Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | January 30, 2008

Why Study Church History? (Lesson 1: Part 1)

Why Study Church History?  (Lesson 1: Part 1) 

When considering this topic we must acknowledge that there is no divinely inspired interpretation of church history beyond the first century.  There are canonical interpretations of church history in the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament we are given a divinely inspired interpretation of how God viewed the actions of the church.  All of God’s dealings for Israel are recorded for us in the Old Testament as a reliable historical record for our edification.  Moreover, we have in the New Testament divinely inspired interpretations of particular events in the church.  This is not just limited to the book of Acts, but can be found in other areas.  For example, we have Paul and Peter’s debate over the gospel manifested in the controversy of eating with gentiles recorded in the book of Galatians (Galatians 2:11-14).  We do not need to debate over who had the right position on this issue.  The New Testament provides us with the answer to who was right between Peter and Paul.  However, when we move to the post-apostolic period of the church we are very much left on our own to determine the correct interpretation.  Thus, we first have to endeavor to discern what happened during this period.  In examining church history we will use various skills to establish what happened through the known facts that we possess. Although, this is influenced by a variety of things, we must obtain the facts to understand what happened in the history of the church. 

A primary goal of church history is to discern what happened throughout time with the facts that we have in our possession.  These facts will not only allow us to determine what happened, but also allow us to perform a theological interpretation on the events throughout history.  In performing these theological interpretations the standard that we will use to make these adjudications will be the Word of God. The interpretations will allow us to evaluate where the church has been faithful and where it has been unfaithful.  Although, we concede that we will be unable to attain an infallible interpretation akin to the biblical account, it will still provide for our edification in the faith.  

In this series we will be covering the ancient church, which encompasses the periods from approximately 100 – 600 ad.  In going to the ancient church period we are going to an era that was long ago and far away.  In examining this period we will fulfill the principle that modern educator’s advocate, which is to think cross-culturally.  This principle is fulfilled when we attempt to put ourselves in the mindset of the ancient church.  This task will be quite difficult, since there are things that we take for granted today that were not in the ancient period.  The ancient world has not existed for a long time, however this effort is worth while and will help us to understand how the church developed over time.  We will find that many of our practices today were inherited from the practices laid down during this period.



  1. Looking forward to what you will have to say! I recently read (on my elder’s reco) 2000 Years of Amazing Grace: The Story and Meaning of the Christian Faith, and am hungry for more!

    The book is quite good, but intentionally elementary. He starts by defining Christianity in doctrinal terms, and uses that as a foundation to critique church history, always narrating in terms of “this is what the church did, and what was done is either right or wrong, in terms of doctrinal definitions of Christianity”)

    So I appreciate your goal of analyzing church history from the perspective of Scripture. I’ve been thinking about researching to teach an adult SS class on church history — maybe I can just rip off your hard work instead!

  2. I’m guessing you’re going to skip the Corinthian church in this study. If so, we won’t get to hear your take on whether or not it was a church to be emulated or a church whose practices should be avoided at all costs. Or somewhere in between.

    I do hope you pay a nice long visit to the Montanists. It should prove interesting.

    BTW, where do you come up with those 36 hour days you seem to have?

  3. Rube,

    Thanks for stopping in and the plug on your own blog.

    Most of what will be presented here will be from Dr. Godfrey’s lectures. However, I plan on supplementing it with some of my own reading. A few are over on the sidebar “Heresies”, “Early Christian Doctrines”, “Confessions” and “Backgrounds on Early Christianity”. I also plan on reading up on Origen and more Augustine.

    Mike S.

  4. Bruce,

    The priority is still going to be the study through John. This series will fall behind it probably only twice a month rather than four times (like John).

    Your right I didn’t plan on covering Corinthians. Definitely want to spend some time with Montanus. More importantly I want to examine the Gnostics thoroughly as well.

    As far as time management, my undergraduate degree from Biola was Organizational Leadership. This along with working full time while going to school helps me to stay efficient. At least that is what I think 🙂

  5. In my view,

    As in the scripture. Jesus told us not to talk about the past, generation and roots because that could lead only to a serious and unhealthy debate.

    We can determined a good church of christ by its fruit.


  6. That’s strange I don’t remember that verse when Jesus told us to disregard the past….If you don’t know the past you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, though.

  7. I hope that you will not offend on this answer brother but don’t be bother on mistakes.

    let the spirit shine in your thought and goes to esophagus and to the vocal cords and you can talk.

    and that words you speak is the basis of our judgement so that we will not commit a mistakes.

  8. Eyes,

    It sounds like you are saying that we are inspired in the same way that the apostles and prophets were.

    These are the only human’s who in their office were without mistakes (infallible) in their teaching, preaching and writing.

    Since the death of the last apostle this ability has ceased to exist in the church and we are left with men who make mistakes, distort the Scriptures or even manilpulate the meaning of the of the text.

    Unfortunately, when people ignore church history they very often repeat the same mistakes that were made by previous generations. When we look at church history and recognize errors made in the past, we have a better chance of avoiding them.


  9. ahh.. I understand you brother,

    But I don’t call it that it is a mistake in the past.

    It just that you are enlightened today.

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