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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Signficance of History

From "The Significance of History", by FJ Turner, 1891, p. 203, in Stern, F., in "The Varieties of History from Voltaire to the Present" (Random House 1972), which I'm reading at the moment.

In the past of the European world peoples have grown from families into states, from peasantry into the complexity of great city life, from animism into monotheism, from mythology into philosophy; and have yielded place again to primitive peoples who in turn have passed through stages like these and yielded to new nations.

Here I think is a clue to the SAD view of Genesis 1: accepting the counter-biblical history that religion 'evolved' from animism to monotheism. For which, of course, you first have to deny the entire historical flow of the OT and which makes God an invention, at best...come on down Karen Armstrong.

Turner also indicates a cyclical view of history which is probably counter-biblical. Historical cycling was a feature of paganism and even cropped up in Hutton's work (Hutton being far from an empirical geologist, but a deist apologist). Its impact on neo-orthodoxy would make a wonderful study.

And, a couple of quotes from The Science of History John Bury 1902, in the same book:

"That intense expression of a new detached wondering interest in man, as an object of curiosity, gives us the clue to the inspiration of Herodutus and the birth of history. More than two thousand years later human self-consciousness has taken another step, and the "sons of flesh" have grasped the notion of their upward development through immense cycles of time. This idea has recreated history"


"The principle of continuity and the higher principal of development lead to the practical consequence that it is of vital importance for citizens to have a true knowledge of the past and to see it in a dry light, in order that thier influence on the present and future may be exerted in right direcctions. For, as a matter of fact, the attitude of men to the past has at all times been a factor in forming their political opinions and determining the course of events. It would be an instructive task to isolate this influence and trace it from its most rudimentary form in primitive times, when the actions of tribes were stimulated by historical memories, through later ages in which policies were dictated or confirmed by historical judgements and conceptions. But the clear realisation of the fact that our conception of the past is itself a distinct factor in guiding and moulding our evolution [not organic evolution, but mere social change, I think he means], and must become a factor of greater and increasing potency, marks a new stage in the growth of the human mind. And it supplies us with the true theory of the practical importance of history."

Putting aside his transparent historicism, I think Bury shows the significance of history in forming a social conception of a group...we could apply this to the significance of History in OT for Israel and Gds relationship with his creation, reinforcing the self conception we might form if we accept God's revelation, versus teh self conception we might form if we reject it at its surface meaning, and accept the materialist conception that is so exclusive of divine action, that outside of Christ, it is largely an incentive to atheism, and its attendant self-destructiveness.