Wednesday, 31 March 2010

by grace through faith: part 6

I’m going to take a couple of days to examine some key aspects of the faith which is a response to revelation. First let’s take a look at one of the basic building block verses of the New Testament. “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Hab 2:4 The verse is quoted three times in the New Testament; Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11 and Heb 10:38. The phrase is known so well that it is at the heart of the biblical doctrine of justification by faith. I want to to concentrate on the often missed contrast that we are given in Hab 2:4. Let’s put it in its full context of Hab 2:2-5. Sometimes it is helpful to define a Bible word by examining its opposite. The Hab 2:4 verse points approvingly to the ‘believer’ but in its context it contrasts the ‘believer’ with another kind of person. We might have expected it to contrast believer with unbeliever but it doesn’t; it contrasts the believer with the proud or presumptious man.

In particular it uses a fairly rare Hebrew word which is translated as ‘lifted up’ in the KJV and ‘proud’ in the NKJV. It is the Hebrew word Strong's H6075 - `aphal and is only used twice in the scripture. The first use of the word is in an account which has become a by-word for unbelief and disobedience. It a brief sequel to the account of Israel’s refusal to enter the promised land. God’s sentence on their rebellious disobedience was that they would be condemned to a 40 year exile in the wilderness. It is the reaction of some to this sentence that contains the Hebrew word ‘aphal.

We need to retell part of the story to see its significance. God’s word of sentence has been given by Moses and the reaction of some might be seen as a kind of repentance. Some having heard the 40 sentence changed their minds; ‘And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, "Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!”’ Numbers 14:40. That sounds ok doesn’t it? They are acknowledging their sin and are willing to act out their repentance. They claim their behaviour is ‘bible-based’.. ‘we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised’. That sounds as though it should work but it won’t. They are putting their trust in yesterday’s word rather than today’s word. Strange as it may seem to obey the word that God spoke yesterday may just be carnality and defiance.

Our Hebrew word appears in Num 14:44 and is translated as ‘presumed’. One of the opposites of faith is seen to be not unbelief but presumption. ‘aphal means a swelling, a hillock or even a tumour. It may have all the appearance healthy growth but it is a killer. It is the swelling of an unsurrendered heart. It is man taking it on himself to choose when he will do what God has said. As my wife used to say to our young children “slow obedience is disobedience”.

When God speaks and we ‘hear’ that revelation of truth in our hearts it creates a window of opportunity. We cannot choose when we respond to revelation, we must respond at the moment of the revelation and take the window of opportunity. This is partly the significance of the words of Christ in the wilderness temptation. ‘But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' “’ Mat 4:4. the current word. That is man’s daily sustenance is the result of daily receiving the word of grace that God is speaking at that time. This is not a reference to biblical doctrine but to God’s ability to speak into our condition. That grace is available ‘in time of need’ or as Youngs Literal Translation has it “we may come near, then, with freedom, to the throne of the grace, that we may receive kindness, and find grace -- for seasonable help.” Words from God come in their season and we cannot presume to use them ‘out of season’. We do not choose the moment of our faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God and a man cannot believe what he has not heard. However a man can refuse to believe what he has heard and the consequences may be fatal.

I cannot daisy pick through Bible verses but as God makes his truth alive to me I can believe and because I can I must.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

by grace through faith: part 5

I think it is time to expound what I mean by the statement that ‘faith is right response to revelation’. Just what do I mean by revelation? The NT speaks from time to time of ‘mysteries’, the Greek word really means ‘secrets’. The words and phrases ‘mime’ and ‘keeping mum’ all derive from the basic idea that a mystery was an unspoken secret. In the ‘mystery religions’ of the 1st century the word was used to mean secrets which were revealed (there’s the word revelation) to initiates to the mystery religions. As the initiates passed from one degree to another they were allowed to hear new truths; the modern day Freemasons work on the same principle. So a NT mystery is not mysterious but an unspoken secret. Such secrets can cannot be discovered by effort or piety but can only be revealed to those who commit themselves.

