From Bojidar Marinov’s History Is Nothing More Than the Perfection of the Creeds Over Time
We get two secular ideas regarding history: first, idealism
(the bold is mine)
“Human history is in essence a history of ideas.”
One is tempted to ask, “How would we know which of the millions of ideas born in the free minds of millions of free people are really what we need, and how do we know to discard the others? By what standard?”
Wells didn’t answer this obvious question. He didn’t need to. His faith in ideas as the engine of history – no matter what ideas they are – didn’t allow him to question the validity of any idea. Or, to be precise, his faith in the ability of the mind of man to produce good ideas didn’t allow him to accept as valid any question that would express doubt in the products of the mind. Notice I said, his faith. We’ll come back to it later.
What is not so well known is that Wells’s insistence on ideas as the engine of history was a reaction to philosophical materialism. Wells, as a good Fabian Socialist, was an occultist. We often look at occultism through the eyes of modern rationalism, as something only childish fools would do. But occultism is far from being a low-brow, irrational superstition; in fact, it was more often the religion of the educated intelligentsia. Occultism is the thought-out, rational secular response to philosophical materialism. In the non-Christian religions and philosophies, one is always confronted with the terrible dichotomy between freedom and order. (It is just another form of the greater dichotomy of the one and the many.) If a man wants to keep the element of freedom as a philosophical category without accepting Christianity, the only possible way to do it is to become an occultist; only in occultism is human reason theoretically allowed to have a significance of its own, and only then does it have meaningful existence. It is no wonder that almost all of the thinkers of the Enlightenment were occultists; the alternative was crass materialism which destroyed all human individuality and freedom, and subjected all to the impersonal predestination of material forces. It was that alternative that Wells was reacting against, both in his philosophy of history and in his science fiction stories. Wells insisted in his New World Order that in the new world, people will be “united but free.” Freedom was his constant theme although he never explained what he meant by it; and he opposed it to materalism, very self-consciously.
And then, materialism:
“The history of all hitherto existing societies is a history of class struggles.”
This is the well-known opening line of the first chapter of The Communist Manifesto. But in the Manifesto, Marx and Engels didn’t explain why the society had classes in the first place. Marx couldn’t even explain what a class was, and he never finished his main work, Das Kapital. He stopped at the question, “What is an economic class?” Engels took it up and explained how classes appear: The main issue in every society – or, to use Marxist language, socio-economic formation – is the form of property, or, rather, ownership of the means of production. We have class struggles because we have classes, and we have classes because some people own the means of production and others don’t. The question then is, why do some people own and others don’t? The answer lies in the purely materialistic explanation that humans need to produce in order to survive, and the means of production – impersonal and non-human means – require, by their very nature, a specific form of organization of production, which requires division of labor. Division of labor makes some people’s skills more valuable than others, and therefore they are able to accumulate more, and obtain ownership. But in the beginning – in that early primitive era – the means of production did not require such division of labor. What happened? The tools of work developed technologically to higher levels.
And that’s where Marxism stopped. Yes, as ridiculous as it may sound, Marxist philosophy views history as a constant class struggle because the material tools of work developed technologically to require division of labor. The law of history is nothing more than a purely physical law of survival of a species, albeit in a more sophisticated form. Mankind needed to survive economically, developed new tools of work, which led to all the evils and woes of mankind. It sounds as preposterous as occultism, but there again, it is a self-conscious reaction. A philosophical materialist, unlike an occultist, is willing to sacrifice the notion of freedom and individuality in favor of order, a predictable system of truth which explains history and everything else in nice, ordered, predictable categories. Marxism’s historical materialism was the almost perfect system for that, if one wishes to avoid the Biblical philosophy of history at any cost.
With the death of Marxism, cometh the death of materialism.
Occultism will prove to be the hardier beast… but in the end, that’s all it is, a beast. An unthinking reaction against the God of Jacob.
Thus, in H.G. Wells and Marx we have exemplified in a very crystallized form the two secular alternatives for understanding history. One is idealism, emphasizing individuality and meaning at the expense of order and system. The other is materialism, emphasizing order and unity of reality at the expense of freedom and personalism. One says that human mind moves history. The other says that history is nothing but evolving matter. One tries to subject history to the subjective reason of man until there is no difference between fact and imagination. The other tries to immerse man in history and matter to the total disappearance of man as a person and spirit. Both destroy meaning in history, and destroy man in the process.
If you actually plan on changing the world for the better, rather than be a delusional occultist or a mechanical materialist, then you had better look to Christ.
So what’s the Biblical solution? What is the Biblical view of history?
R.J. Rushdoony gave us the Biblical view in his book, The Biblical Philosophy of History. The Biblical view of history, of course, is that history has its source, mainspring, and engine outside of history, in God Himself. It is not history of human ideas, and it is not history of development of material tools, although these do develop in history, no doubt about it, but only as a consequence of a greater development. God must enter history for history to have any motion or meaning. Unless God enters history, we can’t even talk about history as a study or as reality at all. History is not the history of ideas, and not the history of class war, or of technological development. History is in essence God’s work in His creation. “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working.”
