To Understand History, We Need Revelation.

Warning against “the danger of going outside the sphere of faith into the area of observation”, G. C. Berkouwer disputes the legitimacy of interpreting the ways of Providence on the basis of facts” (The Providence of God, pp. 164-165). He aims to guard against the possibility that “everyone according to his own prejudice and subjective whim (can) canonize a certain event or national rise as a special act of God in which He reveals and demonstrates His favour” (p. 164). Acutely aware that “the interpretation of an historical event as a special revelation of Providence too easily becomes a piously disguised form of self-justification” (p. 166), Berkouwer insists that “no event speaks so clearly that we may conclude from it a certain disposition of God – as long as God Himself does not reveal that His disposition comes to expression in the given event” (p. 170). Concerning events in the history of Israel, which are recorded in Scripture, Berkouwer writes, “The Divine disposition is, indeed, revealed in these events. But  it is the word of revelation which  explains them” (p. 171). Concerning the interpretation of contemporary events, he warns, “we have not been given a norm for explaining the facts of history… in the absence of a norm only an untrustworthy plausibility remains” (p. 171).  Using insightful exegesis of Scripture, Berkouwer warns against a misguided interpretation of contemporary events. Commenting on the words, “Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?” (Amos 9:7), he writes, “the fact of the exodus may not be used as basis, isolated from revelation and seen by itself  from which to draw selfish conclusions about God’s dispositions… As a mere historical fact, the exodus puts Israel on the same level with other nations. But accompanied by a proper faith in God, it constitutes a challenge and, given the proper response, further blessings” (p. 176).

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