What I mean by revelation is the way in which a ‘truth from God’ or if you prefer ‘a word from God’ is somehow ‘heard’ in the inner man. This does not come by education or personal effort although it is frequently linked to some earlier obedience. Let me illustrate what I mean by reference to the best known parable of all; the man who had two sons. Luke 15:11-32. It is a wonderful story and will be told as long as time lasts. Jesus introduced the story with the words “a certain man had two sons”. It is important to remember that although we call this story the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus described it as a story about “a man who had two sons”. It is important to notice the context of this teaching too. Jesus told this story in answer to the murmerings of those who accused him of ‘receiving sinners and eating with them’ Luke 15:1

Each of these sons had a moment of revelation. The younger son’s moment is captured in the phrase ‘he came to himself and said...’ Luke 15:17. Truth entered his darkness. It was a moment of revelation. He was given a moment’s respite in his desperate slide and in that moment he heard truth. The truth came from his own lips but the revelation was a gift of God to him. His response to that revelation was manifold. He accepted the revelation and determined to act on it. Not only did he determine to act on it but he carried out his resolve. The result of that faith was that he was reconciled to his father who greeted him with a kiss of welcome and lavish gifts.

The elder son’s moment of revelation is captured in the behaviour and the statement of his father to him. The elder son was ‘not willing to go in’ (Luke 15:28) as a result of his anger. He judged his father’s action as being unfair and refused to be part of the homecoming. The next statement is full of pathos; "he would not go in so his father came out". This is ever the heart of God, always willing to ‘go out’ to those who will not ‘come in’. And not only did he go out but he pleaded with his elder son. The Greek word is ‘parakaleo’ and can be translated comforted, pleaded, encouraged. The tragedy of this story, and we need to remember why the story was told, Luke 15:1, is that the father’s pleading goes unanswered. The father’s behaviour is a revelation and so are his words; “"And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” Luke 15:31. We are bound to ask why the elder son had never received his father’s blessing and gift and the answer is surely that the elder son never asked for it. James 1:6.

As the parable ends its lasting images are of a reconciled sinner in the father’s embrace and reinstated in the family home, and a self-righteous law-keeper who never really knew his father outside in the cold. Revelation is a necessary prerequisite to genuine biblical faith, but ‘faith is right response to revelation’. Without right response the younger son would still be in his pig sty and without right response the elder son excludes himself from the generosity of a father’s heart.

Monday, 29 March 2010

by grace through faith: part 4

Let's quote this verse in its entirety. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Eph 2:8 The key question now is what is 'that' referring to in this passage?

This is not a 'pay your money and take your choice' type of question. The Greek language has lots of fascinating precisions which it is not possible to reproduce in the English language. Folks who have some familiarity with another language will know that most European languages give a gender to nouns; usually masculine, feminine or neuter. Pronouns, such as 'that' then have to agree in 'case and number' with the original noun. The pronoun translated 'that' in Eph 2:8 is in the neuter form but both grace and faith are nouns which carry the feminine gender. If 'that' were referring to either or both 'faith' or 'grace' it would be in the feminine form rather than the neuter. So what is the 'that' which is of God? It is the whole work of salvation and only a thorough-going Pelagian would suggest otherwise. Certainly I know of no Arminians who would claim otherwise. Salvation belongs to our God.

Faith is unusual in that it appears as both fruit (Gal 5:22) and a charistmatic gift (1Cor 12:9) Faith is clearly a many splendoured thing! There are events of faith and also a process of faith. Christ rebuked those who had no faith and men of his day prayed for 'faith'. So who is responsible for faith? God or man?

Faith is right response to revelation. A man cannot believe simply because he decides it would be a good thing to do so. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. God must speak before men can hear and respond rightly, but not all who hear respond rightly. Those who 'rightly respond' are commended for their faith and those who do not are held accountable for their disbelief.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

by grace through faith: part 3

I’m going to ask you to do a little work today. I am thinking of James 1 and his allusions to the world of nature. This is a fascinating portion of scripture and holds some key concepts.

In James 1:14-15 he writes “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” He is tracing the personal history of a sin and he uses bold strokes to reveal the truth. To understand the richness of this language you will need to dig a little deeper. The online resource BlueLetterBible will be our tool for digging deeper. This URL will take you to the Greek text behind our familiar translations and by identifying and then clicking the Strongs numbers equivalents of the Greek words several dictionaries will open up. Do make the time to examine what James is saying here. This is spiritual biology. It shows that an individual sin is the result of a spiritual process. The key word to it all is the idea of conception. Conception, of course, is the result of seed being received. I don’t want to be indiscrete but something passes from the outside to the inside and something on the inside welcomes the intruder. A sin then is the result of a conception and the conception is the result of insemination.

