Historie and Geschichte

Liberal German theology invented a distinction between two supposedly different ways of looking at history. The term Historie referred to what actually happened. The term Geschichte referred to an interpreted history, or what the meaning of history is. On one level, this could be a helpful distinction. There can be a distinction in our minds between an event and the interpretation of that event. However, the Germans did not limit the distinction to this. They believed that true scholarship could go behind the Geschichte in order to find the Historie. Or, to put it in easier terms, that scholarship could rid itself of all biases in order to be able to see an absolutely objective historical reality.

In a post-modern world, very few people are willing to say that an objective view of history is possible. In fact, the pendulum has swung the other way. If, in the old German model, reality was located in Historie, and it was the historian’s duty to try to get to that objectivity, in the post-modern world, the reverse has happened: now there is no objective reality beyond our interpretation. The locus of reality has shifted to the mind and to Geschichte, except in one realm: science. There is still the great delusion that science is still objective.

What is the biblical view of all this? The biblical view is well expressed by Geerhardus Vos. There are events in history (especially salvation history) that are then interpreted. We can never escape our situatedness in order to achieve a truly objective interpretation of history. All views of history are biased, since they are necessarily selective, and the principle of selection will inevitably involve bias. Some are more self-aware than others. Those who are self-aware are the better historians. The question for the Christian is not whether we will have an interpretation of history, but whether our interpretation of history will match up with God’s interpretation or not. As Ken Ham would say, the real question is which bias is the right bias to be biased with in the first place. Here is where we have to fight post-modernism tooth and nail. For post-modernism denies that there is such a thing as correct and incorrect interpretation of Scripture and history. Christians, on the other hand, argue that God’s interpretation of history is correct, and that our interpretation should align with God’s.