Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

History and the Bible

I am convinced that history and the Bible go hand in hand.  I have been reading Doug Wilson’s excellent book, Black & Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America.  The book focuses on the history of race in the United States.  I enjoy Dr. Wilson’s writing style, humor, and honesty.

In the beginning of the book, Wilson states that all preachers should be amateur historians.  I agree.  His reason is that we learn from history.  He asks questions like, “What is a Wesleyan?” or “What makes us separate from Rome?” or “Why do some churches go down front to be saved while others do not?”  He believes the answers are found in history.  One can make a defense from the Bible but we learn from history where we come from and why we are what we are.  He also points to the fact that the Bible is a history book.  The main focus of the Bible is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which was a historical event that transformed history forever.  Our love for Jesus begins with an event that happened in time and space.  Christianity finds its power not from the teachings of Jesus primarily but from a historical event, His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-11, 17).  Peter likewise states in 2 Peter 1:16-21 that his focus begins in history with the Lord Jesus and His fulfillment of prophetic Scripture.  This took place in history so history must be important.

I love history.  Always have.  Last week my family and I ventured down to Charleston, SC (which is only about a 2 hour drive for us).  We spent most of our time at Sullivan’s Island which is where Fort Moultrie is.  Fort Moultrie was not just the site of the famous firing on Fort Sumter that launched the American Civil War in April 1861.  Fort Moultrie saw action and use in every American war until it was officially closed by the US Army in 1947.  We visited the site and found not just information about the Civil War but also how the Fort was used during WWII to help defend the Charleston harbor from German U-boats.  History has a way of coming alive when you visit famous sites such as Fort Moultrie or Fort Sumter or Plymouth rock in Massachusetts.  I have also visited several Civil War sites including Gettysburg, First Bull Run, and Montgomery.  I have visited Washington DC, Boston, New York City, Atlanta, and several other historical cities.  I love to read history but I love to see history.

When it comes to theology, history is important.  As Wilson stated above, how can we understand many of our denominations without studying revivals or divisions from whence they came.  I have been also reading Frank Bartleman’s account of the Azusa Street revival.  His account helps one to understand where the Pentecostals came from and why they believe what they believe.  When one looks at the various types of church government in the evangelical church such as elder led in the Presbyterian church or congregational led in the Baptist church, one need only look at where these movements came from and you’ll see that they often reflect the culture that they came from.

History informs us not just about movements but also practices.  From the altar call to the seeker movement, these are found in history and reflect the cultures in which they came from.  Even movements such as the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) find their roots in history.  They came forth during a time in American history when modernity was gripping the church.  The IFB is a reactionary movement that finds its roots in the early 20th century when Darwinian evolution and prohibition were sweeping the nation.  Men such as Billy Sunday became the leaders of the IFB along with men such as J. Frank Norris and William Jennings Bryant.  Sunday reflected the early IFB rages against modernity.  All of this comes from history and when you study this time period, you begin to see why the IFB is like it is today.  Why does, for example, the IFB practice what they call “biblical separation“?  History helps you to know.

I encourage you read and study history.  You’ll learn where you came from in the process.  You’ll learn about your culture and about your own values.  You’ll learn much about the Church and why she is the way that she is.  You’ll learn that all of history ultimately belongs to God who rules over history.  As Wilson points out about race issues, in Christ we begin to see that blacks are helpful to whites and whites are helpful to blacks but this must begin with Christ and Christ must be our focus.  Wilson believes, and I do too, that race cannot be helped or healed by history because history is full of hypocrisy on both sides but in Christ, we can begin to redeem history and show the world that Jesus makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that in Jesus Christ, we are all one (Galatians 3:26-29).

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/13/2013 at 4:11 PM

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