Sunday, May 3, 2009


Although there may actually be more than three, it seems that almost all of the variant views of the concept of History fit into one of three different perspectives.

The first perspective is mentioned by C.S. Lewis in some of his writings about basic Christianity. It views the creator-god (if indeed there is a god) as a being who made the universe, gave it some impetus to run, and then left it alone to fend for itself. This god has had nothing to do with his creation, other than observing it, since putting it in place. The creation has been left to deteriorate and will eventually disappear. Life and human history have no meaning beyond the moment in which a life is being lived.

The second perspective views history as a series of cyclical events that are continuously repeated. It could take dozens, hundreds, or thousands of days or years, but history will always repeat itself. This view also renders human history as meaningless. There is no uniqueness to people, places, or events. What has happened has already happened and will happen again. The circle of history is inevitable and people who live within the circles are simply part of a pattern (or cyclical fate) that will be repeated no matter what their individual capabilities or contributions to society. This perspective was promoted by Greek philosophy already during Jesus' lifetime.

I remember being introduced to the third perspective in Old Testament class in my sophomore year of college. The professor (Carl Gutekunst) explained that all of human history is in fact Heilsgeschichte, or "holy history," better phrased as "salvation history." Kenneth Bailey describes it (in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes) like this: This perspective views history to be like an arrow that moves toward a target called "the day of the Lord" (Amos 5:18) or "the kingdom of God" (Matthew 1:15). In this view, history has direction and meaning. Caught up in the struggles of the present age, the faithful may not always be able to "see the big picture," but there is one. Furthermore, it is inappropriate for the individual to try too hard to discover that purpose in any particular event. No foot soldier can understand the wider scope of a great battle in which he or she is involved. ... people can live out their lives with the quiet confidence that the One who holds the rudder of history has not fallen asleep. Building on this view of history, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come"...

By the way, this third perspective is explained very well by an audio presentation called "Bible in an Hour" by Wade Butler. [] The presentation literally tells the whole story of the Bible, from Adam and Eve to Revelation, in one compact presentation, showing without a doubt that all human history is tied to salvation history. I've used this presentation as supplemental material in confirmation instruction, in my 7th/8th grade Biblical Studies classroom, and with women's Bible studies. "Listeners" enjoy it, coming away with a better understanding of the Bible as a whole, and an increased appreciation for the way that God has always worked within the framework of human history to bring us the gift of salvation.

No comments:

Post a Comment