Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Augustinian view of history, A Study in Providence

Is God sovereign? If you truly believe that he is then everything must be understood in the light of His revelation. A Christian should have a well rounded education including a knowledge of history and its relationship to God's revealed word. History seems to be an important concept in the Bible. How you understand history is important to how you react toward culture.

If you look up “remember” in the Strong's Concordance you will find almost a full page of references. God constantly commands His people to set up reminders of His marvelous works. He commanded the Children of Israel to set up the Gilgal stones at the crossing of the Jordan, He set up the passover as a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt, He gave to the Christian the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's supper as a remembrance of Him.

Isaiah 46:9,10 reads, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure”. Passages like this one and Isaiah 25:1 inspired the Augustinian, or Christian, view of history. The Christian sees history moving in a linear direction for the purpose of glorifying God and accomplishing His will.

Another label for the Christian view of history is the providential view of history. Providence is a concept found in the fathers of the church and this country that has almost been lost on today's Christian. Tragically, too many Christians have allowed their view of history to be tainted by philosophies of men. If they will reject these false doctrines and view history as having a definitive purpose, the Christian will begin to act differently toward culture.

The first question in the Westminster shorter catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This is a marvelous summation of our purpose in light of God's plan in history. God's plan for this world, man and, yes, all of creation, is being accomplished through history and can be seen in passages such as I Peter 4:11: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracle of God: if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability that God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever.”

Understanding history as God “declaring the end from the beginning” and as Him “do(ing) all (His) pleasure” helps you see all of history, and everything that is happening today in such a way that motivates you to live for His glory. If history is seen as a purposeful creator directing everything to His glory, life then has purpose. You see, it's all about God. Man, even Christian man, tends to want to view everything in the context of 'what's in it for me'. If it is all about God then you can see history as pointing everything to His glory and you will live out I Cor. 10:31, (“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”) with gusto.

The Cyclical View of History

Most Christians are products of the progressive education system developed by John Dewey in the middle of the 19th century. The religion of Secular Humanism has been a controlling force in America since John Dewey and his allies gained control of the education system. Because the religion of Secular Humanism leaves its devotees with no absolute standard or purpose there is an overplus of historical theories vying for public acceptance. The oldest of these views is the cyclical view of history.

The Humanist Manifestos I and II (John Dewey signed Manifesto I) reveals the presuppositions of the religion of Secular Humanism. Consider this admission from these documents, “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created...We find insufficient evidence for the belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race. As non-theists, we begin with humans, not God, nature not deity...(W)e can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.”

Since history is just an endless cycle of repeating events with no purpose, those who order their life through this grid often become fatalists. Individuals and cultures that are influenced by this pessimism have no reason to better themselves or the culture. All is caught up in this all-powerful cycle of the universe. Many third world cultures are trapped in poverty, with no hope of improvement for their culture, because of their belief in the determinism of the cyclical view of history.

The tragic effects of this philosophy is most drastically seen in the multi-generational dependency on welfare of many families. These people have accepted the idea that they can do nothing to improve their lot in life, and besides, there is no reason to do so because all is meaningless. The sad result of the influence of the cyclical view of history on the Christian theology is seen in its degeneration into pessimism, and the idea that salvation is offered merely to keep man out of hell. To the degree that a Christian has been affected by this view of history, he will shrug off sin in the culture, and in his life. After all, nothing can be done about these problems, because life is an endless cycle of meaninglessness.

To the extent that the Christian has been influenced by the cyclical view of history, his dedication to the dominion mandate and the great commission will suffer. Why should he “subdue” all things for the glory of God, or “teach all nations” to submit to the authority of King Jesus, if the world is degenerating until the next cycle begins and then the cycle starts its degeneration all over again. For the Christian to be relevant to a culture that is trapped in a cycle of meaninglessness, he must grasp the concept that God is sovereignly in control of history, and that He is purposefully moving in the events of history to a glorious climax.

The Existential View of History

How one thinks determines his course of action. Therefore it is relevant to discuss some aberrant views of history. Because the Christian of the 21st century has blended existential thinking into his worldview to such a great extent, it is most relevant to understand what existentialism is and how it has become so prevalent in the Christian's thought processes. Then the Christian needs to cast off the existential component of his worldview.

Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the here and now. This philosophy can best be summed up by Ecc. 8:15, “man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry:” The only thing that matters to the adherent of this philosophy is what can be experienced at the moment. The past is irrelevant and the future doesn't matter, live for the moment and 'grab all the gusto that you can'.

Examining the commitment of most Christians to the study of history reveals at least a partial influence of existentialism in their lives. For most it is more of an influence than might initially be thought, as it seems that many have an unbalanced interest in the future. It could be argued though that their understanding of the future is skewed by their lack of knowledge of the past. One cannot really understand the present, much less the future without some knowledge of the past, and this knowledge must be ordered by a correct interpretation of the events of the past. In other words you cannot really understand past, present or future without filtering your knowledge of each through the Christian worldview, and the Christian worldview demands an understanding of history as a study of God's providence.

So how is it that a deficiency of historical knowledge has become so prevalent in the church today? It is partially a vicious cycle that created the downward spiral of historical knowledge, and partially an unbalanced reaction against heresy. First, because of an emphasis on eschatology, Evangelical churchmen have caught rapture fever, and they spend an overabundance of time trying to read 'the signs of the times' in order to predict the future in current events. The interest in the future has overshadowed the study of Christian history. Because of the ignorance of Christian history the average Evangelical Christian has a distorted view of eschatology, or the future. Secondly, Roman Catholics elevate oral tradition to the level of the written revelation of God, and Protestants have reacted against that. Certainly Protestants should reject this practice, but do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because oral tradition, or church history, should not be held as on par with scripture does not mean that there is no value in church history. As has already been stated, a Christian worldview demands an understanding of history.

Spurn the influences of existentialism on your thinking. Clutch a thoroughly Christian worldview. Christian Worldview of History and Culture will continue to provide information related to Christian history. It is, after all, in the name. The current culture may be the glamorous part of the mission here, but without a thorough understanding of history it will be difficult to get the culture right.

Mayan End Time Prediction 2012 is Just Another Meaningless Event in the Cycle of Human History

Man's fascination with the future throughout human history is relevant when it is viewed through the lens of a Cristian understanding of history. Since the Christian God, who created all things for Himself, is the only true God, it makes sense that all men have an interest in the things that God revealed in His word. God's word is full of substance about the future of man. It is testimony to the truth of scripture that even pagan civilizations demonstrate an interest in the doctrines of Christian scripture. The recent phenomenon over the feature film 2012 is a case in point. Not only was the pagan civilization of the Mayans interested enough in end times predictions, the pagan culture of America is still interested in their understanding of end times doctrines. Any cogent thinker is asking the question; how much confidence should be placed in the Mayan end time predictions?

Mayan ruins were first studied by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in the middle of the nineteenth century. Although archeology has unearthed much about Mayan culture, there is much that is still a mystery.

The Mayans seemed to be highly advanced in many ways. They had advanced knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, and their architectural ability allowed them to create great shrines to their gods and other massive structures for government, recreation, and the study of astronomy. Their grasp of mathematics gave them the ability to design wonders into their buildings that they could attribute to the gods, such as shadows crawling down the steps of their temples that resembled the snake god.

Despite the evidence of the Mayans' advanced knowledge in many areas there is much evidence about the Mayan culture that raises doubt about their ability to predict the future with any accuracy. The prediction of the end of the world in 2012 is based as much on the pagan beliefs of the Mayans as it is on the hard data found in astronomy. What is known of the religion of Mayan culture is very disturbing indeed.

There is conjecture that the recreation of the Mayans, at least near the end of their culture, was centered in their religion. There is evidence that their ballgames were as much a religious right as a form of recreation. At the end of each game it is evident that one of the teams would be sacrificed to the gods, and there is some evidence that it was the winning team that was sacrificed. In other words they believed that there was great spiritual benefit in winning the ballgame and then being sacrificed to the gods. Furthermore the Mayans sacrificed literally thousands of their children in their temples every year. The remains of these sacrificed humans are being found in the bottom of there cisterns, which were the source of their drinking water. This may very well be the answer to the mystery of the demise of the Mayan civilization. It seems that they were poisoning themselves with the decaying bodies of their human sacrifices.

The Mayans' understanding of life seems to be based on the meaninglessness of the cyclical view of history. It may be that what the Mayans were predicting for 2012 is just one more end time event in history among an endless series of such events. This would answer a lot of questions about the bloodletting ceremonies that dominated their lives and culture. If life is meaningless, then to be the object of the sacrifices to the gods is release from the cycle of purposelessness. The self destruction of their culture does not seem so far-reaching of a theory.

