Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Garry Williams on hostile history

I am inspired by Rosemary's post God loves maths. And arts. And science... to post some notes from a seminar given by Garry Williams on a Christian view of history or, more precisely on historiography, the writing of history. Williams argues that we are intrinsically historical as human beings. History is not a peripheral subject of interest to a few (out-of-date?) people, but something that shapes our understanding of the world we live in and our own identity. Consciously or not, we are all historians - we all have a view on/ an understanding of the past - and if we're not conscious of it, that probably indicates that we have by default adopted the version presented to us by our culture. As Christians, therefore, we must work to develop a Christian interpretation of history; if not we will unwittingly imbibe a non-Christian version, a version which will operate by principles that are profoundly hostile to the Lordship of Christ.

I hope to write more on history in future posts, but for now here are the said notes:

Hostile History
Garry Williams

22nd Evangelical Ministry Assembly 2005. Faith Facing Hostility.

Hostility towards Christ in the telling of history.

How we tell history is not neutral, but an arena of conflict

1) because of the extent of human depravity into all areas of human activity

history cannot properly be understood without the context of the progress of the gospel.

Pascal: “how fine it is to see with the eyes of faith, Darius and Cyrus, Alexander, the Romans, Pompei and Herod, working without knowing it for the glory of the gospel.”

history is Christian or anti-Christian history.
no facts outside of an interpretative framework
Van Til: “it is a Satanic falsehood to say that a fact is a fact to everybody alike.”

2) everybody is a historian

Despite anti-historical tendencies, “no culture can possibly continue for a moment without an articulated history.”
By telling history we define our world, and our place within the world. History is fundamental to our identity; telling history is an inalienable human activity.

all people are historians because all people are religious.
innate desire to worship, but channelled into history.

Responding to hostile history, engaging in Christian counter-history.

1) The Bible commits us to being historical creatures.
The Bible gives us an authoritative interpretation of history.

What about history beyond Acts, post-biblical history?
But the Bible embraces all of history – not in an ‘detailed end-times map’/rapture-index sense

“There is plenty of more mainstream evidence, is there not, for the reach of Scripture beyond the Acts of the Apostles in its discussion of human history. Think of the visions of Daniel, of that rock growing into a great mountain. Think of the mustard seed growing into a tree that shelters the birds, the nations, that come to nest in its branches. Think of the lump being leavened as the yeast leavens the whole. Think even of the Great Commission – making disciples of all nations. All of these are Biblical pictures of post-biblical history.”

“How we view the last 2000 years is determined by the teaching of Scripture.”

2) The Lord Jesus Christ claims total Lorship over all the earth

“The Christian religion must become the universal religion because Jesus is the universal Lord.”

3) If we don’t, we will by default pick up a non-Christian history of the world

In practice

1) self-scrutiny. What kind of history have we imbibed?
2) forming our own historical understanding. Take small steps.
3) teach historically

The full seminar can be bought from the Proclamation trust here.
You can read about Garry Williams, a lecturer at Oak Hill theological college, here.

PS. I also found the following article by Garry Williams very helpful:
Cross Purpose: replying to Steve Chalke on penal substitution.