In contrast James 1:21 has a similar but slightly different natural process in view. “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Now what we have in mind is the sowing of seed and germination. Again some time spent in the BlueLetterBible resource will prove really beneficial. This time the URL gives us the opportunity to dig deeper into James original words. The Old KJV ‘engrafted’ has been corrected in the NKJV to ‘implanted’ and the reader is instructed to ‘receive’ that implanted word with ‘meekness’. I don’t want to make this too demanding but there are two separate Greek words which our versions translate as ‘receive’. This is dechomai, which is slightly more passive that lambano, and we might translate dechomai as ‘accept’ or 'receive' or ‘welcome’. James instructs his readers to ‘welcome’ the ‘implanted word which has the power to save our souls.

Notice it is the ‘implanted word’ which is able or has the power to save our souls. If the word is not implanted, and it cannot be implanted unless it is ‘welcomed’ by the good earth, it cannot have the power to save the soul. The earth cannot create the life that is encapsulated in the seed but the seed cannot reproduce that life unless it is welcomed by the earth. We can only be saved ‘by grace AND through faith’.

Friday, 26 March 2010

by grace through faith: part 2

Calvinism claims that because man is dead in trespasses and sins he is unable to hear. Consequently man must be regenerated so that he can hear. The order, says Calvinism, must be first life and second hearing. The logic of that seems absolutely watertight except for the fact that we have Biblical data where that pattern is reversed.

The first that comes to mind is the statement of Christ himself; "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live." John 5:25. This statement puts the two stages in exactly the opposite order. Apparently, life is the consequence of hearing rather than the other way around. It might be objected that this is an eschatological statement and not one that pertains to personal salvation. There is truth in that but John's writings are always multi-layered and his careful compositions have left nothing to chance. There can be little doubt here that it is because the voice of Christ has been heard that life can begin.

The second that comes to mind is the account of the raising of Lazarus. 'Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go."' John 11:11:43-44. Again we discover that a dead man responds to the voice of Christ. Apparently 'the dead' can hear when Christ speaks.

And hearing, of course, is fundamental to faith. 'How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?' Rom 10:14. Believing and faith and just the verb and the noun of the same word in the original Greek. It is important to see the order here too. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Rom 10:17 and this passage makes it clear that we are speaking of the kind of hearing which produces the right response to God. We are not putting man first here but simply declaring that when God has spoken a human response is necessary. The 'hearing of faith' causes a man or woman to 'call' upon the name of the Lord and those who so call 'shall be saved'.

I have my own definition of faith; faith is right response to the Word of God. A man or woman cannot chose to 'have faith' at their own whim. They cannot believe until God has spoken, but when God has spoken they must believe in order for 'salvation' to be accomplished. When God has spoken (and in the tomb of their deadness they have heard his voice) there must be the obedience of faith and the reaching out to receive what God has promised. Salvation is by grace AND through faith.

Friday, 12 March 2010

by grace through faith: part 1

Ok, let’s talk about grace and faith.

Grace is often defined as ‘God’s unmerited favour’. That’s alright as far as it goes, the trouble is I doubt that it goes far enough. Grace is not just an attitude of God but a dynamic enabling. It is not positional but active. God’s grace is always on the move never static. When Paul wrote Ephesians he used the phrase God’s ‘great love with which he has loved us’. Eph 2:4-6. I love the phrase. This is not only a statement that God is love or has love but that he loves. Grace is love on the move towards men and women. Grace is missing from the description of love found in Gal 5:22-23 but that is because the whole list is a description of the grace that is God’s enabling power working in men and women.

