The relatively recent growth of interest in the meaning of history as demonstrated by widespread interest in Spengler’s Decline of the West, Toynbee’s Study of History, and Croce’s History as the Story of Liberty, indicates that something of a revolution is taking place in Western thought. Prior to World War I, there were not many works on the market dealing with the problems of the philosophy of history, but after 1920 there was a noticeable increase in their number which since 1945 has become almost a deluge. In our day of uncertainty and insecurity men are trying to find out the meaning and direction, if any, of the historical process.
To the believing Christian, this has never been too much of a problem. Consciously or unconsciously basing much of his thinking on Augustine of Hippo’s City of God, he has taken for granted that history is the working out of the divine plan of redemption, centered in Christ’s humiliation and culminating in his glorious return in judgment. Such a position was presupposed by the Protestant Reformers and forms the basis of the work of later theologians such as Robert Flint (Philosophy of History, 1874), Van Til (Common Grace, 1947), Popma (Calvinistische Geschiedenis-Beschouwing, 1945) and others. While realizing that all history presents many problems, by their acceptance of the Bible and of the Lord of history they have had an underlying philosophy of history that tends to make history coherent and comprehensible.
That this was not the case with those who rejected the historic orthodox position became apparent during the eighteenth century. The rationalists came to believe that by “scientific” thought they could discover the meaning and purpose of ...1
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