There is a certain implied meaning here: My Father is working, I am working… and you should be working for the Father, too!
But let’s have Marinov spell it out.
But looking at that one-time historical event of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago solves only part of our problem. It does give us a pivot for history to revolve around, a center and a culmination that give history in general its meaning. But stopping there only we will be handicapped with a static, albeit meaningful history, a history that doesn’t move anywhere, and lives with a past event which has no meaning for the other events happening before it and after it. All right, one could say, the Incarnation was the central event in history. But how do you explain the other events in relation to it? How do you explain what is happening today, or how do you explain the development of the Western Civilization, or of technology, or of science, etc, etc.? How do you explain WWII, or man on the moon, or anything else? If you only take the Incarnation with a capital I, you will soon be forced to answer any question about history with, “Jesus is the answer!” Modern premillennialists and amillennialists are in that position today; when everything that happens in history around them is always returned in a mystical way to either the First Coming or the Second Coming. But the dynamics is never there; as if events happen fortuitously, chaotically, without a plan that man can understand, study, and learn from.
A few aspects of the Creation (and quite a lot, even most, of the Uncreated God) is fundamentally unknowable… but we are to treasure what we know of God and His Creation, and expand on it!
And what God has chosen to reveal to us isn’t on the nature of His Spirit, or how He acts and creates; but on the nature of His Law, His Love, His Righteousness, His Grace, His Transcendent Holiness.
I suggest that these things – Law, Love, Righteousness, Grace, Holiness – is what we should focus our thoughts on. It is Christ, the physical incarnation of God, who is the path to live and love and joy: leaving the Way, the Truth and the Life boils down to attempts to grab the power of God in a lawless and illegitimate way.
And all such attempts, if not abandoned, only and always lead to the pit of hell, and then the lake of fire.
We need to see the incarnation in its comprehensive meaning in order to draw from it a consistent, working, coherent philosophy if history which helps us understand history and answer all the questions about. Not just as one-time event in history but as a constant movement which defines history and moves it according to God’s plan. Not just one-time incarnation involvement by God but a constant involvement in a visible, discernible way. But we all know that the Incarnation was unique, and it must be one-time, otherwise we are experimenting with heresy. But isn’t there a different meaning of incarnation, isn’t there a different way that God enters history to shape it without necessarily creating many Messiahs?
And we see it in the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31, repeated in the New Testament:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
We have here a form of incarnation, God writing His Law on the “flesh” of our heart. (Incarnation means “in flesh.”) In a parallel verse, Ezekiel 36:26, he says he will give us a heart of flesh, and then He says He will give us the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts (incarnation again). Ezekiel 11:20 says the same thing about the heart of flesh, and about a new spirit which will dwell in that heart. Hebrews 8:8-12 repeats the same promise, but more importantly, the New Testament gives us even more examples of incarnation with small i, incarnation which concerns the flesh of the believer. In John 14 Jesus speaks about the mystery of the Incarnation, “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me,” but then he connects with the other incarnation, “I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.” He uses that very specific word, mone, “dwelling place,” at the beginning of the chapter when he says, “there are many dwelling places [monai] in My Father’s house,” and then He uses the same word later when he says that He and the Father will come and make a dwelling place (mone) in every believer. (The only two places in the New Testament where that specific word is used.) The Church, of course, is the body of Christ, the fullness of the one who fills all in all, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 1. But more than just the church, Paul tells us that the individual believers are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 1 Pet. 2:5).
Obviously, God enters history not only in the central, one-time Incarnation, He continuously enters history and works in history through millions of incarnations that come like waves of the tectonic impact of that Great Incarnation.
There is the True Saviour, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.
And then, there are His little adopted brothers and sisters, trailing behind Him, following in His Steps, guided and shaped by the Holy Spirit that came after Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of God.
We are not God, and never shall be; the slightest: but, saved by the blood of the Lamb and infilled by the Holy Spirit, we can be increasingly sanctified, increasingly resistant to the temptations of sin, and after our deaths, our corrupted flesh will be purified in our resurrection, and we will perfectly reflect the sinless holiness of God Most High.
And that will be a very good day, indeed!
One of the reasons Jesus died on the Cross was to give us the Holy Spirit Who works out those small incarnations in practice. Now history has meaning not only in its center and culmination but it also has meaning as a process, as dynamics, as change and events and connections between events. Incarnation is the principle behind history, both culmination and change. God works through Jesus Christ in history; and He works through His people in history. There shouldn’t be any surprises here; the function of the Church and of the individual believers as God’s representatives in history, filled with His Spirit, is part of the Biblical doctrine.
But how does this incarnation of God in His people work in practice? If it is to be manifested in history, that is, revealed in history, what is the visible sign of God entering His people in a form of incarnation and moving history through them?
