Learning From History

Truth From Generation to Generation

Many today have rejected the idea that history can teach us anything. Some of these will use 1 John 2:27 as their text which reads, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

However, both reason and the Bible say otherwise.

The Bibles teaches us that the truth is passed down from generation to generation. We learn from our forefathers. The pastors and leaders who impart truth and faithful practice by their words and modeling are our forefathers. The older teaching the younger. This is what I call Christian replication. (See 2 Timothy and Titus.)

As time progresses, the culture changes. The world I live in today is not the world my parents lived in nor is it the same as what the youth are experiencing. Time changes things. People act and think different. Their perceptions change. Therefore, their understandings change.

I remember a game that I’ve participated in many times. In a group of people, one secret is told to one person. That one person tells another. That person tells another. And so on. Once the secret is circulated around the room once, the secret is then mentioned aloud. But the secret is much different then how it was first spoken. In fact, it is not even the original secret.

This game illustrates the obstacle that we face each generation. We lose information and change perception as more time and more interpretation is involved. The game only lasted 5 minutes and only involved 20 people, but the secret was altered so much that it was no longer the original secret. And so it is with our understanding of the Bible. The more detached from the original context, the more we misinterpret the passage.

One way to resolve this is to look back closer down the generational line to see how they interpreted the passage. Sometimes it is enough to just look and see how the authors of the Bible have interpreted other passages like Paul in Ephesians 4:8 interpreting Psalm 68:19 or Jesus in John 6:53 interpreting Leviticus 17:4.

At other times it is not so easily done. Sometimes, we must look a little further in time to see how the first century church interpreted. It helps also to move even further to see how Christian leaders have interpreted the same passages. This is because the closer we come to our time, the more accurate the cultural lifestyle, but the more inaccurate the understanding of the first cultural lifestyle.

This is not to mean that we now have no one that can accurately handles the Scriptures because he is so separated by time and culture. I only mean to say that it is much harder to understand ancient writings because of the disconnection from ancient times. We have wonderful scholars today that handle God’s Word accurately. But they all have in common a familiarity of the past.

Learning from history does not imply a rejection of the Bible. Rather, the Holy Scriptures are our only true source of information. History can deceive us just like anything else. But it can serve as a valuable tool when studying the Bible.

As students of God’s Word, we cannot rely only on our ability to interpret. We are often young and untrained. Yet even the trained, rely on other resources. Biblical lexicons are not Satan’s way of deceiving us, but God’s way of assisting us. It is true that God is our one and only teacher in the most truest spiritual sense, but we must remember that God chose to use the things and people of the world to teach us.

We cannot reject the past in order to learn and prepare for the future. We must embrace the past as we embrace the Bible. It is true that there is nothing new under the sun. We may think that we have a new understanding, but history will show us that the Christian world has already wrestled with it. We can learn from them and save ourselves time and energy, or we cannot and risk destroying our theology.

The Bible is our source. History is our guide.

Additional Reading For a funny yet informative reading on human intervention in the divine process of Bible study, read my confession at Truth411 called, Sole Spirit Studying: Subjective Hermenuetics.

Posted by Jacob Abshire on September 14th, 2008 - 7:30 pm
Categories: Articles
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