Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review of Why Church History Matters

Why Church History Matters: An Invitation to Love and Learn From Our Past
by Robert F. Rea
ISBN 978-0-8308-2819-7
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I love history and I love theology. In my college education and seminary education, I took four classes that taught church history. Sadly, as I attended each of these classes, my interest in the subject matter taught slowly waned, and I occupied myself with other matters during my classes. It was not because my professors were not creative in how they communicated historical matters. Quite the opposite.

Where I think the professors fell short in capturing my interest is that they failed to communicate with passion why what happened in the past matters to the world and the church that I am living in today. In Why Church History Matters Robert F. Rea follows one very important issue throughout church history: the church's understanding of Scripture. The result is a fascinating read that should be adopted in college level church history classes everywhere.

The result of the book also brings up another challenging question, especially for evangelicals today. What is the role of tradition in our understanding how we interpret and understand Scripture? When should we look to tradition to guide our understanding today? When should we dismiss tradition because of its lack of biblical support? When is tradition healthy for Christian? When is tradition a hindrance to faith?

The issue of the role of interpretation of Scripture and tradition has several touch points in our life together as Christian evangelicals. How do we understand classical spiritual disciplines as evangelicals when several of them are more grounded in Christian tradition, and non-Protestant traditions at that? What version of Scripture do we choose to use and why? What happens when we have worship that is not rooted in the "cloud of witnesses" that have come before?

Rea has written a book that is both a history book and a compelling read. Much like the history of ideas that we find in secular literature, this book tracks a few ideas throughout church history and draws students and interested readers together on a journey of discovery.

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