The Weltgeist. No, it’s not an answer for a sneeze.

Ever since I began reading history not for a grade but because it interested me, especially Colonial American history, you know, those 13 Colonies along the east coast, I learned so much about who those European colonists were. It caused a curiosity about who they were before they came and why they came. It has brought me to a book I should have read years ago that now inhabits my summer reading list (two books away from being read), Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, by British politician Daniel Hannan. I’m not going to learn anything blindingly new but it will be refocused information that will strengthen what I’ve already learned in the past. And there just might be something blindingly new, who knows.

The book I have to finish now is Suicide Of The West: How The Rebirth Of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, And Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy, by Jonah Goldberg. His pedigree is impressive as Cliff Asness Chair in applied Liberty of the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor at National Review, and a fellow at the National Review Institute, as well as a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times, member of the board of contributors to USA Today. For you diehard liberals who would never read anything but that agrees with you he is a conservative and I suspect you would never read him. I’ve heard him pontificate from time to time and find him speaking intelligently on various subject so decided to read this book.

I am liking what I’m reading from Jonah as he gives me new thoughts, but my own experience in life and my own extensive reading led me to a block wall on something he wrote and I find myself disagreeing with his conclusion. In writing about the cause for the Miracle—the formation of America—he writes: “Nearly all truly complex and important phenomena have multiple mutually dependent factors that lead to their creation.” I could not agree more with this and the next sentence: “Any attempt to focus on a single discrete monocausal explanation is folly.”

Don’t be mistaken that this expresses these words from Barak Obama: 

“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.’ No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it.”

It’s totally understandable that he didn’t then understand entrepreneurship and the only understanding he knew was always wrapped in politics. Taking politics out of the equation nothing happens inside an individualized vacuum, there are upon reflection many contributing factors as Jonah writes. But I tripped over these words: “The reason I call the emergence of the Miracle a miracle is simply this: No one intended it. No single things made it happen. It was an unplanned and glorious accident.”

He goes on in concern that Protestants don’t gloat over their belief that they played a major role in creating America and capitalism and he has points in that argument, but he is missing the real depth behind the Christian view of the world. I obliquely made this point in Miracle Across the Water. When I recently reread the Biblical book of Genesis just looking for a feeling of what was happening I now see there was more to what I was reading than met my eye. I now understand my hesitation with Jonah’s words: “No one intended it. No single things made it happen. It was an unplanned and glorious accident.” What I’m thinking meets the resolution between contradiction and contrary.

Let me apologize to German philosopher George Hegel. I need to do this because I’m going to take a term he used, Weltgeist, and give it a whole new meaning. Why don’t I come up with my own word? Because I love this word, Weltgeist: World Spirit. History is moving in a specific direction and it is guided by this world spirit. From Johann Gottfried Herder in 1769 Hegel borrowed the term, Zeitgeist, a dialectical clash in real time that brings about the Weltgeist.

As a Christian I believe there is a purposeful direction to history led not by a world spirit but by God’s spirit. You cannot read the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian New Testament and not believe this. And here Jonah is right, there is no “monocausal explanation”. When you build a house you have a detailed blueprint (monocausal) where every board goes, every plumbing pipe goes, every electrical wire goes and you follow that blueprint building that beautiful house. If you want to believe that God is that “single thing” making the house you’d be wrong, as again Jonah points out. But in saying this he misses the larger picture that God is behind the building of the world and the direction (ultimately) it takes.

The Bible is and is not a blueprint for the Weltgeist. Here is the end result of that plan:

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. ( Revelation 21: 2-4 NIV.)

Here is where the blueprint begins:

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; Iwill make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”(Genesis 12: 1-3 NIV. Italics mine.)

God intends a specific nation to be formed and the blueprint is seen in people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. That’s a really loose blueprint where Israel, the nation God is speaking of to Abraham, formed not by any single person or event but over a long history though the actions of specific people. The lines of the blueprint are not smooth and they’re broken at times, and events (like 200 years of slavery for Abraham’s generations) make it questionable that God has a plan. Looking back the Hebrews who crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land can see those miracle points where God works his will that without those points everything would be totally different.

As I traced America’s history back through England, through Europe, through history clear points along the way made America inevitable and without them we would not be here and who we are.

Reading Genesis reminded me how God works. Totally different from how I would do it.