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Understanding Our Past, Embracing Our Future: The Importance of History and Progressive Revelation

Do you ever like history back then in school? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, as most find it boring. To me, history can be interesting depending on the field of discipline. What I like most is human history. It tells the origin of our species, who we are, and how we evolved through time, not just in the aspect of physical material but the spiritual as well. History paints the details of the past, and it helps us to build a framework of understanding of the future we hope to create by never repeating the mistakes made by our ancestors.

If we studied history, we are able to glimpse that humanity has made enormous progress. Looking back into it, where did our human stories start? From scientific research based on archaeological and anthropological evidence, we know that we are a species of primates that appeared somewhere around 2.5 million years ago in Africa. Our ancestors began to migrate out from Africa to different parts of the world due to environmental changes. These changes propelled man to continue to evolve and develop unique characteristics, such as adapting to living on the ground and walking upright instead of climbing. In the process, their brain capacity increased, and they began to make and use simple tools, and advance into controlling fire, and develop language. The progress of mankind in being able to control materials shaped the appearance of civilization. In recorded history, the first civilization appeared in Mesopotamia and has its oldest known written language, Sumerian.

As we look into the anthropological aspect of our origin, we should examine the theological perspective to have a better understanding of who we are since we now know that we are a creation that has a spiritual entity from an Unknown Creator, whom we generally called God, or others may know Him as ‘Shang Ti’, ‘Allah’, ‘Bhagavaan’, ‘Dios’ in different languages all referring to the same Source. How can we know our Creator then, if He is Unknowable? Simple, through studying His Revelations from His Messengers that He sends to earth. These periodic messengers, known as prophets, manifestations, and the founders of the world’s Faiths, provide the means of humanity’s development and progress throughout the ages. They are responsible for our elevation from a lesser to a greater degree of understanding regarding the existence and purpose of God. His Revelations are a sequence of processes to illumine our spiritual entity if we believe that human consists of a body and a soul. This concept of process is known as progressive revelation.

Progressive revelation is more than an educative process; it is part of the eternal covenant of Abraham, in which God promised never to abandon humanity. In fulfilment of that covenant, God has sent prophets to every people, including Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, the Bab, and, most recently, Baha’u’llah.

The eternal process of progressive revelation extends backward into a time long before written records. Because of the antiquity of some of these revelations, the names of the messengers themselves and the spiritual traditions they initiated have been lost. Within the period of time for which we do have historical records, even in cultures without written histories, we have ample evidence of this process. As with our understanding of the purpose of our physical existence, progressive revelation is easier to understand in retrospect. The process of sequential divine messages is not new to religious understanding. However, which of the messengers a particular religion chooses to acknowledge is a matter of geography and chronology.

Throughout recorded history, many of the messengers of God have arisen in that part of the Asian continent which extends from the shores of the Red and Mediterranean Seas in the West to the mouth of the River Ganges in the East. This part of the planet has been the birthplace of most of the world’s best-known religions, and the western part of this region has a great religious tradition which has witnessed a long succession of messengers. However, because of the chronology, the followers of each religion only recognize the ones who came before their particular messenger. For example, Judaism acknowledges both Abraham and Moses; Christianity recognizes Abraham, Moses and then Christ; Islam identifies the succession of Abraham, Moses, Christ and then Muhammad. The Bible itself, with its Old and New Testaments, bears witness to the progressive revelation that led from Judaism to Christianity. Each of these religions has understood something of the process of progressive revelation, but failed to recognize that it extends forwards as well as backwards in time.

Investigation of truth is an important tool to set ourselves free from imitation, falsehood, and fossilized traditions that do harm to us and continue the mistakes of the past. It focuses on eradicating prejudice and freeing our hearts and minds from its corrosive impact. To set ourselves free from doctrines of our ancestors belief, it is important for us to read and study the history of mankind and God’s Scriptures of the past in order we could appreciates how humanity has come to this far. It allows us to understand our past, which in turn allows us to understand our present. If we want to know how and why our world is the way it is today, we have to look to history for answers. People often say that “history repeats itself” (even God has warn us in Bible and Quran), but if we study the successes and failures of the past events, we may, ideally, be able to learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future. And we will be able to appreciates the oneness of religion through the relationship between God and man.

Dr. Michelle Ding
Dr. Michelle Ding
Michelle is a dentist from Klang, Malaysia, who is passionate about helping others and developing her community. Beyond her profession, Michelle is a spiritual person who values personal growth and exploration of different cultures and cuisines. She finds joy in reading and spending time outdoors, whether that be traveling to new places or hiking through nature. Michelle's kind heart and adventurous spirit make her a valuable member of her community and an inspiration to those around her.

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