Sunday, August 12, 2012

History Will Teach us Nothing, Right?

by Susanne Dietze

Another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Judges 2: 10

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 

Before I turn on my computer, I...

I bet you thought I'd say pray, huh? Well, yes, I do, but I also do something else which isn't nearly as noble. I own a page-a-day calendar of "dumb things people say." Every day offers a funny quote, misprinted menu item, or answers people have given on quiz shows or exams which aren't quite right. For example (please know I am not making fun of anyone here, and I've deleted identifying details):

Weakest Link Host Anne Robinson: When counting down, what whole number follows 37?

Contestant: Er, 19.

The history questions always seem to stump people, too:

Ye olde Wittenberg Door, from wikipedia
World History Final Exam: In 1517, what did Martin Luther nail to the door of a Catholic Church in Germany that, among other things, protested the selling of indulgences?

Student's Answer: Jesus

(Umm, yes, Jesus was nailed to wood, but it wasn't in 1517. And ... oh, never mind.)

Sometimes we hear these types of  historical questions and they honestly sound familiar, but we can't peg the answer. Other times, we honestly don't care about things and people and events that occurred centuries ago.

Does history matter anymore? Perhaps I shouldn't ask that here at the Inkwell. We love our history days and fight over them on our calendar. But in general, do you notice a dearth of historical knowledge / understanding in our culture? Schools aren't entirely to blame. Yes, they face budget cuts and are required to teach more and more subjects, but how many times have you heard adults bemoan history as boring and irrelevant?

Not to sound like a frumpy geezer, but don't we need to learn about the past in order to know where we've been and recognize where we're going?

As Christians, I would argue we shouldn't remain ignorant of the rich history of our faith recorded for us in the Bible. Since the creation of the world, God has been active in the lives of His people. He has worked through governments, battles, victories, defeats, homes, communities, and hearts for thousands of years, moving His people closer toward the fulfillment of His will.

The history of our faith isn't a dry record of long-distant events. It's a tapestry in which we're threads, as precious to the complete picture as those who went before us. Looking at what's gone before us can strengthen our faith, teach us where we're headed, and draw us closer to the God who rules over time.
The Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, from wikipedia

So... when they were in the desert, where did the Israelites get all the gold for the Ark of the Covenant? Why is the Temple such a big deal, even today? And what was it Martin Luther nailed to the Wittenberg Door?

Pick up your Bible and a book on Church History. I promise you won't regret it.

And who knows? It might come in handy on a game show, too.


Have you ever studied Biblical or Church History?


Susanne Dietze has written love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,


  1. I love it, Susie. I live history and I believe I remember what ML nailed to the door. It was on one of my history exams last fall. And I remember that class - which did study Church history was fascinating. But, shamefully, I'll have to go look in my book to see if I correctly remember what ML nailed to the door.

    Great post and great reminder of the importance of history. And yes, we should have more history days on our inky calendar!

  2. Oh the joys of typing on a touchscreen. I love history. Love it. If I'm living it, I don't know it yet. ;-)

  3. I think connecting something real and physical is the key to learning history. For me, the sights of Bible 'places" like you have hear, Susie, is so cool!

    I'm pretty sure that the Israelite women were given a lot of jewelry by their Egyptian bosses (with all those plagues, they were sending them off with a big hurry and hooray!)

    Definitely one of the delights of bible study is getting all these little nuggets of knowledge that we often miss.

    Great post, Susie. As for Martin Luther, I know it was a list of 99 complaints or arguments against legalism but what it's called... can't recall. "The .... something". Ugh!

  4. I went to Christian schools and colleges, so I had plenty of Bible classes that included the history. But I learned very little about church history during the dark ages and medieval period. As an adult, I've found those to be very interesting to discover.

  5. Hey Suzie. You do "live" history! God's story is at work through each of us. Pretty cool.

    I'm not judging people who don't know "all the answers." I certainly don't know them all. But sometimes I am surprised by how history is dismissed as boring and irrelevant, even the story of our Salvation, by Christians. God has done marvelous works throughout history and He's working them still! Learning what He's done is so encouraging.

    Thanks, Suzie!

  6. Great point about visual aids, Deb. I work best when I have visual cues; I am not an auditory learner! Show me something and I remember it better. Same is true with history. I especially love seeing pics of Biblical sites.

    Your photos of the 1812 reenactment were so helpful to me!

    I included the question about how the Israelites came to possess gold because I watched a show on the History Channel about finding the Ark of the Covenant which insisted the Israelites wouldn't have had any gold, so the Bible must've embellished its appearance and the ark was actually a wood drum...anyway, I guess they missed the verses about the Egyptians giving the Israelites all their jewelry.

    Can you imagine seeing the Ark, gleaming in the sun? Wow.

    Thanks, Deb!

  7. Hey Dina. That's one of the cool things about history. There is always something new to learn. Right now I'm especially curious about the growth of the church in the first few centuries.

  8. Was it the 95 Theses or the 99 Theses? Since I didn't learn ANYTHING about it until I was homeschooling my own kids, I can't remember!

    As an adult I find learning about history (hopefully undiluted, unadulterated, un-politicized and un-religionified history) comforting because it so clearly reveals how much God really is in control and "causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him," no matter how badly humans screw things up with their greed, corruption, deception, and violence!

  9. Yes, Niki, you and Deb have it right, it was the 95 Theses. I have not read them but one of these days I should.

    I love what you said, "it so clearly reveals how much God really is in control." He uses everything for His purposes--everything! Amazing!

    Thanks, Niki!

  10. Thanks for the post, Susie. I was thinking about recent Church history with Dietrich Bonhoeffer last night- what a challenge for Christians today!

  11. Excellent cast in point, Karl. Bonhoeffer is a saint who shouldn't be forgotten. Thanks for coming by the Inkwell today.

  12. One of the things I'm trying to correct as an adult is my ignorance about church history AFTER the Bible. I really knew very little of what happened between Revelation and the Reformation until the past 3-5 years.

    (So, take it from the history geek. The Martin Luther nail thing was in 1517 (not 1519).)

  13. Love the post, Susie. My only formal church instruction was the Humanities classes I took in University where I learned about early Christianity, Greek and Roman mythology, etc. It was not Bible based, but rather a learning of the facts as recorded in history, so I took it with a grain of salt.

    I don't know what Martin Luther nailed to the door except that it was a piece of paper with a list on it. And the only reason I know that is because when I visited Jessie's Rocky Mountain Bible College in Calgary last year, they had an arched wooden door against one wall filled with bits of paper. Jessie explained where the idea came from, but all I remember is that the students would write out things and tack them up. I could be wrong, but I seem to think it was negative feelings about something or someone.

    Thanks, Susie.

  14. Ack! Thanks for catching the typo, CJ. I'll fix it!

    So much happened before the Reformation. It's pretty exciting stuff. I'd love to hear some of the stuff you've learned!

  15. I wish I'd had a good course on the Greco-Roman world, Anita. I sound like such a nerd, but I like to imagine the spread of the Gospel through Turkey and North Africa and Greece, so I enjoy seeing pictures of the ruins, etc., in those places.

    Maybe someday I'll travel there. Of course, I'd need you with me to take your fabulous photos!

  16. Oh yes, please pick me. I've always wanted to go. :)


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