A truly impartial and sound evaluation of the conflicting motives and actions of the principal actors of history is impossible apart from the guidance of divine revelation. Hence we assert that the postulate of God in history is imperative. History yields its true meaning only with that premise, There is so much that is petty, ignoble, blundering, cruel. But that which is seemingly accidental, debasing, and baffling is explained by ,this all-inclusive fact. So, the true student: of history, like the true theologian, philosopher, or scientist, must accept the postulate of God in history, else he errs and falsifies history.
The reign of law in history is simply divine Providence at work. It is utterly impossible, to think aright of religion and morality apart from such a premise. So the reverent historian must seek until he finds the central facts of history—the keys that unlock the meaning and relationship of all other facts and factors. Otherwise history is but a tangled, bewildering maze of human ambition, greed, and passion—the confused record of detached and unrelated episodes. But running through all this infinite diversity of human events is the unbroken unity of an infinite plan. This assumption of God in history implies His presence in all of history; it also implies that the universe is under moral law. Yet the element of human freedom and the occurrence throughout all stages of history of seemingly fortuitous and adventitious events make the secularized view appear plausible upon the surface. Thus many are deceived.
Materialistic and economic philosophies are markedly on the ascendant today, with "nature" working out her inexorable laws—and all forms of society constituting nature. Within a generation a fundamental change has come in the concept of nature, human nature, and history, with psychological behavior as a favorite burden. It is an incontrovertible fact that the most widely read popular treatises on history written since the World War are distinctly unfavorable to Christianity. This frankly unchristian attitude is in itself most highly significant. History is to the secularized historian but a procession of gigantic political and social upheavals. Without the sure guidance of inspired prophecy and a clear perception of the controlling forces and principles at grips, he misses the real significance and runs into blind alleys that have no emergence or relationship.
As the theory of evolution, with its principle of the survival of the fittest, has become the generally accepted explanation, the, unavoidable question arises, Is it possible for the evolutionized, secularized historian to reach a sound conclusion as to the final meaning of history? We again answer, No; not when he has adopted the evolutionary idea of man, creation, and history as the progressive expression of an innate energy. History, the evolutionist asserts, was made by man. True; but man was made by God, and in Him he lives and moves and has his being.. And history is but the portrayal of that operative relationship of God with man, and man with man.
The modern avenues of approach 'to history are many and varied—books to be read, records to discover, events to verify, dates to allocate, languages that must yield their secrets; furthermore, the clearly, recognized laws of repetition, sequence, contiguity, exid unity all come into the picture. The recorded events are grouped so as to express -differentition, Or unlikeness to other events; and wise grouped to express integration, thatis, to present unity, and thus to justify the premise of continuity. The individual event yields its true explanation only as relation to other events is understood. No event is ever isolated from its environment, or from that which lies outside the event. And the historian must find the relation of events, in sequence—the antecedents and consequents.
Applying this principle; History reveals an integrated succession of empires through the ages—including Babylon as related to MedoPersia, Persia to Greece, Greece to Rome, etc. But this becomes luminous with meaning, on the one hand, only as it discloses God's changeless deposit of heavenly truth committed to man, His testing of human character, and His development of a body of allegiants to that truth; and on the other hand, as it reveals the relentless efforts of Satan, through human and superhuman instrumentalities, to crush to the ground that odious truth and its devotees, and to alienate man's allegiance from God. Such is the grim, unbroken conflict of the ages. It is this momentous issue that creates the unity of the centuries and produces the sequence of nations. They rise, stand, and fall in relation to these immutable principles. But this the secularized historian neither sees nor admits.
The history teacher must perceive the harmony of all truth. Truth is never contradictory, but is always complementary.: Discover one particular truth, and it adds to the meaning of other truths. Thus a glorious whole takes shape. The fall of Rome, to illustrate, is but part of the all-comprehensive picture revealed by the mind of God, and specifically embraced in the divine plan. Failure to find the antecedent cause and the consequence of events lies back of the current confusion concerning the real intent of history. And certainty here comes through revelation alone.
Seventh-Day Adventists have as truly a distinctive, reformatory message on history as on doctrine, science, or health. We are called to enunciate to the world the true meaning or philosophy of history that the world's historians do not and cannot have or give. We are called to unfold to the world the inerrant outline disclosed through Bible prophecy, with its portrayal of the gigantic movements, epochs, time periods, and events. Those under the spell of a false philosophy of history have largely missed the divinely portrayed outline, misplacing the emphasis and misreading the actualities. We are called to repudiate not only the historical fantasies regarding the remote past, but the concepts marking the passing centuries as well. We are to thread our way through confused and contradictory terms and tomes that largely reflect the distorted outlook of the secular investigator, who often misses the essential point of history so far as inspired and true evaluations are concerned.
The secularized historian knows not where to place the emphasis. Gigantic, colorful characters may rivet the attention of men for centuries; yet many of these never particularly molded the great conflict of the ages and so do not come within the prophetic picture of the fundamentals of human history. We are called to witness in behalf of the true against distorted, false, secular, pagan conclusions, in the same way that we must weed out the evolutionary strain in traversing the indispensable fields of science. There must be segregation and evaluation, adequate interpretation and adjusted emphasis. We must accept only the residue of truth.
