Posted by: reformbama | September 13, 2010

“Church History, Who Cares?”

The Arrogance of Abandoning Church History

Here’s a short excerpt from a recent interview with church historian Jim Renihan in which James White asks him to respond to one of today’s most common attitudes: “I don’t really care what happened 300 or 400 years ago in Christianity“. Doctor Renihan heads up the Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Seminary, and his response to the question is so important in light of today’s postmodern climate of buffet style doctrine-choosing. His response was that we must not think of ourselves and our generation as though we are the kingdom of God. Christ has been active with his people under the new covenant for 2,000 years, and it’s very important to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the church during that time and recognize that we are just one small part of that.

It helps us to have a sense of the whole scope of the elect and the whole kingdom of God. It humbles us and teaches us the importance of checking ourselves with the past, recognizing that if I come up with a brand new idea that hasn’t been known to the church for 2,000 years I ought to be really really hesitant about it.

Our sense of who we are, and not just in relation to the Reformation, but to the past of the whole history of Christianity, is vitally important to our own understanding of our identity. Even the Reformers themselves were well-versed in the history of the early church fathers and used much of their scriptural understanding as their basis. The Reformers viewed their own work as part of that long stream of Christianity, as opposed to just “coming up with something new”. The same goes for Puritan scholars such as John Owen, who was incredibly well-versed in the beliefs of the men who went before him.

If we don’t do what these men did, in respecting and using past scholars for our basis, there’s a kind of arrogance that we somehow have the answers, and that we can somehow know better than anyone else.

James White follows up with a warning against solo-scriptura (not sola) in which we have too much willingness to come up with new things. He says that those people who go off and produce these new teachings generally have low regard for the Holy Spirit’s working in the church over time. Not only that but, we cut ourselves off from so many great Christian examples, even those martyrs who have gone before us.

Listen-in for the next 5 minutes and hear the rest of this conversation that took place in one episode of The Dividing Line web cast.

James White \”Anti Historical Attitude\”


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