Lucas: An Evangelical History Review, no.1, November 1987
Editorial: From One Prophet to Others.
It is no original thought to note how even serendipity serves the Lord of all. Recently, during the course of his regular bible reading, one of the editors came across Ezekiel, Chapter 13. The relevence of the the current concerns of the EHA was striking. As the reader will observe, a consistent theme amongst this issue's contributors is the historian's role as a prophet helping to 'set the captives free'. Robert Withycombe, in the featured letter, speaks of overthrowing spiritual 'giants' and 'liberating the captives' of current historical perspectives. Stuart Piggin suggests that 'the historian has a prophetic function: to discern in all this human business the activity of God, and to bring this home to our conscience thus producing ... conviction". And Brian Dickey concludes his thoughts on 'Being a Christian (and) Practising History' with the suggestion that '"the Christian historian's vocation is to be a prophet, humble and self-critical to be sure, but a prophet to society none the less."
Implications of such a role in the reconstruction of the past can be seen in the vision granted Ezekiel of the false prophets that plagued Israel. Told to "prophesy against the prophets of Israel ... who prophesy out of their own imagination", God accused these falsifiers of the truth of not having "gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle of the day of the Lord". Here is a task for prophetic history: to repair the breaks in the wall of truth made by inadequate and untruthful views of reality. They are inadequate, suggests the passage, because "their divinations", or the futures they depict, "are a lie", and are falsified by experience too often tragic. They are also untruthful, because their 'visions' are based on misconceptions of the past and present supported by self-interested speculation. We have many such contenders for the prophetic mantle even in an ostensibly secular society. Manning Clark, Patrick White, and even the self-professed "High Priest" of conciliation, R.J. Hawke, use concepts and terminology that lead people to bow to their dicta as if they were prefixed with "the Lord declares", even though "the Lord has not sent them". But in God's economy, to borrow a phrase from Stuart's article, the scale of values is different. While they lead opinion in the secular world, He says "They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the House of Israel..." We partake of two intertwined histories, in this
 Lucas: An Evangelical History Review, no.1, November 1987
respect. There are the "records of the house of Israel", and there is the surrounding, framing, and partially definitive history of the wider world. The Christian historian carries insights from his experience in the former to elucidate the meaning, content and form of the latter. Writing history, we take part in a wider process including our secular colleagues. In the process, many a "flimsy wall is built", to catch a brief fashion in the craft. Many clamber to support this tottering edifice of part fact and part fantasy: but Ezekiel 13 suggests that even though "they cover it with whitewash... it is going to fall". God's second-order operatives knit to the fabric of time itself - symbolized in Ezekiel by rain, torrents, hailstones and winds - "will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare.". The vision makes it clear that the foundation upon which we build our ideas of reality is essential to its long lastingness.
It is a point not to be lost in the founding of the EHA. What we choose to build on now will determine how successful we are in the future. Clearly, we need to don the mantles of prophets. But we can never be led into thinking that our "own imaginations" and wisdom can repair the breaks in those walls. We need to partake fully, as Dr. Piggin points out, in the inner as well as the outer histories of humanity. Having gained insight, having been granted vision, we can then be sure of acting in the second part of the role that Dickey, Withycombe and Piggin outline herein: that of "setting free the captives". God Himself promises Ezekiel, and we will finish with this thought, that:
I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds, and I will tear them from your arms; I will set free the people you ensnare like birds.
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© Southern Cross College, and the EHAA, 2004