In recent times we have often heard, in one form or another, what was expressed by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956: “History is on our side and we will bury you.” Just about everybody armed with a progressive cause believes that somehow history will vindicate what is being advocated. Democrats, communists, feminists, homosexual activists, liberal thinkers and post-modernists all unite in the belief that somehow history will appear as the final judge, and they shall be welcomed into the kingdom of progressive righteousness.
The recent plebiscite over same-sex marriage witnessed an almost universal desire on the part of the “yes” campaigners not to be left behind by history. It is not immediately obvious how history judges anyone. The Lord of history is the one who judges. Men with the sexual proclivities of the emperor Nero (died AD 68) and Ernst Röhm (the co-founder, along with Adolf Hitler, of the SA, who was assassinated in 1934) could be viewed as progressives on the right side of history, for a time at least. Yet it is a precarious hope, and prone to suffer badly from too much contact with reality.
W. R. Inge, the so-called “gloomy dean” of St Paul’s Cathedral in the early 20th century, did not get much right, but he is well-known for the observation that “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next”. History rolls on until God calls a halt. Those who huff and puff in the attempt to keep up with the times tend to appear rather old-fashioned as one era gives way to another. Nothing is more dated, for example, than old books on Biblical Criticism or eugenics or Darwinism.
To cite C. S. Lewis: “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” What matters is not some delusional attempt to be on the right side of history in the future, but the beautiful joy of being on the right hand of the Son of Man in glory (Matt. 25:31-46).