Henry Ford is oft quoted as having said, “History is bunk.” As with so many popular historical attributions, Ford did not exactly say that. But he did say something similar, several times. In a May 25, 1916 interview with Charles Wheeler of the Chicago Tribune, Ford said, “What do I care about Napoleon? What do we care about what they did 500 or 1,000 years ago? . . . History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today.”

Ford’s disdain for history is repeated by millions today. If it is not an overt dislike for the recounting of history, it is a more passive disinterest in anything history has to teach us. This is something the Christian needs to resist since our Faith is based solidly in history. Judaism, from which Christianity flows, is rooted in historical events like the Passover, commemorating the Exodus, God’s great salvation movement under the Old Covenant. Christianity follows in this vein by being rooted in the historical events of the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do not follow cleverly designed myths, nor the enlightened musings of some sage. We do not “just believe” God became man and walked among us. We believe BECAUSE He DID.

There is an old adage that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. This is why the study of history in general and church history in particular is important for Christians, and especially for Christian leaders. While the specifics of who and where change from age to age, the underlying principals and issues remain the same. Much of what the Early Church wrestled with in terms of theology and how to live the Christian life in the midst of a hostile world, are the same issues we deal with today.

The ancient heresy of Gnosticism that threatened the Church of the first centuries re-emerged in New Age spirituality. The Greco-Roman culture’s obsession with sexual deviance has resurfaced in the modern era’s embrace of “sexual freedom.” The prevalence of modern abortion mirrors the First and Second Century’s practice of infanticide. And the theological liberalism of the nineteenth century is re-emerging in Progressive Christianity. Churches have much to learn about how to address these things by considering how The Church dealt with them before. But it seems we are not learning from that past that saw a sea-change take place in pagan culture as Christians simply lived out their lives in Christ simply.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Church history can be a daunting field to tackle if the student only considers older works like Philip Schaff’s epic multi-volume History of the Christian Church. More recent works take a popular and easy to digest approach. A good starting place is the wonderful Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. I highly recommend it.

Or, check out my church history series on the Enduring Word YouTube channel.
Church History – Episode 1 | Pastor Lance Ralston (youtube.com)


2 thoughts on “Historical”

  1. Jerry Finkbeiner

    I don’t give much feedback to enduring word, but I’d like for you to know that I value the your commentary, your resources, and especially “The Post” devotions and articles! Today’s “The Post” is a very timely writing on history and the challenge our knowing of our Church History. Thank you for your time and efforts in posting material as such!

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