I had a discussion with a friend recently, and our discussion veered towards how many Nigerian schools were not teaching history. We reflected on the little instruction in history we both received as young pupils compared to the apparently worse state the subject is in today.
Our brief conversation later got me thinking about how crucial the subject of history is to the Christian faith and worldview. And the relationship is such that the believer cannot afford to neglect the subject.
Unlike the traditional African ‘God’ who is aloof from his creation, the Christian believes in a God who acts in history. Right from his creation of our first parents, he gets involved in their lives. Planting a garden and commissioning Adam to tend it, He reached out to save them when they fell. He sent Abraham to a foreign land, rescued his descendants generations later from the mighty nation of Egypt, and took them across an impassable sea. He brought his people into a new land (Canaan) and taught them how to live and worship Him.
This revelation in history culminated in God descending to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
Christ was (and still is) a historical figure who lived among real people in a certain culture at a particular period in history. He died a true and public death. He rose from the dead and was seen by many witnesses afterwards. The early apostles were witnesses to this and their message was essentially a proclamation of this historical truth.
The development of the Christian faith and church over the ages has been within the context of history. She has endured opposition, reflected on truth, and influenced cultures. In short, she has understood herself, her faith, and her mission better in the course of living within human history. By learning from and also shaping history, the Church has grown to become what she is today. And by living within this human story, though in dependence upon a power beyond it, she will drive the future.
Christians cannot afford to ignore history, for our faith depends entirely on it. The Bible presents itself as a record of historical facts. If it isn’t, our faith is misguided. We believe in a God who initiated history, moved in it and rules over it. We believe in a space-time redemption executed within the space-time reality of history. And we look forward to the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth as a glorious, sinless, and historical reality.