Why might Evangelicals tend to be ahistorical?

My personal opinion is that there is such an emphasis on personal Bible reading and a relatively personal interpretation that everything else is ignored. I say "relatively" because the individual doesn't completely focus on his own individual interpretation of what he reads; sometimes he may look to an elder or a pastor for explanation. Let me try to describe this mindset...,

    "I read the Bible myself. I understand what it is saying and I know for sure what it is saying because I know that the Holy Spirit is telling me directly so. There is no need for anything else besides the Bible. It is a special book which contains everything I need to know about Christianity; there is no need for anything else to be added. No history, no dogma. I am free and am under no obligation whatsoever other than to believe and follow whatever this Book tells me to do. The Bible is completely sufficient. Historical accounts can change, but the Bible is special in that I can assume the very words that I currently read are completely loyal to the originals (as if I was reading the original writing itself). In short, it is like a school's textbook or the user's manual that comes with my radio. It has all the instructions and I take it word-for-word what it says. I don't need run around in circles rationalizing what this or that text might mean. It is clear and obvious enough so that there is absolutely no room for misinterpretation. Commentaries are okay as long as they are totally centered around the Bible. They are not inspired but I believe the Holy Spirit can use them to help me understand better what the Book is saying whether the commentary notes be on personal spiritual growth or on the original languages or on the culture of the time. As long as the commentaries are Christian{ie: Protestant - despite the fact that it is not a popular term for many evangelicals who really think that they themselves understand the true and orthodox Christian teachings as meant to be.} -- that is, they are what I believe to be orthodox by reason that they are recommended by the more knowledgeable members of my own boat whom I trust and that the commentaries are in favor of the beliefs that I've already accepted and taken for granted with any doubt."

Notice how individualistic it is? Actually, the foundation of all sin is any form of self-centeredness. Lucifer was too proud; he thought too highly of himself. That's a form of self-centeredness. Same with Adam and Eve. Martin Luther and John Calvin each independently thought he was personally assigned to carry out God's work and claimed that he had the right answers. Not just in religion but in virtually anything in the world, humans are self-centered in its many different forms: greed, pride, selfishness, lack of humbleness, laziness, lack of love, etc, etc. Thus resulting in wars, division with lack of willingness to dialogue for peace or co-operation, abuse of power, sexual lust, murder, theft, divorce, certain scientific advances such as cloning and cyrogenics, sins, sins, and more sins.

So what does this have to do with the idea that many evangelicals avoid bringing up the subject of history when talking about Christian teachings? Not much. Not much directly anyway. It's just that the evangelical has placed such a heavy emphasis on personal reading and interpretation of the Bible that history would have no place at all in the equation for understanding the Bible. "The Bible is so plain, why would I need the help of the so-called 'early church fathers' for helping to understand Christianity? I can find out everything just by reading the Bible!" But this is a misunderstanding of the correct use of the Bible as well as the Truth.

First of all, Christianity is not a religion-of-the-book. Don't take this statement lightly because Protestantism was founded on the teaching of "sola scriptura" which means "Scripture only" (in terms of authority). However, Christianity was not founded on a book nor was its teachings derived from that book. For example, Jesus Christ wasn't born of a virgin just because the Bible said He was. He didn't rise from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father just because the Bible said so. The Bible merely just testafied to those events. While it is true that Christianity has its roots from Judaism which was a religion-of-the-book, the two are nonetheless distinct from each other. Judaism is different from Christianity not only because it rejects the fact that the Messiah has already arrived (and consequently does not include the New Testament as Holy Scripture), but also that God no longer required His people to follow such elaborate written rules like He used to. There is still inspired Scripture (apparently only for another century), but the emphasis that the Jews had of "the Law of Moses" regarding authority has already shifted to an organization of humans (creatures made in God's own image).

Not any human organization first suggested by human thinking, but rather a teaching office instituted by Christ and whose members are selected by the Holy Spirit to lead the flock. This teaching office neither competes with nor replaces the Holy Scriptures in terms of authority. In other words, it does not put itself above Scriptures such that anything Scriptures says can be overruled by the teaching office. This teaching office (what Catholics call "the Magisterium"), together in full co-operation and partnership with Holy Scriptures (and Sacred Tradition which is the teachings of the Apostles and their generations of successors), guide all the faithful of the world.

So what about the ahistory attitude, you say? Well, many evangelicals avoid reading the works of the early Church fathers. They may say that Scripture is enough or that the Church fathers may have been wrong. An evangelical even told me that they (the evangelicals) themselves may have a better understanding than the early fathers because we now have seen many more centuries of writings versus those fathers who only have a couple of centuries of works from which to read and compare.

But the thing is, Truth has to be consistent over time and space. What you believe to be truth must at least not contradict what someone else in some other place or some other time believes to be truth. And we are talking about Christian Truth here - a Truth that has a lot to do with the eternal life of souls. Since it's of that much importance, we would all do well to inquire whether our beliefs of the Truth are consistent with others before us. I'm not suggesting to compare with every single religion or philosophy that exists but within the Christianity context, we should check out what the roots of our beliefs are and whether there was consistency. That's why you cannot ignore history. Your understanding of the Bible should not contradict what the Fathers have said before on the same topic for at least those issues having to do with the faith and morals.

So what happens if there is a discrepancy? Well then we have a situation that needs to be investigated but that's beyond this article so I'll quit.

"But then," you might say, "Maybe the Fathers are wrong. Maybe the literature on early Church history is inaccurate. Why can't I just keep it simple and read the Bible for myself and interpreted it according to my own reasoning and/or conscience?" Well, historical research is a lot of detective work. You compare this and that and try to form a picture. You then identify the missing spots and look for clues and the right pieces to fill in the holes properly. There is a lot of history that has already been well-documented through decades and decades of scholarly reseach. It won't matter whether you are one-hundred percent certain or not because with so much documentation on a particular event or whatnot, you would be significantly sure enough so that you would be as confident about it as you are that the Reformation actually happened.

What, maybe the Early Fathers were wrong and that the Reformed Fathers were right? Hmmm, seems kind of strange to me that Truth would disappear for thirteen centuries.

"Well blame it on the Catholics for slaughtering so many innocent and sincere Christians!"
Isn't that a historical claim?

"No it didn't disappear. It just went underground after the first century and resurfaced with the Reformation."
Isn't that a historical claim?

"No, truth never disappeared. And it never went underground either. It was always around and proclaimed by individuals who risked everything and were not afraid of the tyrannical roman church."
Isn't that a historical claim?

Some evangelicals who are ahistorical about the early Church fathers are not quite so ahistorical on other issues. When it comes to attacking or criticizing the Catholic Church, plenty of history is used (including even the patristic texts). Selectively of course is usually how the history is used to form their arguments. They choose a person or event, isolate certain elements of it and then focus entirely on those elements. The resulting effect with the uninformed reader is that the Catholic Church is sinful in this or that way or in these or those ways.

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