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9. What is the Meaning of History?

By “the meaning of history” I don’t mean, that we study history to keep us from making the same mistakes. The question is whether or not there is any purpose to the actual events themselves. Actually, we could ask if there is an “end” in both senses of the word. Is history ever going to end? And is there a point to it all?

A. Pantheism

History is cyclical – since we are reincarnated, we get multiple chances to get it right. And “getting it right” means becoming one with the cosmic consciousness. So, there is no end – it just keeps going around and around. And there is no overall purpose. History is just the context in which the person evolves to a higher (or lower) state.

B. Naturalism

History is linear – just a series of natural events. There is no over-arching purpose. It just happens. And I suppose in the naturalist’s view, history will end. At least human history. Humans will eventually become extinct.

C. Postmodernism

The Postmodernist is going to also believe that history is just the study of one culture’s power over another. And since truth is relative, the postmodernist will be willing to revise history to manipulate people to believing what he wants them to believe.

For example, if you take all the stuff out of the history books about the founding fathers being Christians – and only promote the two that weren’t (Franklin and Jefferson) – then after you’ve educated an entire generation with that curriculum, you can make the claim that we need a separation of church and state and can keep Christianity out of the classroom, courthouse, government, etc.

If we examine the great social movements throughout history we see that they have never achieved the goals men had set for themselves. In the Middle Ages the compulsory Catholic theocracy was a failure – both because it was compulsory and because it was based on human works. Modernism, with its extreme individualism and industrial revolution, ends with the loss of individuality as men become just workers in an assembly line. Humanism denied man as being in the image of God and lead to the dehumanization of man. Socialism is a poor substitute for real community because instead of being based upon the religious transfiguration of man and sacrificial love, it is based upon the compulsory service of the individual to society for the sake of satisfying its material needs.49

The naturalist’s view of history is a hopeless one. Every social construct has failed – and it has failed because it left God out of the equation.

D. The Bible Says

The meaning of history is: Creation, Fall, and Redemption.

God is sovereign and in total control of the world. He has a plan and He’s carrying it out. He created man to have fellowship with him. Man sinned, and God will judge him for his sins. But God has a plan by which man can be reconciled to God.

God is totally in control shaping world events (Dan 2:21, Habakkuk 1:5-6) but at the same time allows men to make decisions/sin (as in 1 Sam 8:5-9) which shape their own future. In the case of the 1 Sam passage, this was actually a fulfillment of Gen 17:6 and 35:11. The people sinned, but God’s plan was executed.

And in the future, Jesus will return and judge the world. Acts 1:6-11; Mk 13:26-27; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thess 1:10; 3:12-13; 4:14-17; Titus 2:11-13; Luke 17:26-30; 1 Cor 15:20-25.

2 Peter 3:3-16 – we don’t know when it will happen. And it’s been a long time, since Christ left, but Peter explains that God is being patient.

E. HIStory or MYStory

I think the real issue is… Is it all about God, or is it all about me? Either I’m the most important person in my world, or God is. It’s either My story or it’s His story of which I only play a part. If it’s my story and things don’t go my way, I’m angry or depressed. If it’s just part of God’s plan, I can go through it knowing that God is in control and it’s necessary.

The Biblical view of history is the only one with any meaning. If you believe one of the others, you have no purpose in this life except to live it up and get all you can out of life. Sort of like where we started with our gusto beer commercial.

And I think it would be safe to say the other world views put “me” at the center. The pantheist says, “I am god.” Nothing else exists but me. The naturalist is all about being the most fit – surviving and excelling and rising to the top of the ladder. The postmodernist wants to be a big wig in the dominant culture. Only the theist recognizes that he is just a part of God’s plan.

F. Conclusion

In all our questions, we’ve contrasted what Pantheism says, what Naturalism says and what the Bible says. I think the over-arching question one must ask himself is: Which world view has answers that make the most sense. All the world views are based on assumptions that require faith. As we said in the first lesson. The choice is not between Faith and Reason. The choice is which is the most reasonable faith.

One could write a whole book on each one of the questions we covered. We just touched the surface. But hopefully it has raised some interest and now you will have a framework to build on. And hopefully you have seen how you can interact with your neighbors and co-workers and deal with some of their objections.

49 N.O. Lossky,

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