Avoiding Past Mistakes
September 9, 2022, 2:47 PM

Avoiding Past Mistakes

The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“There is nothing new under the sun” Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9c

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Each of these men reflected on the course of history and the need to know it. History is God’s story. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. God ordained everything that comes to pass. God revealed this truth expressed in the West Minister Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Par. 1 in Ephesians 1:11, Romans 11:33, Hebrews 6:17 and, Romans 9:15, 18. He has progressively revealed Himself throughout history. Therefore, it is reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history.

For example, the study of Church History provides believers with protection from making the same mistakes made in past generations. Some Christians think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. But the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham. We know that because of the meaning of the word “church”. It means those called out by God. God called a man, then a family, then a nation, then members of all nations of those who are in Christ through the gospel.


This understanding of the church provides not only a long history but also the truth that believers in the Risen Lord Jesus are connected to all believers of all time. Thousands of years of men and women called by God to follow Him and thousands of years of those same men and women making the same mistakes repeatedly. In the words of Albert Einstein, they could be defined as insane. A large part of the reason for that insanity is a false belief that everything of any significance concerns the “now”.

A case in point is that there are no new heresies. There are only old ones dressed up in new clothes. Essential doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the bodily resurrection have been under attack since the early days of the Christian Church. False teachers persist in re-dressing these heresies in new clothes and succeed in deceiving many.

Likewise, culture is not immune to the effects of the ignorance of history. Ancient civilizations have died because of ignoring certain moral behaviors even in the face of historical evidence of past collapses. Civil leaders have also tried to tweak old systems thinking that they somehow could make failed systems work. Socialism, for example, has had more recent failures than perhaps any other socio/economic construct and yet, there is a never-ending list of politicians advocating it under different names and slightly different methods, thinking that if only the “right” people were in charge it would succeed.

My concern is for the evangelical church. I remember a sermon by James Montgomery Boice, as he reflected on what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement. He said, “Using Man’s methods yield Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. We can fill churches by meeting felt needs or offering programs and fail in God’s sight by not accurately teaching the Person and Work of Christ.

We may be tempted to soften the message of the gospel so as not to offend “seekers”. However, I believe that this “seeker” approach is based on two errors. The first, no one seeks the one true God, Romans 3:11. Second, Jesus commanded the church to make disciples by baptizing (identifying) them with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and by teaching everything that Jesus commanded, namely the whole counsel of God. As the church makes learners and followers of Jesus, He has promised to be present with us, Matthew 28:19-20. This is God’s method, and it will yield God’s results. The “seeker” approach continues to be the predominant method in the Evangelical Church. It may produce large churches. But is filled with members embracing the culture rather than holiness. Nevertheless, the hope persists that if just the “right” method is used, the result will be different.

The history of the church reveals a different approach. It has been a history of teaching the truth. May we learn from the giants of our faith and avoid the errors they toiled to correct and remain faithful to use God’s methods and praise Him for His results!