Wander down any university hallway and surely you will come across a department of philosophy. Here you can study ideas in their historical context and how influential they were on that specific period in our history. It asks questions like “how should we understand the progress of this or that civilization, or humanity as a whole? It is a way of understanding the past through a particular lens, simply put a way of thinking about life. What emerges then is a way to view history so we can learn enough from it to avoid the same past mistakes. Interpreting history through a particular ideology may be tricky, even dangerous since either it liberates us to see things from God’s perspective and follow His course of life or it may enslave us to follow a humanistic view which rules out God’s intervention into history and sees our past and current situations as nothing more than unrelated events with seemingly no cohesion and no ultimate goal. Some, as is the case with Marxists and Postmodernists, find meaning through a narrow viewing glass that sees egalitarianism as the end goal.
Let us back-up a bit before we face off between a Divinely appointed end and the idea that history itself is absurd and has no ultimate meaning, other than the subjective means man chooses to attach to it. We begin with the Enlightenment period. It has been described as an age whose primary emphasis was upon reason, all-embracing reason as a philosopher has described it. Optimism was the order in that age, especially right after the second world war, where peace and prosperity were thought to be on the immediate horizon. Mankind felt that reason and knowledge put us on the road to human emancipation or autonomy, and that it sought to disassociate itself from traditionalism. At that time man became convinced that scientific knowledge and technology would be the way to a better life and would lead us further into our social progress. According to popular opinion, western civilization would never look back. But the dream came crashing down where succeeding generations sadly found out that previous hope of a better future were both premature and disappointing; where now whatever optimism may have been shared in a past era; any bright future ahead finds disapproval and rejection by the postmodernists of our day. Pessimism has replaced positivism from an earlier era.
Present day philosophers speak of the period we live in as Post modernity and refer to it in part as the loss of confidence in what we knew formerly to be the age of reason. The thought is that the influence of science and industrialization failed to solve much of this worlds problems and optimism faded, leaving behind a sense that most everything is uncertain and unpredictable. Just as in the 18th century, where the enlightenment era bred a new way of looking and feeling about things apart from traditionalism, came to believe in a brighter future, today post modernity now distrusts simple reality and despair sets in instead where even objective truth is rejected in the grand narrative. To the postmodernists history becomes nothing more than a bunch of detached stories unrelated in form and structure where it only becomes possible to find meaning by yourself interacting with the narrative to form any meaning from it. In reality, history becomes meaningless since it is left to someone else to find meaning in it by subjecting it to his own experience of reality. Meaning is not inherent in the text itself but must be brought to life by the interpreter, which leaves many viewpoints and perspectives that differ to each other and has no real centre in which objective reality can be known. Today’s Christian opinion runs afoul of the current trend that may be best characterized as a mix of skepticism, subjectivism or relativism which deny the existence of objective truth; which can be the case if their prism is anything other than a God perspective, then their ideology colours their historical narrative. Truth becomes the first war casualty when humans judge our past strictly from a human experience. For a moment, let us look to heaven to find out something about the course of history and where we are going.
The apostle John had lived during the Roman empire. He had been numbered among many Christians to be found in violation of the decree to acknowledge self-ascribed ruler as divine, and because of that he was relegated to the isle of Patmos, currently a Greek Island off the coast of Turkey. It was there that John was given a series of visions from God wherein he saw certain occurrences taking place in heaven. John sees both a lion and a lamb, both images of Christ, wherein one symbolizes quest and sacrifice, and a scroll. The scroll is in the right hand of Him seated on the throne and sealed with seven seals. An angel poses a question about the worthiness of any who might open the seal, and when none reply in heaven, John begins to weep. That is when the Lion of Judah appears. Only Jesus is worthy seeing that He came as a lamb to die for sinners and will return as Conqueror to receive them at His second coming. Jesus draws attention to the fact that He is worthy since He breaks the seal and opens the scroll depicting that He alone can and does interpret history but too, executes its events according to the divine plan of God! So that history follows a plan that will ultimately usher in a new age for His Redeemed people, which we know will take place in a new heaven and new earth. The linear time line is not encoded with mystery and secrets about the future, but rather on God’s Calendar. Much is given in the book of Revelation regarding the disclosure of profound forces against the Church and His gospel and the action of God against them! Some eminent philosophers may have abandoned the traditional methods of the philosophy of history and stopped looking to the purpose of providence directing the course of events. The Marxists and the Postmodernists may see equality and freedom as the proprietorial if we are to find meaning in history, but that misses the point that Christ is at the Lord of history and is both its interpreter and its executor Who in the end of time will bring all things under His authority for the purpose of His Glory and that of the Father and to reconcile His elect to Himself. One day Christ will return in His Glory and triumphantly reign over all of His creation.
Does history have a central point in which all things are governed by? Or is it for you a matter of blind chance, or some intransigent element like economic equality or social freedom that guides your thinking to believe in some kind of reason for all the things both terrible and good from past eras for you to be able and make sense of it all. When Christ is at the epicentre of it all, it all begins to fit together nicely. In two weeks time more about this but for now what is essential is that you consider where you stand today with God. God calls you to consider His Son and His offer of salvation. Do you recognize that He is the holder of the keys of heaven and hell and has complete authority to cast you in hell or save you?
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Rev.1:18
We have intonated earlier, that Christ is the only one worthy to open the scroll for He alone is the originator and executor of what takes place in our universe. That is why He is praised in heaven and we should praise Him too.
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Rev.5:12
In two weeks time more on history’s relevance.