\”History has two sides, a divine, and a human.\” – History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff
This quote from Philip Schaff has been, quite curiously, a slow and steady force of change in my perspective on the purpose of history. I have only just begun to journey through the history of our fair body, engaging with some of the brightest minds and kindest hearts from the long, and looming rather large, family tree of the Body of Christ. From the writings of St. Paul and St. Peter, the apostles, in the New Testament, to the works of contemporary theologians like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and J.I. Packer. I have been powerfully impacted by their insights, their hearts, and most of all their reverence of God.
You, the reader of this curious little entry, have no doubt heard the following saying as frequently as I have, \”that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.\” – someone. It is explicitly because of this saying that I have come to believe that history offers us its own purpose when we understand it\’s nature correctly, a nature that is both human and divine.
It would pose too long a project to cover the ins and outs of what I have just said and established, that is the work belonging to a rather lengthy book, a textbook even, one might say, and so for the sake of brevity, I ask that you be willing to come alongside me on this entry, taking for granted all that I have already set in place as the foundation for this contemplation of the purpose of history.
It was Gottfried Leibniz, a philosopher, and mathematician of the late 17th and early 18th century who described the world as the best possible world to be created by God. I think that should we, as Christians, take the Bible Seriously, we will come to the same conclusion. That this world, its history, and its future, are the best that could have ever occurred and will occur. I recognize that in light of the horrors of the 20th century that this statement seems naive and perhaps callous to the deep pains of the human experience, but please be assured that I do not aim to be dismissive of those pains, but to rather, place them within the context of the sum of human experience, as one of many episodes in which human dignity and life have been callously dismissed for arbitrary and scornful reasons. History in this human sense provides all of us with a foundation for understanding and seeing, where we, as a species have been, the mistakes we have made and the victories we have had.
We have considered the Purpose of History in its unique nature for humans, and now we must equally consider the Purpose of History in its divine nature. While it is impractical and frankly ludicrous for any human to strive to ascribe to History the fullness of its divine purpose, due to the limitations of humanity. It is useful and productive to contemplate the results of this divine nature of history, and how such a nature impacts how we ought to consider our own story. History, in its divine nature, paints an eternal image of the push and pull humans have with God, wherein we are pulled to him, and before this pull, push him all the harder away. History\’s divine nature fuels our love for God, seeing the expanse of all that has occurred, all the people who have lived and died, knowing that God has chosen to love us, this is powerful and profound on so many levels and in so many ways, that for the mind and soul of a person to even have a glimpse of such power, one would spend their days at the foot of the cross weeping and screaming for others to know God\’s glory, and majesty and mercy.
The outpouring of history both divine and human, breathes life into the Body of Christ, teaching, exhorting, and rebuking the members so that all who know Christ may continue to grow in their reverence of him, which many call godliness. This is the purpose of history, and to treat history as though this purpose does not exist is irresponsible at best, and heinously malnourishing to the Body of Christ at worst.