Sunday, September 9, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 10: History

How Should We Interpret Human Events?

Consider carefully the difference between these two phrases:
  • Christ died for our sins and rose again.
  • Christ died and rose again.
The first one is a statement of Theology. The second one is a statement of History. Both, of course, are true.

The Historicity of the Bible is an important matter. If the Bible is not factually accurate, how can it be the Word of God (1 Cor. 15:13-19)? If the Bible is not accurate, God is not Truth. If the Bible is not accurate, our faith as Christians is in vain, and we will be miserable.

Thankfully, the Bible has been accurately copied down throughout the centuries. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which when found were a thousand or so years older than any known manuscript of Isaiah, were found to be nearly identical to the later copies which were already possessed. Copies of Scripture written down in different centuries are virtually identical.

The Bible makes an effort to place its message and its major figures in their historical contexts (See Luke 3:1-2, 3:23-28). In short, the Bible is a reliable, historical document in harmony with the known facts of history.

The Bible is also accurate historically. Its author is God (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16), Who used inspiration through men to guarantee the Scripture's truth and accuracy. The men whom God used were, for the most part, eyewitnesses to the events they recorded (Acts 4:20; 1 John 1:1-3, 4:14); the New Testament writers all wrote within the first several decades after Christ's return to heaven.

Archaeology also supports the Bible, showing consistent consistency between the Bible and history and supporting a myriad of details found in Scripture. Secular history also supports the Bible in many ways. Non-Christian historians have learned much about many of the people in the Bible, and were writing about Christ in the century following His death, resurrection, and return to His Father.

Jesus Christ is a real, historical figure. Certainly, if the Bible is a historical book, He must have lived according to the record given in it. Christ's impact on the world, from the early Christian times to the present, is unfathomable if He were not a real, historical person. Eyewitnesses to His life, death, resurrection, and ascension were many (see 1 Cor. 15:3-8), and many who saw Him had incredibly changed lives.
"The early non-Christian testimonies concerning Jesus, though scanty, are sufficient to prove (even without taking into account the evidence contained in the New Testament) that he was a historical figure who lived in Palestine in the early years of the first centruy, that he gathered a group of followers about himself, and that he was condemned to death under Pontius Pilate. Today no competent scholar denies the historicity of Jesus." Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content, p. 78.
The Bible also provides an accurate framework for all of history. It is worth noting that those who believe in non-Christian worldviews want to promote their own views of history. But why? If God is in control of all of history, then every day and every action of our lives will and must have meaning and purpose. Furthermore, understanding how God works in our individual lives helps us to understand how God directs the course of history.
"Either human history was ordained by God and is directed by Him toward an ultimate conclusion, or human history began due to a random spark in a prebiotic soup and has only chance to thank for its present course." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, pp. 152-153.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the keystone in the framework of history. If it is historical, it gives hope, meaning, and purpose to every individual—and it reminds us that we cannot save ourselves. God is active throughout history and will see His will done. History is the unfolding of His ultimate plan. All of history works together for good: Sin will be conquered and Christ will rule and reign triumphantly forever.

The Bible gives a "linear" interpretation of history. History had a beginning (creation), and is being directed toward a specific end: Judgment. History is neither cyclical nor random. It is purposeful and goal-directed.

The Bible has also provided an accurate foretelling of history. It is already grounded in historical facts and many of its prophecies have already come to pass. The outcome of world history is already certain. History is moving toward a climactic day of judgment. Although the unsaved will begin an eternity of damnation, Christians will spend eternity with Jesus Christ, sharing in the triumph of His victory over sin and death.

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