History as the Outworking of Faith

Just a few selected quotes from two of Marinov’s articles,

History Is Nothing More Than the Perfection of the Creeds Over Time

and

The Hebrew Roots of Classical Culture and Law


From the first article, History Is Nothing More Than the Perfection of the Creeds Over Time

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.”

But if history is the story of God’s work in His creation, then a Biblical concept rises to the level of utmost importance of interpreting history: incarnation. God must enter history for history to happen; and history did happen and is happening because God indeed entered it by taking on a human nature. That Incarnation with a capital I becomes the center of history, the culmination of history, prophesied by those who lived before, and looked back to by those who live after. R.J. Rushdoony was very insistent on the meaning of Incarnation for formulating Christian thought, whether it was in economics, politics, education, or anything else. He saw its great significance for our study of history and had a chapter in his book specifically devoted to it: “Incarnation and History.”

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.

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?

There is.

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.”

With God’s Covenant-keeping people welcoming and living the Law inscribed in their heart – a lived theonomy – all history, all the world, can be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ. With big steps and small steps, even factoring in the occasional setback, the Kingdom of God will cover the earth in justice and peace, freedom and prosperity, holiness and love.

Increasingly and inescapably, more and more obviously:
God gets everything, and Satan gets nothing.

In time, and on earth.

With the final enemy to be broken being death, and then the Second Coming of Christ, as He is the capstone of salvation and victory.

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. 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?

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,”

The Kingdom of God is implanted in our hearts by hearing and heeding the Word of God, and it flows outward:

  • not by grinding unbelievers under our heels, as we are not Muslims consumed with hatred for the filthy kafir;
  • not by an ever-expanding set of rules and punishments, as we are not Secularist who adore State power and despise the liberty & property of the free man;

but with love, holiness, justice and compassion, in imitation of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. We turn from evil ourselves first; we uphold the rule of God first; and then teach others to do the same.

We need here to go back to that most unique book in the history of Christendom written by R.J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order, and the lessons it can teach us. Like I said before, it is unique because no one before and after Rushdoony ever set out to make the connection between the “pure” theology of the Creeds and the Councils and the “applied” ideology in the formation of the Western worldview. Most theologians and historians today look at Christianity and the church in basically the same way as they look at the pagan temples: Christianity and the church are there to meet a specific need of man, just like any other institution in society. When we need groceries, we go to the grocery store; when we need our cars repaired, we go to the car repair place; when we need entertainment, we go to the theater. In the same way, when we need some comfort or religious experience, we go to church. (And, indeed, isn’t this exactly the way churches advertize themselves today!) So the creeds, being only a church “thing,” a code for church identification or denomination identification, or membership tag, are limited to the religious experience of the believer. But Rushdoony opposed this tradition of truncating Christianity and showed that to the contrary, the whole Western worldview has been shaped by the Creeds and the Councils of the early church. We have all these ideas that are the foundations of our social order today because the bishops of the early church sat down together to formulate our faith in God according to the Scriptures. And this formulation was laid as the foundation for changing the whole outlook of the West – including in the areas of law, government, economics, and others.

[…]

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.

I will point out that the demonic creeds that currently control the West would have no power whatsoever, without both the passive and the active support of a great host of Christians, most certainly including those in powerful positions within the churches.

When God smashed our demonic culture, a vast number of Christians will be smashed as well.

Best to repent now.

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. All the events in history are designed by God to be His tools in teaching the church what to believe about God, how to believe it, and how to formulate that faith; and then, of course, how to apply that faith in practice. History is the giant testing field for our faith. We formulate and confess our faith, and on the basis of that faith we build our ideological systems and our practice. And then God tests our ideas and our practice against His reality in history. Part of it burns, part remains intact and gets purified. Whatever burns, must be discarded and replaced; whatever remains and gets purified, must be preserved to stand as a foundation of the faith of future generations. In everything, we are like the father whose son was suffering from epilepsy, crying to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.” And God uses history to help our unbelief, and confirm our faith.

I said above that when we look at historical events, we can trace their origin and causes back to the prevalent creed of the time. We can take the faith of a generation and explain what happened in that generation and how it happened. In fact, as Rushdoony did in his book, we can explain the whole development of that very unique culture based on the development of the new faith, and of its formulations in the creeds.

