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HISTORY. God often has been isolated from history or too closely linked with it. Marx refused even to consider divine activity in history because history is the outcome of matter in motion. Many of the theological existentialists so link God with what they call holy history that He is uninterested in the historical events resulting from human action. Others invert Biblical ideas. Providence is replaced by progress, eternity by time and a millennium by an earthly Utopia brought about by human activity in a secular setting. The Bible, however, links the events of salvation with empirically verifiable history except for creation (
The Bible and definition of history.
History may be defined as events in time and space that have social significance. This was the earlier meaning of the Ger. word for history, geschichte. The Bible indicates that the coming of Christ to earth in the home of Joseph is to be linked with history (
If we follow Thucydides’ use of the word historia, from which our word “history” is indirectly derived, and consider it as the documents, remains or relics of historical action or as research upon those events through these remains, then Biblical writers think of history in this sense too. Luke in the prologue to his gospel makes the claim that he used both secondary narratives and firsthand accounts by eyewitnesses of the life of Christ (
The Bible and the writing of history.
His use of the word parakolouthêo in
These writers recognized that, while God claims that some truth is His alone, other truth concerning historical events has been given to men (
Biblical writers such as Paul (
The Bible and the meaning of history.
The historian may be scientific in his method of gathering and evaluating documentary evidence concerning past events, but engages in what is philosophic work when he asks what meanings his carefully gleaned facts have. If, as it may be defined, philosophy is an attempt to find a unifying principle by which events can be integrated and related to ultimate meaning, then the Bible is also philosophic and has an underlying philosophy of history which all the writers hold in common. Both the secular and the divine history are related to the historical process.
Some writers, e.g. Oswald Spengler, think of history as cyclical, deterministic, and lacking any progress. Others in the liberal tradition of the Renaissance and Enlightenment are so sure man can make progress in history by his own efforts that they replace the treadmill or cycle of history with an escalator or spiral or upward-moving graph to picture their belief in progress by the efforts of perfectible man. Theological existentialists, who accept the universality of sin, are not so optimistic, but do have confidence that God will bring an end to history outside history. Evangelicals prefer to take their stand with the Biblical writers who were pessimistic optimists rather than pessimists or optimists in their interpretation of history.
The source of history.
Both in the creation of the universe and man many Biblical writers reveal their belief that the preëxistent Christ was the divine agent of
This is not to say that the Biblical writers ignore the role in history of secondary horizontal factors, such as geography, economics, or great men. Moses and later Christ recognize the role of the economic factor in history as a secondary or contingent, but never as a final cause (
The scope of history.
The Biblical writers, unlike Hegel who limited the divine in history to his ideal monarchical Protestant Prussian state, or Marx who looked to the chosen proletariat to achieve a workers’ Utopia, look upon history as a universal and unitary process which involved the human race rather than any chosen segment of it. All are linked with Adam as the head of the race (
Man is not only finite (
The scheme of history.
1. Paul considers the scheme, or course, or pattern of history to be controlled by the divine sovereignty (
God also is pictured as the sovereign controller of the events of history and particularly the affairs of the three most significant groups in Scripture, the Gentile nations, the Jews and the Church (
The solution of history.
God is also linked in the Scriptures with the solution of history at its end as well as with the course of events in time. God challenges pagan gods, according to Isaiah because they cannot foresee the end of history (
This Biblical conception of history does not exclude the secondary horizontal factors of history, such as geography and economics, but relates them as the ultimate cause in a vertical orientation to God. It speaks also to the problem of recurrence in history raised by the Greeks and Spengler and to the problems of continuity and progress that seem to be the dream of modern man. Change and continuity are reconciled in the divine plan for history which is concerned both with secular and religious history without creating a dualism. Both the writers of the OT and NT emphasize eschatological linear direction in history rather than cyclical motion or an indefinite spiral of progress through human activity. God is for them the Creator, Controller and Consummator of history.
R. Niebuhr, Faith and History (1949); K. Lowith, Meaning in History (1949); H. Butterfield, Christianity and History (1950); D. C. Masters, The Christian Idea of History (1962); H. T. Armerding, ed., Christianity and the World of Thought (1968), 147-164; J. W. Montgomery, Where Is History Going? (1969).