Presentism in Historical Analysis and Bible Studies
Presentism is defined to be “the anachronistic introduction” or the projection of present-day ideas into the interpretations of history, based on a misunderstanding or the lack of awareness of the differences between the present and the past. The reader’s lack of awareness creates a distorted understanding of the subject of study.
Thus, Presentism combined with a widespread belief that change happened in the past based on the principle of sudden, unprecedented leaps, causes us to fail considerably in the reading of history and its relationship with God. For example, we think we can relate to people’s values and customs 5000 years before Christ, more than we can relate to the mind of the living God. This is the case because we regard him as an alien, while we consider that former generations of Homo sapiens to be identical to us! Then when we attempt to study the Bible, we fall into projecting our modern day values and perceptions of life onto the text. We look at the Pharo of Egypt during the time of Moses as if he was David Cameron in Egyptian clothes! The Midianites’ children become our own and every single act of discipline or punishment from God against these generations becomes very personal. Yet the Bible was full of war accounts.
Reading war accounts usually tricks the brain into imagining a real war situation, and so it leads to the release of a chemical called Norepinephrine. This stimulates a stress response and activates the sympathetic nervous system. When reading war accounts in the Bible, we subconsciously prepare ourselves for war. Based on the context, we build an understanding that helps us take sides. Our natural logic is based on prioritising and ordering our sets of allegiances based on ethnicity, nationality and then the wider humanity.
When reading about biblical wars, most perceive them as being an attack against the human race, and so our allegiance is subconsciously given to a generation of Homo sapiens we know very little about, instead of the living God. This is how we end up with a generation that refuses to recognise the existence of God, much less to submit to his authority.