Have We Learned Anything from History? Pt. 2

George Santayana, a philosopher and poet from the last century, is notably known for his statement, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While his statement has no theological connection, it certainly is reflected in the pattern of history and nations. Malcolm Muggeridge, one of my favorite authors, a former journalist and atheistic communist, who was radically changed by Jesus Christ, put it all in perspective with these words… “I conclude that civilizations, like every other human creation, wax and wane…It's in the nature of man and of all that he constructs to perish, and it must ever be so. The world is full of the debris of past civilizations and others are known to have existed which have not left any debris behind them but have just disappeared.”
by Ray Jones on March 10, 2019

Have We Learned Anything from History? Pt. 2

George Santayana, a philosopher and poet from the last century, is notably known for his statement, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While his statement has no theological connection, it certainly is reflected in the pattern of history and nations. Malcolm Muggeridge, one of my favorite authors, a former journalist and atheistic communist, who was radically changed by Jesus Christ, put it all in perspective with these words… “I conclude that civilizations, like every other human creation, wax and wane…It's in the nature of man and of all that he constructs to perish, and it must ever be so. The world is full of the debris of past civilizations and others are known to have existed which have not left any debris behind them but have just disappeared.”

Arnold Toynbee, a British historian, authored a 12-volume study of history chronicling the rise and fall of nations. When Toynbee began his research and writing in the early part of the 20th century, he did not have a high opinion of religion and Christianity’s role in the rise and fall of nations. But while working on his historical narrative his ideas were dramatically transformed, shocking the academic world at the time. He concluded that religion and faith were not an “unimportant illusion,” as he had previously assumed, but were instead “supremely important” in the direction of nations. He went as far as to declare, “the greatest new event” in history was “the Crucifixion and the Crucifixion’s spiritual consequences.” He would further conclude that, “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.” And perhaps, one of the most alarming remarks he makes is, “Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now.”

Famed American historian and atheist, Will Durant said, “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion… Even the skeptical historian develops a humble respect for religion, since he sees it functioning, and seemingly indispensable, in every land and age.” Further, Durant states, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.”

Frankly, the message is, nations die inside before they collapse outwardly. And as these and other historians teach, as the moral and spiritual character of a nation goes, so goes the nation. Those nations that operate with the ethical boundaries of faith, and particularly Christianity, have not only survived longer, they have thrived until they at some point in their history they distanced themselves from the fundamental truths that shaped their economic, sociological, and national moral character. When that is abandoned, it is only a matter of time until the “walls collapse.” As the scripture says, “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

Former Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) wrote an important essay in 1993 titled, “Defining Deviancy Down.” In it he decried the moral collapse taking place in Western civilization and the way we deal with it. He wrote: “The amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can ‘afford to recognize’ and that, accordingly, we have been redefining deviancy so as to except much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.” Imagine, if he were still alive today, what he would think!

He is correct in his assertion that the only way that evil can be accepted and incorporated so thoroughly in a nation is by redefining the definitions to make them seem normal. But, how tragic the eventual consequences… the prophet Isaiah wrote… “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) Have we learned anything from history???

Let’s be salt and light while it is still day. And remember, God is always trying to take you someplace new. I love being your Pastor! For God’s Glory Alone,

Bro. Ray

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