Sat May 18, 2013
by Hugh Whelchel
Resurgence roundup, 5/17/13
Fri May 17, 2013
Grace all the way
Wed May 15, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
How to be on mission in the city
Wed May 15, 2013
by Stephen Um
How to love people well
Tue May 14, 2013
by Dave Bruskas
Today's Benefit From Yesterday's Theology
Part of what makes the church who it is today is knowing where we came from.
Historical theology is the study of the interpretation of Scripture and the formulation of doctrine by the church of the past. Such concentration on the accumulated wisdom of the ages provides great benefit to Christians and churches today as they seek to live faithfully and obediently for Jesus Christ.
An understanding of historical theology is important because it:
- Helps the church distinguish between orthodoxy and heresy. For example, there is much debate over Rob Bell’s claim in Love Wins that the church has always entertained the idea that all human beings may eventually be saved. Familiarity with historical theology would help you to see how inaccurate his claim is.
- Provides the church with sound biblical interpretations and theological formulations. Most of what we believe today about the Trinity (three persons, one Godhead) and the person of Christ (fully God and fully human) was good doctrine hammered out in the earliest centuries of the church’s existence. Such work is an amazing legacy handed down to us from the past, and it becomes known through historical theology.
- Presents stellar examples of faith, courage, hope, love, and obedience. Personally, I’m emboldened by reading about martyrs who refused to deny their faith in Christ in exchange for their physical life. And I’m centered by reading about church leaders who championed biblical truth even though it cost them their reputation and career. Historical theology puts us into contact with these heroes of the faith.
...we have this tragic idea that we can pick and choose our doctrines like we pick and choose our clothes or fast-food meals.
- Protects the church against the individualism that is so rampant today. Given our current situation of a consumerist mentality, an insistence on individual rights, an emphasis on personal autonomy, and a pronounced sense of entitlement, we have this tragic idea that we can pick and choose our doctrines like we pick and choose our clothes or fast-food meals. Historical theology reminds us we can’t just select the doctrines we like (“God loves everyone,” “Christ offers forgiveness of sins”) and reject those we don’t like (“God hates sin,” “the wicked will face eternal punishment in hell”), thus giving in to our sinful propensities.
- Encourages the church to focus on the essentials of the faith, that is, on those areas that have been emphasized repeatedly throughout the history of the church. We may lament that theology is so divisive, but historical theology reminds us there is much that unites us rather than divides us.
- Provides the church today with the joyful sense of belonging to the church of the past. One of the reasons evangelical Christians are attracted to the Catholic Church is because of its connection to the past; it seems deeply rooted in history. But our evangelical churches possess this legacy as well, because, according to John Stoughton in his book, An Introduction to Historical Theology, historical theology “attaches us to former generations, and inspires us with satisfaction and joy to find that in the substance of evangelical faith and sentiment we are one with the Church of all ages.” Through historical theology, evangelical churches today are heir to a great legacy that can provide a sense of rootedness with the past.
For more on this, check out Gregg Allison's new book, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine