Henry Ford is oft quoted as having said, “History is bunk.” As with so many popular historical attributions, Ford didn’t exactly say that. But he did say something similar, several times. In a May 25, 1916 interview with Charles N. 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. If it isn’t in 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 don’t just believe God became man and walked among us. We believe because He in fact, DID!
There’s 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, 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 early centuries, re-emerges in New Age spirituality. The Greco-Roman culture’s obsession with sexual deviance resurfaces in the modern era’s embrace of “sexual freedom.” The prevalence of modern abortion mirrors the First and Second Century’s practice of rampant infanticide. Today’s churches have much to learn about how to address these things by considering how The Church dealt with them before. But it seems we’re 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 podcast – Communio Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church. It’s an account of Church history in short of episodes of between 15 to 20 minutes. You can access the audio podcast at www.sanctorum.us or via iTunes by searching for “History of the Christian Church.”
I am in the process of making a video version you can locate at youtube.com/@intohisimage.
Lance is the founding and lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Oxnard where he has served since 1982. Lance & David Guzik co-pastored the church for six years before David planted a church in a nearby community.
Lance & his wife Lynn were married in 1980 and have three adult children and five grandchildren. Lance loves teaching the Bible, History, and Leadership. He holds Masters-of-Arts in Biblical Studies and Ministry.
Lance serves as a chaplain for both the Oxnard and Port Hueneme Police Departments and enjoys backpacking, wood-working, working out, gardening, home improvement projects, reading, and graphic design.
The popular Communio Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church podcast can be found in both audio and video at the Into His Image website along with a growing inventory of Lances teaching.