We cannot state this too strongly, grace is the ‘grace of God’. It is his and his alone. We cannot deserve it no matter how ‘righteous’ our life has been. It is God’s choice not only to favour the undeserving but to show his favour to the undeserving. God’s every relationship with men and women has been and will always be on the basis of his grace. The big divide between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is the nature of that grace. Is it conditioning grace or enabling grace? The Calvinist wants to exalt God above any possibility of man’s self-boasting and declares that God’s work is monergism; that is to say ‘only one is working in salvation’. He is consistent in as much as he gives God 100% of the credit for the process of salvation. The question remains that if salvation is 100% God’s work, does that imply that the unsaved are unsaved because God has not chosen them to be saved? Most Calvinists would be prepared to sign up to this. Consequently most Calvinists see the very beginning of personal salvation as a sovereign act of regeneration that takes place unbidden and unassisted in the heart of the believer. That initial act of regeneration shows itself in awakening, repentance, faith and conversion. In this scenario faith and obedience are direct and inevitable consequences of regeneration. The believer has no more say in the matter that he did in his own physical conception and birth.

This may seem watertight but it opens up some significant questions. If faith, or for that matter any virtue, is the inevitable consequence of a sovereign act of God how can a man be held responsible for ‘not having faith’? There are far too many examples of those who lacked faith receiving rebukes to be ignored and that would seem to point to the fact that at some level they are being held accountable for their lack. If virtue or vice are the consequence of man’s behaviour it seems rational to reward or punish them in some way, but if they are the direct consequence of God’s action or inaction how will God judge those unable to behave any differently. If I tell my child not the eat the biscuits and them place them in some inaccessible place, do I commend him for his virtue in not eating the biscuits? On the other hand if my child has made some choices he must be held accountable for whatever choices he has made. Consequently his virtue or vice will receive its just reward.

We can escape from this dilemma simply be understanding that grace is not conditioning power but enabling power. We are utterly unable to do anything to please God apart from his enabling power but his power is not imposed upon us but offered to us. There can be no salvation without the full hearted consent that the Bible describes as faith. We cannot be saved ‘by faith’ alone, we must be saved ‘by grace through faith’. Only in this can God receive the glory that is his and we receive the consequence of our response to his enabling grace.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

do not be called leaders

I am still thinking about the similarities between the early churches and the early internet and my morning reading brought me to Matthew 23.

The New Testament has a whole bundle of words which indicate 'masters' of one kind or another. Vine's Expository Dictionary has a whole page for 'masters'. You can check it out here Our word here is Strong's G2519 - kathēgētēs Can we 'fine tune it'? I think we can. The Greek prefix 'kata' often has the sense of 'thoroughly' so this is a strengthened form of 'master'. Like Father or Rabbi it is the 'top of the tree'. Jesus told his apostles that they were not to allow others to refer to them as 'the teacher', 'the father' the leader'. Leadership is a biblical concept but we must be careful not to take our models from industry or the military; that is not the kind of 'leadership' that the scripture has in mind. Perhaps a better word might be a 'guide' and we must not accept the role of 'the guide'.

OK let's get back to the internet. No one person was ever in charge of the 'internet'. No one decreed its laws and protocols; they simply emerged. The process was by what are known as 'requests for comment' or RFCs. An innovator who had an idea as to how to do something would publish it as an RFC and wait for comments. If it was accepted by users then it would become an accepted protocol. They held that its 'laws' should be 'discovered not decreed'. What is this anarchy? democracy? No it was the observance of life. They watched to see what emerged and "less was required than allowed" as standards emerged. There were no arch-leaders, gurus or popes. It is all a 'bit hairy' as we say in the UK. It forever threatens to run in anarchy and chaos. The early churches were more like this than you might have guessed. Safety was not ensured by the setting up of high fences or detailed laws of behaviour or doctrine. Safety found its guarantee from another source.

Its 'safety' was ensured by each member 'holding fast the head', not by conformity to the dictates of 'leaders'. "Neither be called leaders" said Our Lord, "for one is your leader, even Christ". Matt 23:10

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

is everything we believe about the universe wrong?

I watched two BBC programmes yesterday. One, The Wonders of the Solar System, was a slick portrayal of the way 'we now understand the whole universe' with the presenter declaring that science is different to all religions because it does not require faith. It used exotic locations to describe the wonders of the big bang and how it was all provable by the mathematics.

