Editorial: History Matters -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 03:4 (Winter 1999)
Article: Editorial: History Matters
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner


Editorial: History Matters

Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a position he accepted after a decade of teaching at Bethel Theological Seminary. He is the author of Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, the Baker Exegetical Commentary on Romans, and several other scholarly publications.

As believers in Jesus Christ we affirm that history matters. Our faith is a historical faith. We believe in a God who created the universe out of nothing at a certain point of time. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees at a particular junction in history. The exodus of Israel from Egypt is not pious fiction but accurately represents what God did for his people long ago. God’s covenants with Abraham and Moses are historical verities, proclaiming to us God’s saving purposes in the history of salvation. Similarly, David is not a figment of Israel’s imagination or a kind of mythical King Arthur. He really existed and his reign anticipated and prefigured the rule of Jesus Christ. Most important, we believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure and that the gospels
accurately record what he said and did. We reject the skepticism of the Jesus Seminar, which finds little historical worth in the gospels. The Christian faith is not merely
a philosophy of life or a summons to ethical behavior. It depends upon historical events. At Southern Seminary we joyfully affirm with the Church throughout the ages that Jesus was born of a virgin, ministered in Palestine, suffered, died, was
buried, and raised on the third day.

We learn from the scriptures themselves, therefore, that history matters. We are not ahistorical creatures, who live in sublime isolation from those who preceded us. We are significantly influenced by our parents, grandparents, and the country in which we were born. Similarly, the history of the Church since the time of Jesus Christ and the Apostles has shaped us. Too often Protestants deny this truth, suggesting that church history is irrelevant since we have the scriptures. Of course, the scriptures are the only authoritative rule for faith and practice, and they stand in judgment over the creeds formulated throughout the history of the church. Nonetheless, we all have much to learn from believers who have gone before us. The Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds have not been improved upon. We stand upon the shoulders of great men like Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Edwards, and Wesley, even though we would not adhere to everything they taught. To think that previous believers discovered no truth from the scriptures would reveal a lack of faith in God’s providence, and would con...

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