Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

The Problem with Progress

The thesis of Glen Scrivener’s most recent book The Air We Breathe is that Western societies have absorbed Christian values by osmosis. He suggests that even if we haven’t noticed it yet, our collective convictions about the importance of equality, compassion, consent, enlightenment, science, freedom and progress all come originally from the Bible and are a radical departure from both pre-first century views and those of most non-Westerners today.

Few of us Westerners are Christians, yet the faith of our fathers has subversively Christianized society in some respects at least. Even those who object fervently to the Christian faith often object for reasons only the Christian faith itself could ever supply.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Quote of the Day (45)

As we have worked our way through the Minor Prophets in our Saturday studies, we have noted repeatedly the problem of communication that the Holy Spirit had to resolve when speaking through Hebrew seers two to three thousand years ago about events still to take place. I mention the Holy Spirit particularly, because the prophets themselves may not always have understood the communication barriers involved, though the Spirit of God was well aware of what was going on as he carried them along.

After all, in many cases the prophets had no idea when God would bring about the fulfillment of the events they described, let alone all the things that would happen to the nations and peoples they mentioned in the interval.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

What Does Your Proof Text Prove (27)

“Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.”

The passage quoted above is from Genesis 14. It describes the actions of four kings who fought with five other kings in the valley of Siddim in the land of Canaan, where Abraham lived. Battles were going on around the patriarch as he pitched his tent in the land God had promised him, and Abraham, it seems, generally kept as far away from these as he could.

In this case, his relative Lot lived in Sodom, which had been pillaged in the conflict. With family involved, Abraham couldn’t morally stay out of it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Those Who Don’t Know History

We are where we are today as a society because we do not know who we are. We do not know who we are because we do not know where we have been, and we do not remember the lessons we should have learned when we were there.

Okay, there are other reasons as well, but ignorance is a big part of it. My kids were never really taught either History or English in high school. Even in the first decade of the new millennium, the ‘woke’ monster was stirring within public education. History had already become a problematic subject, and the great works of Western literature, allegedly full of patriarchal prejudices and badthink, were being chucked aside in favor of contemporary novels propagandizing about teens and abortion.

Having already ruined math, they basically stopped teaching anything else useful. And it’s far worse today.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Rainbow Unicorns and Cosmic Heat Death

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

I’m hearing this all the time now: Just a couple of days ago, our Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Russia has a chance to get on the “right side of history” and help negotiate a political end to the reign of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad. Former president Obama loved the expression, and Bill Clinton used it more than 20 times in his speeches. Writer Ben Yagoda says the phrase — whether it’s “right side” or “wrong side” — has been in use for over a century.

Tom: I can vaguely understand what a Christian might intend by the use of the expression, Immanuel Can. But what on earth does “the right side of history” mean in a post-religious, thoroughly secular context?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Quote of the Day (42)

It’s hard to believe how frequently “everything old is new again”, how often “what goes around comes around”, or how reliably “the past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes”.

Having studied the past only just a little, I have still seen enough to grudgingly second the truism that “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Even its slightly darker kindred observation, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” though wildly overused, has become cliché precisely because we have to acknowledge that people do this all the time.

We really must be nuts.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Not Done in a Corner

From the scientific perspective, peer review is the litmus test of reliability.

The idea is this: that in order for a newly published academic theory to have any credibility with either the scientific community or the general public, it is necessary for independent parties to test it: to carefully read through the documentation that supports it; to re-calculate the mathematical formulas that lie behind it; to examine the steps by which the theory was constructed and certify that its conclusions were arrived at in accordance with normal scientific procedures; in some cases even to re-perform whatever experiments are alleged to prove it and examine their results for consistency.

You cannot do science off in some dark corner and then refuse to allow anybody to see what you have been up to. If you do, nobody will believe you at all.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Authority and Example

Those of you who have been reading here for a long time may remember that I have struggled with the idea of Bible history being authoritative. Many things were done by many people during the roughly 4,000-year period during which the history of mankind is explored in scripture, some of them good and some of them bad. We can learn from all of those stories, but that doesn’t mean we ought to imitate the conduct of everyone we find in them. Abraham makes a better role model than Ahab, but even Abraham was far from perfect.

Accurate history simply records what happened. Telling you what you should conclude about it — or, much more importantly, what you should do about it — generally requires some sort of editorial comment or authorial aside. As Hume famously put it, you can’t get ‘ought’ from ‘is’.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Time and Chance (17)

I do not own or read many Bible commentaries.

