From age 15 to 21, I experienced two ways of learning history.

The first was modeled at my public high school in southwest Ohio. My teacher (whose primary job was to coach the football team) would review dates and facts, then quiz us on how well we memorized them. He was clearly as bored by the litany as we were.

The second was the kind I witnessed at a Christian college in Michigan. There, our professors taught us dates and facts, of course. But they also explored the why behind the what: why the printing press was central to the Reformation, why King Henry VIII created the Anglican Church, why some 19th-century Christians supported slavery. History took on flesh and blood for me, and I became aware of our great debt to it.

We trust that this month’s cover story (p. 38) is like the second kind of history.

Theologian Justin Holcomb provides an overview of heresy: what it is, how the early church councils came to define it, and what role the creeds play in defending against it. But if you walk away from the piece thinking that orthodoxy simply means getting all the right facts, we have not done our job. “Orthodoxy is not just a matter of theological precision,” writes Holcomb. “It’s about making sure the church rightly grasps our God and his work for us in Christ.” The why behind the what of orthodoxy is not to score points in debate but to more deeply love the triune God.

We also study history to gain wisdom and avoid mistakes our forebears made. That is one theme of a new essay (p. 48) from Tish Harrison Warren (who wrote for CT last year on being the “wrong kind of Christian” at Vanderbilt). She recounts the racial injustice woven into US history, and asks how ...

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A History Lesson
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October 2015

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