Friday, October 16, 2015

Church History is Authoritative Only As Far As It Follows Scripture

When it comes to the history of the church, most Christians swing to one extreme or the other.

On the one hand, some believers look to church history as carrying a significant amount of authority. In particular, certain creeds have been elevated by different groups of Christians to the point where they carry a great deal of power. The Apostles' Creed is one of these. Another is the Westminster Confession, which some Reformed and Presbyterian groups look to for much direction.

On the other hand, other believers reject church history as having any sort of authority. While they may look to some more modern creeds for direction, in general they simply take a "It's me and my bible" approach. These folks are generally ignorant of church history and don't care that they are. Many Baptist and non-denominational groups, for example, fall into this category.

Both positions fail.

There is a better way. We can learn a great deal from church history, both the good and the bad. While some decisions and creeds are positive, others are most decidedly negative. What do we do with this? What we do is look for the good.

As far as church history follows scripture, then we should look to learn from it. While it does not carry the same weight as scripture, where it is faithful to the bible we ought to carefully consider it. Additionally, we should treat it as though it carries authority - but only when faithful to the bible.

We can and must also learn from the myriad mistakes in church history. In particular, we cannot ever forget all the times the church has harmed, persecuted, and even murdered all in the name of "faith."

In summary, anywhere church history, especially in the creeds, does follow scripture, then we should be following it. This is because, obviously, when we do so we will be obeying the bible.

Let's avoid both extremes. This is a situation where the middle position is best.

1 comment:

Aussie John said...


" We can learn a great deal from church history, both the good and the bad". I totally agree!Sadly, a lot of bad, which is ongoing!

I suspect you are using the word "church" in the generic sense as it is generally used today.Of course, I'm sure you will agree, the church Jesus is building is another matter all together.

Much of church history has resulted in men/women taking much of what is of God and formulating it (human oriented theories and hypotheses), in such a way that man can take God's place at the helm. We decry those who make idols out of wood or stone as representing God in some way,but accept, or ignore those who develop ideological idols such as belief-systems, doctrinal definitions, theological theses, which they hold as absolute.

In doing so many have become the "chief priests" of the religious branch which their theories have become. They are elevated to that position because they are regarded as knowing the most about what their doctrine or theology (which all defend as according to Scripture) expounds.

Until they have trained a few disciples to replicate their teaching, they are the "expert" on the matters at hand, as they should be because they are the only one who developed it, a phenomena which seems to be continually repeated as new groups form, often on spurious grounds of "revelation".

They may not have "persecuted, and even murdered all in the name of "faith."", but are still harming many as they turn attention from Christ and His finished work, to a performance based religious focus.

In following these "chief priests" many, maybe most, fail to be sound thinking Bereans (Acts 17:11).

Is the "middle position" best?