Scott Aniol on Why We Should Study the Liturgical History of the Christian Faith

Studying the liturgical history of the Christian faith paints a necessary picture of what Christians have truly believed throughout history, perhaps in some cases more so than studying their creeds. This history helps us obey God’s command given in Job 8:8–10:

For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding?

If for no other reason than God’s command, we should be willing to study how the Christian faith has evolved over time, particularly its worship. But God does not command this without reason. As the passage explains, “inquiring” of “bygone ages” will teach us. We are, as the passage say, “but of yesterday and know nothing.” The study of what has come before us teaches us what we would not otherwise understand if we limited our focus to the present time only, and it can teach us in at least three ways.

First, it can help us to recognize error and understand how it develops. Once reason Christians may resist studying the history of Christian worship is the immediately apparent errors that crept into Christian worship very early in its development. This fact may cause some to wonder about the value of such study. Yet the study of error is always valuable since it helps us to avoid those same errors today. Edmund Burkes’s oft-repeated axiom, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” is as true for worship as it is for any other sphere. Studying where people have gone wrong will help us prevent those same mistakes.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Scott Aniol