A short book that develops a Biblical view of history

More Than Dates and Dead People: Recovering a Christian View of History - Stephen Mansfield

There are some things that I agree with this book and some that I don't. The main agreement I have is that history is far more than dates and dead people: it is a story that is moving from one point to another (teleological as opposed to cyclical) and that there are so many small interrelated events that end up having a huge impact. What I do not necessarily agree with is the fairly Christian Fundamentalist interpretation of history, in that we have a definite seven days of Creation and ending with a tribulation.

While I am a Christian and I do believe that the world is moving from creation to the second coming of Christ, I do not necessarily accept a literal seven days of creation. Personally it could have been, but since time is relative (particularly where God is concerned) it is difficult for me to take such a dogmatic view of the world. However, I believe that it is important, particularly for Christians, not only to have a good understanding of History, but also where history sits within the grand story. Unfortunately, too many Christians today only restrict their understanding of history to what is in the Bible, and even then simply turn the biblical stories into fables that end with a moral lesson.

I do not believe this is how history should be viewed, and in particular, we need to understand history, not just within the Bible, but with the events that surround the Bible as well. For instance, we have a lot of literature from Ancient Rome and Greece, as well as a lot of archaeological understanding of many of the ancient cultures. Should we neglect this to focus only on the Bible? I don't think so. For instance, let us consider the death and resurrection of Christ. In the Bible we have a multitude of prophecies which are all fulfilled in Christ, but in archaeology we have a multitude of cults centred around a dying and resurrecting god king. Surprisingly these cults appear right up until Christ, but then moved to the wayside when Christianity came to the forefront. It is as if these cults where prophecies to the gentiles pointing to Christ.

Let us also consider Zorastianism. We have a very ancient monotheistic cult arising in Ancient Persia, dated to about 1200 BC. Surprisingly enough by the time the Persians had conquered the Babylonian empire, the Zorastrian religion was very popular, and it was about this time that Cyrus also ordered the Jews to return to Israel. It could be that the Jews picked up monotheism from the Persians, but it could also have been that the Persians showed sympathy to another Monotheistic culture, particularly when they were surrounded by polytheistic nations.

The Reformation (coming to a more modern event) is something that transformed the world in which we live. No longer were we forced into a single church and forced to believe a doctrine that we may have considered questionable. In fact, by breaking the back of the Catholic Church, society was able to begin to advance again through science and economics. If we look at Europe now, we note that many of the Catholic nations are still quite backward, while many of the protestant nations have move forward in leaps and bounds.

However, most importantly is that history teaches us lessons. Not only do we learn moral lessons from the Bible, we can also learn them from history. As with our parents and our elders we can learn how living a certain lifestyle can be dangerous and hurtful, we can also, on a national level, learn that going down a certain track can be quite harmful to our society as a whole. The events of 2008 with the stock market crash have been compared in many ways to the events in 1929. In fact, what happened in 2008 was very similar to the collapse of LTCM, where so called mathematical geniuses developed a system for predicting the price of options, and then pretty much losing all of their money after the unexpected event (the Russian default) occurred. Yet, what is scary is that the fact that 2008 occurred demonstrated that we, or at least our leaders, failed to learn from the events of history.


Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/484202852