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God is the Author of All History

History Must Be Important to the Christian

God’s Word teaches us that remembering is important. Repeatedly, God instructed His people to construct monuments, to write songs, or to establish rituals and traditions, to help them remember. These piqued the curiosity of each new generation causing them to ask questions so they too could learn, and then in turn pass on the memory of what God had done.

As Christians we need to understand one fundamental aspect of history: all of history is God’s story. It is His story. It hampers us to view the world through a secular and sacred division. It is especially damaging to our understanding of the world when we separate history into normal or secular history on the one hand, and then sacred or church history on the other. As if there is the Bible’s view of history that we are supposed to acknowledge in church dealing with creation, sin, redemption, and a future paradise, and then there is normal history that is concerned with the advancement of technology and the rise and fall of nations.

We cannot afford to view biblical history, and the continuation of redemptive history beyond, as something separate from everything else that goes on in the world. We need to learn to think biblically – as Christians. We must learn to see the movement or rise and fall of nations and empires as events that take place within God’s providential timeline in His creation. This is not difficult when it pertains to those nations that we interact with in Scripture such as Israel, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, or Rome. Yet it may take a little more effort when you consider the history of China, Russia, or England.

Part of understanding that all of history is God’s story is realizing that there is purpose and direction in everything. Nothing is random or by accident. Nothing is meaningless. History had a beginning. It has a metanarrative concerning God’s interaction with His creation, and it has a definite direction and end to which everything is moving. This is an inescapable reality in Scripture. Considering this is true, what sense does it make to think of history in any other way, or divorced from its place within that metanarrative?

All History Is Biased

Many think that we should look at history through a neutral commitment to just the facts, as if we could be unbiased as we consider what has come before, and what it might mean for where things are going. Conversely, there is nothing in life where anyone can truly be unbiased. In fact, the study of history is one of those areas where those biases become most pronounced. We cannot help but look at people or societies long gone and compare their words or actions against our modern sensibilities.

We never truly know everything about what is going on around us today, much less what happened a hundred or a thousand years ago. Besides that, if we really want to see something, chances are we will. When we study history, we will much more easily find evidence for that which confirms our bias than we will that which challenges our presuppositions.

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Views of History

We all approach the study of history with a certain bias, and therefore will be guided by which view of history we hold. Is history linear or circular, random chance or providentially ordered? Is history the unfolding relationship between God and man, or an unending battle between ever-changing factions of men?

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives four helpful aspects that define a biblical understanding of history:

  1. A biblical understanding of history recognizes that there is “one all-powerful God who is the Creator and Lord of history and all its particular manifestations.”
  2. History is linear. There was a beginning, a continuing progression, and there will be an end. History moves in a single direction; it does not circle back on itself in endless loops.
  3. A biblical understanding of history recognizes that there is meaning in all of history.
  4. It teaches us to view history with hope. The material world was made good, and even though creation was cursed, there is yet a mark of that goodness all around us. More importantly, the Bible teaches us that things are moving forward to a positive conclusion.

Alternate views of history include a cyclical view, where everything in history is but a circling back to what has been before; we are only making our way around to what has already been. A view of history that flowed out of the Enlightenment, is the inevitable progress view. Under this view, which shows heavily in Darwin and his view of evolution, is that everything in history is unavoidably progressing toward a higher form.

Additional views of history emphasize something quite different, as though history is completely driven by chance. There is no way of knowing or expecting that things will improve or continue much as they have been. Other views emphasize a total lack of meaning or purpose in any individual’s or society’s actions or progress.

The Problem of Revisionist History

There has always been an impulse for people to want to control the flow of information. This is especially true in the communication of people and events within history. You have likely heard it said that history is written by the victors. There is truth to that. It is also true that history is continually adapted and rewritten by those who control the levers of education and media and have something to gain from a different story being told.

It would be great to be able to trust everything we read about the past, but if we are honest, we cannot trust everything we hear about events that are taking place today. Sometimes things are recorded and remembered falsely because only a small piece of the puzzle was witnessed, or key elements were misunderstood. That happens all the time in news reporting today, a constant reminder that we are wise to take a moment to reflect on and patiently wait for all the evidence to come to light before making a judgment on a matter.

