A Christian approach to history

As an introduction to his final seminar at New Word Alive, Garry Williams briefly outlined a Christian approach to history and history-telling using 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Here are my notes.

Jesus is Lord of history. And Jesus must be Lord of our history telling. So Christian history telling must be different from other history telling. Although 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 is not primarily written for this purpose, it provides us with a philosophy of history.

At the beginning of the world we find Adam – Adam in whom all die. Parallel, but opposite, to Adam is the one man who is unlike Adam = Christ.  All who have died in Christ will be made alive. So the resurrection of Christ is the first stage (the first fruits) of what is to come. After that final resurrection will come the goal of creation = the subjection of all things to Christ (including death). Psalm 8 which talks of humanity in general is applied to Christ because he is the one, true man, the head of the new creation. Then all things will be handed over to God who will be all in all.

This tells us six things about history.

1.    There is a centre to human history – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is the beginning of the new age in history.

2.    There is a order in human history. History is ordered according to God’s purposes.

3.    There is an inevitability to human history. The first resurrection leads inexorably to the final resurrection.

4.    There is a goal to human history – the total rule of God over creation.

5.    There is a conflict in human history. 1 Corinthians speaks of enemies.

6.    There are uncertainties in human history from our perspective. Paul twice speaks of ‘whenever’. This means there is a provisionality to our history telling. We cannot exhaustively know what God was doing in historical and personal events. We must attempt this, but we must do so provisionally.

Take this narrative of history and fix it in your mind and let it reform the way you read the history of the world. As you read history ask yourself, What does this look like re-narrated within this framework of a biblical view of history?

By the way, Garry Williams recommended the following introduction to church history, A Lion Handbook, The History of Christianity  purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US.

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One thought on “A Christian approach to history

  1. Hi Tim

    NT Wright deals with this issue when he shows how radical is the idea that the climax of history has already occurred proleptically two thousand years ago at the resurrection of Jesus. In contrast to this is the understanding of progress, or at least the myth of it, of the Enlightenment.

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