The Church Historian as Spiritual Mentor
My friend Michael Haykin read a paper at last year’s annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society titled “The Church Historian as Spiritual Mentor.” That paper has been published as a feature article in the Spring 2012 issue of The Andrew Fuller Review (see subscription details). In the article, Haykin outlines four ways in which church historians serve the church as spiritual mentors.
The church historian thus informs God’s people about their predecessors in the faith, those who have helped shape their Christian communities and thus make them what they are. As such, he or she serves as a spiritual mentor who builds humility into lives and so exercises a sanctifying influence (p. 17).
As a spiritual mentor, the church historian is also ideally suited to help Christians fulfill Paul’s command in Romans 12:2 that they “not be conformed to this world,” for the study of church history helps to liberate a person from what C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) called “the idols of our marketplace” (p. 19).
The church historian further functions as a spiritual mentor when he puts his or her hearers in touch with the wisdom of the past (p. 20).
In making available to the church the lives of Christians from the past, the church historian is engaged in a task somewhat similar to the writer of Hebrews, who, in Hebrews 11, uses the history of God’s faithful people in the old covenant to encourage his readers to run the “foot-race” of faith (p. 21).
Haykin certainly summarizes many of the reasons why this Baptist preacher decided to earn a PhD so he could teach church history to seminary students. For the full article, see Michael A.G. Haykin, “The Church Historian as Spiritual Mentor,” The Andrew Fuller Review (Spring 2012): 16-23.