What makes the Christian faith distinctive are its claims that it can be verified by evidence extracted from historical accounts, both biblical and extra-biblical. But a body of thinkers founded on historical relativism has been challenging the veracity and objectivity of historical records and even history itself as a discipline. Historical relativism denies the reliability of historical records including biblical accounts. The protagonists of this worldview have two main objections: a) that it is not possible for anyone to know exactly what took place in the past since it can no longer be directly observed by anyone, having disappeared into the dusty trails of memory; b) that there is no neutrality in historical accounts; that since there is a lack of direct access to past events our perception of them is inevitably molded by our culture, environment, and passage of time. Relativists argue that no one is able to reconstruct historical events without bias and that historical accounts are mere personal interpretations of what is assumed to have happened in the past. Therefore, the reality of past events and their truth and relevance are otiose and should be treated as such. Historical relativists further contend that unlike scientific investigation which has, at hand, the objects of experimentation that allow the scientist to repeatedly test his hypothesis and experiment, the historical objects that are needed for observable experimentation and investigation of past events are no longer in existence for the historian.
Historians and apologists have not taken this intellectual assault lying down, as it were. They have come back swinging with stinging critiques against relativists. Although they concede that past events are no longer observable, they reject the contention that they are merely biased reconstructionists of historical events and that there is no credence in their reports. Historians assert that just as the scientist is dependent on reports, evidence, and findings of previous research by his peers, the historian is also dependent on archaeological reports of his peers and other evidence and reports of eye-witnesses of past events. For example, it would be folly to reject the historicity of the assassination of President James A. Garfield, the 20th president of the United States on July 2, 1881 at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station less than four months into his term as chronicled by eyewitnesses although this is no longer an observable event! History can be evidence-based and this is what gives it credibility. Regarding the relativists’ objection that historians are not able to objectively reconstruct past events due to being shaped by their personalities and environments and culture, historians argue that there is a plethora of commonly-held and indubitable records of historical facts that are not influenced by cultural or personality bias. For example, the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, the epidemic of the Spanish flu of 1918, the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in Belgium at the hands of the Duke of Wellington on June 18, 1815 are all factual historical events. The objectivity of these historical events has nothing to do with the personalities of the historians who reported them. They are just there…plain facts. The content of the accounts is what matters. In the same manner the accounts of the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ were chronicled by Gospel writers who were eye-witnesses to these events. This is what gives them credibility. Probably the relativists’ confusion is between historical propaganda and factual historical accounts. The apostle John says that “these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” John 20:31. He wrote what he witnessed for the sake of future generations just like any other eyewitness of other historical events. The relativists’ attempts to discredit history as a discipline is really a covert attack on the foundational tenets of the Christian faith.
Learn more about what God says about you and your well-being. Buy a copy of The Perfect Prescription by Reigh Simuzoshya from Amazon.com