Hint: it isn’t to be forever a isolated, powerless, irrelevant and despised minority, incapable of shaping the world.
Here we come to the main thesis of this lecture.
The promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 which I quoted above gives us the answer to it:
“I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,”
This brings us to the most important issue of the creeds and the culture they create. I have argued in another place that Christianity is unique in the fact that the culture it created was a creedal culture, that is, a culture explicitly and self-consciously based on credo, “I believe,” as a unifying principle. The increased knowledge of God is expressed outwardly first and foremost in the form of a response back to God in the form of a creed. The sign that a person was admitted by God in God’s Covenant was that he now had faith – that is, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” – which made him self-consciously confess with his mouth what he believed (Rom. 10:10). A confession, “I believe,” credo, was the first necessary condition for a person to be admitted in the church through water baptism. The Great Commission required baptism to be “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” that is, a person had to confess faith in the Godhead as the teachings of Jesus presented Him. When a person made that confession, it was a sign that he had been adopted, and God and His Son had come to make their dwelling place in that person. God’s incarnation in His people, both as a church and as individual believers, was expressed by a confession of faith.
To answer H.G. Wells and Marx concerning the essence of history: It is not history of ideas because that would make history dependent on the mind of man; and it is not history of class war or development of material tools, because that would make history meaningless. History is the story of God’s continuous involvement in His creation by a way of incarnation, both one-time event with a capital I, and continuously in giving His people the knowledge of Himself which makes then confess faith in Him. History is in essence history of the growth of the knowledge of God. And this definition of history gives it both a unifying principle originating outside of history, and it also accounts for human freedom and meaning and participation in history.
And so, the meaning of History – and implicitly, the meaning of Life – is revealed.
From the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
OK, back to Bojidar!
And what about the world outside of Christendom? There again, no people has no knowledge of God. There is some knowledge, and there is some faith in everyone, even the most wretched pagan. And the history of the pagan nations is only an outworking of the development of their own “creeds,” or whatever they have in place of a true creed. Faith has consequences, and all consequences we see in history are the result of only one cause: the faith of the people, and the self-conscious formulation of that faith in creeds. You want to know about the feudal period in the European history? Go back to the creedal statements of the time and find the causes and answers there. You want to know about the Industrial Revolution? Again, go to the creedal statements of that time, and you will see the engine of the Industrial Revolution there. Want to understand Magna Carta and what led to it? Study the faith and the creeds of the English Church in the 11th and the 12th centuries. Want to understand modern America and everything that is happening around us? Identify the predominant creedal statements in today’s culture, and you will have all your answers.
What you believe shapes your actions.
What a society believes shapes its existence.
We are left with one last problem to resolve. If history is basically history of the creeds, of man’s confession of his faith back to God in response to the Holy Spirit’s work in his heart, and of the redeemed humanity as a whole in response to the Spirit’s work in the Church, how do we account for historical change? After all, once a culture changes its faith from pagan to Christian, and adopts an explicitly Christian credo, and changes its ideology and practice, and thus gets changed as a culture, what is left to do after that. And why do we have historical change in Christian cultures? Despite all the similarities between our time and times past, we cannot deny that the world is not the same as it was 2,000 years ago, or even 200 years ago; and we are obviously not going back to that time anymore. Just when everyone believes that there is no more room for historical changes, when everyone expects the world to freeze in a static condition in the present reality, history manages to surprise us with newer and newer realities. (Just look at the last 50 years.)
And this is where we learn of the great principle of historical dynamics, the principle that is the engine of historical progress and change, the principle that explains history for what it is, that gives history stable ground and impetus for movement at the same time. And that principle is this:
God uses history to perfect our faith.
That’s the purpose of history: God uses history to produce a bride to Himself, a perfect bride, without spot or wrinkle, a bride with a perfect faith, trained and tested in generations of trials, judgments, challenges, struggles, defeats, victories. He has no other purpose for history but that; and history is going to end with that Bride adorned for Her Husband, perfect in everything, a heavenly city of gold and precious stones.
And there you go.
We face challenges today that no Christian in history has faced before. The covenant is the same, the law is the same, God and Jesus Christ are the same, but the historical situation is unique. And we must admit that the church has been unable to deal with the challenges. That is because in trying to face them, we have either resorted to changing our practice or to changing our ideology concerning specific areas. But we have not been careful to examine our very faith, and how we understand it and formulate it. In this, we have neglected following the example of our forefathers in the faith. We need to re-examine our faith first; unless we understand this, we won’t be able to rebuild the foundations of the social order of Christendom.
In other words, faith has consequences.
You know my recommendations, right off the bat:
Ditch the pre-millennialism, the antinomianism, and the defeatism.
Also, the compromises with the world – not only in regard to abortion and divorce and perversion, but in law and taxation and justice.
Get serious about obeying God, and God will get serious about blessing you: making you the head, and not the tail.
Disobey Him, and you become worthless salt, to be ground under the heels of the heathen… just like Christians are, today.
You know which choice I recommend!