Gary North – November 02, 2021
You now know the biblical narrative of history: the transition from grace to wrath, followed by the transition from wrath to grace. You also know the biblical structure of history: creation, image of God in man, biblical law, the sanctions that God imposes to uphold those who obey His law, and the church’s inheritance in history.
Maybe you reject one or more parts of this structure. If so, you need a Bible-based substitute for these parts. Which of the five don’t you accept? What is your alternative? How does your substitute point or points fit into the rest of the structure that I have presented? Here is your problem: you can’t change just one thing. If you make a substitution, are you ready to begin invest time and intellectual effort to develop an equally integrated replacement structure of history?
You may not care, one way or the other. Most people do not care. They do not worry about the structure of history. They may think there is no structure of history. They will spend their lives unconcerned about the structure of history. But they will still be affected by the structure of history. God will still impose sanctions in history in terms of His law. Covenant-breakers deny this, of course.
O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud. Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves? They break in pieces thy people, O Lord, and afflict thine heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it (Psalm 94:1–7).
There are Christians who think just as these law-breakers did. They think that God does not enforce His law. They may even think that God rewards those who deny His authority. They think God will bring the church under the domination of these scoffers. They think this will continue until the end of time. So, they reject point 5 of the biblical structure of history: inheritance. They think that covenant-breakers progressively will inherit the earth, and covenant-keepers will participate on the sidelines of history. The historical process works against them. Satan will progressively use the church as his footstool. This was Van Til’s belief.
I assume that you accept my description of the five-point structure of history. You now have a tremendous advantage. You have a sense of where you are in this providential chronological structure. You know where history is heading. You know that you are an active participant in building the kingdom of God. You are made in God’s image, and you are a trustee for God. This defines who you are. Because you accept the biblical structure of history, you now have a better idea of why you are where you are and when you are. You have a better idea of what God expects you to do.
Most Christians never understand this. They do not see themselves in terms of a systematic development of history over which God is totally in charge. They do not see the way in which God has intended that history play out over time. They do not see that there is an inheritance at stake. They do not understand the extent to which they have been the inheritors of a portion of this legacy, and for which they are responsible to God for increasing before they die. Why? So that they can leave a larger kingdom-building legacy behind them they received at birth. This is the inescapable conclusion of the biblical doctrine of inheritance. It is a call to lifelong productivity.
We are expected to leave behind more than we inherited. This is the basis for the expansion of the kingdom of God in history. This is the capital that the church will use to extend the kingdom. You are a capital asset in the eyes of God. He expects you to increase your net worth to Him through your lifetime. He imputes your value to Him. He expects you to impute your value analogous to His imputation of your value. You cannot do this perfectly, but you can do it accurately.
The five points in the biblical structure of history are sequential. There are also five points in the structure of your personal history. They are also sequential. History began when God created the world out of nothing. Your history began when God created you. “Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself” (Isaiah 44:24).
God told Adam to extend God’s dominion over the world. God has told you to extend His dominion over that portion of the world to which He has assigned to you. God has structured institutions in terms of His law. He requires you to obey His law. God offers blessings and cursings to societies in terms of their obedience to His law. He offers blessings and cursings to you in terms of your obedience to His law. God promises to extend His kingdom over time. While you are still alive, you will be a participant in this process.
History is linear: beginning, development, end. The Bible teaches this. But history is more than linear. It is progressive. Things get better over time because there is greater obedience to His ethical laws over time. Covenant-breakers participate in this improvement, but only in terms of this principle: “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just” (Proverbs 13:22).
The key to progress in history is God’s system of sanctions: positive and negative. He brings positive sanctions to covenant-keepers who obey him. He brings negative sanctions against covenant-breakers who disobey him. This was stated clearly in the Ten Commandments.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:4–6).
Moses was speaking of generations. When he said thousands, He meant thousands of generations, just as he meant the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him.
There is a progressive differentiation over time between covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers. Each group gets increasingly consistent with its presuppositions as time rolls on. People in each group better understand the implications of their presuppositions. God’s system of historical sanctions rewards those covenant-keepers whose behaviour becomes more consistent with their presuppositions. This is taught in Deuteronomy 28:1–14.
Humanists reject this theory regarding the structure of history. There are two major forms of denial: the power religion and the escape religion. The power religion is based on this faith: victory in history is based on the accumulation of political power. It worships the state. This was the motivation of the rulers of the Near Eastern empires, Alexander’s empire, and the Roman Empire. Daniel taught in three places that each of these empires will perish. The fourth kingdom will be replaced by the fifth and final kingdom. This is God’s kingdom. (See Chapter 13:C.) In contrast, the escape religion retreats into obscurity in order to avoid confrontation. We find adherents of the escape religion inside churches.
The biblical worldview is historical. The Bible is mostly historical. There is feedback between the development of the Christian worldview and the developments of history. They are interconnected. They are interconnected because of the biblical structure history. It is sequential. It is covenantal. It is therefore confessional. It has to do with oaths: point 4 of the biblical covenant model.
With this in mind, it is time for you to consider the humanistic structure of history. I present this in Part 2.