7 Theses on Historical Loyalties

Grounded loyalty is an inescapable part of historical studies, and attempts at academic detachment are simply attempts that reveal misplaced loyalty to a guild of historians (say) instead of to (say) your nation. What I want to do here is offer seven theses that might help us approach this most helpful truth from various angles.

1. The reason we should learn history is so that we will be better equipped to honor our fathers and mothers. The point of learning history is to display an appropriate loyalty to your people. In order to do that, you need to know who they are, and what they have done that is praiseworthy. This is loyalty, not jingoism. This is obedience to the fifth commandment. Jingoism would be when a fist fight breaks out in the card aisle when a man saw some other guy trying to buy the “best Mom in the world” card. A man who rightly honors his mother recognizes a man who is rightly honoring his.

2. But no human authority is absolute, and so when our fathers have sinned, we must repudiate that sin.

“That they might set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation; A generation that set not their heart aright, And whose spirit was not stedfast with God” (Psalm 78:7–8).

I am stating the principle here, but the practice can be pretty challenging. Your parents in history are slandered by the secularists, more often than not, and so you must not rush to repudiate anything

3. We come to understand the world, including the world of history, through comprehensive and thorough study of God’s law. God’s law is the Rosetta Stone of historical studies.

“O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: For thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:97–100).

If you want to understand the world, start with the law. If you start with the world, you will import all manner of alien assumptions and unbelieving axioms.

4. We come to understand God’s law through the grace of God as revealed in Christ. Christ is the end of the law for everyone who believes. Christ is the Rosetta Stone of the law (Rom. 10:4). The regenerate heart is necessary to understand the law, and understanding of the law is necessary to understanding the world. The traffic does not run in the other direction.

5. Never accept any debunking account of anyone without getting it clear in your mind who is being “bunked” together with you. Wodehouse famously said that while the man was not disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled. In the same way, every act of debunking is an act of bunking. Somebody is trying to get into your bed, and it had better be your spouse.

6. Historical loyalties cannot be lined up on a shelf. They interact with one another in a complex system of nesting. For example, loyalty to Christ of course outranks loyalty to your nation. But loyalty to your nation might easily outrank your loyalty to a particular congregation of Christians. Your loyalties are not plastic legos, easily stacked, green ones on the bottom. This is not relativism, and it returns us to the earlier point about God’s law.

7. This is why an informed contrarian bias can be healthy. Begin by questioning the received wisdom when it comes to the whipping boys of Christendom — medievals, crusaders, and Puritans, say. Learn to distinguish what everybody knows that is so, like the sun rising in the east, from what everybody knows that ain’t so, like the Puritans being a collection of frenzied witch burners.

The outline of comments I made at Disputatio, April 24, 2015.

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Andrew Lohr
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Looks good, but if this was at “Disputatio,” was someone else presenting a different slant? If so, where can we see it? In multitude of counselors there is safety. The 1st to present his case seems right…

Scott Kistler
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Scott Kistler

Thanks for these points. One question that comes out of them is how do we think of tribe, region, nation, and state in a biblical way? In my limited understanding, modern nationalists tend to impose the simple reality of a nation on a complex situation, so that most “Frenchmen” did not speak standard French when the French Revolution broke out, and most “Italians” (perhaps 97.5%) did not speak standard Italian when Italy was unified, and northern and southern Italians still have trouble understanding each other’s dialects. Thus an Italian nationalist said in the 19th century that they had made Italy,… Read more »

Sam Hoyle
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Sam Hoyle

of possible interest: One can readily see that debunk is constructed from the prefix de-, meaning “to remove,” and the word bunk. But what is the origin of the word bunk, denoting the nonsense that is to be removed? Bunk came from a place where much bunk has originated, the United States Congress. During the 16th Congress (1819-1821) Felix Walker, a representative from western North Carolina whose district included Buncombe County, continued on with a dull speech in the face of protests by his colleagues. Walker replied he had felt obligated “to make a speech for Buncombe.” Such a masterful… Read more »

doug sayers
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doug sayers

Nice to have you back, Doug. This one makes a lot of sense to me, especially the part about needing the law to understand the world and it’s history. I must, of course, quibble with this, “The regenerate heart is necessary to understand the law..” I am old enough to remember a rather crude George Carlin routine that demonstrated his understanding of how the law works, in terms of Jesus’ words about looking and lusting. I doubt that George was regenerate at the time but he understood the, so called, “spiritual” aspects of the law. You would be hard pressed… Read more »

holmegm
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holmegm

Pagan kings lecturing Abraham about how his evasions nearly got Sarah into their beds comes to mind …

Jane Dunsworth
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Jane Dunsworth

And yet Abraham evidently had reason to fear that they didn’t understand the parts about not killing a guy because you want his wife. So I’d call that a sound understanding of a provision or two of the law, but not a sound understanding of the law as such.

Jane Dunsworth
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Jane Dunsworth

If they had understood a sound understanding of the law, they would have repented and would therefore demonstrated that they were regenerate.

Getting the time right occasionally is something a clock can do twice a day (depending on the nature of its malfunction) but it doesn’t mean the clock actually works. There’s more to understanding the law, than understanding that certain bad acts lead to undesirable consequences, while rejecting the foundation, much of the content, and the actual long-term purpose of the law.

bethyada
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I don’t think that men can’t understand the world at all. Unbelievers know the world is round and the angles of a triangle add to 180°.

I would interpret Doug’s claim to be something like: To fully and rightly understand the law (and to interpret it correctly) man must be disposed towards Christ; and to fully and rightly understand the world (and interpret it correctly) man must love God’s law.

And when men hate God they are susceptible to deception. They are unlikely to be wise and they are more likely to subscribe to increasingly stupid ideas.

JSM
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JSM

Could you please elaborate what you mean by loyalty to your nation can easily trump loyalty to a congregation of Christians? How do you maintain keeping Christ supreme in your devotion when your loyalty to a group of God hating pagans trumps your loyalty to His body? What exegetical grounds do you have for that position? Interestingly I had a thought experiment the other day that had to do with this topic. I wondered what should Christians in the US do if a county like Russia or China suddenly declared Christianity the state religion and this declaration was accompanied by… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

祈祷

JSM
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JSM

Timothy ???

timothy
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timothy

Sorry, I thought I replied already or it got lost during approval.

Go to google translate.

Under “english” put in “pray” and in the translated window, select “chinese”

The translation of ‘pray’ into Chinese is the squigly stuff I posted.

Andrew Lohr
Member

Interpret the tongues please?

timothy
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timothy

got to translate.google.com Put “pray” in the english side, select ‘chinese’ on the other side and that character pops up. Back to JSM’s points and questions, lets look at first principles. Who do we belong to? God or man? The let’s look at our Declaration of Independence “..when a government becomes destructive of those ends it is the right and duty of the people…” So, yes. For such a momentous decision, the answer is ‘prayer’ and we may have to learn Chinese too boot. Personally, I think Pastor Wilson’s point that God’s relationship to America is a covenant relationship and… Read more »