“History is a set of lies agreed upon.” -Napoleon Bonaparte
Well, there is some truth there for sure. . . and he’s been gone a long time. . .imagine how many more lies have been decided upon?!
One place where we can for sure see this idea coming into play is within church history. Church history isn’t taught much in schools for a variety of reasons. And, it isn’t taught much in churches for of a variety of reasons. History can be dry and not everyone needs to be a “history buff”, but it is also exciting in many ways. There is some super interesting and incredibly important information there. In it lies the foundations of our spiritual belief systems, Christian practices, and some fascinating facts demonstrating that human-driven beliefs overpowering God-driven instruction is not a “contemporary challenge”. There is nothing new under the sun.
Recently, we purchased a book called, The God of Jesus by Keagan Chandler. This book is clearly written by an individual who has sought to find the needle of truth in the haystack of history, and though we’re not done, it is a helpful resource so far. He challenges the reader that, “. . .the only thing more regrettable than a religious academia which doesn’t care that its most characteristic philosophies are found nowhere in the mouth of Jesus and routinely in the teachings of pagan mystics, is a devoted majority which does not know it at all” (p. 270).
That is so true. The majority of us don’t know the history of our religious philosophies, and for some who know. . .they choose not to care. One interesting piece of church/world history is seen when Chandler reminds us that “Incarnation. . .the assumption of human form by a god is an idea common in religion. . .India and Egypt were especially rich in forms of incarnation. . .Incarnation is found in various phases of Greek religion” (p. 359). Hence. . .a few years later, “Christians” fight amongst themselves, hold a few councils to decide that Jesus, God’s son, must actually be the incarnate God who came to earth as a baby in human form, and later deciding that everyone had better believe that or be willing to die as a blasphemer for saying Jesus is our Messiah but not God himself. It is very interesting to see the gradual assimilation of pagan cultural beliefs infiltrate in just this one area (and there are so many others), and we continue to see this cultural penetration every day in our own lives. If we as the church continue to absorb the traditions and beliefs of everyone around us and not root them solely in God’s word and obedience to Him, then we are certainly not learning much from the lessons of history. You see, history matters. We don’t want to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result or just be hamsters running in a wheel going nowhere.
We can’t cover church history in one day, but we can challenge ourselves to study it. Read. Investigate. Ask others. Grow. Seek to learn. In school and at museums, we learn about things like slavery and the Holocaust so we can understand how wrong that was and to “prevent it from happening again”. But, do we ever look at the history of our own religion or our own spiritual beliefs with the same intentions. We are flawed. We can’t be in control of creating belief systems or everything will fall apart. We are subjects of His created system. And while He has allowed confusion and problems for a time now. . .a day of perfection is coming for those who He knows and calls where we will understand all things and will no longer be exposed to lies.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians, 2:8, NIV)
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’” (1 Cor.3:19, NIV)
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3:7, NIV)
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5, NIV)
-Brian and Jennifer Hall