A Modest Proposal For The Encouragement Of Genealogical Research In The Church of God

Even if it does not always make itself obvious here, at least not yet, I have a great deal of interest in genealogical research in my own family and have found quite a few interesting connections between myself and others. The Bible spends a great deal of time talking about genealogical lines, showing that God works with people not only as individuals, but as part of a long chain of descent and belief in God and a living according to His ways and service to His people spanning for hundreds and even thousands of years. Repeatedly, the Bible promises that our belief in and obedience to God will have positive consequences for our descendants afar off–Exodus 20:4-6 says: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Similarly, Acts 2:37-39 says: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.””

In both of these cases, belief has consequences, and that consequence is that God pays attention to people because of their faithful ancestors. The children of Israel were delivered from slavery because they were the heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not because of their own righteousness. A great many of the people in the Bible who God worked with had a heritage of faith that helped them to be connected to God in a very important way. When we neglect family history, we are not aware of how the faith and obedience of our fathers and mothers has brought us blessings that we may not have deserved from our own merits. To be sure, a great many people like thinking about family history in the long-term, but one does not get there without going through a lot of intervening generations. It is worthwhile on a variety of levels to see the people we connect with and through and also to find out, if possible, the legacy of faith that we have in previous generations.

There are several ways in which an encouragement of genealogy, within reason, would make sense for the Church of God. As we have already discussed, the culture of the Church of God is one that pays a lot of attention to the role of family history in the history of salvation in God’s dwelling with mankind. In addition, family history of a more recent sort clearly has a great deal of importance within the Church of God as well, as one would notice if one looks at the frequency in which people who come from ministerial families tend to marry other people from the same sorts of backgrounds. In some churches within the larger Church of God umbrella, it is not unreasonable to speak of dynasties where sons expect to and do manage to succeed leadership from their fathers, and where dynastic concerns are in play then genealogy plays a major role in determining who is who, all of which makes the Church of God similar to ancien regime or Victorian Europe when it comes to the importance of having the right sort of family lines among its aristocratic class.

Let us note, though, that this encouragement of genealogy needs to be within reason. The invention of spurious genealogies in order to increase one’s prestige is one obvious problem that needs to be avoided. Similarly, it is important to recognize that one’s family origin does not save us. God can raise sons of Abraham from stones, and the Bible also (see Psalm 87, Isaiah 56, Galatians 3) clearly views those who believe as being adopted into Israel regardless of their ethnic origin. Those who come to a belief in God and an obedience to His ways without a pedigree of righteous faith in generations before them (at least as far as it is known) have the benefit of providing a means by which God can bless future generations of families yet unborn extending well into the future as has been the case in the past. One need not imagine that it will take extensive effort to encourage genealogical research in the Church of God–as many are no doubt doing that already, but encouraging such efforts and passing along such information, both from documentary evidence as well as genetic genealogy, is certainly something that can be greatly encouraged.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to A Modest Proposal For The Encouragement Of Genealogical Research In The Church of God

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    I’ve always been of the mindset that as God designates us as kings and priests in the Kingdom, we descend from kingly and priestly lines as well. The physical and spiritual always aligns and God is all about the family Tree and its Roots.

    • Yes, that is precisely the point I was making. Within reason–and while avoiding the cultivation of arrogance about our background relative to others–we should develop a greater understanding of our own family connections and the blessings that God has given to us through our ancestors and the way that our own lives are part of a larger story of God’s working with humanity as a means of better understanding the connection between past blessings and future opportunities for service and leadership that God plans both now and in the world to come.

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