This should lead one back to the question, how much confidence should be placed in the Mayan end time predictions? It seems that they were not able to predict the demise of their own culture. What makes you think that they would have any greater ability to predict the demise of the world? As was just stated the Mayan end time prediction of 2012 is just another meaningless event in the cycle of history, not an event based on an understanding of transcendent truth revealed by the personal creator of the universe.

The Difference Between The Christian Religion and All Other Faiths is the Reliability of its History

The most important figure in all of human history is Jesus of Nazareth. In fact history is divided by the birth of Christ. All of time before His birth is labeled B.C. While all of time since His birth is labeled A.D. The influence of this Jesus changed the face of the world forever. Western civilization was built upon the teachings of Jesus and indeed was referred to as Christendom for many centuries. Yes, during this Christmas season someone in virtually every nation on earth will celebrate the birth of Jesus.

So who is this Jesus? Was He a great teacher with profound truth that became popular as his mystique rose? Some like to think so. Or, as Christians assert, is Jesus the second person of the trinity, the God man?

The great historian Dr. Luke, who wrote the gospel bearing his name as well as the book of Acts, relates the birth of Jesus as a miraculous event. He tells us the mother of Jesus questioned the angel who announced to her that she will bear a son, saying, “how shall this be, seeing I know not man?” Mary wasn't a biology major in the finer institutions of higher learning in the United States, but she understood that she could not be pregnant if she had not “known” a man.

This same historian, Luke, then goes on to relate the life of Jesus, recounting many miracles. Luke then tells how Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. Then He rose from the dead. This resurrection story is most amazing, as it is widely accepted that all men are mortal. In the book of Acts, Luke relates many more miracles, which are attributed as signs that the Apostles are acting with authority from God. Luke relates stories of many changed lives including that of Saul of Tarsus. After an appearance of Jesus to Saul on the Damascus road, he converts from a chief persecutor of Christians to the chief Apostle to the Gentiles.

You may want to deny that there is a God, much less that Jesus is God. You may deny that Luke has written Christian history and insist that not only Luke's history, but the entire Bible is a book of legends, myths and exaggerations.

The only problem with that logic is that it is a logical argument. If the Christian God of scripture does not exist to order the universe then there is no such thing as logic. If there is no such thing as logic then you cannot argue, in fact you cannot talk, whats more you cannot even think. Because if the Christian God of scripture does not exist to maintain order, then you cannot know what your argument means. In fact you cannot know what your words mean. Therefore, by arguing against Luke's Christian history in the New Testament you are affirming the validity of Luke's history, which clearly gives account of the historical Jesus.

The Marxist View of History

If you truly understand the goal of Marxism it is not difficult to see its influence on American culture today. Marx stated in his Economics and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, “The entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labor...” His historical materialism views man as a mere economic unit trapped in a class struggle.

Look around you, the struggle at work between management and labor, the struggle between the so-called races permeates the culture, the feminist movement has elevated the struggle between men and women to levels never before seen in history. None of this has come about by accident. One of the most prolific authors, disseminating the materialistic worldview of Marxism through his writings on history was Charles Beard. He purposely de-emphasized the Biblical influence on the founding of America, and tainted the character of the founders.

It is important to point out the fallacy of neutrality. To apply the providential view of history to your interpretation of history you must presuppose that the Christian God is the one and only true God and that He has revealed himself in the pages of Holy Scripture. The Christian must not shrink from this admission, for it is true. The materialist, or Marxist, must presuppose that the only thing that matters is matter. Just as the Christian has not scientifically proven the existence of God and the truth of the Bible, the materialist cannot scientifically prove the truth that matter is all there is.

Moving forward under the presupposition that God is sovereignly in control of history you can interpret history based on this truth. Any view of history that denies the sovereignty of God must of necessity distort the facts of history. Everyone has the same basic facts to deal with when interpreting history, but a Christian thinker will interpret history based on God's Providence, while the Marxist will interpret the same facts based on materialism. Compare this to evolution. The Christian sees millions of fossils buried in mud and interprets that as evidence of a great flood. The Marxist sees millions of fossils buried in mud and sees that as evidence of the survival of the fittest. Same facts, same evidence, but diametrically opposed conclusions. It is the same with historical facts. A Christian thinker reads the First Amendment to the Constitution and sees God, by His supreme authority over both church and state, distinguishing the authority that is be exercised by the church from the authority that is to be exercised by the state. The Marxist reads the First Amendment to the Constitution and sees a repudiation of God's authority over the state. Same facts, same evidence, diametrically opposed conclusions.

