A friend of mine recently published a blog discussing the different theologies of history. A theology of history answers the question: How does God show up in history? No, not like those 'encounters with the sacred' that Eliade describes (and I recalled in my most recent post), but something on a more universal scale. Where is God in the grand scheme of things for the world? What role does God play in the history of humans? My wise friend presents four possibilities, which I will here note, and possibly elaborate on: 1. History is progressing in some way, just not in the ways modernity talked about so far, 2. History is a process of growth and decay, 3. History is open, but influenced by a loving God in certain directions, and 4. History matters to God because it contains (and is) God’s creation, not because history is heading any particular place, even if God does eventually intend an end to history and a new creation. My friend posits these as possibilities to be explored. I would add that maybe they are not mutually exclusive possibilities, but might actually interplay.
Number one: History is progressing in some way. Last post I described a faith that changes. Of course, in history, there is change too. We all know this, we all live this, we all study this in school. Modernity narrates a change for the better, but- we often observe new problems that arise in history that make that idea seem more than naive, and give us a dark expression as we mentally roll our eyes. At the same time, many things progress positively, and we can celebrate these victories as a species (congrats!). Sometimes, both happen at the same time: amazing, world-changing science can be destructive, peace treaties can backfire, we create cars and they end up being bad for the environment (whoops). I definitely think this is a viable theory, at least in some regards: things do change, things are good, things are bad, things are sometimes both. So maybe God helps us determine right from wrong in the grand scheme of things ("Go to your room, kids! Think about what you have done!").
On to number two: growth and decay. I remember learning about the concept of entropy in middle school. My sixth grade history teacher, Mrs. Patton, described entropy as the state of our bedrooms: Mom says clean it, so we do. Then, after time, it slowly becomes cluttered and needs to be cleaned again. I am not saying that humans make a behemoth, monolithic effort to keep the Earth clean (though we clearly should), nor am I saying that we forget to keep it tidy (though, given the car situation, we clearly do forget). I am saying, that there are times when we as humans seem to have it together more-so than at other times (I will let you use your own examples here). Where is God in this? Well, maybe he keeps us from drifting too terribly far from a clean room- a Mommy God (and no, I am not just including this to provoke my friends from home who cannot handle anything but a paternalistic God idea...well, maybe). To tie this back to the first concept: maybe God keeps pushing us along too.
Number three: History is influenced by a loving God in certain directions. Here I will continue with the mother metaphor, since I have a great one who afforded me the experience allowing me to write this paragraph. When I was looking at colleges, my mother (and father) were very supportive. They only wanted what was best for me, and encouraged me to push myself. They influenced me as I grew up, even before they vocally said "We will support you wherever you go" by cultivating a love of learning. Maybe Mommy-God does the same: Maybe God gives us, humanity, certain experiences and learning so as to help shape us, even though we have to make our own path, and pick our own institution of higher learning (Let's go BU!).
Number four: History matters to God because it contains (and is) God’s creation, not because history is heading any particular place, even if God does eventually intend an end to history and a new creation. So, Mommy-God sends her baby off to college. Of course, she wants us to get our degree (and experiences some empty-nest syndrome), but she just wants us to grow, and she is proud that we are there. We are God's children (ahah!), and God loves us, no matter what, and is thus invested and involved in what we accomplish, learn, and do.
A special thanks to David Scott for sharing his blog and allowing me to quote: Thoughts on World Christianity, Mission History, and Methodist History