By Joseph D. Garner III
“Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.” ~ Deuteronomy 32:7
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” ~ Revelation 3:3
Throughout Scripture, God’s people are commanded again and again to “remember.” In fact, remembering is the second most common command word in all of the Bible. To “remember” literally means to reattach yourself (the opposite of “dismember”) to something greater, to the body of human experience in time, in other words, history. So, to follow Christ and obey His commandments mean that all Christians are called to be historians of a sort.
This history is not mere names and dates, but rather the story of what Christ has done through His people and His creation in all ages. This applies not only to the history found in the Bible, and the history of Christianity, but also the history of the nations. All history belongs to Christ for he has dominion over all the nations, even their histories (Psalm 2, Ephesians 1).
Regrettably we have often forgotten this command. Dr. Timothy George, famed Baptist theologian and historian, would open his Church History class each year with the phrase: “…my task is to convince you that there was someone between your grandmother and Jesus, and it matters.” By in large, many of our local churches have lost not only the story of those who have come before them, but also the desire to even know it.
When was the last time your church taught a Church History class? When was the last time a small group studied the history of the Bible? When was the last time you read the works of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Edwards, Fuller, Lewis, or Henry? We have failed to remember.
For modern American Christians, this failure to “remember” is a particular concern. We find ourselves in an age where history is currently being rewritten by other religions (particularly secular humanism and critical theories) to reshape the world into their image. Whether it is the Frankenstein history of the “1619 Project” of the New York Times, the removal of so-called objectionable history from the government school curriculums, or the various attempts at “demythologizing” biblical history, we can see again and again that those that wish to see Christianity removed from public life, first go after the history books. If we fail to remember, we are giving up one of the major battlegrounds where we may “contend for the faith” (Jude 1).
How do we reverse this trend? Well, I believe that first and foremost we must do all that we can to ensure that we do not fail to pass on this command to “remember” to the next generation. We must encourage them to learn from our neglect by teaching them Christ’s command to “remember.”
Teach them history, all of it; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Teach them the beauty of the Lord’s providence and the horror of a fallen mankind. Teach them the history of God’s people and the history of the nations through the lens of Christ; His truth, goodness, and beauty. Teach them at home and do all that you can to ensure that they are in an educational environment where they will not only be taught history, but true history. History through the lens of Christ. This is how at least our children may “Remember the days of old” (Deuteronomy 32:7).
Here’s a couple of recommendations:
- History: A Student’s Guide by Nathan Finn
- Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
Pastor Joseph Garner III is a Ph.D. candidate in Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as the Administrative Pastor of Christ Church and the Administrator of Christ Church Academy.