The sign outside the building reads, “The church of Christ Meets Here – Established in 33 AD.” In other words, we are the direct descendants of the original church founded by Jesus. We claim no affiliation with any Christian person or any Christian group that lived after the death of the last Apostle. We follow only the Bible (sola scriptura) and, for the most part, disregard the almost 2000 years of history that has shaped Christianity.
That is our claim but, in my judgment, it is not entirely our practice—nor should it be. The fact is that every Christian group today has been formed to some degree by the history of Christianity.
Take, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity. The word “trinity” is not in the Bible. Furthermore, the theological concept of the trinity is nowhere fully delineated in the Scriptures. The idea of the Trinity, however, is what sets Christianity apart from other major religious traditions.
The development of the Doctrine of the Trinity is the result of a lengthy process that began with the witness of the first century Christians, proceeded through an elaborate discussion among the early church fathers, and concluded its first chapter with the so-called Cappadocian formulation. This formulation was codified into creeds produced at the ecumenical councils at Nicea and at Constantinople.
The fact is that if you believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity, and I assume that most people reading this article do, then the precise details of what you believe about the triune nature of YHWH God do not come directly from Scripture but, rather, from the Doctrine of the Trinity as it has been hammered out through the course of Church history.
The point is that because we are beings encapsulated within time we are products—to one degree or another—of history. We may not knowingly form our thoughts based exclusively upon history; however, if we are honest we must confess that many of the Christian doctrinal beliefs and religious practices we hold dear have been shaped by Christian thinkers other than the original Apostles.
The truth is that we DO have a history. I would rather study that history openly in order to learn from it than I would to deny that we have one. The danger of denying that we have a history is that we can blindly hold to religious beliefs and practices with no direct knowledge or understanding of their sources.