But there is more. The process is a two-way street. Not only should we be able to explain historical events and trends based on the creeds, we also should expect feedback from historical events which will help the redeemed mankind revise and perfect its creeds as it grows in the knowledge of God. God’s history is a two-way communication: God gives us His revelation; we respond in confessions and in the practical historical application of those confessions in a process of culture-building; then God uses a process of historical judgment to test our confessions through judging our ideas and practice; we respond in more faith, perfecting our confessions and therefore our ideas and practice; and so on, and so on.

What is the purpose of history?

God uses history to perfect our faith.


Now, on to a subset of the application of God’s supremacy, His kingdom, His law, with History Is Nothing More Than the Perfection of the Creeds Over Time.

A few years ago, at an annual conference of the Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society – just like the one I mentioned in the previous podcast, in Reading PA, titled, The Future of Christendom – I delivered a lecture titled, “History Is Nothing More Than the Perfection of the Creeds Over Time.” In it, I spoke of the principle of meaning of history, following R.J. Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order. What binds history together? What creates the cause-and-effect relationship for all the events in history. What is the red thread that goes through history and defines it, and gives it meaning? The Biblical answer is: Faith. And since faith in history is visibly expressed in the creeds of the church, my point is that history is nothing more than the perfection of the creeds over time. At every point in history, there is a level of creedal awareness in Christians which expresses itself first in their formal creeds or confessions, and then in their ideologies applying these creeds to the realm of ideas, and finally, in their practice, applying the ideologies to the practical world of human action and endeavor. What about the unbelievers? They follow suit. Every event in history, every trend, every continuity (whether growth or decline) and discontinuity (whether a revolution, a catastrophe, or a discovery of new technologies) can be traced back to the current level of creedal growth of the Church and of its influence upon the world. As the creeds and confessions of the church develop the faith of the church into a more informed, detailed, and self-conscious faith – self-conscious about all its applications in all the areas of life – the level of maturity of the world’s civilization will grow, and the world will be turning into a better, more productive, and safer place. Faith is the motion principle of history; anything else follows from faith. And specifically, from the Christian faith, given that all the other faiths are worth nothing.

Just to put the money shot into sharp focus:

“Faith is the motion principle of history;
anything else follows from faith.
And specifically, from the Christian faith,
given that all the other faiths are worth nothing.”

Amen, and Amen.

But the question still remains: How did these ancient civilizations appear, if we say that a civilization can’t appear without some sort of faith in Christ?

In order to answer this question, we need to make a short review of what is really known about ancient history, and then make note of one very interesting fact in that history that is seldom mentioned by secularist historians.

We know very little of the history of the world right after the Great Flood which happened about 2,400 BC. We know that Noah’s family multiplied greatly within a period of about 1,000 years. We don’t have many details about the historical events in that period. We know that Nimrod organized the first centralized state in Mesopotamia, and that under his rule some groups of men tried to build the Tower of Babel. Abraham came out of Ur of the Chaldeans about 400 years after the Flood, and by his time, there were societies organized as local monarchies all over the Middle East and Egypt. Some of these societies seem to have had high levels of technology, for they left us some construction wonders like the Pyramids and the Temple in Baalbek. Similar highly technological societies must have been founded in other parts of the globe, for we know of other, similarly impressive, construction projects in other places in the world, like South America, China, India, South Africa, and others. We know next to nothing about the real builders of these marvels of construction; as far as we can judge, they either disappeared, for one reason or another, or over time lost their technological knowledge and experience.

We have a sufficient Biblical explanation for the emergence and existence of these organized societies: In the several generations after the Flood, Noah’s descendants must have kept at least some remembrance of the Flood and of the reasons for it. The faith of Noah and his sons must have still been the dominant cultural factor in the world around them. After all, Noah was still alive when Abraham was born, and he passed away around the time Abraham was leaving his family.

This is the kind of Biblical insight that I love: thinking that takes the Bible as a set of factual, accurate histories, and logically draws the proper inferences and conclusions.

