We always live in the now. We are not a culture that likes to look to the past; we want to see what’s trending now. What did our favorite celebrity tweet moments ago? What is available to stream right now on Netflix? Any talk of studying history sounds dull and irrelevant. But the Christian faith is a religion that is based in human history. The most important event in Christianity was an historical event—Jesus Christ rising from the dead. Here are seven reasons why every Christian should study history:
1. History teaches us.
The Roman poet Cicero once wrote: “To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to forever remain a child.” One of the best ways to mature is by learning about past events and the consequences of people’s choices.
2. History gives us insight.
As we study the past, we learn more about our present situation and potential future. We can note trends in history and patterns, and we learn that there has never been a perfect, golden era. Every age is full of common grace (God’s blessings) and the common curse (tragedies we experience because of the presence of sin in the world). Each age is the best of times and the worst of times.
3. History reminds us.
History truly does repeat itself, but it does so in different ways. The same heresies or biblical errors return, just under new names. For instance, based on viewing all the biblical teaching about God in the Bible, the historic church has upheld the doctrine of the Trinity, which states that God is one in essence and three in persons (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). The ancient teachings of Arianism claimed that God the Son is a created being who is subordinate to God the Father, denying that Jesus is fully God. We find this same error today in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism. We will be unable to recognize truth from error if we don’t remember the past.
4. History helps us cultivate humility.
We are not the only Christians to have walked this earth. When we read biographies about other Christians and of the great church councils of the past, we realize that we are not as great as we think we are. We stand upon the shoulders of many Christian martyrs and other believers in the past who fought gallantly to defend and preserve the faith.
5. History is family history.
Because we are all together united to Jesus Christ by faith, we are studying our family history when we read about our brothers and sisters who lived before us. Christian history is the genealogy of every believer.
6. History encourages us to give thanks.
Jesus Christ promised that even the gates of hell would not overcome his church (Matthew 16:18). His promise still stands true, and God’s faithfulness throughout human history gives us all the more reason to be thankful for his mercy in each of our own lives—and in the life of the communion of his saints.
7. History is HIS story.
Since God is the Creator of all things and is sovereign over everything that happens in human history, the past is truly HIS story. We should always seek to know more about the world our God has made, and our place within it.