Interpretations of History: An Introduction

The church of God lives in alarming days. God’s covenant people can begin to see what the days were like in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah and in the days before God destroyed the world with the great universal flood. He who cannot see this is not informed or refuses to read the signs. One has only to watch and read the news through the various news media to be apprised of the fact that we live in alarming days. Student riots and civil disobedience in all its forms is becoming rampant in America and all over the world. It seems to me that the universities of America have become the major spawning areas for all this godlessness and nihilism. This would lead me to conclude that the “chickens are coming home to roost.” Educators in the land and university theorizers have for the last forty years been insisting that all education must be patterned according to the “life-adjustment” and “life-centered” theories of the late John Dewey. This pragmatic democratic philosophy of life is a manifesto for anarchy. The principle of democracy that advocates the pragmatic premise, that which works is good, denies the sovereignty of God and the entire principle of authority. A government for the people, by the people and of the people is man-centered and needs not a God to Whom man must submit. Democracy is a philosophical justification for the principle that man needs only a god with whom he can cooperate. Democracy is a full-bloomed anti-christian philosophy, which like all anti-christian philosophy, drags God down to the level of man and then boldly and profanely tramples HIM and all of HIS ordinances into the dust.
We live in disquieting days. Education, which was intended by men to be the means whereby man would raise his own level of performance and ethics, has become the means in the hands of the Devil whereby he will destroy all Scriptural morality and will usher in the kingdom of Satan and all his cohorts.
Our covenant youth must be armed with the whole armour of God. They must have this whole armour of God so that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. The people of God of all ages do not in the final analysis wrestle against flesh and blood but they wrestle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Our covenant youth must take unto themselves the whole armour of God so that they may be able to stand in the evil day, having withstood all the attacks of the Devil. Covenant youth must have their loins girt with truth, have on the breastplate of righteousness, have their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, take the shield of faith which shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, take the helmet of salvation and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Above all they must pray and supplicate in the Spirit so that they may watch with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. (Cf. Ephesians 6:11-18.)
Contrary to all that democratic theorizers would say, we, God’s covenant people, must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. The truth is still the same. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses (that’s man’s strength, A.L.) but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20). Trusting in God, we will have boldness to open our mouths and to make known the mystery of the gospel in every aspect of life.
Christian teachers, therefore, have the Divine calling to be bold and be well prepared so that they may give an interpretation and evaluation of life which is consistent with the Word of God and the Reformed Creeds. These creeds are an expression of the heritage of the truth which has come down to us who live in these last decades of the twentieth century.
Teachers have the calling to be ready always to give an answer with meekness and fear to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in them (I Peter 3:15). Teachers have the calling before God “to try the spirits.” There are many who claim to have the panacea for the world’s ills. There are many who call themselves “christ” or “messiah” but are not. We must know our enemy. There is, however, an infallible earmark whereby the Christian may know whether these spirits are for Christ or whether they are anti-christ. “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ (i.e., the Eternal Son of God, A.L.) is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of anti-christ, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:2b-3). For this very reason Paul admonishes the Thessalonians when he says: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21).
Every teacher has the calling to “try the spirits” and to “prove that which is good”; but particularly those teachers who teach courses in Bible, Church history, “secular” history, science, literature, art and music must be prepared to try and evaluate systems of interpretation and basic world and life views. It is a relatively simple task to get information and to gather facts. The facts tell what, how, when and where. The difficulty arises when one must interpret the facts. The answer to the question “Why?” is of utmost importance. C. Gregg Singer in his book, A Theological Interpretation of American History says: “Historical scholarship…is characterized not only by the necessity of finding the facts of history but also of achieving a correct interpretation of all the data which it has in its possession.” This is not only true of study in the field of history, but is essentially true in every branch of the curriculum and particularly necessary in those areas which I have specifically mentioned.
The interpreter of history will exhibit a basic bias or prejudice as soon as he begins to give an interpretation of history or of any aspect of life. His bias may not be as evident when he writes what seems to be his story of the events of the past, but it will be there. Because the interpreter has this bias and because he may not have a clear and all-encompassing grasp of reality and every aspect of life, he begins to select arbitrarily the facts which he wishes to use for the substantiation of his theories and his interpretation of history and life in general. Some facts are more readily useful than are others for his particular interpretive approach and therefore he selects some facts and bypasses other facts which are equally important.
Every subject matter area has proponents of one view or another. In the field of historical research and interpretation there are proponents of various approaches to the interpretation of history. It is my intention in a series of articles to uncover and examine some of the more noteworthy approaches to historical interpretation. This study cannot be in any sense of the word a detailed and thorough-going study. It will have to be in the very nature of the case only an introduction so that I may make my reader aware of these interpretations and stimulate those of my readers, who are interested in this field, to a more thorough-going and individual study.
The Lord willing, we shall examine interpretations such as the Marxian approach, the frontier preoccupation of Frederick Jackson Turner, the economic interpretation of Charles Beard as this appears in his book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, the intellectual or ideological approach by such individuals as Perry Miller and Henry Commager, The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant, and the theological interpretation proposed by C. Gregg Singer in his book, A Theological Interpretation of American History.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 2 April 1969