History is always told from a certain angle or perspective. We’re told that history is written by the winners; and that the only thing we ever learn from history is that we never learn from history or that we are condemned to repeat the history we do not know! Even good history is offered from a particular perspective, no less than a good map is produced from a certain angle for a particular reason.
Rowan Williams writes, “Good history makes us think again about the definition of things we thought we understood pretty well, because it engages not just with what is familiar but with what is strange. It recognises that “the past is a foreign country” as well as being our past.”
In the context of “truth”, history can be told from multiple angles, and seeming opposites. “Well they can’t both be true!” Yes they can. I recently discovered my notes taken from an unknown place and time given by Bible scholar D. A. Carson. He spoke of the same [American] history being told in two different ways, both accurate, both true, both very different!
The potential, indeed, for evil and for disaster is immeasurably extended [by the secular optimism of mankind]. The Christian will witness to this with a realism that measures both ‘the greatness and the wretchedness of man.’
A self-confidence is still as deceiving and as dangerous as ever. To base one’s hope, to ground one’s eschatology, in man and his perfectibility is the great illusion that prophets and reformers have known it to be. It is always the end of God, rather than the ends of man, that provides the surety.
But this is no reason for depreciating the great secular hopes of twentieth-century humanity. Indeed, The Christian with his awareness of what real, eternal, life is meant to be, must say even to modern man: ‘Your hope is too small.’ And that may be the most effective way of saying: ‘Your God is too small.’
For at this point transcendence, the infinite horizon of life, encounters man in his strength and maturity and responsibility – in other words, in what the Bible speaks of as his call to ‘sonship,’ which is its figure not for childish dependence but for the freedom of adult manhood (see Galatians 4:1-7 and John 8:31-36).
Bishop John Robinson (1919-1983)
I have recently started to enjoy reading more of Malcolm Muggeridge, a former journalist with a truly remarkable way with words. And I say truly quite deliberately, because I would like to share what he says about truth.
In his book, the first part of his biography called Chronicles of Wasted Time – The Green Stick, he is writing about the illogicality and banality of seeing this world as the destination of humanity, which, I suppose is what many people do, especially those influenced by the rise of the new-atheism (which isn’t new at all)! He says the Christian idea of ‘he that loves his life in this world shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world shall see it projected out and glorified into eternity, is for living not for dying.’ Continue reading