The problem with History

Most people have a pretty good idea of what the word “history” stands for. It’s the story of how we got to where we are today. It is the narrative of what has actually happened up until the present.

For me, history has cause and purpose: ultimately, God would save us from ourselves to be like Jesus and so live responsibly in harmony. Those who refuse God’s offer of help, will live this life in the state which they have chosen. That will also be their choice eternally.

Many professional historians have their version of Purpose in history. Among them, there are two schools of thought: the Marxist and the Whig. There are also Historians who believe that there there is no such inevitability;  it all depends on the choices people happen to make; there is no Purpose to which events lead.

Personally I don’t see this world getting any better. I do see a world of increasing affluence and technological sophistication as each successive generation benefits from the discoveries of a previous generation and builds upon them. But I see no progression whatsoever in the basic problem of humanity: sin – the taint of rebellious immorality in the heart of each and every human being. Both the Marxist and the Whig believe in things ultimately getting better. But that is not the reality, is it ? Wars and famine abound, even in the world today with its unprecedented levels of wealth and education.

Both of these schools of thought start with a presupposition about our existence and how it must work out. For the Marxist, it’s the inherent clash of economic classes;  while for the Whig, it is the inevitable progression of human knowledge and capability.

Those who think like this invariably believe in Evolution. They believe that human beings themselves developed from a much lower, simpler life form to become the complex and sophisticated beings we are today: ie a self aware life form with the capacity to manipulate its physical environment to self advantage – ranging from high speed travel between sophisticated urban environments to high speed computerised communications.

Yet all this progress towards more and more complex, organised systems is all predicated on a spontaneous assemblage of atoms. A highly sophisticated life form is supposed to have emerged from small scale and random collections of elements.

But how can our intelligence emerge where none existed before ? How can a simpler life form become a more complicated one  ?

To this, the philotheist has an answer: the necessary intelligence is given by the designer – the Creator. But the Materialist can have no such answer. The Designer does not exist. So their notion of progessive development must be fundamentally incoherent: order comes out chaos, spontaneously; complexity somehow emerges from simplicity. Implausible and Impossible.

Then there is the other philosophical view of history. That view says that nothing is inevitable at all, and that everything is haphazard and chance. We don’t know how it will fall out until it actually happens. There is no preset purpose of plan. It all depends on the multitude of interactions at work.

Well, I agree we don’t know how it will work out until it actually happens. That is because God the designer of our universe chooses not to reveal it to us, beyond the very general notion of saving a people out of this world to worship God in the next life. Apart from God’s elementary moral code, how God will organise events on earth to achieve his purpose is hidden from us.

In pursuit of that ultimate purpose to secure an elect for eternity, God also reveals the attitude and morality by which we must live to please God, relying on God’s Spirit to make it possible. That lifestyle is revealed in every human conscience and in the moral codes laid out in the Bible.

So, the philotheistic view of history says there is a plan, but that the plan requires each of us to live a moral life, and do so by God’s power. On the other hand, human interpretations of history impose a human oriented/centred system of thinking. Human beings must strive to work out both plan and purpose of their existence themselves. It is all up for grabs. That applies both to the random view and to the view of persistent Progress. Both systems require human beings to act on human beliefs, relying on human effort. Human beings become their own god – and with disastrous consequences.

In the philotheistic interpretation, however, God becomes the purpose and God becomes the means. Our responsibility as human beings is

  1. to live in harmony with each other, and
  2. to do so by the power which God supplies

Human centred conceptions of history, however, place human effort and human ideas at the centre. Dangerous ideas like class struggle. And that provides a clue as to the ultimate problem. Human ideas are a counterfeit of the divine order; human ideas exploit our fundamental awareness that our existence has purpose, substituting man’s explanation of that purpose. Thus human ideas mirror the spiritual reality of who we are but place human beings – not God – at the centre.

The Marxist counterfeit supplies an alternative message of salvation [or deliverance] from the woes of this life. Karl Marx provides the new Holy Scriptures defining life and salvation. The communist party is the new church, the bearer of Marx’s new ‘gospel’ message. This new priesthood not only spreads the word of Marx, it is also very willing to offer up the sacrifice of its enemies to the Material god as Leninism, Stalinism and Maoism all too often demonstrated.

The Whig notion of Progess is likewise counterfeit. The Purpose is Progress is according to this world’s values and goods. Progress is about improving the human situation in this world. There is no other life to consider because there is no other world. Improvement is inevitable and cumulative. And yet the world suffers mounting problems in every domain of life because Materialism cannot solve sin.