An effectuation of the Christian worldview would dispense with the class struggles caused by the divisions of the materialists. The struggle between management and labor would be smoothed over by following the scriptural guidelines for masters and slaves. There could be no racism, because scripture only recognizes one race – the human race. The struggle between men and women ceases when men and women recognize and fulfill their God-given roles within the family, and live as one complete unit. The divisions caused by the Religious Secularist denies Biblical standards of good and evil remain to the extent that secularism is present in the culture, but as the Christian worldview becomes more effectual the influence of secular humanism will win. Finally, there will probably always be divisions within Christendom, however, these divisions are a result of wrong doctrine. Though Christians are as guilty of interpreting scripture based on their presuppositions, the more the Christian worldview captures the church the more Christians will reconcile differences within the church. When you are willing to admit that you are starting with presuppositions then you are willing to examine those presuppositions to determine their validity.

The Martyrdom of Telemachus Still Inspires the Christian to Engage the Culture

Do you have a wall that you need to climb over? What is meant by that question? Are you familiar with the story of Telemachus the monk, whose martyrdom ended the Roman games?

According to church historian, Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, in his Ecclesiastical History, when Telemachus was in Rome he went to the stadium when the Roman games were in progress. Appalled by the spectacle, he jumped the wall and tried to “stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another. The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the triad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.” The Emperor Honorius, impressed by the courage of Telemachus, named him among the “victorious martyrs,” and put an end to that impious spectacle.

Telemachus could have stayed secluded in the monastery. When he entered Rome he could have just gone about his business. When he did go see the spectacle in the coliseum he could have silently slipped out during or after the games were over. Instead, Telemachus climbed over the wall and was martyred for his courageous stand.

In America, it is unlikely that a Christian will be martyred for standing against the culture, for truth. You may be persecuted for your stand, you may suffer material loss or emotional pain, but you will probably not be martyred. The sad fact is that some of your worst persecution could come from those who call themselves brothers in Christ, but are not willing to risk being ostracized or losing any of their earthly goods. Some of your Christian friends, out of guilt, are as likely to lash out at you rather than fulfill the call to engage the culture themselves.

Do you have a wall that you need to climb over? Has God given you a heart for ending one of the gross evils that are marking the American culture? Christian, to engage this culture may not even require that you involve yourself in a great controversy. The state has overreached its scriptural authority and taken on responsibilities that rightly belong to the realm of the family and/or the church. Maybe you have a burden to help offer scholarships to help Christian children pay for a Christian education, or maybe you are burdened to help the widow or the orphan, so they do not have to bow at the altar of Caesar for food, heat or other necessities.

Telemachus illustrates that one man can make a difference. Every time one more Christian engages the culture in another arena, or coliseum, America will be one step closer to the righteousness that God calls the nations to. Go ahead Christian, it's up to you, climb over a wall, maybe your courage will be the inspiration necessary to end a spectacle in your culture.

Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary is the Christian's Standard for Understanding the Founding Era

A man has accomplished much when he earns approval from Englishmen for his work, over the work of an Englishman. That is what Noah Webster was able to accomplish. The excellence of Noah Webster's work is the reason he surpassed Samuel Johnson as the premier lexicographer in world history. His commitment to applying a Christian worldview to every area of life is the reason for the excellence of his work.

Noah Webster was defining the characteristics in his life at the same time that America was being birthed. The events that take center stage always define the leaders who emerge in any time and place in history, no matter the course that they choose to travel. Noah Webster's dictionary incorporates the three main principles that defined Noah Webster's life activities. It manifests a Christian worldview, a Christian philosophy of government, and a distinctly Christian philosophy of education.

Mr. Webster saw, with the rise of a new form of government, which necessitated new modes of life, ideas, laws, and institutions, a need for new words, new uses and new standards for words. There was already emerging a great difference between American English and its predecessor in England. Noah understood that just as America had replaced the chains of British tyranny in her government, she must replace the corrupted standards of the British language.

