Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Studying History”

“Studying History”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“There is nothing new under the sun” Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9c
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Each of these men reflected on the need to know history. History is God’s, story. History belongs to God. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. He has progressively revealed Himself through history. Therefore, it seems reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history. History is linear not circular. We may repeat past mistakes, but we are moving ever closer to God’s ordained end.

We realize great value in studying Church History because knowing past mistakes is an aid in avoiding the same ones in the present. Some Christians are led to think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. But, the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham. The word “church” means those called out by God. This is what God did: He called a man, then a family, then a nation, then members of all nations of those who are in Christ through the gospel. It would seem obvious that much can be gained by studying the church’s history. The Church is not a parenthesis as some teach. The Church was in God’s mind in eternity. It was the Church for whom Christ died, Ephesians 5:25.

The church has a long history, thousands of years of men and women called by God to follow Him and thousands of years of some of them making the same mistakes over and over again. In the words of Albert Einstein, they could be defined as insane. Part of the reason for the insanity is a failure to consider the past.

It can be said that there are no new heresies. There are only old ones dressed up in new clothes. Essential doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the bodily resurrection have been under attack since the early days of the Christian Church. False teachers persist in re-dressing these heresies in new clothes and succeed in deceiving many. Currently, we are experiencing heresies concerning the nature of man and the believer’s union with Christ.

Ancient civilizations died in part by embracing immoral behavior. Unfortunately, even some of our civil leaders have attempted to tweak old systems thinking that they somehow could make failed systems work. Socialism, for example, has had more failures than perhaps any other social/economic construct and yet, there is a never-ending list of politicians advocating it under different names and slightly different methods. We even see strains of it in the Church under the guise of social justice, etc.

I am concerned for the Church. I remember a sermon delivered by one of my heroes, James Montgomery Boice, as he reflected on what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement. He said, “Using Man’s methods yields Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. May we not try to fill churches by being culturally relevant but “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3

There are currently at least three doctrines now being challenged in the Church. The first concerns race. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one race, the human race. Adam is declared to be the federal head of the human race, Romans 5:12-14. The second concerns reconciliation. The Bible declares that God has reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ, 2Corinthians 5:19. The Church is to proclaim God’s reconciliation. He is not depending on us to be reconcilers. The third issue is justice. Micah 6:8 lays out God’s requirements concerning justice. It is a command. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Christians are exhorted not to look on anyone simply in the flesh, 2Corinthians 5:16 Every human being has an immortal soul and there are only two destinies, heaven or hell. Man’s only hope is the gospel! Christians know and affirm that their identity is in Christ. ”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28