When asked, ‘ why do we need to study Church History?’ many people say we study to learn from others mistakes (this has been addressed in previous posts). But I want to assert that I think we need to study Church History to learn from others successes.
Most of you have heard the term ‘we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone on before us’. Well this is certainly true (and possibly more so than many other examples) when speaking of the great men and women in the church. We can (and should) learn so much from their achievements. I am convinced the only reason we have answers to extremely difficult theological issues is because many wrestled (both intellectually and sometimes even physically) with the various opinions until they were able to come to an orthodox (read biblical) view.
When one is questioned about the exact way to express the Triune God in succinct terms, we can answer ‘3 persons, 1 essence’ because of thinkers like the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory, and Gregory), and Athanasius (who spoke against Arius and his theology. These people did not see it as acceptable to ‘sort of’ understand the trinity, but to wrestle and fight and argue with many others about how exactly to express the concept in fully biblical terms.
To sum up, we learn from other’s mistakes but we can learn infinitely more from their successes.