Saturday, January 30, 2010

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.

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