What Is Your Philosophy of History?

Before you answer, you may want to ask, “What do you mean by philosophy of history?”

You may find you are like the man who one day realized that he had been speaking prose all his life. You do have a philosophy of history regardless of whether or not you can state it. Let me start by asking several questions that will show your outlook on history and life.

Do you believe that this world and human life had a beginning? What do you believe about that beginning? God did it. It all happened purely by chance and natural forces. Or it had no beginning.

Do you believe the world and human history will have an end? At a final judgment preceding an eternal existence? Or the heat death of the universe?

Do you believe human history has a meaning and purpose? Is God in charge of the overall direction of human history? Is it a purely natural evolutionary process without any meaning or purpose? Is the past irrelevant? Or do past events have significance in helping us understand the present and prepare for the future?

What does God have to do with the world and humans? Has and can God supernaturally intervene in human history? Is God separate from the world?  Or is the world and all in itself God?  Can the world be explained without God?

What are human beings? Merely matter in motion? Advanced animals? Persons made in the image of God? Do humans have eternal spirits? Can we make free choices? Or are our actions as determined and programmed by our heredity and environment? Are people inherently good and perfectible? Or are we sinners?  Is death the end of our existence? Or is there life after death?

As a Bible-believing Christians, we believe God created the world and life. We believe the world will come to a close when Jesus returns and after judgment we will spend eternity either in heaven or hell. We believe human history has meaning as God’s plan of redeeming men and women. God can and has intervened in human affairs. We are made in God’s image as free agents, but as sinners we need his redeeming grace.

This philosophy of history helps us interpret events we deal with every day in life. Especially when tragic events disrupt our lives, our outlook on history guides how we deal with these events. We need to look at the big picture in order to deal with an unpleasant present.

Proud Rome eventually fell. In AD 410, Alaric and the barbarians defeated and sacked Rome. Many Christians felt God had forsaken them and questioned his care for them. The pagan Romans said Rome fell because it has become Christian.

Augustine, a former pagan converted to Christ, wrote the City of God to help Christians deal with the fall of Rome. He showed that civilization after civilization had fallen without becoming Christian. The heart of his book described two kingdoms: the city of God and the city of earth. The city of God consists of those who love God and love others. Those who live only for self make up the city of earth. Regardless of what happens in this life, those in the city of God have an eternal relationship and home with God.

In the early years of the church, membership consisted of Jews converted to Christ. Still they had roots and emotional ties to Judaism, Jerusalem and the temple. I believe to an extent the book of Hebrews was to prepare them for the approaching destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by Romans in AD 70. The writer wants the Hebrews to see that Christianity is superior to Judaism. He wanted them to put events in perspective and see the big picture. Regardless of what happens, don’t quit. Be faithful to Christ. You are a part of the eternal city of God. “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28, ESV).

Commentators on current events who know little history are “ulcer historians.” They wake up in a new world every day. Everything that happens is a world-shaking crisis. Instead of “the sky is falling” mentality of these people, those who have a mature view of history’s big picture are able to put current happenings into perspective.

Even when crises intrude upon our lives, we need to continue to faithfully trust in God. The election of a president, the loss of a loved one or a job, the diagnosis of a serious health condition are significant events, but we must always interpret and deal with them in the light of the big picture of our Christian view of history. Our most important citizenship is being in the city of God, not the city of earth.