(Try doing that with the Qu’ran! Or whatever shifting mess of self-serving cant and plastic paper constitutions that makes up the ‘law’ of today’s Secularist States…)

Even more interesting, Noah’s son, Shem, ancestor of Abraham, actually outlived Abraham by about 50 years! These direct survivors of the Flood must have been the ancient substitute for an official public creed; their faith had given the foundation of a worldview that helped establish law, organization, and structures of government which were not easily corrupted . . . well, in the beginning, at least. Even where the people may have fallen into idolatry, the worldview of the faith of Noah had remained as a cultural heritage (similar to the modern Western Europe) and provided the intellectual foundation for their societies. So, in these first generations after the Flood, history was defined and motivated, again, by the faith of the covenant people of God, and their influence on the world around them, including the unbelievers.

This situation did not remain for long, however, for even at the time of Abraham we see that the cultures through which he traveled were already reverting to barbarism. In not a single one of these societies was there anything close to an objective law of the land. (Objective in the sense that it doesn’t depend on the whim of a ruler or a caste of rulers.)

Lawless lands are tough places to live.

Had enough of the lawlessness of your nation, Christian?

The first instance in the Bible when objective law is mentioned as a concept in a pagan nation is Persia in the times of Daniel. Moses’s promise in Deut. 4:5-8 that Israel would be unique because of the Law it was given was very significant. True enough, no other nation had such a law . . . or even a concept of such a law.

If you love justice, then you must love the Law of God. And not merely in some long-ago and far-away sense, but as words with teeth, in the here and now.

Apparently, after the death of Noah and his sons, the faith in God declined, and, accordingly, the worldview supported by that faith disappeared. With the disappearance of that worldview, the principle of cohesion in the society disappeared. All that was left was the absolute power of the local rulers, and a naked ambition for conquest and plunder.

Always with the worship of power. What is it with sinful men?

You might find your answers here. But in a sentence: “Power-worshippers, imitating their serpentine leader, are repelled by God’s righteousness and holiness… but envy His power and authority.”

There could be no universal ethics either. De Coulanges demonstrates that not only the gods were limited to the families, but the very concepts of law and ethics were limited too. Law was not universal, it was private to the family; and when the ancient cities were formed, law and knowledge of the law were a restricted privilege to the ruling class; there was no public, objective law, and the lower classes were not taught any law. Rome is a good example of that: Between its founding and the time of Julius Caesar, there were multiple insurrections of the plebeians, that is, the lower classes. To their demand for equal rights, the patrician class always responded with, “We can’t grant you equal status. You have no knowledge of law.” The law of the land was not public knowledge; it was a privilege of the rulers to know it, and they used that knowledge as a means of oppression and suppression of discontent. In Greece, and especially in Sparta, it was illegal to teach slaves or foreigners the laws of the land; in some places, even teaching the slaves to read and write could earn one the death penalty.

Any relationship with today’s convoluted legal codes and obscure, unreadable tomes of administrative laws, costly legal fees — “the better to subjugate the commoners — and arbitrary judgements is not coincidental in the slightest.

What did you expect from an offically anti-Christian, Secularist society?

Justice? Fairness? Freedom?

(And just you wait till the Shari’a gets into high gear…)

All this started changing in the 8th and the 7th centuries BC. First, the concept of gods as universal principles began to emerge. Those universal principles were soon separated from the local deities with whose names they were associated; the gods were sent to abide on the Mount Olympus, and they were now given universal power over the earth. The idea of Jupiter as an exalted Father of the gods appeared, and was promoted by a number of play-wrights and philosophers.  […] A number of Greek philosophical schools of the time were based on the belief in the universal nature of the godhead; and therefore some philosophies were devoted to examine the nature of that godhead. […] Similar transition from local deities to universal gods and goddesses was happening in the same period in India. […] The Shang, or the Heavenly Dynasty was known for introducing new concepts of religion and law in China, and building the first modern organized society. In its religious reformed, the Shang Dynasty established the worship of one god, ShangDi, the heavenly God. […]

Modern secularist historians, of course, claim that such change from local demons to universal gods was just a natural “evolutionary development.” It is very hard to accept such an interpretation, however, given two facts: First, the change was not accepted as “normal” or “natural.” There was resistance, and the old beliefs continued existing along with the new worldview. And second, the change happened almost simultaneously around the world; as if it came from the same source. These lead us to a conclusion – may be not 100% proven, but more probable than the alternatives – that the nations of the world learned about a universal god or gods from the same source which was popular around the world at the time. But was there such a source, and what was it?

