The Harvest of Twenty Centuries, by Edward Coleson.
Copyright 1967 by Edward P. Coleson, Ph.D., Professor of Social Science,
Spring Arbor College, Spring Arbor, Michigan 49283
Copies may be obtained by writing to Prof. Coleson P.O. Box 32, Spring Arbor, MI 49283.
Professor Coleson, a university teacher and an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church, has been a pioneer of defending Biblical creation and its implications in the social sciences all his adult life. The mere fad that he has persevered in his basic commitment to the God-Creator of the Bible is noteworthy and encouraging to the "seven thousand who have not bowed their knee to Baal" as students, and especially as teachers, of the social sciences and humanities in secular universities and colleges today. The words of R. J. Rushdoony, another seasoned defender of the Biblical creation perspective against the hostility of conscious or unconscious academic nihilists, are to the point:
Increasingly now, a strong Christian is intolerable to the university world... Especially if they are Christian reconstructionists is the hostility great.
The Christians are now a threat, because they are increasingly a power... Men of power are feared and hated by impotent men. Please be in prayer for Christian teachers on all levels, because on every level their work is under fire. (Circular letter dated April 2,1979 issued by R. J. Rushdoony for Chalcedon, P.O. Box 158, Vallecito, California 95251)
When Professor Coleson published his book, he must have seemed to himself and others even more than today a voice crying in the wilderness of agnosticism atheism-nihilism erupting in the anarchy of the Sixties. The increasing number of Biblical creation perspective defenders, and of others who are ready to listen and earnestly question us, in the Seventies is largely due to the undaunted efforts of creation science pioneers like Dr. Coleson.
What is it in their work which has unanswerably challenged the evolutionist shibboleths of the academic establishment? What distinguishes the work of Dr. Coleson in particular?
The unanswerable challenge presented by the Biblical creation position is that if Biblical creation ex nihilo be indeed the beginning of all things, then all things must be evaluated according to their law of being given them by God their Creator at creation. Moreover, man's history must then necessarily be the outworking of man's obeying or else denying his own law of being, namely, his creation in God's image and likeness. Finally, the task of the Biblical creation-oriented historian and/or history teacher is to investigate and disseminate the most accurate and comprehensive information possible on man's prospering when obeying, and perishing when disobeying God and God's law.
Dr. Coleson's book, the third in a series of books written for his general education class in social science at Spring Arbor College, (the first two are Western Heritage, an ancient history paralleling the Bible story, and Scriptural Standard in Economics and Government) was penned to lead his readers to the Moral Law, i.e. God's Law for man, as a "unifying principle to guide (one's) search through the academic jungle," (first page of introduction). Chapter 1, "the Triumph of the Faith", is headed by a quote from C. S. Lewis which might well be any Biblical creation-oriented historian's motto:
If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither. (Mere Christianity) (Coleson, p.6)
This quote is followed by chronology of major historical events from Christ's Crucifixion (29?) to the birth of Mohammed (570?). The question marks behind these two dates, I think, are (perhaps unintentionally) revealing of Dr. Coleson's primary concern not so much with years and dates but with the thoughts and active faith of the men and women who helped bring about the events we date. This, of course, is basic to relating man's history to man's obedience or disobedience to God.
The book is written in a simple and fresh, almost conversational style. It therefore lends itself easily to both the historical scholar and to the comparative novice. It is permeated with excellent quotes from the works of a host of other writers, including fellow historians, e.g. Gibbon, Carlyle, or Toynbee, philosophers and economists, e.g. Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, Alexis de Tocqueville, James Truslow Adams, Adam Smith and many others, modem conservative thinkers, e.g. Ludwig von Mises, C. Northcote Parkinson or Whitaker Chambers, and modem liberal thinkers such as R. H. Tawney or Walter Lippman. Dr. Coleson's prodigious reading over a prodigious range of subjects is evident from the wealth of sources he cites. (A bibliography, divided by areas, e.g. economics, history, philosophy, political science, and of course theology, might be a useful addendum for a future edition of the book.)
Chapter V deals with the conversion and work of John Wesley furnishing us a wealth of details commonly overlooked in general history texts. The following example is of interest to those who believe either that Christians should not be academically active, or else that they are rendered academically sterile by their faith:
The members of the several smaller denominations which split off the Methodist movement here in America have often been accused of being anti-intellectual. Certainly the Father of Methodism was not. After graduating from one of the colleges of Oxford, he was shortly thereafter made a Fellow of Lincoln College (Oxford) and then "Moderator of Exercises and Disputation." In this he excelled. The poet Southey said of him: "No man was ever more dexterous in the an of reasoning!" In spite of the fact that Wesley's later ministry was to a large extent to the unlettered and depraved masses of England, he was very much the scholar. Re was always a voracious reader, often doing his studying while in the saddle traveling from one preaching point to another. He authored no less than 319 publications, ranging from pamphlets to books. (Coleson, p. 248)
Dr. Coleson writes about the "social concern" of Wesley and some of his contemporary followers, the so-called Clapham Sect. They believed in private charity, increasing with one's wealth, and that "it did more good to give a slum family a Bible than to try to re-engineer the world to supply their temporal needs." (Coleson, 251) The following comment by the author is worth quoting and pondering:
We may eventually catch on that there is almost nothing we can do at any price to get men out of the slums until we devise some way to get the "slum" out of the people who make these blighted areas. (Coleson, 251)
Except for the brief chronologies preceding each chapter, the book does not emphasize a complete or topical balanced overview of the twenty centuries A.D. It is obviously and explicitly meant to be supplemented by other materials, "often ones with which I heartily disagree" (introduction). There are engaging digressions from "mainline" history, for example, the description of mapmaking and determination of longitude (pp.155-158). There are seeming digressions from historic flow which are of utmost gravity. For example, the outstanding section "Is Philosophy Fatal?" (pp.85-87) deserves further in-depth study and elaboration by Biblical creation-oriented scholars in the social sciences and humanities. Dr. Coleson quotes J. Barton Payne as follows: "Greek thought was speculative and denied the finality and historical reality of the 'Thus saith the Lord'....(Coleson, 87)
The work is designed to lead scholars out of speculative thought and to God's ever-valid unchangeable Law. In this purpose it succeeds by God's grace.