G. Lee Southard, PhD August 6, 2019
As a young person in America or parent, aside form accepting Christ as your Savior, the most important piece of information you need to know is “What Is My Spiritual Genealogy?” You have a spiritual genealogy, sometimes referred to as a Spiritual DNA. It has been bought and preserved for you many times over. You are not here by accident. Your forefathers paid a price for what you enjoy today.
A Spiritual genealogy reflects the people that gave you your heritage. God planned our Spiritual Genealogy before creation (Gen 1). He predestined that you would be found holy and blameless in his sight through Jesus Christ. (Eph 1: 4-10) Christians passed down this genealogy in an unbroken chain of events through the ages. The primary instrument was the church that was given birth by the resurrection of Jesus and the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (Acts 2)
The disciples at Pentecost that followed Jesus had been eyewitnesses to his life, death and resurrection and knew with certainty that Jesus was the promised Christ. They and the Apostle Paul would take his message, even under threat of death, as commanded (Mathew 28: 19-20) unto the ends of the known world. Their successors and disciples, the Apostolic Fathers, would continue their mission work and would assemble the earliest New Testament scriptures in the Greek language of the day allowing the Gospel to spread rapidly westward as far as Spain and eastward as far as China.
This second century New Testament was identical to todays in terms of the number of books and the order. The Apostolic fathers, being eyewitnesses to the original twelve, would be the basis for an unbroken chain of Church fathers down through the early centuries protecting and copying the scriptures and building the church into a form of worship that has held to this day. They would take issue and write, challenging the so-called gnostic gospels written in the second and third centuries. They would keep the original Gospels pure from heretical writings. We know them as Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius, Papias, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine, Athanasius and Eusebius.
In the fourth century when Christian persecution by the Romans lifted due to Constantine it was a series of church fathers that kept to the core theology against heresies and alternative interpretations concerning Jesus. The result was the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed that we recite today in Church. These creeds state with clarity our core beliefs.
When the Roman Empire fell after the Church split into Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic) Churches the Western Church became corrupt because of the power vacuum it filled as a result of the demise of the empire. It was courageous church reformers who stepped in to correct the church when it went astray due to abuses of power. Even so the church was active in starting schools for education and establishing hospitals. These reformers were active around the first millennium through the next 500 years. Their names are Aquinas, Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Zwingli, Tyndale, Simons and Calvin. Wycliffe, Tyndale and Luther would create the Bible in the language of the people furthering the spread of the Gospel and setting the stage for the Protestant Reformation. Tyndale was burned at the stake.
The Christian Church became a powerful religious, political, social, cultural, economic, and intellectual institution leading to Western Civilization. This lasted from late antiquity to the Middle Ages into the Renaissance and Reformation and into modern times. These contributions were schools, the university, the concept of liberty and justice, respect for law, a free church and not a state run church. All of these concepts were adopted by the new nation that emerged called America.
During the age of discovery of the 15th through the 17th century it was the Spanish, French, Dutch and the English who would carry the faith across the Atlantic to a New World sometimes with less than Christian ideals. A new nation would come out of settlements established by the English Christians at Roanoke Island, Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. Their charters would specifically state that they were to promote the Christian faith. The faith would spread across America from sea to shining sea through Christian pioneers seeking better lives.
Most of its founding leaders were Christians. Their writings reflect the Christian faith. All of this was passed down through generations of Americans to arrive at today. Wars were fought to protect those freedoms derived from the faith.
In brief form this is the Spiritual Genealogy that has been passed down to you today directly from the life of Jesus. Unfortunately we have forgotten our roots and as a result as we look around we are beginning to see the price paid for having abandoned them. One sad modern statistic is that the church has lost its influence in America due to the rise of the secular culture in the minds and hearts of its people.
You do not have to follow this path. Rather honor the heritage and live as Christ intended you live.
This has been an abbreviated excerpt from the book To Know With Certainty: Questions Christian Students Need To Answer On Leaving High School.