Why? Well, I find commentaries tend to sway me toward specific interpretations of the text. That makes them bad places to start the search for truth — for me at least — because they rarely lay out all possible options for me to consider. Further, these selective impressions about meaning may or may not be well informed, linguistically accurate, carefully thought out, or consistent with the rest of scripture. Some are and some are not. The sheer number and variety of impressions gathered by different writers from any given passage demonstrate that not all can be correct, though some are definitely better than others.

So I prefer to read a passage multiple times, pray through it and mull it over, then do word studies and comparative analyses to develop an opinion about its meaning on my own. Reaching for a commentary is a very last resort. Confirmation, maybe.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

These Things Happened

Stephen De Young attempts to reconcile myth and history:

“In reality, the Old Testament historical texts are of the genre of mythic history. This term is not an oxymoron as there is no innate contradiction between myth and history. Myth constitutes the story of the spiritual reality which accompanies and underlies events in the material world. Mythic history, therefore, tells the entire story of an event. Myth as such speaks of beings and events in the invisible, spiritual world. History in the modern sense speaks of people and events in the material world. Mythic history explains the union of both and makes the events of history participable through ritual.”

It’s a neat little trick that doesn’t quite work. Or perhaps it’s simply too late.

Points for giving it a shot, though.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The 1,600 Year Conspiracy

We made him up.

Or so goes the story. By “him” I mean Jesus Christ. By “we” I mean human beings with an agenda.

On the surface it’s not a bad thesis. After all, you can’t rigorously prove biblical inspiration. Oh, you can make the claim, and you can demonstrate from the text that the apostles, prophets and Jesus himself claimed it too. You can make the case that inspiration is a reasonable and logical inference, and you can argue it from the sorts of behaviors these supposedly sacred words produce in the lives of those who obey them.

But can you demonstrate with 100% scientific certainty that the text of our Bibles is really God speaking? No.

And if it isn’t? Well, then ... we made him up.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

History and Message Fiction

I believe the most venerable and most frequently attacked Old Testament narratives in Genesis are genuinely historical. One reason: the moral lessons they contain are rarely driven home with a four-by-four to the reader’s noggin. I find that sort of authorial restraint persuasive. It’s what you do when you’re telling the truth rather than concocting a storyline or building a case.

Stories have always had morals; that’s not a new thing. The three little pigs remind us hard work will keep both you and your friends safe when the Big Bad Wolf comes knocking. Chicken Little reminds us that if you squawk about everything, people eventually stop paying attention. Good to know.

But history doesn’t come in such neat packages, does it?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

History Told Twice

Nothing too profound this morning.

I’ve been enjoying a book on the gospel of Luke (see an earlier post) that draws attention to the differences between the gospel records. Not those pesky “apparent contradictions”, but just differences in content and presentation.

Each inspired record of the life of Christ has its own theme or themes. (In other news, water is wet.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Almost But Not Quite Circular

Claims are not proof. But nobody looks for proof unless some kind of claim has first been made.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Andy Stanley’s assertion that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve is history, not just spiritually valuable mythology. For Andy, it is how Jesus spoke about Adam and Eve that is definitive.

I agree with him on at least two things: first, that Genesis is historical, and second, that the words of Christ are of vital importance to the believer. They are there to be pored over, memorized, analyzed with all the faculties God has given us, meditated upon and lived out wherever they apply to our lives.

Good so far. And then, me being me, I have to lob a monkey wrench into the machinery.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (2)

Here’s Andy Stanley’s version of a very common argument for the historicity of Adam and Eve:

“Jesus talks about Adam and Eve. And it appears to me that he believed they were actually historical figures. And if he believed they were historical, I believe they were historical because anybody that can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off — I just believe anything they say.”

Andy’s probably referencing either Matthew 19 or Mark 10, but either way he touches on an issue that extends well beyond the Garden of Eden.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Rainbow Unicorns and Cosmic Heat Death

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quote of the Day (30)

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ve almost surely noticed that in attempting to understand the meaning of the any given Bible text, I am reluctant to allow too much weight to the opinion of historians.

This is not because I automatically suspect all historians of having agendas, even though the politicization of history is arguably more pervasive than the politicization of science. Science deals (or ought to deal) in events we can replicate experimentally, and should in theory be far less likely to cede territory to the circumscriptions of PC ideologues than should the humanities.

But practitioners of the hard sciences are now demonstrating almost daily that even they cannot always be trusted to stick to the facts. It would be imprudent for us to exercise greater faith in historians, notwithstanding their relabeling of history as a “social science”.