The Presence of the Past
One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons has Snoopy hard at work at his typewriter banging out a theology book. His title: Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong? For some people, I'm sure it hasn't; they hold to their childhood beliefs, well, dogmatically. For others, however they personally read the Bible is absolute truth, even if they're the only one to ever read it that way in 2,000 years.
It's the latter bunch I want to discuss. They perfectly illustrate the need for churches to teach not only the Bible, but also church history. Why? Because church history teaches us how to read our Bibles. It relates to us the earliest interpretations and how (and if) those interpretations have changed across the years. It can tell us if Genesis 1-11 is literal or if Romans 5:12-21 truly speaks of original sin. But church history also teaches us our own story, our place in the grand narrative of salvation history. It connects us to the founders of our denomination, to the Reformers, to the Church Fathers (and Mothers), and to every confessor who suffered and every martyr who died for the name of Jesus. It gives us our family tree, the story of a group of sisters and brothers with one Heavenly Father.
We are poorer for not knowing that history. When we don't know our own story, it's easy to lose the vast majority of Christian belief. It's a simple thing to feel isolated and alone, convinced we of all peoples have suffered for the cause of Christ. It's a good way to lose corrections to our own limited understanding of Scripture. It is time for churches, especially those with no central denominational structures like ours, to teach our people the story of the Church -- the story of us.