We Can Know, We Should Know, and We Need to Know!
To begin, I’d like to read from an article that was recently published by the Warren Apologetics Center. And the title of the article is.. “Can We Know What Happened?” And you might ask yourself two more questions also.. SHOULD we know what happened? And, Do we NEED to know what happened?
And it’s my opinion, that we should, and we need, to ask ourselves those two questions, in regards to both the history of our county, and most especially, in regards to the history of mankind, and in regards to God.
CAN we know what happened in our country’s history? SHOULD we know what happened? And do we NEED to know what happened?
And also; CAN we know what God has done in His dealings with man? SHOULD we know what God has done? And finally; Do we NEED to know what God has done, in His dealings with man?
And of course the answer is Yes, Yes, and Yes! We CAN know, we SHOULD know, and we NEED to know! We NEED to know the history of our country, so that we can learn from it, and so that we don’t simply make the same mistakes over and over again, that were made in the past, and so that we can grow as a country. And we NEED to know all that we can, about God’s dealings with man, throughout history. And we need to know for all the same reasons that I just listed; So that we can learn from it, and so that we don’t keep making the same mistakes, over and over again, and so that we can grow, in regards to salvation.
God tells us in 1 Corinthians 10, verse 6, speaking of the plight of the Israelites in the wilderness; “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” And God tells us in verse 11; “Now all these things happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
So we CAN know and learn, we SHOULD know and learn, and we NEED to know and learn! And the same holds true for us as a country, and as a world! You don’t erase the mistakes, and even the horrors of history, and at the same time, totally erase any possibility of learning from them. Why didn’t God so us a favor and erase all the mistakes and travesties that man has committed over the centuries? Why? because He loves us, that’s why! Because He wants us to know, and learn, and grow, from the mistakes of others, and from the examples that they left for us.
So now, let me read a little from the article that I mentioned.
Can We Know What Happened?
We all think about the past. We can do this to a great degree because of memory. We remember things that occurred in our personal experience. However, much of what we think about and talk about regarding the past, has to do with things that did not come within our range of personal experience. Most of history that we study is in this classification of information. We do not remember these facts, or alleged facts, because we were never exposed to them in the first place. But in studying history, we come to learn, and to know, of things that we could not know about otherwise. The study of history is an enormously important branch of inquiry. The study of history is the key to our contact with most of what has happened in the past, since our experience with what is now the “past” is very limited.
At times more information regarding claims made about the past, leads to correction of the historical record. And this is, as it must be. If historians make mistakes or assume things, or allege things that were not supported by actual evidence, then when further search leads to a correction of mistakes earlier made, we have an improved account. This is progress, in the acquiring of truth from the past, or in a coming to knowledge, with regard to what actually happened.
But sometimes, men begin to “rewrite” history. That is, instead of researching material and recording “facts as they are,” they insert into their writing of “history”, views that they have not actually found in the material that they are studying, but rather, they insert an “angle of perspective” that they already hold, for which they are in search of support. (Now we see that all the time with regard to the bible. People tend to “insert” their own views, into what is actually recorded in the bible. And that’s even become a common practice with our nation’s history also. Things didn’t actually happen the way history has always portrayed it. We’ve got a new perspective on what happened!)
Some men in looking at the past, even go so far as to claim that we cannot really have any objective view of the past. Their claim is that it is impossible for us to really “get to the truth” of something done long ago, and so they would claim it’s impossible for any person to have an objective look or view of the past. I remember in one of our debates years ago, saying to the audience, regarding my opponent at the time, that he had no literary past. Because the way that he was looking at history, prohibited him from having knowledge of the past. (because he insisted that you can’t know anything “objective” about the past. Therefore, You cannot use the past, against or even in behalf of the present, if there is no objective knowledge of the past.
Must a person be personally present in order to have knowledge of a certain thing or event? No. We know a lot of things without being personally present when these things occurred, because others testify or provide evidence to us of these things. This is knowledge, by the testimony of other persons. Do you remember what the apostle John wrote in John 20, verses 30 & 31.. “And many other signs, truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” By the testimony of eyewitnesses, we can KNOW what happened in the past!
And that’s not all John said in regard to this; He wrote in 1 John 1:1 thru 3; “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us) That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Also, we have “testimony” by empirical data. (Empirical data, is data, or “facts” which can be physically observed and experienced) For example; When non-literary items are discovered such as pictures or pottery, etc., these become useful “witnesses” to us of things gone by. “Empirical data”.. things which can be physically observed and examined.
Do we have empirical data that relates to our country’s history? Of course we do. We have printed documents, even dating back to the inception of this country! And we have printed documents concerning most of the practices that have taken place throughout our history. We have the battlegrounds, and the very weapons used, where wars and battles have taken place.
But what about empirical data relating to God, and to His dealings with man? Is there any empirical data about that? Yes there are! While we don’t have any of the original letters that make up the bible, we do have fragments of copies of those originals, that date back to the first century BC, for old testament writings, and documents that date all the way to the first two centuries AD, for new testament writings.
But there’s what I think is even better empirical data, that supports the truthfulness of these biblical writings. And these are the many, many archeological discoveries, that have left us the evidence proving, that what the bible talks about happening, and what the bible talks about existing, actually did happen and exist! Empirical evidence; Evidence that you can put your hands on, and touch and feel. Pretty much what the apostle John said in his writings; “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;”
And what about the physical world itself? The whole creation all around us, including the observable universe. It’s all “empirical data” proving the existence of God!
But let me go back to the article though..
To benefit from the past, we must not “play games” with the past. I used to asked my students, “How long must I be dead before my having been here, becomes a matter of mere probability or possibility?” In one sense, such a question may at first seem silly. But at times, positions are taken with regard to the impossibility of knowledge of the past, that imply that the passing of time does render knowledge of the past impossible. But, if the present can be known, is there something about the past that makes it impossible for us to know absolutely and certainly something about it? Does the passing of time make it impossible for information once current, to be recovered?
Of course the answer is NO. The passing of time has no bearing on the truthfulness of evidence already existing. Nor does it have any bearing on the learning capabilities derived from such evidence.
Now, here’s one more important point that the article mentions..
This is all very important, because the past, or at least some of the past, can be enormously important to people presently alive! In his insightful and extraordinarily sobering 1973 book, The Gulag Archipelago, the Russian author, (and former gulag prisoner) Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, reveals life in a prison, in a communist country. He says that many people say; “No, don’t! Don’t dig up the past! And they cite an old proverb that says; “DWELL on the past and you’ll lose an eye.” But he says the proverb goes on to say: “FORGET the past and you’ll lose both eyes.”
And here’s what the author of our article says about this country; “There are too many Americans today who are completely out of touch with the cruelty and danger of communism. So many of our young people now have been indoctrinated with lies about our past, and that of some other cultures. In her excellent and informative book, Debunking Howard Zinn, Mary Grabar has done a great service in showing how, or at least partially how, America is now being subverted by so many of our own citizens. Why is it that so many young people now hate their own country?
The subtitle of the book is “Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America.” Howard Zinn wrote a book entitled A People’s History of the United States. Mary Grabar says; “According to Zinn, there’s no such thing as objective history.” And by his own distortion of history, evidently Zinn has been successful in influencing thousands and thousands of our own young people, whose current worldview entails a distorted view of America’s past, that has now erupted even into violent destruction of the symbols of our past.
But while some promote the view that we should somehow erase the past, the bible says otherwise.
It is God’s own words that tell us, that it is possible to KNOW the past, and to LEARN from it! And that that’s exactly what we NEED to do. Before leaving this earth, Moses told his people; “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: Ask thy father, and he will show thee; Thy elders, and they will tell thee” (Deuteronomy 32:7). Over and over in the book of Judges, we read of the sad history of Israel, who as a nation moved through repeated cycles, entailing national tragedy and misery, for over three hundred years, because the people kept on neglecting to learn the lessons of history. May God have mercy on our own forgetful, and troubled land.
So, we need to learn as Christians, from the ample evidence given to us in the bible, of the history of man, and of the history of God’s dealings with man. And we need to learn as Americans, from the ample evidence given to us, of the history of our very own country.