On the Importance of Church History

seeing the light“Without understanding that past, we are unable to understand ourselves, for in a sense the past still lives in us and influences who we are and how we understand the Christian message. When we read, for instance, that ‘the just shall live by faith,’ Martin Luther is whispering at our ear how we are to interpret those words–and this is true even for those of us who have never even heard of Martin Luther. When we hear that ‘Christ died for our sins,’ Anselm of Canterbury sits in the pew with us, even though we may not have the slightest idea who Anselm was. When we stand, sit, or kneel in church; when we sing a hymn, recite a creed (or refuse to recite one); when we build a church or preach a sermon, a past of which we may not be aware is one of the factors influencing our actions. The notion that we read the New Testament exactly as the early Christians did, without any weight of tradition coloring our interpretation, is an illusion. It is also a dangerous illusion, for it tends to absolutize our interpretation, confusing it with the Word of God.”

Justo L. Gonzalez, The  Story of Christianity Vol. I: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (HarperCollins, 2010), p. 3.

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