What Noah Webster understood, that is lost on most Americans in the 21st century, is that every area of life and thought is influenced by the worldview that predominates in a society. British culture had long discarded Christianity as the standard for government and language. In his Master's thesis from Yale College, in 1781, he wrote, “This country must in some future time, be as distinguished by the superiority of her literary improvements, as she is already by the liberality of her civil and ecclesiastical constitutions.”

A centerpiece of His lexicography was the principles that he advanced concerning change and immutability. He shifted “standard usage” from the literati to the common man. He recognized that authors and writers were more prone to increase the use of modish, capricious improprieties in language than the common man. This was especially true of the American common man, because he was nothing like the illiterate peasants of England. America's common man was well educated. He read a newspaper weekly, as well as the Bible, sermons, treatises on the Christian religion, ethics, geography, and history.

Four things lifted Noah Webster to preeminence as a lexicographer for his time. One, he surpassed Samuel Johnson, England's leading lexicographer, by 12,000 words with his dictionary, and that was after he eliminated about two thirds of the vulgar words of Johnson. Mr. Webster's selection of words set it apart from British English, in that his selection of words related to the distinctly Christian form of government, view of liberty, property, and the individual. Two, he believed that the etymology of all meanings could be found in one fundamental idea. Three, He maintained a high standard of purity in language. Lastly, He placed American authors, such as Washington, Adams et. al. on par with British authors.

The 1828 Webster Dictionary is a great source for understanding the founding era. His commitment to applying a Christian worldview to all areas of life are demonstrated throughout his writings. His writings on politics reveal his understanding of the Biblical model of republicanism. His text books unwrap his commitment to a distinctly Christian education. Finally, the 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary confirms his dedication to applying a Christian worldview to language.

It is the opinion of the staff at Christian Worldview of History and Culture that every Christian family should own a copy of the 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary. Therein you will find Biblical definitions applied to American English. The 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary is your source for understanding the writings of the founders, as they were in large part the standard for the use of language as Noah Webster recorded it.

A Christian Worldview; What is it and Why do I Need One?

Some non-believers see the Bible as a collection of myths and fairy tales. Others view it as a collection of moral precepts to be held up with other great religious works. Many Christians look at the Bible as a blueprint for how to order the spiritual compartments of their life. The Christian who sees his faith as relevant to all of life and culture is in the process of developing a Christian worldview.
Marshall Foster says there is no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. If Jesus is Lord then everything is sacred. If, as Revelation 4:11 says, all things are created by Him and for His will's sake, there is nothing outside the compass of His instructions. To state this simply, every area of life must align with the principles revealed in His holy word. When the Christian orders every area of life with the word of God that is a Christian worldview.
The dirty little secret is that everyone has a worldview, whether he realizes what his worldview is or not. A worldview is the system of thought one utilizes to make decisions in life. The worldview that one adheres to determines how he will act and react in his daily life. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that everyone has a blended worldview. To truly please God it is incumbent upon the Christian to be constantly adjusting his worldview to fit scripture. The thing that is often more difficult is the application of Biblical principles to each unique situation in life. This requires wisdom, and a multitude of counselors. In other words, Christian, do not try to go it alone. Lean on God and His word, and commune together with other Christians who are seeking to understand His word through His wisdom, peeling away all philosophies that are foreign to scripture.
There are grave consequences when alien philosophies are added to a Christian worldview, or when it is divorced from any realm. When business is not ordered by Biblical standards you can never be sure of the quality or integrity of a contract made. When a Christian worldview is excluded from recreation the result is a morally debauched fare for the choosing. The American government illustrates the problem with replacing Christ as King; legalized murder, theft, and an attempt to force false doctrines on the church. Replacing a distinctly Christian education with secular philosophy results in an illiterate culture and an exodus of the youth from the church. When Biblical principles do not reign in all areas of life men and women replace the one true living God with a false god, resulting in lost souls going to hell.
Religion is not merely an individual pursuit. When your worldview strays from Biblical principles the affect does not merely affect your life, but it affects all of culture. The Christian develops a Christian worldview by “...bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ...” (II Cor. 10:5). Every Christian will admit that he is responsible to participate in the fulfilling of the great commission If the Christian does not have his mind renewed by the word of God he can not “teach all observe all things, whatsoever I [Jesus] have commanded you...” (Matt. 28:19 – 20).