You’ve probably heard it said that the victors are the ones who write history. This is probably true to some degree. Those who win the great struggles of history probably control the narrative of what’s told to a certain extent. But these victors cannot completely control all stories and squelch the ones that are less flattering. One way or another, most stories get out somehow, regardless of what those in power desire. Besides the influence of victors on the stories told, you may also have noticed that there is a tendency to tell stories with the perspective that great people drive the events of history. The great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was very skeptical of this view that great people drive history and I would tend to agree with him. In his masterpiece War and Peace, Tolstoy told the story of the Napoleonic wars as they were experienced in Russia. The first half of the book sets up the main characters and the events leading up to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. The second half of the book covers the actual invasion and all events related to it, showing the effect of those events on the main characters.
It is primarily in the second half of the novel that Tolstoy explores his ideas about history and what drives it in a number of philosophical asides. He raises a great point, though, in positing that the disastrous disintegration of Napoleon’s army upon arrival in Moscow and all the way back to France makes it seem that something else is driving history besides the power of great people. Certainly, Napoleon would seem to have been at the height of his power upon his invasion of Russia. If he were all that great, able to drive the events of history, he would have been able to control his army and would have been able to bring his great army back out of Moscow and triumphantly march them back to Paris. But this great juggernaut of an army was not under his control at all. It seemed that it was not under the control of any man. There were vague forces that seemed to control events, seemingly levying upon Napoleon and his army a relentless fate which was unavoidable.
It is my belief that God drives the events of history. This prideful narrative of great people is a flattering story-line that too many historians adopt. I recently watched a series on the History Channel on cable entitled The Men Who Built America. It was a very interesting rendition of some of the big events in our nation’s industrial revolution. But the entire idea of certain powerful men not only having such incredible inspiration but also knowing exactly how to play their hand and doing so to perfection is a bit too tidy to be true. If you have ever studied history, you will know how hard it is sometimes to piece together the story of “what really happened.” Many of the stories seem to contradict each other, making it hard to get verification of any one story line. The fact is, history is very messy. The stories of what happened are many times chaotic, revealing just how uncontrollable are the forces that drive history. This fact would seem to support my belief that God drives history since only a God like ours could orchestrate so many events and people, coordinating them all to a pre-determined end.
I pray that you will walk in fellowship, peace, and joy with this Great God of ours who controls all history.