On the right side of history

October 19, 2012

Have you heard or said the words “I got here first?”  Kids say this all the time: in playgrounds claiming the right to use a particular swing or other equipment, or in daycares where they argue for the right to use a certain toy.  It’s a very logical argument, really, especially in regards to some limited resources.  In regards to truths, however, getting there first isn’t really a good test for its veracity.  Some truth claims may be older but not true.

A while back I went to a debate between an atheist and a Calvinist.  The atheist was recounting how he was a Christian earlier in his life but lost his faith when he found out that Hinduism was much older.  He thought that older truth claims were right, while the more recent ones were false.  But why should that be?  If truths are objective, then it does not matter when that truth claim was first claimed in so far as its veracity.  Christianity claims that truth is objective; therefore, given that premise, Christianity being a “younger” religion than Hinduism does not detract from Christianity’s truth value.  This type of reasoning really is childish, and I do not mean that pejoratively.  It’s childish because that’s the way children argue about things.  It’s rather innocent in a sense, if somewhat unexamined.

A far more insipid type of reasoning is the very opposite.  This reasoning says that newer truth claims are truer.  And I even hear this among Christians.  “Stand on the right side of history.”  This “newer-the-truer” type of reasoning isn’t childish.  Rather, it stems from our relativistic culture.  Instead of the Gospel shaping our mind, the culture at large is shaping our mind.  But if we believe as Christians that truth is objective, that it exists outside of ourselves, that truth really is timeless, that God we believe in is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, then we cannot use such arguments.

I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said, Tuesday isn’t better than Monday just by virtue of being Tuesday.  Progressivism does not apply to objective truths.

A truth claim isn’t truer because it’s older.  A truth claim isn’t truer because it’s newer.  (of course this does not mean that every truth that claims to be an objective truth is therefore true.)  There is no “right side of history.”  God claims to be both alpha and omega.  He stands outside of history.  This is doubly the case if we believe that Jesus is the only hope for all of humanity, for those who came after him historically, and came before him as well.  On both sides of history people are saved by grace and grace alone.

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