Humanistic historians and secular sociologists are eager to assign their carefully crafted, far-reaching labels to just about anything. Centuries-long periods of history and entire generations of people have been adorned with meaningless titles and simplistic definitions. From the so called “baby-boom generation” to the “me generation” and “generation x,” our society has determined that bestowing a general category upon an entire population based on age is appropriate. Similarly, entire periods of history are known for the type of metal prominently used during that particular period, for instance, the “Bronze Age.” We have “golden” ages and ages of “enlightenment,” the “Age of Reason” and the infamous “Dark Ages.”
Although modern historians have generally done away with using the term “Dark Ages” (AD 476–1000), it is still a label that is stuck in the minds of most of us when we think of the early Middle Ages. We too often forget, however, that the dark ages did not begin in the fifth century in Europe, nor did they end at the turn of the first millennium AD. The dark ages began long ago in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rebelled against the Lord and fell into a corrupt state. And while no respectable historian would ever assign the title “Dark Ages” to the larger part of the history of civilization, since the fall, man has witnessed a dark age.
Nevertheless, ever since the fall, the Lord has shed the light of His gospel upon the world. In Genesis 3:15, we hear the words of the first gospel spoken to our great ancestors, and throughout history we see how God has brought His light to His people in their darkest hours. In the Old Testament, we read the christological prophecy of Isaiah in which he heralds the coming Light of the World: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (9:2). In the New Testament, we witness the fulfillment of that proclamation: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5). Although the history of sixth-century civilization is much darker than secularists can comprehend, there is a glorious light that shines in the darkness. In the sixth century as well as in the twenty-first century, the Lord enables His light to shine through us so that we might live coram Deo in a dark world.