February 13, 2020

Seminar: "For All the Saints:" Why Church History Matters

with Nick Nowalk

“How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.” (C. S. Lewis)


 “We do not know the whole story of Jesus Christ incarnate unless we know his Church, and its life as part of His own life…The history of the Church and the lives of the saints are acts in the biography of the Messiah.” (Michael Ramsey)

Hebrews 11 memorably records the many-splendored history of God’s people throughout the centuries leading up to the advent of the Messiah, painting a magnificent and stirring vision from the diverse traditions of Israel in the Old Testament.  The book of Acts continues this project in the New Testament by narrating the initial decades of the early church’s burgeoning history.  An unavoidable implication is that to be truly biblical—indeed, to be truly faithful to the global purposes of God in the contemporary world—requires that His people become intimately acquainted with what has actually taken place in church history.  This is our story.  Yet many contemporary churches that prize the Scriptures are impoverished when it comes to the twists and turns of church history’s lore.   The astonishingly depressing vicissitudes and the beautiful, heart-soaring triumphs of Christianity’s development and impact constitute an unrivaled epic which continues to unfold today, a history in which we are caught up and unavoidably involved in as believers.  This is our story.  But to forget history or to be ignorant of the past inevitably places us in a hopelessly fragile position in the here and now, vulnerable to compromise, self-deception and finally despair.  Indeed, a central theme of Israel’s history is the perpetual danger of not remembering what God has done in the past.  This is our story, and we cannot know who are are or what we are to meant to do unless we know it and own it.  


In this seminar we will focus not so much on vignettes of various important figures and crucial events from church history (though some will be highlighted as examples), but rather on why church history even matters.  A “Top Ten” list of reasons for why we should be committed life-long learners and lovers of the church’s messy history will structure our time together.  A list of practical resources will be provided for where we might start our journey into the annals of the church’s past, with a specific focus on not reducing church history’s tremendous width to just the European continent.  African, Asian, and Latin perspectives on global Christianity are often under-appreciated in western approaches to the church’s history, yet the story of the gospel’s impact on the world and the church’s mission to the ends of the earth cannot be told without them, nor can the future horizons of global Christianity be faithfully participated in without grasping the universal scope of the kingdom of God.



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