Changing History - Through the Media
It was Karl Marx who declared that the first battlefield was the writing of history. As a philosophy student and journalist, Marx believed that he could use philosophy to change the world. To control a country or a culture, the first goal was to control the writing (or re-writing) of history.
If you can wrench from people their understanding of how events interconnect - then you can steal their heritage and deprive them of freedom. For most of Western history, the study of the past was connected to an ethical understanding of the causes and characters behind events. People studied history primarily to discern eternal values, practical wisdom and insights as to the individual moral character needed to produce a more positive future.
However, the modern humanistic trend is to forget the connection between the Word of God and history. By rejecting God, denying creation and refusing to accept the revealed Law of God - humanists are promoting a senseless existence in a chance universe where there is no objective standard of right and wrong. "You came from nothing, you're going nowhere, life is meaningless". Perceptions of history can be changed by chaos - and then a new version of history can be imposed. Marx's 10 revolutionary demands were aimed at producing moral decay and emotional turmoil to lead to social chaos. Marx promoted mob actions and terror in the streets in order to cause people to be willing to change, indeed to cry out for change. To be willing to give up their rights and freedoms for safety or for promises of "Land, bread and peace!"
History always was understood to be the learning of the lessons of history - not just a string of (apparently unconnected,meaningless) dates, facts and faces. Stripping the moral lessons from history has actually been the greatest achievement of Marxism. In doing so they have made society ripe for revolution. As Stalin declared: "Evolution prepares for revolution and creates the ground for it . . ." Stalin understood the vital importance of Darwin's theory of evolution to Marxist revolution. By offering an alternative view to creation, evolutionism grants the illusion of freedom from God and eternal judgement. They can then redefine what is right and wrong and justify the ruthlessness of the revolutionaries as "survival of the fittest". Hence Stalin could observe that while the death of one person was a tragedy, the death of millions was "merely a statistic".
History According to Hollywood
Even at church and missions conferences there is often a tendency to regurgitate a humanist or atheist view of history. The sovereign hand of God is practically ignored while great Christian leaders and reformers are vilified and attacked. Unfortunately most Christians today know little of history. For far too many, the Hollywood films and TV programmes (produced most often by atheists) are their primary source of knowledge about the past.
It is disturbing that at many missions conferences I have seen a tendency to treat Western Christians and missionaries as a football. There is a pervasive ignorance of history and particularly of our Christian heritage. Few today seem to want to hear of the incredible sacrifices of those pioneers who opened up Africa to the Gospel - often at the cost of their own lives. The spirit of slandering our departed brothers is often accompanied by a kind of syncretism where it can even be said that "most Christians won't go to Heaven, but many Hindus and Muslims will". This is of course a half-truth. Many so-called, professing Christians will most certainly not go to Heaven, and many who are today Hindu's and Muslims will go to Heaven - because many will still bow the knee to the Lord Jesus and be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. But nobody will go to Heaven without submitting to the atonement and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
At a recent missions conference one professor claimed that Christians have a "terrible history", that in Luther's time thousands of peasants were slaughtered, that Cromwell's "hymn singing, Bible quoting, born again soldiers" went to Ireland to kill Catholics "just for fun" and that Muslims have shown greater tolerance than Christians! He spoke about the Crusades and the Inquisition as typical of the Christian church and suggested that we should be more accepting of "heretical groups" if the church is to "reach the world by the year 2000".
When I went to challenge him concerning his distortions of history, he made even more incredible claims - such as that Christians have killed more Muslims than the other way round and that the great Reformer, Martin Luther, was an anti-semite who laid the foundations for the Nazi holocaust! This missionologist actually said to me that he blamed the Nazi holocaust on the Christian church!
It seemed to me that if he truly believed these revisionist versions of history he should leave the church and choose another religion! Yet, ridiculous as these claims are, they are all too commonly held and propagated amongst a population whose main source of "history" is Hollywood.
The fact is that the Crusades of the Middle Ages were a reaction to the Islamic invasion of the Holy Lands (those places where our Lord was born, lived and ministered, was crucified and raised from the dead). The Saracens (as the Muslim invaders were called) had desecrated Christian places of worship and were severely persecuting Christians. Pilgrims were being prevented from visiting those sites sacred to their faith.
