The Goal of Human History

Herbert Butterfield, author of Christianity and History, perhaps the best book on Christian historiography concludes forcefully the goal of human history.

“To survey history requires great elasticity of mind because the processes involved are infinitely more supple and flexible than people imagine who make pictorial diagrams borrowed from biology or other sciences, or are deceived by some pattern in text-book abridgments, so that they look for something to which human personalities are only the means. History is not like a train, the sole purpose of which is to get to its destination; nor like the conception that my youngest son has of it when he counts 360 days to his next birthday and reckons them all a wearisome and meaningless interim, only to be suffered for the sake of what they are leading up to. If we want an analogy with history we must think of something like a Beethoven symphony–the point of it is not saved up until the end, the whole of it is not a mere preparation for a beauty that is only to be achieved in the last bar. And though in a sense the end may lie in the architecture of the whole, still in another sense each moment of it is its own self-justification, each note in its particular context as valuable as any other note, each stage of the development having its immediate significance, apart from the mere fact of any development that does take place. It may be the case that the people who once imagined that the world was soon to come to an end were in a position to discover some fundamental aspects of it, and see them in better proportion, than the nineteenth century, with its picture of indefinite progress and rising good fortune. We envisage our history in the proper light, therefore, if we say that each generation–indeed each individual–exists for the glory of God; but one of the most dangerous things in life is to subordinate human personality to production, to the state, even to civilisation itself, to anything but the glory of God (Herbert Butterfield, Christianity and History [New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950], p. 67).

Historians, our job is to see history as that which was accomplished to the glory of God! Each individual, each generation, exists for the glory of God. Our task then as historians is to show the greatness of God manifested throughout history. We too, must do our history to the glory of God!

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