m talking mainly about the truths and creeds shared and cherished by the Church over the past 20 centuries and the surrounding events. We must also know the schisms, the heresies that have threatened to corrupt Her and a bit more – a lot more if you want to. We cannot know everything. But we must know the basic stuff – yes, we must.
How can I apply my knowledge of Church History?
Here’s how it works – the Christian faith is not something new. Saints of the past have practiced it and they have penned down for us their experiences, perceptions, struggles and insights. They have told us what’s true, right, acceptable and pleasing to God and what’s not. We must use them all – their works, creeds and testimonies – so that we can understand the Gospel better and apply it effectively in today’s context. We can learn from their experience and avoid the mistakes they made. We can take the right path in the very first chance we have and avoid unnecessary spiritual detours. If we ignore historical Christian thought that is available for us, we will be vulnerable – we are already. A lot of damage has already been done. Learning and teaching the Bible alone is not the proper approach. I’m not denying the completeness and sufficiency of the Scriptures. But, we need to know more. Here’s why.
Why is Church History crucial?
If we are rooted in the truth along with a solid understanding of Historical Christian thought, we will immediately recognize false teachings and false teachers. We’ll plainly see the folly of multitudes of preachers who are fooling millions in the Name of Christ and making a fortune on their way to Hell, deceiving and taking many others captive as well. It is true that every man is led astray because of his own lusts, but the Church’s unpreparedness has also contributed to the damage. If a false teacher comes along and teaches any new doctrine, there are lots of Christians ready to buy every nonsense. The reason – they don’t know historical Christianity. For the informed Christian, it will take only a moment to say, “This is heresy – no saint of the past has endorsed or followed such a thing before!”.
My personal experience
As a young Christian – immature and innocent – I once embraced a lot of nonsense in the name of Christ and have gone on unnecessary spiritual detours – it took me almost ten years of pain and struggle to come to a clear understanding of Christ’s call. And in all these years, I’ve encountered only a handful of Christians who know and live the faith well enough to be able to guide a new believer. There were lots of Christians teaching and encouraging me to focus on non-essentials. When I think about all that, it now comes as an utter shock to me that even those who had been in “ministry” for several years and many other well-intentioned “Christians” I came across, did not know how to guide me! There is a serious flaw in the way Christian faith is being passed to the next generation. We have neglected Church History. Here are some major consequences I’ve noticed as a result of this:
- There is no thirst for God. Many Christians don’t cultivate an appetite or desire for God. They don’t even know that they have to. They are not taught to do so. How can we learn these things unless we look to the saints who have gone by and learn from their ways? The saints of the past had a burning desire for God and God alone. This is very rare in today’s generation. I’m afraid modern Christianity has conformed to the world instead of calling the world to repent and conform to Christ.
- There is no knowledge of God. Books on blessings and curses are more popular among Christians than those on discipleship, holiness, prayer or knowledge of God. Many Christians don’t read the right books because they have no idea of historical Christian faith – they haven’t been taught. They simply read what’s new, trending and popular. If Christians are not reading the right books, how will they see the real Jesus? And when will the world see Christ?
- There is no discernment. Calling out a false teacher is discouraged in many Christian circles these days. I’ve seen many respectable, elderly Christians refraining from judging or calling out false teachers because such “preachers” are held in high respect by many Christians. How then will young, immature Christians tell apart a teacher of truth from a false preacher who has the potential to lead him astray? I’m afraid many Christians neither realize the seriousness nor foresee the consequences of exposing an immature Christian to a ruthless world of wolves without any help.
I leave these thoughts to you with a huge burden in my heart. I pray that God would inspire you to do your part in filling the gap. What you – as an individual – learn and apply can make a lot of difference in the Church tomorrow.