Whatever we may believe about the Crusades, we have to admire the incredible devotion and steadfastness which inspired over 15 000 Crusaders (10% of whom were knights and 90% foot soldiers) to journey over 3 000 kms and sacrifice life and limb to liberate Jerusalem. The first Crusaders were away from home for 4 years. Later Crusaders were away from home for up to 16 or more years. One widow sold the only thing she owned - her house - to pay for her only son to "go and free Jerusalem".
Now I know that many will raise all kinds of protests and objections, but for myself, having studied the writings, prayers, and battles of many of the Crusaders - I am very impressed by the evident sincere devotion of many of the Crusaders. These were real Christians. They deplored their sins. They longed to do something noble and lasting for their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Their prayers, fasting, sacrifices, courage and devotion make our faith look juvenile.
They saw a need and they rose up to meet that need. They committed themselves to liberating the Holy Land and they steadfastly persisted to overcome all obstacles, dangers and discomforts for years, over thousands of miles - by foot or horseback - in inhospitable terrain until they reached their objective.
At incredible cost they sacrificed and suffered unbelievable deprivations - hunger, thirst, boiling heat, freezing cold, storms, floods, fire and vicious hand to hand combat - to honour their commitments, to fight for their Lord and to defend the religious liberties of their fellow believers. The average Crusader probably knew more about Christianity than our average complacent, pew-warming churchgoer of today.
The point is that Crusades were a reaction to centuries of Islamic Jihad. An over-reaction to be sure. But excessive or not, we cannot condemn the crusaders alone - to this day many Muslims continue their holy war against Christians - most notably in Sudan. Millions of Christians have been slaughtered through the centuries by Islamic militants - such as the one and a half million Armenians murdered in Turkey in 1915.
To put the Crusades in their proper context one needs to study the rapid expansion of Islam, by the sword, across North Africa, into Spain throughout the Middle East and into the Balkans. The Islamic Jihad of the seventh to the tenth century wiped out more than half of the church worldwide.
The accusation that Martin Luther was an anti-Semite responsible for massacres reveals an ignorance of history. Luther was pro-Christ and he was zealous in evangelism. For decades he lovingly and patiently reached out to the Jewish people in his area with the Gospel. At a certain point he reacted, in his typically outspoken way, to the persistent rejection of Christ and repeated blasphemies of those Jewish individuals in his community. However, to quote these reactions of Luther without explaining their local context and then to project guilt for the Continent-wide anti-Christian holocaust of World War 2 upon the great 16th century Reformer is ludicrous. How can anyone be blamed for evils perpetrated by those humanists who clearly rejected his teachings over four hundred years after his death! Hitler was a disciple of the atheist Nietzsche - not Luther.
Similarly, the slanderous suggestion that Luther had something to do with the violent suppression of the peasants in the 16th century is unjustified. Certainly Luther wrote against "the murdering horde of peasants" and encouraged the princes to carry out their Biblical responsibility to enforce law and order, protecting the innocent and punishing law breakers. However, it is just not accurate to imply that Luther was responsible for any massacres.
Furthermore, to suggest that Cromwell's troops went to Ireland to kill Catholics "just for fun" is a distortion of history. Cromwell's troops were responding to many decades of Catholic atrocities, persecution and suppression of the Protestant faith in Ireland. His harsh reaction was just that - a reaction. Cromwell laid the foundations for a free Parliament and for unprecedented freedom of religion in England - including for the Jews.
Early this century Count Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi wrote "Anti-Semitism through the Ages". In this book he wrote: "It is one of the many successes of Christian teaching that gladiatorial contests, slavery, polygamy, torture, the slaughtering of prisoners of war, duelling and Hara-kiri, have disappeared from the surface of the earth. Anti-Semitism, too, is doomed, and its days are numbered". In fact, far from being anti-Semitic, Evangelical Christians are surely the most pro-Israel group on earth.
The church has never been perfect. Even amongst the twelve apostles there was a Judas Iscariot. Yet it would not be fair to make Judas representative of the twelve! The total record of the church needs to be examined, and the good far outweighs the bad. Besides of which, the Christian faith is centred in Christ - not in Christians. However, one regularly hears people decrying Christian involvement in social or political issues because of "the Inquisition" and the "Ayatollah Khomeini"! Evidently, many people not only lack a basic grasp of history, but have trouble distinguishing between such divergent religions as the fanatical brand of Islam of the Ayatollah and the Biblical Christianity of David Livingstone.
