Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Continuous Bumbling (as a view of human history)

"The Lord brings the counsel of the heathen to nought; He makes the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord Stands forever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations." Ps. 33:10-11

It was Charles Williams (of Inkling fame) who taught us to never have a condescending view of the past and to remember that we too are merely another "period" of time, just as they were. Perhaps it is the plague of each generation that comes forth to consider themselves on the cusp of some kind of monumental greatness. This is because, as the latest people that just happen to be walking about, they stand where the mostly knowable present kisses the currently unknown future. Uncertainty breeds excitement as well as despair, and we always sit (if our view of history is biased and blind) with the constant notion that, whatever happens, this is "it". It never is "it," however. Ideas and institutions come and go; empires turn to dust. We shall (if the end is not near) be subsumed into history, and whether we are admired or scorned (or simply belittled) depends on the nature of the periods that will proceed from us.

Mankind is a creature in transit, which is why we are an unreliable foundation. Our state of transition is neither good nor bad; it is simply a fact, a fact that undercuts our reliability, a fact that we must deal with (and often fail to deal with). There is never an ultimate consensus amongst ourselves, either in past eras or this one; our few lines of convergence eventually dissolve into a myriad of separate views and opinions. As Chesterton put it once, we all can pretty much agree on what's wrong, but we have no agreement whatsoever on how to make it right. Everyone thinks that murder is wrong and peace is good; but start asking questions like how to eradicate murder and secure peace, or even how to define "murder" and "peace," and a hundred people will give you a hundred different ideas and definitions. This lack of ultimate consensus is just another example of how we cannot save ourselves. History from the human side is one long continuous bumbling about to the next batch of well-intended plans and atrocious errors. History from the Divine side, however, is the continual, consistent unfolding of the will of God, whether or not we understand the whole of it yet. That is why he is the only reliable thing: "All may change, but Jesus never." One comfort that belongs to the Christian is the knowledge that in a world of transition, God is a sure and stable consistency.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment