Why Knowing Church History is Critical to the Survival of the Church

Writing about mainline denominations overtaken by theological liberalism almost 100 years ago and which have been in decline ever since, Leonard Sweet writes:

A tradition cannot long survive without a living memory. By failing to generate among church members a sense of living out of their past, much of Protestantism cut the cords of community in the present and endangered its survival…But the labor of liberalism to give birth to “community” failed in that era because of no tradition of meaning to build around.

Just as one learns a language by living in community, so one learns the language of faith–what it means to live and think the Christian story–by living in Christian community. One of the main reasons for the widely lamented illiteracy about the language of faith in the churches, and the lack of consensus among the faithful about doctrinal matters, was this decline in Christian community due to the demise of the past.[1]

It seems this would also describe many Bible-believing churches who have been denied any connection to the past through our ignoring of church history.


[1] Leonard Sweet, “The 1960’s: The Crisis of Liberal Christianity and the Public Emergence of Evangelicalism,” Evangelicalism and Modern America, ed. George M. Marsden (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 43; cited in Stanley J. Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), 149-50.

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