We'll take a little detour from Tuesday Tombsday this week, and discuss five reasons why we should read Church History and Christian Biographies. It's sort of related, so bear with me. Thanks.
Reason number one: Church History puts the proper perspective into World History.
World History is a subject that many agree should be studied and understood. But I believe it is impossible to understand World History apart from Providence. More specifically, it is impossible to understand World History apart from Christ. The providence of God gives us a proper view of not only modern history, but also of the ancient civilizations. The unfolding Kingdom of God is through the working of Providence by virtue of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Reason number two: Church History highlights all of the doctrinal errors that have come against the Church.
Every heresy that the Church encounters today has its roots in Church History. By studying Church History, we can readily identify the root error and overcome the modern error.
Reason number three: In Church History we find the 'pattern of sound words' that was 'once for all delivered to the saints'.
In the providence of God allowed errors to enter the Church so that the Church, by the Scriptures, would be able to clarify what we believe the Scriptures teach. This is where our Statements of Faith, Confessions, and Creeds come from. They are outlines of Bible theology. They arose out of the errors of old, and in doing so have given us a guide to Biblical interpretation. Here we find what the Apostles believed about their writings and what the early church believed about the Apostles' writings. While these are subject to the Word of God, they are a useful tool that God has provided for us to use. These tools are best used when we understand the historical background of the document. What errors does this confession correct? What is the cultural landscape of the document? Etc.
Reason number four: The lives of great Christians inspire us.
In Hebrews 11 we find the 'Hall of Faith'. The writer of the letter used these little descriptions of the Old Testament heroes to inspire the Jewish Christians to perseverance. Biographies that show how God used men and women in their lifetimes can also inspire us to faithfulness, as we look to the Christ they point us to.
Reason number five: Some who began well were hindered in the race.
As we saw in the life of Tertullian, after a few years of Biblical Christianity, he turned aside to legalism and mysticism. He was a man whose influence the Church still recognizes today, but went astray. Not to the point of heresy but towards heresy. We need these warnings as Christians to help us continue on the path, not turning to the left or the right. There are many who avoid falling over the cliff heresy, but walk to it's edge. We need to see the dangers that confront us every day. We see these dangers lived out in human life as we study Church History.
These are five reasons to read Church History and Christian Biographies. These five reasons can be summarized I think like this: Reading Church History and Christian Biographies teach us Scripture. They illustrate the great themes of Scripture, faith, grace, repentance, love, suffering, patience, mercy, wrath, and most of all, the Reign of Jesus Christ over His Church.