PART of history is personal history. And part of my own personal history has been almost two decades of puzzling about the wider problems of history.
That puzzling is far from over. But parts of it can be mentioned in the past tense. There was youthful hopefulness, combined with lurking doubts as to whether hopefulness-my own or that of the authoritative voices of the times -- was justified. There was the intoxicating effect of Spengler, who seemed sometimes so uncannily right, sometimes so perversely wrong. There were other ideas, but there was not -- as in most of the Christian church there was not -- much awareness of the rich tradition of biblical and Christian thought on this particular subject.
Then came the discovery of St. Augustineand some aspects of the Biblethat were new to me. With them came the months leading up to World War II. Exciting and troubling events smashed some dreams, knocked down barriers to some strains of wisdom from the past. For more than four years I stopped studying the problems of history and became a minor actor in one of history's more spectacular dramas. In those years I read scarcely a book and harbored few scholarly thoughts. But I returned from the battlefields of Europe with some Christian conceptions about history burned far more deeply into me than ever before.
Some years of studying and teaching both Christian and nonChristian philosophies followed. Practical and intellectual problems moved about in conscious and subconscious thought. It was becoming clear to everyone that history had not shoved disaster and confusion into the past. Any account of history had to allow for their continuing presence and future possibility. But, despite the shouting despair of some, it seemed clear also that history was not solely disaster and confusion.