There's an interesting essay entitled "Roots Matter" over at Christianity Today. Written by Darrell L. Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, it succinctly makes the case for why Christians need to know about more than just the Bible. We need to know the history of the early Church. Here's how Bock puts it:
We are now in a period when it is not enough to know only about the Bible. The apologetics of the past is no longer adequate. Today's questions involve not only how the Bible came to be, but even if there was originally such a thing as orthodoxy. It is a crucial question. Christians need to know a lot more about the second century. Roots matter, especially in the founding of a movement.
One question often raised is how there could be "orthodoxy" when there was no functioning New Testament until sometime between the late second and the fourth century. Doesn't this mean that Christianity could and did go in all directions until the canon nailed down doctrine? The claim is that our history is distorted because winners write the history. My reply is that in this case the winners deserved to win, because their faith had a theological rootedness that the Gnostics' did not.
So how did the faith of the Church get passed down when there was not yet a canon of scripture? Bock answers that question by highlighting the importance of worship:
So how was orthodoxy taught? Did it even exist? The simple answer is that the "Rule of Faith" was present. But how was the Rule of Faith passed on from generation to generation? Was there a mechanism that allowed church members to know what orthodoxy was? The answer is yes. It can be detected within our oldest historical sources for Christianity, showing that the roots of our faith's content go back to the earliest days of the faith. Three words summarize that mechanism: schooling, singing, and sacraments.
Read it all.