The Victor Writes the History
Peter BeckPeter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
- 2009 Oct 13
People offten complain that it is the victor's privelege to write the history. Consider these examples:
The Civil War. The complaint is that the Union Army, those in blue in the War of Northern Aggression, by the fact of their victory got to write the history lessons that came from that conflict. As such, the complaint goes, the war is described as having been about slavery when in reality it was about state rights. As a northerner, it seems to me that the state right at hand was slavery. But, who's to quibble about such minor details. Anyway, the argument is that the histories written about the Civil War were unfairly one-sided and myopic.
Augustine v. Pelagius. In this great theological controversy of the early church, Pelagius battled Augustine over the issue of freedom of the will as it relates to the doctrine of original sin. Since most of you have barely heard of Pelagius, we know that Augustine won the day. However, that's unfair, writes one of my students. Why doesn't Pelagius get a fair chance in the historical record to defend himself? Because … the winner writes the history.
Both are interesting observations. Both may have some merit historiographically speaking. And yet, it is also true that the victor gets to write the history and, in a sense, determine the future's understanding of that history. Unfair? Maybe. But, maybe not. After all, God is the ultimate victor and the Bible says that He wrote (not writes or will write but wrote) the history. He wrote it before hand. His take on history is perfect. Will be perfect. And ought to be the source of perfect hope for His people. Isaiah records in Isaiah 46:10 God's grand historical treatise: "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please." Now, that's a history lesson that we can all appreciate.