Ask my four children what their father loves and ranking high on the list after “Jesus, our mom, baseball, and the Georgia Bulldogs,” might just be “dead people.” Why? The fact that I teach church history notwithstanding, I think it is important that my children—beginning at a tender age—understand the richness of the faith I am commending to them from Scripture. (And yes, they know the hero of that book is back from the dead.)
Presuming they have been listening, my kids can tell you something about Luther, 95 Theses, and a church door in Wittenburg. (They even pronounce the “W” as a “V” because they think it sounds like an insect). They can tell you all about Calvin and his nasty confrontation with William Farel. They can tell you that William Carey is the father of modern missions (and they’ll likely remind you he was a Baptist). They can tell you that Spurgeon smoked an occasional stogie and that a man with the funny name of Athanasius won the day at a meeting called the Council of Nicaea (they’ll probably get the date right too—that’s AD 325).They know an important battle took place at a bridge called Milvian (or as my 6-year-old son calls it, “Melvin”). They have even learned that those folks who show up on our porch on select Saturdays with their Watchtower magazines in hand are modern-day Arians. I was 30 before I knew that much.
By no means should church history supplant teaching your family the Bible. Family worship and God’s Word must come first in your home. But the benefits of teaching them something about the key figures and movements from the rich heritage of the church are myriad. Here are seven reasons why we should teach our children church history.
1. Because they must know that Christianity is a historical faith. Jesus really lived. He died. He rose again. He ascended into heaven. He is building his church, just as he promised. Church history bears witness to all these facts, all of which took place—and are taking place—in time and space and history. I don’t want them to confuse the story of redemption with The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Robinson Crusoe, or Rapunzel.
2. Because we want them to avoid chronological snobbery. As C. S. Lewis put it, new does not necessarily mean better (or vice-versa). Like their parents, our children are constantly inundated with messages of “new” and “better”—versions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and the like. I want my children to know that the gospel is not new, cannot be improved, and will never change. They must know too that while there is no “golden age” with regard to the history of man, great awakenings in the past drive us to pray that God will do it again.
3. Because they must know that the Bible is worth dying for. One of the definitions of church history I give my students is simply “a battle for the Bible,” which is to say, church history is an account of the 2,000-year war between heresy and orthodoxy, between competing interpretations of God’s holy Word. I want my children to know that our Bibles—especially that we have an English translation in virtually every room of our house—did not come cheap. Men and women were imprisoned, harassed, beaten, and killed so we could read the Bible in our native tongue. They also argued, fought, were persecuted, even died over standing firm upon an orthodox interpretation of it.
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition