The Meaning of History by Ronald H. Nash

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This is an excellent book, for the most part, not on history itself but on the philosophy of history. Nash details the major views of history held by historians, theologians, and philosophers which he lumps into three basic categories: the linear pattern in which history has a goal toward which it is advancing; the cyclical theory that understands history as constantly repeating itself; and the spiral theory of Toynbee that combines the linear and cyclical into a view in which there is a certain repetition in history but also a progress toward a goal. A few thinkers reject all three patterns and opt for a chaotic view that states history has no pattern or meaning. Nash believes that the linear theory is the one most in line with Scripture and Christian theology.

The three major theories, as well as the key shapers of these theories, is the subject of the remainder of the book. Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Toynbee are among the important figures examined in the subsequent chapters.

I found curious, in such a volume, Nash taking a side road to prove that the author of the epistle to the Hebrews was Apollos (pp .44-48). Nash asserts this rather forcefully, but as anyone who is knowledgeable of this issue would know most of his argument is pure guesswork. This flaw is not fatal to the author’s thesis, but I found it a bit strange.

For those who enjoy history and philosophy The Meaning of History is interesting and informative.

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