The second was an ‘Horizon’ programme entitled “is everything we know about the universe wrong”? In the second programme a parade of university professors discussed dark matter, dark energy and dark flow with the recurring chorus ‘we don’t know’. They showed how the math does not quite work and how we have to invent ‘dark matter’ which is unobservable by anything made of ordinary matter. Apparently even ‘dark matter’ is not sufficient to explain the observations made by cosmologists so ‘dark energy’ was proposed. One professor described it as an unwanted, unexpected and unwelcome new kid on the block! But even ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ can’t make the numbers fit so we now have ‘dark flow’ as well. ‘dark matter’, ‘dark energy’ and ‘dark flow’ are, according to one cosmologist just ways of saying ‘we don’t know’. Apparently there is five times as much ‘dark matter’ as visible matter in the universe and dark matter can pass through visible matter without any impact of any kind. The cosmologists have now suggested that the ’nothing’ between all the visible bits of the universe is not ‘empty nothing’.

I was taken with the humility of these top flight academics. Further down the tree there are no doubts and everything is settled but up in the higher realms there are people who are saying ‘we don’t know’. There is an old saying from a Russian cosmologist who declared ‘cosmologists are often in error but never in doubt’. Apparently they are some who are now doubting.

I know there are dangers of making God the ‘God of the gaps’ but everytime they came to an impasse I found myself thinking ‘that sounds like God’. If you are in the UK and can access the BBC's iPlayer I strongly recommend you giving this programme an airing.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

the churches: a distributed network

I have been re-reading an old book on the origins of the internet. It is called ‘where wizards stay up late’ and is fascinating glimpse into how things happened from the beginning. When I first read it I was struck by several similarities with the efficiency of the net which paralleled the early churches. What? you say, the internet? Yes, let me explain. One of the tragedies of the church history is the way in which the simple and flexible pattern of the Acts’ years so quickly ossified into monarchical bishops and the Roman catholic church. The developed organisation of the churches was a control feature implemented by the leaders in the early years of the 2nd century. To compare the earlier networking of the churches with the structures or polity of the church in the 2nd century is deeply distressing. By the time Ignatius of Antioch is writing letters, just 30 years or so after John, he is strongly advocating a single monarchical bishop who rules over a territory and controls who is ‘in’ or ‘out’. ‘the bishop is as Christ’ says Ignatius. ‘Do nothing without the bishop’ says Ignatius. No baptisms, breaking of bread, are to take place without the bishop. Often those ‘controls’ were with the intention of keeping the flocks safe, but they created a hierarchical dependence which ruined the simple pattern of the earlier churches.

The churches became what the early internet people would have called a ‘decentralised network’ and finally became a ‘centralised network’ in the Roman Catholic structure. Let me see if I can explain. In a centralised network we would have a central hub and from that hub would spread out clusters of other points. Yet, each of those points would be organically connected to the centre hub rather than to each other. In this way the central hub would control all the satellites but a disaster at the hub would wipe out the whole thing. It is an extremely vulnerable set up although one perfectly designed to control all the satellites. So the Vatican would control all the other churches and all the other churches would be dependent upon the church at the centre of the hub. All authority is derived from the central hub which controls all the parts.

Now imagine a situation in which that central hub spawns other hubs which in turn have their own satellites. If one of these hubs goes down all its own satellites will go down but the rest of the network would survive but in pockets. They will have lost their overall communication but each little hub will still be able to control its own satellites. The result will be that we now have scattered clusters which are no longer connected to other scattered clusters. The system where the central hub spawns other central hubs is called a ‘decentralised network’ and is effectively what happens in a denomination. Each little group is self contained and like finches on a island are likely to develop their own unique features...or idiosyncrasies. Effectively each little cluster has become its own ‘centralised network’ and lost the input from all the other centres.

Now imagine something which looks like a piece of a fisherman’s net. There are no special hubs or centres but each knot, or unit, is connected to several others. No one church is ‘more important’ that another has has no hierarchical authority over another. If one of the knots is destroyed communication can flow around it and access the other knots. In other words what you have is inter-dependence with no levels of authority to dictate the patterns. No knot is absolutely dependent upon another knot.