The Bible gives us the answer: Solomon.

We are all influenced today by the modern secularist thinking that ancient Israel was somehow just a small insignificant kingdom in the big picture of things, and that when we study ancient history, we can easily ignore it. Somehow the Bible has its own version of history, and it relates to Israel, while there is also real history, which relates to the real events, and the two are in a state of dualistic separation. But the truth is, the Bible speaks true history, and modern textbook history is 90% and more the imagination of modern secularist historians. And the Bible gives us the most reliable account of the events of ancient history.

Hold on to your chairs now.

The Bible specifically says about Solomon that his fame spread over the whole earth, and that all the kings of the earth came to him to ask for advice. Not just some kings, not just the local kings. All of them. 1 Kings 4:34: “Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 10:23-24: “So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.” 2 Chr. 9:22-23: “So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.”

Keep in mind that what was happening to Solomon was simply the promise of Moses in Deut. 4:5-8 coming true. The nations of the earth were expected to be attracted to the wisdom of Israel and thus acknowledge and glorify the God of Israel. In the same way, the kings and the nations of the earth were attracted to the wisdom of Solomon; and this couldn’t lead to anything else but to some form of acknowledgment of the God of Solomon. And since the God of Solomon was unique in the fact that he was not a local deity limited to a nation or a piece of land, but a universal God, the nations of the earth started applying that universalist concept to their own religions.

The truth begins to flow out, to cover the earth.

But of course, with Jesus Christ, a King greater than Solomon, has emerged. And the world will move to meet Jesus, on Jesus’ terms, before His throne.

True: some will prefer death to bending the knee, as we can see in Western Europe today.

But I suspect that the Arabs – after just a few more centuries of pain and bloody futility – will in the end choose life over death. That shift will begin with the end of oil as a factor in their economies, one way or another…

By tradition, the creation of first public law in Greece was ascribed to Lycurgus, a king of Sparta who lived just a generation after Solomon. According to the many accounts of him, he was distressed by the internecine strife in his native country, and he voluntarily abdicated from his kingship and went abroad in the search of a good law to bring back. On his journeys, he met one of the most mysterious characters we know of in ancient history: someone named Thales (like the other Thales, of Milletus, the father of Greek philosophy and mathematics), or Thaletas. This Thaletas made his living as a bard at weddings and funerals, but he was universally known as one of the ablest lawgivers in the antiquity, who used his songs to teach his listeners law. Now, that was a novelty at the time. Not that the pagan nations didn’t have their bards, but these bards usually sang praises to their heroes and kings. Using songs to teach law was something new. Lycurgus didn’t waste time, and he asked Thaletas to move to Sparta and start a music school. there. Thaletas thus became the father of Greek music and the father of Greek legislation.

Interestingly enough, however, the name Thaletas is not Greek and it doesn’t mean anything in Greek. The name is clearly Semitic, and in both Hebrew and Aramean it means the same: a Lamb. Thus, the first laws of Greece were made by someone who sang songs about the Law (like David) and used a Semitic name meaning “a Lamb.” The story was well known to the classical world and especially to all Greek-speaking inhabitants of the Roman Empire. Apparently, the Bible also directs the attention of its Greek readers to it: in one of the very few instances where Aramean is used instead of Greek, Mark 5:41, Jesus uses the word “talitha” (a ewe-lamb, a name normally used for young girls, just like a “kid” today is used for children): Talitha Kumi. There is no obvious reason why Mark should use the Aramean version of Jesus’s words here, until we realize that for a Greek speaker, the text sounds like, “Thaletas, rise!” As if Jesus was declaring to all His Greek readers that in His ministry, He was the new Thaletas, the supreme legislator of the Greek world.

Multitudes of today’s Christians despise God’s Law.

In doing so, they are at odds with the Lord they claim to worship, adore, and obey.

As the heel of the secularist law grinds down on their windpipe, I recommend that these Christians reconsider their position.

“If it doesn’t put Christ first, it is an enemy of Christ… and only seeks the subjugation and oppression of those who believe in Him. Of this, you can be certain.”

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