We rarely notice our bones, and consequently, we rarely notice what is in them. Certain assumptions have been with us in the West for so many centuries now that we readily hold that this is just “how things are.” We think it is all so obvious, forgetting that our culture at one time was taught the idea of linear history by the Apostles’ Creed. Put another way, there was a time when we did not know this. And unbelievers in our day want to hasten the day when we forget that we once knew it.
History is linear because it has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning was when God said fiat lux, the middle was when the Son of God cried out in despair over the Father abandoning Him, and the end will be when the Lord Jesus appears to judge the quick and the dead. These are more than isolated Christian “doctrines” floating around within a commonly held notion of history, which doctrines can then be either affirmed or denied. Rather they are the skeleton of history; without them, the very concept of history crumples up and becomes a shapeless mass.
This is because history is story telling. As much as the postmodernists don’t like it, God has a story to tell, and any story from Him, by definition, is both true and a metanarrative.
There are many ways to attack this story-telling of God, but several of them are notable in our day. Of course, the assaults on the doctrine of the atonement are all (in one way or another) an attempt to gut the heart of the story. Jesus was just another good teacher, the original flower child, who taught a simple message of “love and peace, man,” until the authorities got him. Given this, it is just a matter of time before we assign arbitrary importance to somebody or something else. And this is why we now see the foolishness of dating things BCE (before the common era) instead of BC (before Christ), and CE (common era) instead of AD (anno Domini). Christian writers ought to fight with their editors for AD and, if they lose, they should then tell everyone that CE means Christ’s Empire.
Then of course, there is the evolutionary attack on the title page. According to this view, God did not literally create Adam and Eve and place them in the Garden. Often those who say this maintain that they are holding up the creation account as literature, as a story, but what they are doing is destroying even the possibility of any story. In the name of literary devices, they have declared war on Literature.
But the most recent way to try to get away from the grand story is to maintain that it does not have a concluding chapter. In some ways, devout evangelicals have aided in this by creating an “end times weariness.” From Napoleon down to Saddam Hussein, many prophecy buffs have been telling us that God will end His story any minute now, in five minutes actually, if these detailed calculations from the Feast of Tabernacles are right. These end-times-meisters were right in principle (there is a concluding chapter), but wrong on an important aspect of the book – we are nowhere close to the end of it. Imagine a parent reading a book to his son, and telling him, as they neared the end of every chapter, that this surely meant the end of the book. To change the image, we have been like the boy in Aesop who cried antichrist too many times. After a while folks stopped buying his books. And this has created a market for those who say there will be “no end of the world” at all.
Whenever any of these things are allowed to happen, the concept of the linear is done for. The human mind does not like this kind of conundrum – an infinite line stretching off everlastingly in both directions makes a coherent story impossible. But we were created by God to tell stories, and, despite our fallenness, we still must try to make a story out of everything. The way we do this, without a Creator God, or a Savior at the crossroads, or a Judge of the living and dead, is to link up the “last chapter” with the “first chapter,” like a snake biting its own tail, and voila, pagan cycles. We have a story now, but it is always the same one, endlessly repeating.
The Christian view of the world acknowledged that the story came from the Storyteller. Deists then pretended that God started the story, but soon tired of it. Then atheistic modernists wanted to have a coherent linear story, but please, no Storyteller. We have evolved up to the point where we can tell the story. Then the postmodernists asked, reasonably enough, tell what story? How can there be a story without a front cover, back cover, and pages in between?
But God created the world, bam!, and there it was. He sent His Son to die in the middle of our rebellious turmoil, when the time was just right. This man was born of woman, born under the law. He died for the sins of His people, and rose again from the dead, ascending shortly after into heaven. And the Lord Jesus is coming again. And we will live happily ever after.