Very few seem to be aware that Bible believing Christians were actually the victims who were tortured by the Inquisition. At a time of blatant corruption, when priesthood's, Bishoprics and even Papal seats were bought and sold, there were many ungodly men dominating all levels of leadership in the Medieval Roman church. This was the background to one of the darkest moments in church history. The Inquisition was a court set up in 1233 to "persuade" those accused of heresy to recant. Those who refused were turned over to the secular authorities which generally burnt such "heretics" at the stake.
Dr David Barrett, one of the foremost authorities of church related statistics, has calculated that 12 000 were burned by the Spanish Inquisition. Herbert Lockyer estimates the total number of victims for all countries was 30000. But is it accurate to portray this cruel, diabolical episode as Christians persecuting non-Christians? Not at all, in fact it was the very opposite. To study the court records of the inquisitors makes it very clear that the inquisitors were by no means Christians at all. They vindictively condemned to death Christians who believed in, translated or taught the Scriptures. Often they contemptuously tossed the victim's Bible into the fire to be burned with the martyr. Anyone who has read "Foxes Book of Martyrs" or similar historical records of the vicious persecutions endured by the Waldensians, Huguenots and other Protestant reformers will know that the Inquisition was anti-Christian.
Yet, Russian author, Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn, pointed out that while there was 17 executions a year in pre-Revolutionary (Czarist) Russia and 10 people a month murdered by the Spanish Inquisition, under Lenin 1000 people were executed a month. This slaughter rose to 40 000 people shot (without trial) per month in Stalin's Soviet Union. This is the kind of historical perspective that modern Marxists would prefer to ignore.
The fact is that those countries that enjoy the most civil liberty are those societies where the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the most. The worst violence and oppression in the world today is raging where Biblical principles have been rejected or neglected.
Before the advent of Christianity, almost every culture and religion practised slavery and human sacrifice - even the highly esteemed Greek and Roman civilisations. As a result of the tireless efforts of Christians, abortion, child-sacrifice, human sacrifice, widow burning and slavery was eradicated. The unparalleled contributions made by Christians in the field of science, art, education, economics, civil and human rights and in the works of compassion and mercy through the centuries are today being largely forgotten.
We need to continually remind those around us of the heroic efforts and great achievements of the reformers and missionaries of the past. Only those ignorant of history could fail to acknowledge that Christianity has made more positive changes on this earth than any other force or movement. The teachings and example of Jesus Christ have inspired the greatest acts of generosity, hospitality, self-sacrifice and service for the sick, poor and needy.
To do this we need to study afresh the great books that celebrate our Christian heritage. These are some of the most important, interesting, inspiring and easy to read history books that I would highly recommend that you acquire, read and share with others:
"What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?" by Dr D James Kennedy (Word) 309 pages
"Sketches From Church History" by S.M. Houghton (Banner of Truth) 245 pages - with many great illustrations.
"The Great Christian Revolution - How Christianity transformed the World" by Otto Scott (Reformer Library) 271 pages
"Robespierre - inside the French Revolution" by Otto Scott (Reformer Library) 234 pages
"Streams of Civilizations - Volume Two" by Garry Moes (Christian Liberty Press).
Large Hard Cover 426 pages - with many photos .
"Foxes Book of Martyrs" by John Foxe 409 pages
All of these books are available (while stock last) from Christian Liberty Books or through UCA. (The prices include postage and packaging).
Those who cannot remember the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat its mistakes. As Winston Churchill observed: "To test the present you must appeal to history." John Hercus noted: "History is just the accumulated stories of how God is working in the lives of all the individual people on earth". True history begins with the Creation, man's fall into sin and God's plan of salvation. Since God has a plan, history has a goal and its meaning and purpose must be seen in the light of God's Word, the Bible (particularly Deuteronomy 28; Leviticus 26; Jeremiah 18: 7-10; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 2).
By His eternal Law, God rules the nations, holding people accountable for their actions - blessing obedience and judging wickedness. In the rise and fall of nations, we see both God's mercy and justice, providing ample time for repentance and transforming even some of the most unpromising nations. All events must be viewed as under the sovereign rule of God, being directed towards the final victory of Christ. Truth will ultimately triumph. Evil will be destroyed! "What are all histories but God manifesting Himself?" declared Oliver Cromwell. History is His story.
We therefore need to be faithful to His Word and His work and not take part in bearing false witness against our departed brothers and sisters in Christ.
For more information and resources contact:
Christian Action Network
PO Box 23632, Claremont 7735
Tel: (+27 21) 689-4480 Fax: (+27 21) 685-5884