Revisionist history comes in many forms. One may record or emphasize only one side of an issue. We also see this in the redefining of terms, or when modern definitions of words or modern sensibilities are forced onto ancient words or actions. The revision of history occurs when we force modern or arbitrary standards onto a past age where such a standard would have been inconceivable. The only standard we can safely apply across the ages and in every culture is the standard of God’s Word – and that only because we understand that this is God’s world, and He sets the definitions in His creation.

We need to realize that much of what is passed as history has been handed down to us through the lens of people with an agenda: to support their position, or to demonize their enemies. People will rip characters, movements, and historical events out of their context. When it is impossible to fabricate believable evidence to change the facts, they will try to control the narrative by which we might understand the motivations of people long gone.

We are seeing a flood of historical revision in recent years concerning historical eras such as the Crusades, European colonization, the founding of America, and the Civil War just to name a few. People who were once celebrated for their discoveries and virtues are now being villainized due to newly attributed motives that do not align with modern sensibilities or because their actions and words would not satisfy the current demands of our culture’s elites. It is not enough to just label something as evil today, people desire to undercut its foundations throughout history as well.

Principles for the Study of History

I want to end by giving a few helpful thoughts on how we can approach the study of history and try to protect ourselves from both false records and faulty revisions. These principles can help us evaluate modern reporting of events as well:

  • How many independent sources are available? More, and varied sources are generally better. They can help showcase individual reporting bias and coalesce around what actually happened.
  • How close in time and location are the records to the actual events? Closer is better in both regards.
  • How much evidence is available for us to study today? Are the accounts we have from eyewitnesses, or from people who only heard from witnesses or saw evidence not available to us today?
  • How much do later historical records or thoughts differ from how someone or something was understood in an earlier generation? People close to the situation may have gotten things wrong, but while they certainly had their own biases, radical change on previously accepted historical understanding usually follows a modern agenda to manipulate people by altering the past. Also, when we consider the reliability of a source, what evidence do we have that would show that someone would have had reason and ability to embellish or to outright lie?

We should keep some clear principles in mind as we approach the study of history, or even of current events. Try and understand everything within the big picture of where things take place in the great cosmic scene of God’s story. We should remember that we never have the whole picture, and things are always more nuanced than we appreciate. We should consider both the bias of the one who gave us the record, and the bias that we bring to the study.

We need to evaluate with just balances. Do not employ tactics in your arguments against others that you would feel wronged were they used against you. Finally, we must not hold on to ideas or details more tightly than is proper. Nothing is absolute other than what is revealed to us in God’s Word, and even then, we ought to always be open to correction if we are shown plainly through Scripture and clear reasoning that we have erred.

Season 2 Episode 14 history

Listen in on Caleb and Lindsey's conversation on this topic:

All of history is God's history, but you may not understand how much of your history knowledge has been influenced by the media, your college professors, our federal government, or even your well-meaning but incorrect Sunday School teacher. We often make a separation in our minds between what is Church history and what is "regular history," but this is a fallacy. We need to see all of history as God's history and adopt better habits when we approach learning history through the biblical lens of a Christian worldview. Discernment is key. Listen here.

Train Your Children in a Christian Worldview

Everyone has a worldview whether they realize it or not, and more than likely their worldview is not consistent with itself. As Christians, we are called to have a thoroughly biblical worldview.

This Family Field Guide is a work-in-progress as we march through a series on both the blog and the podcast teaching families how to build a Christian worldview based solidly on the one standard for all life and truth, God’s Word.

Download your copy of this Family Field Guide for FREE to use with your family or your church. It is a discipleship resource to help you think more broadly and intentionally about your own worldview, and to help your children as they grow and learn more about how this impacts their own lives.

Christian Worldview Field Guide

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God is the Author of All History

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We Are Called To Live As Citizens of Christ's Kingdom

Cultivating a Kingdom Mindset: A Christian Worldview Series

Bible Investigators: Creation Book Review

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