The earliest forms of the internet were designed to produce a ‘distributed network’. There were no official ways of doing anything because there were no ‘officials’. The system provided was is known as ‘high redundancy’ meaning that if any part of the net went missing the information could still find its way home by another route. F F Bruce once wrote that ‘the early church was organised for catastrophe’. He meant that there was a high level of ‘redundancy’ built into its patterns. If catastrophe came it would have its local consequence but the networking of the churches would not be destroyed although it might be damaged. God’s design accommodated the possibility of disaster and ensured that the whole family remained in touch.

Within a couple of generations men had organised the churches into a shape which could not cope with such a catastrophe. The churches would have to depend more and more upon the central authority and the central authority would take more and more power to itself. It is a pattern that can arise in any generation and in any mission field. It is much more efficient... apparently but ultimately it can only degenerate into absolute control. There is a special wisdom in the apparent ‘disorganisation’ of the early churches. As long as God was in their midst they would flourish, without him they would quickly fade and die. The danger of the centralised network and the decentralised network is that they can work without God at their centre.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Rewriting History

It used to be said that it was the preaching of Wesley and Whitfield that saved England from the French Revolution. it was a fairly well established ‘truth’ of history. However there is no such thing as un-interpreted history. It has also often been said that one of the spoils of victory is that you get to write the history! This means that whenever we read history we need to remember that the writer has a point of view, even if he doesn’t declare it and the prevailing culture will powerfully effect the final ‘history’.

So why am I raising this? Last night I watched the latest in a very well produced series of programmes that the BBC has created called ‘the Seven Ages of Britain’. Its host is David Dimbleby who is now an avuncular figure and a national institution in the UK, as was his father before him. The latest series concentrated on the 18th century. It traced the rise of the middle classes through art and sculpture. It focussed on the famous Hogarth series known as the Rake’s Progress and spoke of the initial sympathy of the UK for the French Revolution which turned to revulsion as the revolution descended into barbaric cruelties. Conspicuous, by its absence, was any reference at all to the 18th century revival and the involvement of Wesley and Whitfield. The methodist revival which was once said to have ‘saved England’ has now been written out of history.

I am a ‘very’ amateur history buff, and I usually have some history book on the go at all times. In truth all my study of history has one theme, I am always ‘looking for the saints’! That is to say my reading of history is always with a view to seeing what God was doing as such times and how the saints responded to the changing seasons. The old historians believed that history had a direction and retold their stories in the light of that timeline. The famous history of Macaulay is really tracing the development of the British Empire and points that get most attention are points which show that ‘development’. Modern historians are adopting a more ‘post modern’ position; there is no big story just a jumble of events which impact on each other. Henry Ford’s derisory comment that ‘history is just one d***ed thing after another’ is pretty close to the current viewpoint; there is no design and no purpose. We trace how we got here but it has all been arbitrary and random. Modern TV historians of the kind of David Starkey and Simon Schama are of this school. Their knowledge of facts is immense but they have no ‘theory of history’. In their dumbing down of history for the TV audience they both constantly make assertions and cut corners for which they have no evidence; they put little Thucididean quotes into the mouths of their characters to make their point. The history is consequently wide and flowing but not deep. We are left with generalities which are the convictions of the historian and where the historian has no conviction we are faced with wide open spaces. Starkey, Schama and Dimbleby are men with great skills in communication but they have no dimension of the divine; their histories are two dimensional.

The East Germans used to joke that whereas all countries had an uncertain future they were the only country with an ‘uncertain history’. They were referring to the process whereby their history was being constantly rewritten from a Marxist-Lenonist perspective. We are now, apparently, all East Germans. There is a famous axiom of historians that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. That means that just because they haven’t found it it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. With the current batch of high profile historians pursuing their set course there are set to be great gaps in the history the public and our children are learning. But those ‘gaps’ are not ‘evidence of absence’ but only evidence of the particular historian’s perspective. Modern historians claim to be more objective than their predecessors but people who convince themselves that they are 100% objective fall into the greatest trap of all, they have no awareness of their powerful subjectivity. Contrariwise the honest man who knows he will inevitably be shaped by his subjectivity has a much better chance of guarding against his own bias and thereby of writing a more objective history.

So by all means listen and watch the new historians but dig into some of the older ones too and whenever you listen or watch say to yourself ‘there is no such thing as uninterpreted history and what I am hearing is just one man’s narrow viewpoint’. Only Bible history is 100% reliable.