The Adventist history teacher who avoids the distinctively Adventist relationship to history is comparable to the physician who maintains a so-called purely scientific attitude, leaving God and His laws out of reckoning in his professional services for mankind, instead of interpreting, applying, and cooperating with the laws of nature as implanted in the human frame by God. For us, the insidious peril of this whole situation lies in its unconscious infiltration into our own thinking and teaching through the almost inescapable contacts and influences surrounding us. Our only safety lies in a clear recognition of the issue and its challenge, a definite perception of the fundamental principles involved, and a break with the dominant postulate of a paganized historical attitude. There must be not only a forthright bracing against their influence and acceptance, but a development of positive, aggressive, comprehensive teaching of the true thesis of history that will serve as a-preventive as well as an antidote, and immunize us against the dread contagion of the historical world about.
And let it be clearly understood that historical research work under the annalists of the world is, although fascinating, fraught with gravest peril for Seventh-day Adventist investigators--if they be not continually guided and controlled therein by the heavenly principles governing all true historical approach and appraisal. Sobering indeed are the words of Von Ogden Vogt, as quoted in the Presbyterian from Christendoni (Volume third quarter, 1937):
"Few developments in America are so ominous, so fraught with peril to the national welfare, as the general irreligion of American colleges and universities. That the flower of our youth today is being bred under the withering influence of scorn of popular religion on the part of its teachers, without the ordering, informing, presiding influence of essential religion, is a contravention of education itself."—March 10,1938.
And the most serious, yes, tragic part of it all is the unconscious change of viewpoint that, when adopted,, is nearly always unperceived by the historical student himself. But the diverting shift swerves him from the true course until at last he finds himself separated in spirit, emphasis, and belief from his former brethren, whom he then begins to pity for their narrow vision and circumscribed, reactionary outlook. And this often intensifies to such an extent that separation from the organized work, and in instances from the people of God, has sometimes resulted. Verily, such worldly knowledge becomes the fatal fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Such tragic eventualities must be forestalled whenever humanly possible.
Strictures against secularized perversions are not to be construed in any sense, however, as a defense for careless, unscholarly presentations of history upon our part. The misstatements of historical fact which sometimes appear in our published utterances have utterly disgusted both our critics and our own real historians. And distortions of history that all too frequently characterize the exposition of prophecy from the desk are humiliating to all who know the actual facts and have reverence for historical truth.
When a man essays to be a public expositor of prophecy and its historical fulfillment, he should either make sure that his facts are sound and unassailable, or he should stay out of the field of history. Men have often rushed in where wisdom would fear to tread. There is no excuse for ignorance or presumption here. And this discussion must not be construed as condoning carelessness or expressing satisfaction with the status quo ,in either our oral or written utterance simply because we reject the secularized viewpoint and conclusions. A real reformation in carefulness and adequacy is called for. Our knowledge of history needs to be materially broadened, deepened, and rounded out to avoid distortion, imbalance, and constriction.
If we surrender the unique and distinctive historical insight gained through the light that so graciously shines upon our church ; if we yield the certainty of our witness as God's final testimony to the world on the meaning of all history; if we lose the significance of the present hour in the divine scheme of the ages; and if we fail adequately to strengthen and fortify our youth now in the classroom preparing to enter the work, we shall fail utterly in the purpose of God. This must not be. The effect of the historian's teaching should ever be the creation of positive conviction, and never the instilling of negative uncertainty.
His equipment should enable him to expound the historical counterpart of prophecy with convincing force and accuracy. He must bring the knowledge of the past and the inspired light vouchsafed concerning the future to bear upon the living present. Untold power for good is at his disposal. This he is under bond to use.
It is incumbent upon us to give our youth a clear lead—an outline of history that is clean-cut, sure, and true, one that is built upon the true philosophy of history and that constitutes a dependable framework spanning the centuries, into which every individual factor may find its rightful place and relationship. Otherwise the student is left to grope in the bewildering maze of events, without his bearings and without that certainty to which he is entitled. And so he spends unwarranted time on irrelevant details that have little or nothing to do with the great essentials of human history necessary to our knowledge, salvation, and service in God's cause. He should be impelled to say, as he traverses the paths of history, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground."
With a potency that cannot be gainsaid, the true history teacher should marshal the evidence and the claims of this unique, prophetic message for all mankind. His facts should of necessity be unimpeachable, his methods soundly scientific and scholarly. And his perception and avoidance of the weaknesses and fallacies of the secular historian should be as sharp and distinct and divergent as that of sound Seventh-day Adventist Bible students in contrast to the confused scholarship and bewilderment of the great theologians and scientists of the day. We stand and must stand alone amongst all religionists and secularists in our unique interpretation of history in the light of prophecy. If we capitulate on these foundational principles, we perish.
L. E. F.