Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So much to learn about our past...

This summer I reviewed a Children's book about church history by Stephen J. Nichols and Ned Bustard.  Reading that book made me realize how little I understood about church history and how much I really did want to know and understand.  So often names come up in conversations with my husband that I know who they are, but can't seem to keep straight.  So, I started looking for a book to help me fill in the blanks.

In college, I took a class called the History of Christianity.  It was absolutely boring and the textbook was dry.  That's why I thought the history of the church wasn't something I wanted to know anything more about.   But, my mind has changed about that.  

This summer I started reading another book by Stephen J. Nichols titled Pages From Church History.  The book starts with an introduction about why we should care about history.  I love this quote on page 13-14 "Without meaningful connections to the past, the soul does not grow deep, but constricts, growing more and more shallow.  As many have observed, our age tends to be consumed with the present, the new, and even the future...There also lurks, however, a downside, as this tendency can lead to a certain ahistoricism, a sentiment that tells us the past is of little relevance and may be handily brushed aside." On page 14-15 Nichols then goes on to write, "Studying the past offers meaningful connections with our legacy.  We are enriched through our study of the past, simultaneously humbled by testimonies of courage and emboldened by reflections of God's grace and faithfulness..Church history not only inspires, it also instructs."

There is a verse that often comes to mind when people claim to be original and that the past doesn't matter.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV

9 What has been will be again,
       what has been done will be done again;
       there is nothing new under the sun.

It was humbling to read what people in the history of the church did with their lives and who they were.  We are to learn from the past for so many reasons.  But, as Nichols expresses in his book--we would do well not to forget those who have come before us.

From the introduction, Nichols begins the first chapter with a brief look at church history.  Though brief, it is packed full of information and food for thought.  After the first chapter, there are twelve chapters about different figures that are significant in the history of the church.  Some of them I knew and others I didn't.  But, even if I knew the name of the person, I learned as I read the chapters how much I truly didn't understand about that person and their place in history.

One of the reasons I felt the need to really understand church history is that I have been struck this year how the history of the world is taught absent God.  The deist perspective is that God created the world and then simply checked out.  Man was left to his own devices.  Even if people don't believe in the big bang, evolution is so prevalent that the default many people come to believe, I think, is that of the deist perspective.  I want to understand church history so that I can integrate it with what I teach my children through the years about history.  I want them to understand and have a humble perspective of who they are, but recognize that God created them and that they have a place in the big picture--a place that God has planned for them.

I leave this book in my car and read a few pages at a time and discuss them with my husband.  It is very meaty and has so many details in it.  It is a book that my husband could sit down and easily read straight through.  But, my concentration isn't quite as strong right now amidst the craziness of my life with 3 kids and homeschooling.  Still, I am able to pick it up and truly enjoy a few pages at a time.  I learn something every time I read this book.  I am beginning to understand the Catholic church more than I ever have before as I learn where the roots of their traditions and beliefs come from.

If you find yourself looking for a wonderful, interesting, and engaging book about church history, I would highly recommend this book.  It would be great also for a high schooler who is being homeschooled.  You'd definitely want to discuss it and read it together, but this book is very easy to understand.

Please note that I was given a complimentary copy of this book from P&R Publishing for review.

No comments: